Plate Carriers – What Are They?
In layman’s terms, plate carriers are bulletproof vests. Plate carriers are incredibly useful, lightweight vests that allow for the insertion of bulletproof plating. They’re in use by many modern militaries – particularly the United States and the United Kingdom. The United States utilitizes the Scalable Plate Carrier system. In some cases, they use the much heavier alternative of the Modular Tactical Vest. The United Kingdom uses their own variant of plate carrier, known as OSPREY body armor. (or armour, as they call it).
They’re not restricted to military use either. It’s quite common to see them in use by S.W.A.T and other similar law enforcement entities. The ability to easily swap out plates of varying strength make this little piece of equipment incredibly important.
Plate carriers often have support for MOLLE webbing too. MOLLE is an acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment. MOLLE is implemented by placing strips upon a particular item of clothing that allow for pouches to be attached with relative ease.
These pouches can be used for holding first aid kits, ammunition, tactical tools and more.
Why Plate Carriers?
Plate carriers offer you an alternative to the particularly common soft body armor. That’s not to say plate carrier wont integrate with soft body armor. Soft armor inserts for carriers actually exist. And some rigs are designed to be worn OVER a soft armor vest. This can grant you an extra layer of resistance, the only trade off is the additional weight.
Soft body armors are body armors manufactured from fabric based materials such as KEVLAR. Soft body armors are great in the sense that they are pretty lightweight. Carrying around a dense fabric is still easier than carrying around a thick metal plate. With that being said, these armor systems are not without their downsides. They can certainly hold their own against small arms fire. But you’ll struggle to find soft body armor capable of withstanding larger rounds. Even relatively cheep plate inserts will generally fair better against live ammunition than fabric based armor.
Plate carriers can perform at a pretty wide variety of different levels. There are cheaper, more budget friendly options for those short on cash. But there are also full-on, military spec options available to the general public too. It all depends on how strong you want your armor to be.
The best plate carrier vest would be capable of delivering the same level of functionality. But with reduced weight and enhanced breath-ability. So that’s always a plus if you’re happy to splash out. This is generally true of all high end carrier systems.
Body armor isn’t something to be overlooked. According to the National Institute of Justice, over the past 30 years, ballistic vests have saved the lives of over 3000 individual police officers. That’s one every few days.
The Three More Popular Chest Pieces
The three most common pieces of equipment for your torso, in order of protection:
- Tactical Chest Rigs
- Soft Body Armor Vests
- Plate Carrier Vests
Tactical chest rigs do not offer any real protection, they’re simply a means to an end. The end being having space to haul around additional supplies.
What To Know
The most important thing you should know first is that plate carriers are not inherently bulletproof. They are normally manufactured from a tough fabric material with no real ballistic protection. They become bulletproof when you open them up and insert bulletproof plating inside of them. This has the added benefit of allowing you to choose what level of ballistic protection you want. The price for different types of bulletproof plating can vary pretty wildly. It’s entirely dependent on the level of ballistic protection you’re actually expecting.
For example, if you’re only looking for plating that can protect you against small arms fire, you’ll be spending considerably less. Especially compared to ballistic plating that’s designed to withstand trauma from larger caliber rounds such as 5.56 or 7.62.
Some of the more expensive plating is even designed to absorb the kinetic energy from a bullet. This kinetic energy can be known to break ribs, knock the wind out of you and even knock you over. Even with completely bulletproof plating – you can still sustain damage. So it’s important to keep this in mind whilst shopping around for plating.
Over a year ago the lead executive for Ukrainian Armor, Vyacheslav Nalyvaiko, opted to perform a demonstration of his companies plate armor system. He stood roughly 10 meters away from a partner, who fired directly at his chest with a Kalashnikov AKM. He was barely fazed by the round and removed the plate from his carrier system to reveal the damage.
This is a testament to what you can expect from modern armor systems. Not only will a well designed piece of body armor protect you from ballistic damage. The truly great armor systems will also reduce your risk of injury too – which can be the difference between life and death in a combat scenario.
Finding The Best Plate Carrier Vest
There are a handful of factors to consider when selecting a plate carrier, all of these have been kept carefully in mind when selecting the results down below.
Here are some of the key considerations:
The weight of your plate carrier system both with and without plating is pretty important. Rigs that are already pretty heavy right off the bat are only going to be compounded when you add in the additional weight of bulletproof plating.
