The plate carrier is effectively your number one companion during combat. This is the very reason why proper plate carrier set up is as equally important as getting yourself prepared. The last thing you would want to happen is to end up suffering from a gunshot while you are busy getting the extra mags placed in the wrong part of the vest. Your plate carrier will only serve its purpose if you prepare it the right way.
The plate carrier has been among the most utilized pieces of equipment for the past 15 years and counting, being most preferred option for protection among law enforcement and military officers, and recently, it has also become increasingly popular among civilians.
This means a growing number of variations and designs which make it a rather daunting process to choose the right carrier and corresponding attachments and accessories for your needs.
Finding the suitable sizing and configuration is imperative because an ill-equipped and uncomfortable carrier will be far from being useful. This is why you have to do everything it takes to ensure that you will not only find the best gear but also execute the right plate carrier set up to ensure that the items critical to the mission are accessible when the need arises.
Table of Contents
1. Plate Carrier Sizing and Fitting
Choosing the right sized plate carrier will guarantee that it will ride comfortably and offer the ultimate armor protection in all the right places. In general, the main sizing method for a plate carrier is the size of the armor plate(s) you plan to fit.
While the specifics of the armor ratings may be found here, you will want to choose a plate size which sufficiently covers all of your vital organs. Also, you will want to ensure that the plate carrier will have enough room to hold your armor. There are carriers which can accept different armor cut types (e.g. shooters and swimmers cuts) while some need a specific armor product.
The key here is to ensure that your carrier has been properly fitted or else it will not offer enough armor coverage, not to mention it will not be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
Because it can be tricky to adjust a plate carrier while you are wearing it, you can spare yourself some time wasted and frustration if you ask someone else to help you with the sizing. The general rule of thumb is that its front plate pouch must sit at the width of two fingers under your collarbone.
You can use the shoulder straps to adjust the rear plate pouch to make it in line with the front instead of sagging lower on the back. If possible, the next thing you should do is remove the side straps, or cummerbund, of your carrier and attach these to the front side, making sure that the webbing or attachment systems will not get obstructed.
After that, feed the strap back through its rear plate pouch. You can tighten or loosen the cummerbund as required, giving enough slack to guarantee comfortable movement and breathing while the carrier stays snug on the body. If you want to check if everything has been adjusted properly, you can lean your waist back, side to side, and forward. Try bending over and touching your toes. If your plate carrier doesn’t dig into the body, then congratulations, it means that it has been correctly fitted.
2. What Will You Carry
It is a must to keep in mind that a plate carrier is the combination of an armor system and load carriage. Just as its name suggests, a plate carrier is meant to be used and worn with armor plates inside the main compartments. If these are not present, the carrier will never fit properly as it will sag as soon as you begin attaching pouches and other items.
If you have no plans of using plates, you can always purchase Level IIIA Soft Armor Inserts to offer some kind of stability. If you are simply looking for a means of carrying your water, ammo, and other important gear without adding plates, you should consider utilizing a belt system or chest rig instead.
After you have decided that you do indeed want to use a plate carrier setup, you can begin to consider the various attachments you want to mount on the plate carrier. Keep in mind that there is no need for you to fill all available attachment spaces. You merely have to keep in mind what things you will be carrying where is the best spot on your armor to access them.
Keep in mind that armor plates alone are already quite heavy and it will be even heavier once you add all the additional pouches and holsters. Make sure you don’t layer numerous pouches on the front as it can increase the risk of snagging. See to it that there are no things mounted that might interfere with shouldering weapons and check that hydration tubes and comms cables get routed so they don’t get in your way or act as a snag hazard.
Also, the pouches mounted on the side must never interfere with your access to the holster or other things on the beltline. Lastly, see to it that you don’t add many bulky pouches on top of your magazines since it will just interfere with their ease of use and accessibility.
3. Consider Your Mission
With all the different designs available right now, you would want to identify your plate carrier’s use-case. The LBX Tactical Armatus II Plate Carrier is a low profile plate carrier and offer modularity with different panels depending on your needs. This kind of carriers usually have lesser attachments so they are meant for use with modular clip-on panels and chest rigs.
If you require side armor capability or you are looking for more space for mounting pouches as well as other items, there are also carriers that can meet these needs. Ballistic armor plates can be especially heavy at times which is why the carriers may use laser cutting techniques and laminate materials.
