As its name implies, plate carriers are designed to carry armor plates. These carriers hold the plates on your chest and back, covering your vital organs, and providing personal protection against incoming rifle rounds.
Plate carriers also have load-bearing systems like Molle webbing on them and are used to carry tactical gear. They allow operators to distribute the weight of their duty gear evenly on their body, rather than mounting it all on their tactical belts.
Generally, there are two main types of plate carriers available in the market. These are concealable and tactical plate carriers. Concealable plate carriers are designed to be easily concealed, which is why they don’t have a load-bearing system like MOLLE or Laser Cut. Moreover, the shoulder straps and cumberbund on a Concealable plate carrier might not have the same level of padding as a tactical plate carrier. This is done to give the carrier a smaller profile and make it more easily concealable.
A tactical or military plate carrier usually has some sort of load-bearing system, which allows military personnel to mount their gear on the plate carrier vests. Tactical plate carriers are also more comfortable, with padded shoulder straps, and padded inner liners, which are also designed to improve airflow and decrease sweating so that these tactical plate carriers can be worn for extended periods of time.
Tactical plate carrier vests are quite common among civilians as well, and they have additional features for law enforcement and military emergency situations like quick-release tabs and an emergency drag handle for when soldiers or police officers are injured and needs to be moved out of the combat zone for medical aid.
Your body armor should fit in a way that it is neither too tight to restrict movement, nor to lose to shift around. It should cover all of your vital organs. The top should be just below your collar bones, and the bottom should be slightly above your belly button. You should be able to move your arms around freely without the plate digging into your shoulder.
One of the best ways to check the fit of body armor is to wear it and do some burpees before buying it. The plate carrier vest should stay in place without shifting around your body and should be comfortable as well.
To get an idea if your plate carrier fits well, you should take a deep breath, and as your chest expands, it should feel a little tight against the armor plates. To test your range of motion, and fit, you should also do a couple of burpees while wearing your plate carrier setup. You should be able to do this quick exercise without the carrier restricting your movement.
After you have sorted out the fit of your tactical plate carrier vest, you need to think about how you are going to set it up. The ideal setup for plate carriers can be different for everyone, depending on the reason they are wearing armor, and the tactics they are going to use.
However, there are some things that need to be a part of every carrier setup. The first is extra ammo, whether you are running a pistol or rifle, it is good to have some extra magazines on your plate carrier vest, where they can be accessed quickly. For a simple defensive setup, you should also have other essentials like a flashlight and a trauma kit.
Military personnel set up their Tactical plate carriers according to their missions, with four main categories of items. These are Ammunition, Medical supplies, Admin supplies such as comms, and other gadgets, and some mission-specific items.
To get a comfortable fit, and vital ballistic protection from your plate carrier vests, you need to make sure that you chose the right size. Unlike bulletproof vests, which are sized like clothes, Plate carriers are sized according to the plate that they can carry. Every carrier has adjustable shoulder straps and cummerbund, so it can fit anybody, to make sure that you have the perfect fit, and protection, you need to make sure that you are wearing the right sized armor plate.
Armor plates come in multiple sizes, which can sometimes be different for different manufacturers. However, in most stores, you will find four sizes, these are small, medium, large, and extra-large. Here are the dimensions of these sizes.
Small: 8×10 inches
Medium: 10×12 inches
Large: 10×13 inches
Extra Large: 11×14 inches
Small plates are ideal for women, and people with small statues. Medium and large plates are the most common, whereas extra-large plates are used by bigger than average people. You need to choose a size according to your body type and get plates that cover all of your vital organs, while not restricting your movement either.
The weight of your body armor setup can depend on a variety of factors. From the type of carrier you are using to the protection level of the ballistic plates, their size, and the tactical gear you carry, everything makes an impact on your overall weight.
On average, a plate carrier setup can weigh as less as 15 pounds for a minimalist or concealable setup, or it can be as high as 35 or 40 pounds with level IV plates and a wide range of tactical gear. Normally, most plate carriers used by civilians will weigh about 20 to 25 pounds.
Plate carriers should cover all of your vital organs. This can be easily achieved with bulletproof vests, however, with tactical plate carriers, it can be a little challenging.
Ideally, your body armor plate carrier should cover all of your vital organs; it should sit about an inch below your collarbone, and be about an inch or so above your belly button while being centered. The back body armor plate should also rest at the same level as the front plate for a balanced setup.
Comfort is essential for anybody armor or personal protection setup. Therefore it is essential to make sure that your plate carrier is neither too tight, nor too loose. It should have a snug fit so that it doesn’t shift. Ideally, the plate carrier should start to feel tight when you take a deep breath and your chest expands.