Everything You Need To Know About Women’s Tactical and Range Gear
The number one rule about women’s tactical gear and apparel is to get comfortable. I don’t mean snuggling up in your favourite sweatpants and enjoying peppermint tea on the couch. I’m talking getting
fitted with the right gear to keep you safe and unencumbered in even the most trying of situations.
Unlike most men’s tactical gear, tactical apparel and gear for women is something that really has to be thought out by manufacturers. This means there’s a little less of it on the market and less options for the huge variance in female body shapes. Don’t be deterred though! There are still enough options out there, you just need to know how to pick the right gear for you.
Think about your gear and apparel as one big tool. Everything should fit together nicely and have a place. Shooting a .22 Ruger and your AR-15 in the same day? Either you have two separate gear bags, or you properly organize yourself to only have to switch between the guns themselves. I feel like we all would prefer the latter.
We’ll cover how you bring your gear together at the end of this post, but to begin, let’s cover the important stuff.
Keep it dry
You ever hear “you get wet, you die,” well that is one of the only lessons I remember clear as day from my childhood hunts. I was clumsy at best and tended to get into less than safe situations around water. These days I’m much more careful about where I go, meaning that saying has switched to “you sweat, you die,” which has guided my purchase decision making on most of my gear.
Even if you’re just spending the day target shooting, or are doing more intense competitive tactical shooting, sweating will be a hazard. If nothing else, it’s just plain uncomfortable and adds unnecessary wear (and odor) to you and your gear.
Get it fitted
Another issue with female tactical gear is that it often doesn’t fit properly. Most unisex and men’s gear has baggy sections or straps and pockets in less than desirable places. It’s not flattering or comfortable, but nothing is more dangerous than loose clothing and straps.
Well-fit clothing will not only save you from annoying bush snags, but will also keep your weapons free of obstacles on the range, making them easier and safer to use. One big article of clothing that I personally find useless on the range is the scarf. Skip it and go for the neck gaiter; no loose ends to get in your way.
Hard gear like scopes, knives, and guns are also very important to have properly fitted. Think about your most comfortable backpack, it probably doesn’t have a sternum strap straight across your bust does it? Same thing goes with most slings, vests, sheaths, and holsters. If you can feel your gear getting in your way, it’ll eventually cause you grief on the range or the bush.
Picking the right size
When you’re looking at apparel for women, consider your body shape and size, and what gear you’ll need to do your chosen activity. If you’re smaller, don’t opt for a massive, heavy tactical vest and a 15 pound rifle. You’re not going to look good trying to lug that around, and you’re going to never want to come back after sweating so profusely.
If you’re someone with a larger or taller frame, get gear and apparel that doesn’t ride up, and sits on areas of your body that aren’t already uncomfortable (never going to see me wear anything that’s hard over the bust).
Make sure you pick gear and apparel that fits your body and your activity.
Lastly, for the love of all that is good, don’t skip on the hearing protection.
Having seven ear piercings, I hate wearing ear muffs. BUT it only takes one shot to absolutely destroy your hearing. Personally, I go for in-ear protection when target shooting or hunting in tighter spaces. This isn’t the best, but given my ear situation it’s a lot more tolerable. If you’re comfortable with it, always opt for high quality over-ear muffs as they offer a lot more protection.
Try the Pro Ears Stealth 28 temple hugging hearing protection. These are great for those involved in training and competitions with quieter weapons who need to hear calls as they amplify sounds, cut wind noise, and have an NRR of 28dB.
Here are some of TPG’s top rated hearing protection suggestions.
Same thing goes for eye-protection. I promise you, you’re $300 Ray-Bans aren’t going to stand up to rouge clay or worse. Let’s not even get started on scope-bite... it happens to even the best of us. Just get some range glasses before people call you “that one with the eye-patch”.
Women’s Tactical and Shooting Gear
Alright let’s get down to the good stuff. We’ve gone over safety for those of you who are new to this, now we’ll go through some of my favourite gear for the range. We’ll start from the feet up.
Women’s tactical boots
When it comes to women’s tactical boots, there isn’t a whole lot of options for dedicated tactical boots. You’ll usually be looking through men’s or unisex and it’s hard to select an option that fits properly or offers the features you need.