If you are after maximum flexibility, the Condor MOPC is a great choice of a plate carrier. It enables you to scale your protection level up and down and makes it easy to swap between various configurations based on the weapon system or role.
Always consider what role the carrier may play in the environment you will be working in. While In-depth discussion of particular loadouts is a discussion for another day, various mission sets would change what must get prioritized on your plate carrier. The patrol cop building active shooter response kits might want to put additional medical supplies upfront to treat victims in comparison to infantrymen who might want more accessible comms and magazines.
Generally, you'll want to keep the gear you’ll need to access frequently or as quickly as possible upfront for easy access. Body Armor Packages are also a great option that offers everything you need for great values.
4. Front Pouch for Magazines
It’s one of the basic laws to set up plate carriers with front pouches for magazines. A modest load of 5.56 rifle magazines, for example, would do great in your front pockets. It's a great setup as long as it isn’t necessary for you to chest mount an additional pistol, communicate with different satcoms, carry magazines or mount grenades.
A majority of rigs may carry a shingle of 3 mags. Depending on the usage, that number is typically enough for decent combat. There are double plated vests wherein you could double up the reload magazines. It might seem interesting, yet you should be cautious because you could run too thick and you might have a tough time if you need to climb over structures such as window frames, walls, rock ledges or roof lines. The Condor Triple Mag Pouch is a good example of expanding your mag counts.
5. Keep Everything Streamlined
You cannot just bring all kinds of gear regardless of how much you'd like to. You’ll always end up bringing the necessary ones simply for the reason that your vest has limitations on how much it can carry. Aside from that, it’s always best to keep everything simple.
Consider making it a standard that the eyes should downrange on a hazard zone while you are reaching for items. When necessary, you should reach each item quickly without sacrificing the visibility for adversaries and reduce the need the need to look at the pouches each time. Other than that, see to it that you arrange the items in a way that allows smooth reloads as well as prevents some accidental snags with slings or cables.
6. Put Some Things Centered
Typically, you’d want to put more weight on the sides where you are weaker. For example, a person who is right handed would like to carry items on her or his left side so that he or she could move freely on his or her right.
Nevertheless, it is different when you’re wearing the plate carrier in which case, you'll need to balance the things and distribute the weight at the center. If you are strong at the right side, it is ideal to balance it with a bleeder stopper set from an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) or anything you might have which you may place at the right of your three-magazine shingle but you should not put it very far to the right. Also remember, you should never show your carrier to extreme sides and you should also ensure that your pressure dressing or bandage is accessible.
7. Keep the Shoulders Clean
Keep the areas on the front shoulders as clean as possible. You should also keep this region clean of killer knives misc. pouches or emergency flashlights so that you can block shots and shift hands from your weaker side. You should also put your rifle butt over your shoulders to initiate accurately aimed distance shots. Prevent clutter on butt stock junction and enable yourself to have more comfortable wear through ensuring that your shoulders are clean.
8. Pistol Reloads on the Belt Line
A majority of people like to equip their pistol through the belt holster while some like to keep it at their thighs. If you are one of those who run the pistol off vest, you should keep your reloads in your belt line. However, take note of the tip above and you should take for consideration of drawing your rifle magazine with ease without intrusions while drawing it.
If you like to ready more reloads, you may attach spares on vest’s higher side, using holsters like the Condor HT Holster which mounts via MOLLE. You may also make use of the front pocket where you keep the magazine shingles and mount the reload on the left face. However, it’s still ideal to keep the pistol magazines on the gun belt and not on the vest.
9. Make the Pistols Available Easily
You should always value offense the way you value defense. Pistols should be put in places where there is nothing to interfere with your ability to draw it out. Also, it is ideal if real estate on the rig above the draw line isn’t filled up which should help you to execute smooth transition drills.
10. Ideal Place for a Flashlight
Reaching for the tac-lights isn’t a fast draw contest. Thus, putting this in a place where you would need to reach across your body would not be dangerous. Take note of the med kit. You may attach your tac-light carrier at its right. If this does not suit your preferences, you may mount it far and low left of the plate carrier. A good spot might be down below the armpit line.
You may also use LED light on the pocket light, neck chain or headlamp other than the conventional tac-lights. The concept isn’t to clutter up your vest with the needless things. But, you need to keep them off the rig’s front part if you think you have to use them. The same principle applies to tools and some things you cannot use in combat.