Plate carriers and bulletproof vests save lives. As their name would suggest , ballistic armor plates are inserted into plate carriers. Other than that, they also allow wearers to carry essential equipment without sacrificing mobility and comfort. Functional straps, pouches, and more can be integrated into plate carriers for survival and safety reasons.
With the many types of features and attachments available for plate carriers, it can get confusing knowing which of these are the most ideal for you. Like with most other things, choosing them depends on your needs. For example, in late 2018, the U.S. Marine Corps. upgraded their line of plate carriers by removing material from the carrier’s shoulders and bottom, reducing water absorption, and ensuring quick disassembly of the plate carrier.
That is one scenario that shows how professionals are particular with factors like the weight, discreetness, and comfort of the plate carriers. A wearer must keep in mind his or her line of duty, aside from personal preferences, when selecting plate carriers’ accessories. Figuring out the best setup for a plate carrier takes time and consideration but can mean the difference between life and death even if bullets aren’t involved.
The following are the notable accessories and features of plate carriers that you might need for your loadout.
Other Plate Carrier Features
You can extend the plate carrier’s functionalities as required by your mission. Here are some of the most important plate carrier features today:
A plate carrier is meant to protect your life, but in rare cases the carrier itself can also pose a risk. This is especially true if the plate carrier gets caught on something when trying to quickly leave an area. That is why quick release features exist in most plate carrier systems.
The quick release feature usually takes the form of a tab that can be pulled once to separate the panels of the carrier and remove them from the wearer. Others use a buckle adapter or a clip that can just be quickly released.
Drag handles tend to be discreet, but many soldiers in combat do wear them. A drag handle’s coverage can reach the back, chest, or waist, depending on the specific carrier. From the outside, the gear shows a strap handle that another person can hold and drag, allowing him to transfer the body wearing the drag handle anywhere else.
As you can see, the drag handle is useful for exfiltrating a wounded person, which can happen in life threatening combat.
MOLLE and Hook & Loop
The Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment or MOLLE system is a popular way for soldiers to attach their things on their plate carriers or other areas of the body. The MOLLE system utilizes mechanisms for modularity (or the ability to be combined and separated) in its gears, including fabric straps, plastic strips, adhesives, and more.
Meanwhile, hook and loop fasteners are present in a lot of military gears because they can adjust well, like when attaching pouches and other addons. They also provide the best accessibility in the most dangerous situations, when one needs to reach something fast without having to figure out how to detach it.
Also known as velcro, they are the very familiar fastening strips where one side has small soft loops, while the other side has the rough-textured hooks.
Since a lot of the weight from a plate carrier sits on the wearer’s shoulders, long periods of wear can result in strain and discomfort. This is where shoulder pads can greatly help. The padding should sit well on top of the shoulders, where it won’t easily slide as the wearer moves.
It should be able to support and distribute the weight of the load carried by the soldier. For comfort, breathable material is always a plus. Shoulder pads in plate carriers usually contain foam or gel-like pads.
The shoulder pads in the military combat gear don’t look like the ones attached to typical clothing. They are cushions that can be wrapped around the shoulder straps of the plate carrier by fastening them. For example, the Shellback Tactical Banshee Ultimate Shoulder Pad are detachable because of its velcro snaps. It is highly padded, but still breathable, utilizing multiple layers of fabrics and mesh.
Pouches and Other Attachments
On top of the plate carrier’s basic functions, you might want additional components for tactical and survival purposes. These need to be easy to reach and use, as otherwise, they don’t need to be in your plate carrier, but in your pack. The following are recommended:
There are a number of categories for pouches to serve you efficiently. Here they are:
Mag pouches - For those who need to carry extra magazines as part of their firearms, then there are mag pouches for the taking. Mag pouches come in different sizes depending on your type of magazine. Still, you can adjust the flap of the pouch according to the magazine’s fit, especially if it has a velcro fastener or a hook and loop one.
It can also be a set of pouches lined with one another. For example, the Condor Triple Mag Pouch, from its name, has three pouches. It can hold six M4/M16 mags and has a hook and loop flap.
Gear pouches - A person may need different sorts of gears to be carried along with their plate carrier. Gear pouches, then, need to have the right room for these items while not hindering the person from doing activities.
Gear pouches have different sizes and shapes, as long as they have straps or fasteners that allow them to be attached to the body or plate carrier, as well as enclosures like zippers or flaps. They can also have pockets, mounts, and stiff padding, considering the storage of gears in mind.
The Chase Tactical Joey Utility Pouch, for one, has two zipper pockets at the front and one zipper pocket at the back. This means those pockets can compartmentalize different objects. It features an IR Treated material, which means its reflection of infrared light is minimized, so as to prevent night vision goggles to spot it.
Dump pouches - A dump pouch isn’t like a gear pouch, as the former usually resembles a purse string, in which the fabric is a bit more loose. Dump pouches can also have flaps or zippers instead of strings. Here, you can dump spent ammo mags, used gear and other miscellaneous items.
Pistol holsters - A pistol holster is the container which holds and can sometimes conceal a pistol. Many holsters have a hook or other means to be attached to the wearer’s belt or plate carrier.
It is also essential for the holster to let the user quickly draw their sidearm whenever needed. It is up to the user which holster they are comfortable with, as some users are okay with holsters that gradually loosen when a gun is intently pulled out. Others involve special locks or techniques of drawing.
One example is the Condor HT Holster. It incorporates velcro straps so that with such holster, the user can easily remove the gun, as well as tighten it in place. It also works with MOLLE attachment systems.
Cummerbunds are removable parts like belts or pockets with hooks where you can mount extra gear. Soldiers use cummerbund systems to carry their gears, pouches, or any other that they prefer. They use one for different reasons, such as faster accessibility to their gear when needed, weight distribution, or airflow they for added comfort instead of using pouches.
Side Plate Pouches - Many cummerbund systems need side plate pouches. The AR500 Veritas Cummerbund Kit can be inserted into the lower admin pouch. It has a skeletonized design that allows flexibility in terms of attachment of pouches and objects, as well as sizing concerns.
The Shellback Tactical BANSHEE Molle Side Plate Pockets, meanwhile, are detachable pockets compatible with the inner cumberbunds (with PALS webbing) of Banshee Series and some other brands of plate carriers.
Flashlights, Sights, Oculars
During military operations, visual capability is crucial. Plate carriers (or their extensions), thus, are often mountable with visual equipment like flashlights, sights, and oculars. These can be attached on hooks, fabric mounts, pockets, or pouches located in a preferred area of the body.
The Guard Dog Reflex Tactical Flashlight is one that demonstrates how such device is structured to easily fit into the plate carrier vest. It is not bulky, so as to affect mobility. It has a swivel bezel, so that it can be adjusted with more precision to a certain direction as well as a clip and magnet that allows the user to easily secure its position.
The Bulletproof Zone Tactical Infrared Night-Vision Monocular is also another great piece of gear. It is quite portable for the features it offers, such as infrared sight for night vision and up to 8x digital zoom. Some soldiers opt for a monocular, instead of a binocular, for its convenience and weight. The said night-vision monocular doesn’t say much in terms of mountability to a plate carrier, but it does include a handle strap at the side (securing one’s grip), which has a small fabric hook to be attached to one’s plate carrier.
Find the Loadout That’s Right For You
Try to build your loadout as you go. As you pursue a specific operation, you can estimate the types of gear that have to quickly be in reach for you to be as effective on the field as possible.
There are many configurations of plate carriers (with various features and attachments) that can provide you the tactical advantage on the field, or simply save your life in an emergency.
Evaluate the types of situations you might find yourself in most often and develop your loadout from there.