Breath-ability is obviously pretty important when selecting the right chest piece. Something too restrictive is going to cause you to get fatigued quicker. This can be an even bigger impediment to your mobility than a heavy plate carrier. Struggling with some additional weight is one thing – but struggling to draw your breath after any sort of period of exertion can spell trouble. You’ll want a reliable bit of kit that is easily adjustable to ensure you don’t encounter any kind of issues.
Durability is another key consideration. The fabric isn’t what’s going to save your life. But you do need it to hold your plate inserts in place – and those are the things actually will.
These can make a world of difference when it comes to real world application. Detachable straps to quickly rid yourself of your vest can be handy if you’ve taken a direct hit and you’re struggling to breathe.
Drag handles are another additional feature that could save your life. If you’re unfamiliar with what a drag handle is, the concept is pretty simple. A handle, normally fabric based, is placed near the back end of your plate carrier. This handle grants a third party sufficient leverage to be able to quickly drag you away from danger.
If they’re designed well enough and put in the right place, weight distribution will be adequate. This makes it significantly easier to drag you from the handle, compared to grabbing your arms or clothing. This can shave off valuable seconds in the event of an emergency and potentially save your life. Solid weight distribution also has the added benefit of meaning you’re less likely to be injured by the actual process of dragging you.
Hook and Loop panels allow for easy MOLLE integration. Luckily, most plate carriers will have some sort of variation of these present. This means your plate carrier can double as a tactical chest rig. Cutting down on additional costs and preventing you from having to purchase extra webbing. Just be wary that some plate carriers will have more space for pouches than others.
Key Considerations For Plate Inserts
Level Of Protection
It’s important to remember that not all plate inserts are created equal. There’s a pretty wide variety when it comes to the specifics of how well they’re manufactured. Each model of plate is manufactured for a different purpose. Some are only designed to stop small arms fire. Some are designed to withstand close range rounds from fairly large caliber firearms. All of them vary in price.
If you’re looking for something that you may rely on to potentially save your life, you don’t want to go cheap. Is a few hundred dollars of a difference really worth your life? With that being said, you don’t always have opt for overkill. Simply making sure you’re sensible in your shopping and you pick the correct plate for the job should be enough to ensure you’re protected but aren’t breaking the bank.
Luckily, there are methods in place for objectively measuring the strength of a plate insert. One example of this is standards set by the United States Department of Justice. This will allow you to make a more informed decision when purchasing a particular type of protection. There’s no point buying a glorified stab proof vest if you’re planning on subjecting it to ballistic trauma from larger caliber firearms.
These classifications can be broken down into two categories: handgun classifications and rifle classifications.
Generally all plate inserts that meet the minimum requirements are capable of stopping a 9mm round from a short barreled pistol. This isn’t particularly surprising as their soft armored Kevlar counterparts are capable of this also. As such, LEVEL IIA plates can be used against 9mm rounds right through to .40. LEVEL II can be used from 9mm right through to .357 rounds. LEVEL III can be used against 9mm right through to .44 caliber rounds. As your body armor level increase, so too does the size of the rounds it’s able to withstand an impact from. All levels in this category are effectively useless against rifles. So if you’re looking to protect yourself against rifles rather than handguns, the next few levels up are what you’re after.
Levels above those that fall into the handgun category generally fall into the rifle category. These levels include LEVEL III which provides protection up to and against 7.62 Full Metal Jacket core rounds. Finally, you get LEVEL IV. This is effective against .30 caliber steel rounds.
Obviously distance is an inherent factor in this classification system also. Point blank fire may yield different results to rounds displaced 10 feet away.
Inserts – What Are They Made Of?
As we’ve already mentioned, different inserts offer different levels of protection. But there are also different TYPES of inserts.
As it stands, there are three common types of insert:
- Ceramic Inserts
- Steel Inserts
- Polyethylene Inserts
Each of them have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages.
These are amongst the most popular of all types of plating when it comes to protective gear. They’re quite literally made from ceramic (yes, the same thing your plates are made from). Naturally it’s a slightly different type of ceramic, but the principle remains the same.
As a result of being manufacturer from ceramic, they’re generally pretty lightweight compared to other iterations.
