Tactical Plate Carriers
Plate carriers are designed to do pretty much one thing – save your life. If you’re unsure of what a plate carrier is, it’s similar to a bulletproof vest, though with a few major differences.
Instead of being made out of Kevlar or some other hard material, hard plates made out of plastic, metal, or composite materials are inserted into a plate carrier’s pockets and held on your body by a vest to protect your chest and back.
The idea is that these hard plates will stop a bullet, knife, shrapnel, or other impacts. While no vest promises 100% survival rate, the chances of surviving an attack, especially with a weapon, improve dramatically if you’re wearing a tactical plate carrier.
Because of their design, plate carriers can also help carry equipment. Many plate carriers include functional straps, pouches, MOLLE systems, clips, and other features to help carry equipment.
One of the major differences between plate carrier models is whether the vest is designed to be worn inside or outside of clothing. Some vests are big and bulky, while others are specifically designed for concealment and have thinner, low profiles.
The design of a plate carrier can severely affect its weight, bulkiness, and comfort, so make sure you know whether you want an exterior or interior plate carrier.
In this guide, I’ll outline a few of the key factors you want to keep in mind when you’re comparing the different tactical plate carriers, plus a list of the top 7 plate carriers on the market today. I’ll give a quick outline of each plate carrier’s specific features as well as the pros and cons of each vest.
Key features of a plate carrier
To find the right plate carrier, take a look at the following key features. Whether it’s weight, number of pockets, amount of protection, cummerbunds, or drag handles, plate carriers vary between models. Keep an eye on each vest’s specs to guarantee you get the right one for you.
Pouches and pockets
Every plate carrier will have at least two pouches. The plates themselves are housed in front and rear pouches, or pockets, integrated into the vest’s design. You’ll see a range of loading designs, closing designs, and sizes of plat pockets.
You’ll also see some plate carriers with a combination of numerous extra pouches and pockets, including mag pouches, flashlight pockets, and handcuff pockets, upper and lower admin pouches, and general gear pouches. A couple of the tactical vests come with pistol holders
Some vests have Velcro closures, buttons, drawstrings, flaps, and/or zips to close the pockets.
While there doesn’t seem to be that much difference between weights of the tactical vests (they range from around a pound to just under 4 lbs), it’s worth considering as this extra weight is something you’ll be carrying every step of the way.
Slim-fitting, low-profile vests tend to weigh less, while over-the-clothing vests tend to be bigger, bulkier, and heavier. Also, remember the vest weighs less when you don’t have the plates in.
The heavy-duty tactical plate carriers can stop a decent-sized round from a rifle or shotgun. Some others on the list are designed to be used with soft armor, designed for protection against knives and small-caliber rounds.
Another key difference between tactical vests is whether they have side plates or not. All of the plate carriers have front and back plates, though a few of them come with additional side-plate pouches, designed to maximize protection.
A cummerbund is the sash you see when a man wears a tux. When we’re talking about plate carriers, though, it’s a waist strap designed to minimize the movement of the vest when being worn. With shoulder straps and a cummerbund, the heavy front and rear won’t slide around, leaving your back or chest exposed.
A drag handle is one of the extra features a few tactical plate carriers have. Essentially, if you’re hit and can’t walk out of there, a drag handle gives your buddy something good to grab in order to drag you out of harm’s way.
Top 7 Plate Carriers
Out of all the tactical plate carriers out there today, these seven are the best of the bunch. Some of them are premium plate carriers full of features designed to be worn on the outside of clothing, while others are slim, bare-bones vests designed for ultra-concealment to keep a low profile.
You’ll see a decent variety of prices, designs, and features, and I’m sure one of these tactical vests is the right plate carrier for you.
Take a look at these key points to keep in mind when you’re buying a plate carrier. Whether it’s for work, travel, or safety at home, answering these questions will guide you towards finding the right plate carrier for you.
What’s your plate carrier for?
Are you a member of the armed forces or a security guard? Or are you a civilian looking to boost their personal protection at home? Answering these questions will help you decide on the right plate carrier.
Think about whether or not you need to conceal your plate carrier. If you’re going to be traveling with it, you might want a lightweight, low-profile vest, as opposed to a big, bulky one which is more suitable for home defense.
Do you need your pockets and pouches?
If you want to carry a bunch of gear with you while wearing your tactical plate carrier, you should probably get one with pockets, clips, toggles, or some sort of MOLLE system.
If, on the other hand, you need a low profile vest with no extra gear, then you needn’t get one with pocket and pouches, and instead look for a low-profile, lightweight vest with a simple, no-frills design.
Do you want lightweight or heavy-duty?
If you’re going to be walking the beat wearing your plate carrier, you might want to invest in a more expensive, lightweight model built for protection and comfort. If, on the other hand, weight and bulkiness isn’t an issue, then splash out on a heavy-duty plate carrier that’s jammed full of features.