Photographer and safari vests, originally intended for the civilian market, were often used by Special Forces including Delta Force (CAG) and the CIA in the 1980’s to early 2000’s period.  I have tried to catalog the specific vests found in period photographs to the best of my ability given the limited info and resolution of these photos.

Banana Republic:

BR Sample 1:

Has a hood inside collar. 




Used by Norman Schwartzkopf’s close protection team in Operation Desert Storm (Gulf War 1, 1991).

See (Italian language) for more info.

BR Sample 2:

This is possibly the earliest version of its type (1986 copyright; “British Crown Colony of Hong Kong” indicates it was made before 1997). 

The Humvee brand has reproduced this vest: (not a referral). 

Mesh for cooling:

Weave of mesh is like the leno mesh used in purpose-built nylon load bearing vests.

Zipper and Pocket Detail:


Very similar to the example worn by CIA contractors (?) here (pocket layout, diagonal zipper on upper left pocket), except without epaulettes.  The person on the right is probably wearing 5.11 Sample 1, described in a separate section later on this page.

Another similar example is worn by this British SBS operator in Afghanistan (2001, source:

December 11th, 2001 – A member of the Special Boat Service inspects damage done by U.S. air strikes at the Tarnak farms camp – an abandoned Al-Qaeda training facility on the southern outskirts of Kandahar airport (from

Delta Force (SFOD-D):

This type of vest appears frequently in the few Yugoslvian Civil War photos of Delta operators. Like the example worn by the CIA contractor above, note the two D-rings on the right upper pocket (as worn) in some pictures.

This vest also appears on many action figures such as the Soldier Story MARSOC Raider Action Figure:


It is also seen in a variety of custom “kit bashes”, particularly for CIA agents in Afghanistan.

5.11 tactical:

5.11 Sample 1:

Zippers and hardware are brass:



The vest appears to be optimized for conceal carry. The pistol compartment has padding on the external-facing side to aid in concealment and the pockets have elastic loops for holding magazines.


Appears to match the vest worn in 2001 in Afghanistan here by the SBS:

Private Military Contractors (PMC):

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: Afghan president Hamid Karzai (2R) gestures as he is guarded by US security whilst walking with local officials during the opening ceremony in Mohammad Agha district in Logar province, south of Kabul, May 07 2005. Under an internationally backed program Afghanistan aims to rebuild hundreds of buildings for local authorities and police headquarters throughout the war-shattered country in a bid to extend the rule of law in the country. Three years after the fall of the Taliban, most of the country still remains under the control of the regional warlords who on many occasions have ignored the authority of central government. AFP PHOTO/ FARZANA Wahidy (Photo credit should read FARZANA WAHIDY/AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai surrounded by privately-hired heavily armed bodyguards (from

Many “realistic” action figures of early Afghan War on Terror period (~2001) CIA SAD agents have this vest.


BR Sample 1 and 5.11 Sample 1:

5.11 Sample 1 on left, BR Sample 1 on right.