The features you need will differ depending on the terrain you frequent. Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time at a public range, but rather shoot on our farm where there’s usually mud, rocks, trees, and other obstacles.
If you are a range frequenter or live in a dryer, sandier zone, you’ll want to opt for something that’s breathable and offers a mid to high ankle. This helps keep you cool and dry while guarding against rolled ankles.
I’m usually shooting out in the back section of our property encountering mud or snow, so I typically wear Field Blazer II Muckboots. Only my second pair in 15 years, they stand up to most day-to-day wear
and tear while keeping you dry and comfortable. They’re lightweight, easy to slide on, fit snug, and the top can be rolled over to let air-flow in on warmer, dryer days.
The mid-high rubberized ankle is also much more comfortable, offers a bit of support over uneven ground, and will prevent blistering unlike most of the other neoprene boots. Even the Women’s Hale Multi-Season Muckboots have a low-ankle which I would suggest staying away from. These are men’s boots but If you have smaller feet you can use some thicker athletic socks and they’ll fit like a dream. If you have wider calves, you’ll need to opt for the women’s versions of the boots.
A better option for those doing more walking over concrete or even hiking through some tougher terrain, are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Sp Hiking Shoes. These are durable, lightweight, waterproof, and breathable. Plus they’re pretty affordable! These boots are the prefect compromise between comfort and utility, and will be perfect for a weekend on the range but can easily transition into a hike through the bush.
For most women, I would recommend any boot that offers breathability, weather resistance, and all-day comfort. Whether that means chore boots or hiking shoes is up to you.
Top: Fielsd Blazer II Muck Boots
Bottom: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Sp Hiking Shoes
Women’s tactical pants
Opt for high-quality, water-resistant outdoor tactical pants: Find something that offers a high degree of breathability and enough pockets for light but important things like small tools, your phone, ID, and range passes. Ideally you’ll want to keep mags in a jacket or vest pocket for quick accessibility. The pockets should also be well away from belt loops, knife sheaths, and holsters.
If possible, go for the regular fit as opposed to a relaxed fit, as this will help to keep your gear in your pockets from swinging around, but also keeps your pants out of the way while moving. If you feel a regular fit is too tight, go to a relaxed fit. It’ll ensure you can actually fit your gear in your pockets without reducing mobility.
The Best Women’s Tactical Range Pants
If you’re never going to be in wet conditions, these are the pants for you. Fjallraven Keb Women’s Trousers are stylish, comfortable, and have just enough storage to keep your ID and range passes on you and out of your way. They also feature zippered mesh vents to help you adjust from cool mornings to hot noon-hours and into the evening. These maybe aren’t ideal for every woman, but they’re much more versatile and can go from range gear to hiking gear very quickly.
If you don’t like to carry around gear in your pant pockets or just don’t have the need for them at all, go for the ever popular 5.11 Tactical Fast-Tac Women’s Urban Pant. This offers minimal (but well placed) pockets, in a regular fit, and is perfect for those who love the belt mounted holsters and tool sheaths. Nothing fancy, just what you need for a good day at the range.
Last, is the best all-around pant. The Truspec 24-7 Women's Xpedition Pant offers loads of pockets for easy access for your phone, a reinforced knife holder, D-loops, and a few more secure options. They also come with zippered vents on the outside of the leg and at the bottom to keep you comfortable in the heat. All-in-all these are the best bang for your buck female tactical pants.
Remember that regardless, you’re going to need to have a good belt. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy but it should be wide enough to offer good support, but narrow enough for belt loops and belt mounted gear.
Top: Fjallraven Keb Womens Trousers
Bottom: Truspec 24-7 Womens Xpedition Pants
Women’s Range Shirts and Jackets
Being on the bustier side, this is usually where I personally struggle with my gear and apparel. I’ll be speaking more towards women looking for tactical gear for larger busts, but really, this should apply to most of my female friends.