With that being said, “lightweight” in the context of a bulletproof vest doesn’t actually go very far. They’re still incredibly heavy and you can expect some fatigue if you’re spending a lot of time wearing these.
They’re designed to shatter on impact. This protects the wearer from some of the kinetic energy of the bullet.
As a result, they have the same problem that crash helmets have. They’re easy to break. Dropping your plate carrier can, in some instances, damage your plates.
You need to make sure you regularly service this type of insert. Your life literally depends on it.
Another downside stems from the fact that they break on impact. They can’t withstand impact in the same spot more than once. Repeat trauma to the same affected region will eventually punch through the vest. Looking for something to buy you enough time to get out of harms way? They’re ideal. But they’re not going to withstand constant punishment.
These are technically the “old-fashioned” type of inserts. Steel has been used as a material in conventional warfare for thousands of years. The earliest bulletproof vests were actually manufacturer from soft materials. But steels still seen some regular use in plenty of early iterations of body armor. Whilst steel plates can give a reasonable level of protection, the trade off is that they are incredibly heavy. In terms of personal preference, I’d stay well clear of them. I’d rather have the same level of protection and not have to carry around as much weight.
Steel inserts had their place in the battlefield back in the era of antiquity. You’d easily survive a shot from a musket with one of these. But realistically speaking, how often are you going to be fighting 17th century pirates?
It’s true that they can still hold their own against some modern firearms. But they’re simply not worth it from a practical stand point.
This is a slightly more advanced form of plating. It has a reasonable level of impact absorption whilst being much lighter in weight than it’s steel and ceramic cousins.
Polyethylene can be defined as a “thermoplastic”. This type of armor is only possible with the advent of modern material science. It’s made by binding (ultra) high molecular weight polyethylene fibers with a sheet of high density polyethylene. This material is then compressed with high pressure and high heat to create an ultra dense material.
The resulting composite material is incredibly durable and resistant to ballistic trauma. The advantage of using polyethylene specifically is that it can be melted with friction. The spin from a bullet literally melts the polyethylene as it penetrates the armor. Once the bullet stops the material re-cools and molds the bullet in place.
The advantage of this is that these inserts can sustain much more damage before becoming unusable. Whereas a ceramic plate might break after a few shots – PE plates can absorb a great deal without encountering any issues.
The downside is the pricing. Because of the relative complexity involved in manufacturing these plates – they’re expensive. By a significant margin, too. You can expect to see price increases of up to 300% over alternative inserts. 300% might sound like a lot, but when you get better protection and up to a 70% reduction in weight, is it really a huge leap?
Another major downside with the complexity of the manufacturing process: it places limitations on how strong these vests can actually be. You can not currently mass manufacture level 4/IV protective rated polyethylene inserts. You could potentially manufacture these on on an individual level but the price increases would render it commercially pointless.
Types Of Plate
The plate used universally by the United States military is known as a Small Arms Protective Insert. These are normally abbreviated to SAPI. SAPI plates are normally manufactured from ceramic. As mentioned above – this is not ideal if you are hit in the same area twice. Once the ceramic has shattered to absorb the kinetic energy of a bullet – it’s no longer bulletproof. SAPI plates have the added benefit of being covered in a material layer. This material layer is designed specifically to catch bullet fragments and stop them from hurting you.
It doesn’t matter what material they’re manufactured from either. All SAPI style inserts are designed to shatter on impact. If this doesn’t sound like something that would interest you, you may be better off investing in a polyethylene plate.
The Best Plate Carrier Vests
Shellback Tactical Banshee [Premium Product]
The Shellback Tactical Banshee was manufactured with a plethora of police and military input. It’s manufuctured from your standard, tough 500 denier nylon fabric. It’s designed to fit over uniforms AND soft body armor. Granting you an additional layer of protection. Designed from the ground up to accomodate a wider range of body types – within reason, of course.
It has hose guides for wires, antenna or hydration tubes. Speaking of hydration, it can carry a 2 liter hydration bladder with zero problems.
It has a standard drag handle and a quick release function. Shoulder pads are also included with this product, which isn’t a common inclusion.
The elite cummerbund has PALS webbing on BOTH the interior and the exterior.
All of the key stress points have been bar-tacked and it even has a convenient integrated carrying mechanism on its sides.
