I’ve recently acquired the Rothco Cross Draw MOLLE System Tactical Military Vest to add to my home defense and bug-out supplies.
I wanted something easy to wear in a crisis situation that housed everything I needed to defend my home and/or sustain a firefight. While not perfect, the Rothco Cross Draw is an excellent entry-level choice at an affordable price.
Bottom Line Upfront
Rothco Cross Draw MOLLE Tactical Military Vest
Lightweight and customizable, with an adjustable length and durability, the Rothco is a well-priced choice to add to your survival gear.
- Easy to access ammo pouches
- Convenient shoulder D-rings
- Plenty of maneuverability
- Easy to wear with a backpack
- Spot to add armor plate in back
- Plenty of ammo storage for pistols
- Disappointing holster
- No side breakaway clips
- Awkward cinching straps
- Limited ammo storage for rifles
- No communications pouch
Quality and Features
The Rothco Cross Draw MOLLE System has a somewhat adaptable configuration that covers most of the areas you should consider when choosing a tactical vest.
A properly fitted vest is necessary for maximum freedom of movement, and the Rothco Cross Draw has a good design that can be tailored to most body types.
The length of the vest is fully adjustable at the shoulders with double-sided velcro. The girth is adjustable with three torso straps on each side. The front has two quick-release utility clips to secure the vest, in addition to a full front zipper.
Even in its smallest fitting, it’s a tad too long for my torso, but this isn’t a deal breaker. I have a very small frame, and this is a common issue I’ve dealt with most of my life. It just means I have to wear my survival belt around my hips instead of my waist.
Fortunately, there are six double-secured snap and velcro loop attachments that hold the belt firmly in place, making it an easy adjustment. It’s also possible to remove the belt altogether.
The belt is stiff (as it should be) and can hold gear comfortably. It features a durable, plastic quick-release buckle and is easily adjustable with Velcro. The zippers appear heavy-duty and function well without any snags or hang-ups.
There are six rows with five loops each for attaching additional Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE). The top two rungs feature a velcro background for rip-away pouches.
There are some reports that M1A magazines are too big for the ammo pouches. The rifle mag pouches are approximately 3″ x 1 ½”. It takes some effort, but I can manage to get a box of 30-30 ammunition in the pouches. If your magazines are any bigger than that, they definitely won’t fit.
Ideally, a tactical vest should be both lightweight as well as durable. Out of the box, the Cross Draw indeed feels lightweight, and the entire inside is lined with mesh for comfort and breathability. The shoulders are minimally padded on both sides, providing some cushion for weight bearing and recoil.
However, there’s a rod-like structure woven into the padding of the shoulders, which rests directly on my collarbone. With any substantial weight added to the vest, this becomes uncomfortable and painful.
It might be easy to remove without damaging the structural integrity of the vest, and it’s likely not to be an issue for someone with a larger frame.
There are also some complaints that the vest is too snug for larger individuals over 250 lbs, but there are oversized options for 2XL/3XL available.
A strong and durable tactical vest should be made from a high-denier count of either nylon or polyester. The Cross Draw is made from a combination of 1000D Cordura nylon (above average for the industry) and polyester, making it both abrasion and weather resistant.
The whole backside of the vest features the Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS), and the stitching is solid and reinforced where needed.
According to Rothco, the vest itself is ISO certified, meaning it meets industry standards for efficiency, quality, and safety.
The Cross Draw Molle System offers a moderate amount of storage capacity but could be insufficient for some users depending on the preferred loadout. It only offers three rifle-mag pouches along the right abdomen, which is light for some, but it offers an abundance of pistol mag pouches.
There are three on the upper-left chest, two on the belt, and one on the pistol holster itself. While the pistol magazine pouches on the belt can be removed and relocated, all the mag pouches on the vest are permanently affixed.
The three rifle pouches and the utility pouch located on the right shoulder all contain drain holes. However, the pistol mag pouches do not. Additionally, the utility pouch features a velcro strip for shotshell ammunition holders or patches.
There are small cubbies behind the rifle-mag pouches that could house small items, like a tactical pen or Kubotan, but there is no way to secure anything from falling out. So it would need to be a pretty snug fit.
The pistol mag pouches are completely adjustable and can secure a variety of different-sized magazines without any significant issues. They are also sufficient enough for carrying other items, like tactical flashlights, maces, pocket knives, stun guns, or multitools.
Inside the vest are two good-sized mesh pockets for maps, personal documents, phones, or anything else you want to include. The back is total mesh and can hold a camel bladder or even an armor plate. There is no armor-bearing capacity for the front panels.
The holster can hold a variety of sidearms, but some fit better than others. While smaller pistols fit in the holster, there may be some difficulty drawing the weapon without getting hung up.
What I like most about the Rothco Cross Draw is that all the ammo pouches are free and clear of any blockage for easy access. Additionally, the front of the vest features five rows placed at a forty-five-degree angle for securing the holster or other MOLLE gear.
The small utility pouch and pistol magazines around the chest area give you plenty of maneuverability for shouldering your weapon and a full sweeping range without any interference from larger bulky items. Likewise, a rifle sling can slide smoothly without getting hung up on your gear.
D-rings on both shoulders can help keep communications equipment and hydration tubes out of the way. The D-rings can also be used for running slings, transceiver attachments, or even a hydration tube. There’s also a reinforced grab/drag handle for grab-and-go or pull-out rescue.
The back is clear, making it easy to shoulder a pack or bug-out bag over the vest. You can add an armor plate to the back for additional protection. The vest is also adjustable enough to wear over armor plating.
If you don’t like the location of the pistol holder, the PALS webbing allows you to put something else in its place, like additional rifle mag pouches or ammo pouches.
This pistol holster is slightly subpar when compared to the rest of the vest. In attempting to adjust the location of the holster, a piece of the webbing broke loose.
Because of the angle cut of the holster, the PALS webbing isn’t wide enough to get the MOLLE strap through the first ladder rung. It’s a little disappointing, but it’s still functional, and I’ll eventually upgrade it to a better one.
There are only two things I absolutely don’t like about the practicality of this vest.
First, I would have preferred break-away clips on the sides for safety reasons.
Second, I believe the cinching straps would have functioned better facing toward the back of the vest. Since I have the straps tightened all the way, their length interferes with my ability to access the first magazine pouch and the holster without obstruction.
Since my primary purpose for this vest is a home defense kit with a secondary bug-out option, I would have liked to see a few more options for shotgun shells, but that’s the nice thing about MOLLE-type vests. I can always add it myself.
A dedicated communications pouch would have also been nice, but nothing I can’t live without. It’s also something I can add later.
It should be noted that the Cross Draw tactical vest is designed for right-handed shooters. However, it would be possible for a left-handed shooter to attach a holster to the survival belt or add a leg holster.
Why You Need a Tactical Vest
There’s a familiar military saying: “Fight from the chest, survive from the belt, and live from the bag.” A tactical vest is an essential piece of equipment to help you meet two out of three of these tenets. It can house all the tools and accessories you need during any adventure or tactical situation.
While your vest and survival belt are usually joined together, both should be free and separate from any bug-out bag. These three separate components provide you with a complete bug-out system.