First, think about fit. Like we said before, baggy and loose, although comfortable, is dangerous. That doesn’t mean you need to go skin-tight. Opt for a fitted shirt with some give in the shoulders and arms like the 5.11 Women’s Taclite Pro Long Sleeve Shirt. This is only slightly more fitted than its male counterpart, still giving you plenty of mobility and protection on the range. Ideally, I avoid buttons and go for quarter or half-zippers, but options like that are limited.
Pair this shirt with the Browning Trapper Creek Vest and you’ll be good for just about any casual day on the range or in the field.
Shooting in more erratic weather? Go for a good jacket. For longer days, the 5.11 Tactical Women's Surplus Jacket does the trick. Loaded with pockets and offering a looser fit for layering, this jacket is easy to wear over a light shirt or insulated base. Plus, the length offers some protection from the wind!
If you’re going to be moving a lot in dryer but maybe cooler weather, go for a classic soft-shell like the Women's Sierra Softshell.
Anything cooler and you’ll just want to find a jacket with plenty of movement in the shoulders that is at least somewhat fitted to keep it out of your way.
Image: 5.11 Tactical Womens Surplus Jacket
Women’s Shooting Gloves
There are a few other options on the market, but in terms of quality, rating, and price, you really can’t go wrong with the Mechanix Wear Pursuit E5 Cut-Resistant Gloves. They’re the only glove I’ve ever found that are priced reasonably, fit my larger palms and longer fingers, but are also narrower and thinner in the fingers allowing you to feel the trigger without getting caught up in trigger guards. The only alteration I do is snip off the tag on the side of the hand.
Plus they’re great when oiling or repairing your gun. Again, thin enough to feel your tools and parts, but offer great protection against cleaners, oils, dust, and even cool air. When you’re not using them, they fold away nicely into your pocket.
Range Bags for Women? You Bet.
Don’t be that person with the grocery bag of loose mags and tools.
There are a few things to consider in any range bag, but when it comes to well-fit female tactical gear, there’s only a few considerations to keep in mind: you’ll want it low profile with good shoulder straps.
No joke – shoulder straps will make or break (literally) your trips throughout the range. Too thin, they can’t support your heavy gear (ammo even). Too thick, and it’ll feel like your bra-strap keeps sliding off your shoulder, making for the ever-awkward “my hands are too full” shuffle to the bench.
Not your typical range bag, the 5.11 Tactical Weapon Accessories Bail Out Bag is designed for active shooter response teams but is perfect for short, single weapon trips. This bag is set up to hug your waist/hips as you move, reducing swing and giving you a low-profile advantage that you won’t find in a typical range bag. Obviously, this means it has a little bit less capacity, but it makes up for that with its well thought out design. You’ll comfortably carry six or more mags while still having room for stuff like a med kit and range tools.
For short trips between your vehicle and the range, you can forget the low-profile design and go for a traditional range bag like the Smith & Wesson Officer Tactical Range Bag. With plenty of interior pockets, seven mag capacity, and offered in a manageable size for anyone, this bag combines all the utility you need with a sleek, attractive design. You’ll just want to switch out the shoulder strap for something a little more comfortable or at least padded. Other than that, this is the perfect range bag for the ladies new or experienced.
If you’re a gear hauler, go for the 5.11 Range Master Duffel Set. Customizable and at a 47L capacity, you can literally fit the kitchen sink in here.
Top: 5.11 Tactical Weapon Accessories Bail Out Bag
Bottom: Smith & Wesson Officer Tactical Range Bag
Bring it all together
Finally, you need to consider how each piece of gear is going to fit together. If you’re going to wear a loaded up jacket, you’re not going to want a shoulder strap crossing over all your mags and tools. Similarly, if you’re wearing heavier pants, you’ll need to opt for lighter boots.
In the end it really is all about comfort. So find what’s right for your body-shape and activity, and get gear that compliments the rest of your arsenal.
Written by Emily Gust
With rifle in-hand and just what she can carry in her pack, Emily was raised chasing monster whitetails on the prairies and camping throughout the Canadian wilderness. Spending much of her free time exploring, she knows a thing or two about surviving extended periods of time in the unpredictable outdoors. If it’s related to hunting, fishing, or the outdoors, you can bet she’s into it. Instagram @prairieland_huntress