The shoulder straps also utilize a unique 3d mesh sown with an airflow promoting pattern. These same shoulders also have slits for comms/hydration integration.
Overall this is possibly one of the best plate carriers you can buy. It’s absolutely worth every penny and it’ll be sure to use you well. It’s incredibly adaptable and can be used for a variety of different purposes. It even has integrated administration pouches and a kangaroo pouch.
You can use it to integrate comms, a hydration system or any other number of handy functions.
It can handle both soft and hard body armor types. All the way up to level 4. If you’re looking for something to protect your livelihood – this is it.
Condor MOPC Modular Operator Plate Carrier [Best Budget Buy]
Condor MOPC Modular Operator is a great vest at a great price. You’ll probably notice condor popping up a few times in these reviews. Largely because they have a knack for consistently putting out high quality equipment.
This vest employs a more minimalist design. But it has just about everything you could ask for at a great price. It’s NTOA approved – largely because it’s condor manufactured. It has an emergency drag handle that can be used to get you out of harms way when you’re incapacitated.
The front and back insert slots can accept up to 10″x13″ plates. The side plates, which are always a welcome addition, can be up to 6″x8″.
All sets of plates can be accessed with relative ease with some pretty simple flaps. With a variety of colors to choose from and a Velcro identifier strip, this model has seen plenty of use among police forces across the United States.
The side release buckles are totally detachable and the cummerbund is 100% adjustable too, which is always handy.
There’s also a comfortable level of padding, to ensure that you can wear this for longer periods of time without experiencing issues.
If you’re looking for the best plate carrier vest for the money, this vest may be worth considering.
DFNDR QRC Plate Carrier
The DFNDR QRC is a brilliantly manufactured product. The quick release system present is designed to work unidirectionally. Meaning it’s easier than ever to ditch your carrier in an emergency. It is designed specifically to be used in conjunction with DNFDRs own brand rifle rated armor plating. That doesn’t mean it won’t accept other plates, though.
It accepts front, rear and side plates, giving you a great deal of protection. It has a Velcro strip on both the front and back for identifier badges. The DFNDR strip you see is an example of this, but it’s easily removed.
It comes with male and female duraflex quick attach MOLLE buckles. 2 of each. The QRC MOLLE front panels are also detachable.
This system is built from the ground up with comfort in mind. If you’re planning on wearing a vest for long periods of time, this may be a safer pick. Just make sure you pick the appropriate plates for it.
You don’t have to trade safety for comfort. It’s more than capable of doing both of those jobs.
Condor Enforcer Releasable Plate Carrier
The Condor Enforcer is a formidable, reliable and convenient plate carriers. It’s an upgraded version of it’s immediate predecessor, which was known as the Condor QPC. It has a quick release functionality and a document pocket located on the front. It’s also been engineered to have a plethora of useful features.
It has an emergency drag handle, which is always convenient if you operate in a team. When you’re incapacitated, it’s vital that other people have the ability to quickly remove you from harms way.
It has an adjustable size. Spanning from medium to double XL. This works pretty well in conjunction with the adjustable, anti-slip shoulder pads.
It features heavyweight PALS strips. Thees will allow you to add and remove additional MOLLE pouches as you see fit. Increasing your storage capacity and eliminating the need for a backpack.
5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier
The 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier provides you with a variety of unique design solutions. It’s manufactured from sturdy, 500 denier nylon and comes in a variety of colors. These colors include black, navy blue, coyote brown, multicam and olive drab.
It accepts any plate size up to 10″x13″ (front and back) and 6″x8″ (side plates).
The emergency drag handle is extendable to give the user the freedom to alternate their distance as they see fit.
This particular vest has been approved by the national tactical officers association. It has a front facing kangaroo pouch and has plenty of PALS strips for MOLLE attachments.
The cummerbund is completely adjustable too, which is ideal for getting the perfect fit. It adjusts from around 40″ to 48″.
Spartan Armor Systems Achilles Plate Carrier
Spartan Armor Systems are a reliable brand, and this plate carrier holds up to the reputation incredibly well. The 1000 Denier strong, laser cut nylon MOLLE webbing is probably the first thing that stands out about this carrier. The shoulders are padded extremely well to make for a comfortable fit regardless of the plates you’re utilizing.
In order to increase breath-ability, it has front and rear vents. These are also padded.
It has a kangaroo pouch and an admin pouch. Removable triple M4 mag pouches are provided on top of this.
It has MOLLE Velcro on the both sides of the carrier, so if you’re looking to stick some patches or badges on for identification then this is perfect.
It’s a fairly lightweight rig too. Cutting down on weight is always ideal when you’re going to be hauling heavy plate armor around all day.
It has your standard safety implementations too. No rig is complete without quick release buckles and a low-profile drag handle for emergency use.
Condor Exo Plate Carrier
The Condor Exo Plate Carrier is an excellent purchase that sits slightly lower on the pricing spectrum. The adjustable cummerbund is a welcome additions, as are the pockets for soft armor. An emergency drag handle is present, which is effectively standard practice when you manufacture plate carriers at this level.
Support for small through to extra-large soft armor is present. It also supports plates up to 10.5′ x 13.5′.
The front map pocket can be used for general document storage. It also has an aux pocket on the rear end which can be fastened easily to ensure that you have easy access to important tools at all times.
The best plate carrier vest you’ll see on the market will normally be one that has adequate padding. The mesh inside this variant is padded thoroughly to ensure you don’t end up chaffing. Especially after hours of use. This is ideal if you expect to bearing this vest for long periods of time. during shift work, for example.
Every side of this plate carrier has been covered with incredibly strong webbing. Meaning you have complete freedom over how you utilize your storage space.
This vest is tough, but fairly priced. It would make for an ideal training vest if you’re planning on sticking some weighted plates in it.
Concealed Plate Carriers
If you’re looking for a carrier system that can be easily concealed, things can get a bit tricky. Many armor vests that are concealable utilize soft armor. (KEVLAR etc).
Finding a good, high quality rig that can be concealed easily can be tricky. you often have to trade off some level of protection in return for this. This is normally in the form of side plate support getting axed. Often these vests will not support level IV rifle rated plates too. Admittedly, this isn’t too much of an inconvenience. If you’re expecting to come under fire from a rifle you’re probably in a situation where concealing your armor will not benefit you anyway.
The best plate carrier vests likely won’t be concealable. Sadly, you’re going to need some space if you want to carry heavier plates.
Spartan DL Concealment Plate Carrier
Looking for a low profile, concealable plate carrier? The Spartant DL Concealment Carrier is a perfect fit.
This is a minimalist plate carrier. There isn’t a great multitude of additional features. Despite this, it does what it needs to do incredible well. It’s designed to be loaded from the bottom to give greater support to the plates. The cummerbund is fully adjustable too, meaning you can have a comfortable, breathable fit even when wearing concealed armor.
It’s manufactured from a respectable 500 denier nylon/PE blend. This should be more than strong enough to see it through a great deal of use.
You might be wondering why a concealment carrier has Velcro on the front and back. This is largely for important information such as your name and blood type. If you don’t know your blood type yet, it’s probably worth finding out and carrying some form of identifier. You never know when you’ll need it.
In order to stay compact enough to be concealable, a few trade-offs have to be made. As a result, you’ll probably notice from the picture above that the carrier will not accept side plates.
It’s designed to be used with many variants of Spartan Armors IIIA plate inserts. It can also be used with their fused core soft armor system.
If you’re looking for a reliable, comfortable and powerful concealed armor system, this carrier is probably your best bet.
Safariland M1 Concealable Carrier
As far as comfort goes, the M1 takes the cake. It’s designed to fit as snuggly as possible whilst still being breathable and easy to wear. It’s made of a unique, hexagonal fabric that can be washed. This is ideal if you’re going to be wearing it daily. You can expect any piece of equipment that you wear underneath your clothing to get covered in sweat pretty quickly. Especially if you’re operating in a warmer environment or exerting yourself frequently.
Further expanding upon the theme of hygiene, it has an anti-microbial mesh liner. This prevents the build up of bacteria – which can lead to some seriously nasty smells over time.
It features removable plastic straps and some optional straps that are contoured in design, these fit more closely to the Velcro panels. This will allow you to secure your vest more tightly if the need arises.
It has accepts plates on the front and rear but does not accept plates on the sides. This is generally the case with concealed carriers, so nothing out of the ordinary there.
Where Can I Buy Plate Inserts On Their Own?
Let’s say you’ve picked your favorite plate carrier already. Perhaps you own one already. You can’t just strap the thing on straight out of the box and expect it to protect you. You’re going to need to find some high quality plate inserts.
Earlier on we mentioned that the type of insert is pretty important. So you should mull over what type of protection you’re looking for before making a purchase. You’ll also want to consider the level of protection.
Many manufacturers will offer a pretty broad range of options when it comes to the type of plates they offer. Just make sure you pick a reliable and trusted manufacturer. There’s plenty to choose from.
When you’re relatively dead set on what plate you’re going to pick – watch a couple of video reviews first. Reading about how reliable plates are is one thing – watching someone actually put them to the test is another.
Spartan Armor Systems
Spartan armor systems offer a range of high quality plates.
They’ve specifically organised their range in such a way that there’s something available for people of all budgets. They offer plates that are verified by the NIJ (National Institute of Justice) all the way up to level IV. These are pretty rigorous testing standards – which is exactly what you want when you’re relying on something to preserve your life.
They offer level IV ceramic rifle plates. They’re manufactured from a revolutionary blend of both Ceramic and PE. This means they hold a much greater chance against defending you from multiple rounds than a standard ceramic plate.
Spartan often manufacture their inserts with steel cores. They use a unique type of steel known as AR500 for this process. The AR does not stand for “assault rifle”. It stands for “Abrasion resistance”. The 500 is the Brinell rating of this particular type of steel. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a brinell rating, it’s quite simple. Brinell rating is simply an objective measure of ‘hardness’ commonly used in advanced materials science. AR500 is commonly used by the military, but it’s also used by manufacturers of armored cars and of course manufactures of body armor.
DFNDR Armor Systems
This is another top notch brand that deal in plate inserts. You can commonly find them stocking their own IIIA Handgun rated plates, alongside their III and IV rifle rated plates. They do side plates too, which is always handy to know if you’re looking at a carrier that accepts them.
The legacy of DFNDR dates back to the 1970s. When the father of the companies founder developed a unique, fiber composite that functioned unidirectionally. This meant that it didn’t matter where the impact came from. This revolutionary composite would go on to change the entire industry of body armor.
Where Can I Purchase Carriers With Inserts Included?
Generally speaking, most companies that offer plate inserts will also offer plate carriers and multi-pack packages. You often stand to save a little bit of money from purchasing combined packages. Some of our favorite combined packages include the following:
Spartan Omega AR500 Body Armor With Sentinal Plate Carrier
This package brings you everything you’ll need to stay well protected. It comes with side plates, front and black plates and an outstanding carrier itself.
The Front/Back Plates: Two individual 10×12 AR500 Omega Body Armor Single Curble Plates. These are plates manufactured from AR500 steel with a protection rating of level III. They’re also coated in a thin layer of coating designed to mitigate fragmentation. This coating provides a unique aesthetic to the plate and also helps increase resistance against corrosion.
The Side Plates: Two individual AR500 Omega side plates. These also utilise the same base coating.
Spartan Armor’s Sentinel Plate Carrier: This 1000 denier carrier system is incredibly durable and can withstand a serious amount of damage. It has an emergency drag handle, quick release straps and all your standard Velcro attachments for MOLLE webbing.
This rig comes in a wide variety of colors.
You can choose between:
- Coyote Brown
- Spartan Green
- Gunmetal Grey
DFNDR QRC + Body Armor Package
We’ve picked this particular system for its extreme modularity. This package comes with a wide variety of items. Every single aspect of it is customizable.
Navigating to this page will bring up your customization options.
You will be allowed to choose which level of plating you purchase alongside your rig. This will probably be the biggest deciding factor in price. You can choose from everything between level IIIA and Level IV, which in this case gives you 6 different armor ratings to choose from. Weighing up cost vs protection? this will help you come to a reasonable conclusion.
The aesthetics are also fully customizable too. Your carrier rig can come in a few different colors, namely:
- Ranger Green
You can also pick the actual size of your vest and the size of your plates. Both of which range from medium through to extra large.
Choose between a SAPI cut, a shooters cut or a hybrid too. Every single aspect of this body armor set can be personalized to your own preferences.
This armor has been engineered for multi-hit protection and is 100% berry compliant. It is also manufactured and assembled entirely in the USA. This is generally a good indicator of quality and is partially why we included in our list of the best plat carriers.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a handful of pretty commonly asked questions out there surrounding plate inserts and body Armour in general. We’ve compiled a list of the more common ones. This will ensure you’re equipped with a reasonable amount of knowledge before you make any purchasing decisions.
My Favorite Vest Isn’t On The List, Can I Make A Recommendation?
Of course. We’re always open to requests and recommendations. Feel like you know of an item that deserves to be on our rankings for the best plate carrier vest? Drop us an email and we’ll be happy to do a little bit of research and have a look.
Is It Illegal To Wear Body Armor In Public?
State rights tend to be a big factor in determining the legality of body armor in the United States. In some states, committing any kind of crime whilst wearing body armor is technically a crime in its own right. Even shoplifting. This is considered to be the “unlawful wearing of a bullet proof vest” and is actually a felony offense.
Generally speaking you can wear body armor in public. But some states may have specific laws in place surrounding the procurement of body armor. Always remember though, that it’s illegal to intentionally incite panic in a public place. If you are perceived to be doing this you could end up in serious legal trouble.
Can Civilians Wear Body Armor?
Civilians can wear body armor. They’re generally pretty accessible and can be purchased fairly easily. With the sole exception of those with felony convictions. If you’ve previously been convicted of a felony you will likely struggle to purchase a bulletproof.
Is There A Level V Body Armor?
There is currently no level V body armor classification. The classification ratings stop at IV for a reason. Any body armor system that purports to be a “level v” armor system is not being entirely truthful. Unless they’ve developed their own classification system to arbitrarily promote their product. But be wary – they’re definitely not using the Department of Justice’s official classification system.
References to higher tiers than the official ones are often simply marketing gimmicks. This doesn’t mean the vest you’re looking at is necessarily “bad”. But you should use a bit of caution before proceeding.
What Level Of Body Armor Do Police Normally Wear?
This obviously differs depending on individual police departments. The specific role of an officer will also affect what level of body armor they’re required to wear. Regular patrol officers tend to wear level II or level IIIA armor. SWAT officers will generally wear level IV. As they have a higher chance of encountering a threat utilizing larger caliber ammunition.
Obviously police departments have to operate with specific budget constraints. So the armor they choose to wear may be down to an issue of funding. Rather than having their purchases dictated by what armor is most likely to prevent a loss of life.
Cops will generally decide whether or not they wear their armor overtly or underneath their uniform. Many cops feel that wearing their armor overtly is a psychological deterrent against attacks. Others feel that it may just motivate an assailant to aim elsewhere. The vests designed for wearing above uniform are generally heavier too. So this is a factor to consider when making a decision on which style of vest to wear.
How Much Steel Is Required To Stop A Bullet?
This will vary dramatically depending on the quality of the steel involved. Looking to stop a smaller caliber round? A quarter inch/half inch of steel is an average estimate of how much you need.
Dealing with thin layers of steel? The number of layers eventually becomes more important than thickness.
Hopefully this question has only been raised out of curiosity. If you’re planning on using steel plating you should know what the protective rating of the plate is already.
Knowing the rating means you’ll know exactly what kind of rounds you can expect your armor to protect you against.
Are Bullet Proof Vests Also Stab Proof?
This might seem like a no brainer. If it can stop a bullet, surely it can stop a knife? Don’t let this assumption mislead you. Bulletproof vests are not always well suited for blade wielding assailants. Even vests that are manufactured to be stab-proof don’t offer protection against all forms of melee weapons. Other stabbing implements like syringes may pose a threat. Blunt force trauma will generally render your vest useless also.
Feel like you run a larger risk of being attacked with a bladed weapon? You should consider a stab proof vest. For example, if you’re a prison guard, it’s unlikely someone will be firing a gun at you. It is however possible that an improvised bladed weapon may be used on you.
Can I Wear Multiple Layers Of Armor?
This honestly boils down to the individual. Some rigs are designed to be worn over soft armor. Some aren’t. There’s a good reason you don’t see people doubling up on their armor, though. Full, bullet-proof equipment is heavy. It’s difficult enough to get around in one layer of the stuff without getting fatigued. The trade off on speed and your energy levels can very often mean that it simply isn’t worth it.
Assess the individual pieces of equipment you’re considering doubling up on before making any decisions. If you’re feeling particularly curious, you can reach out to a manufacturer for guidance.