My goal is to guide people to make good decisions. However; I know that, for some, the learning curve is high and they still don’t know what they don’t know (and they shouldn’t be shamed for that).
In this entry I will go a bit more in depth on plate carriers. I will be using examples of different carriers to point out different abilities and functions that they have.
Lets start with the ease of ability to get in and out of a carrier, and the different ways to “shed” them.
Shedding a carrier is mainly used to get out of it quickly in water (because all that extra weight help you sink) and in medical situations. Usually this is done with a pull string that allows it to come apart at once, or through quick disconnect devices at the shoulders and sides.
A cummerbund style allows for better support when carrying more weight. It also has more “real estate” to place extra Things (such as magazines, radios, IFAKs – individual firt aid kit, side plates and more). They usually connect via velcro that in sandwiched under a flap, which makes them the most difficult to get in and out of. With all of the material that surrounds you, it doesn’t breath well which can lead to overheating in warmer climates, and (in my case) salt burns when worn for long periods of time.
There are a few types of these and at least one other style of connection. There’s the traditional which consists of solid material and usually has MOLLE attachment, skeletonized (see CRYE Precision’s carrier) which has the MOLLE but has gaps in the material for improved breath-ability, and elastic (see Trex Arms AC1 carrier) with and without pockets, but I’ve never seen elastic with MOLLE (which you shouldn’t because the MOLLE wouldn’t allow it to stretch).
The one other attachment method is MOLLE Tubes which slide/click into place. The receivers may weave into existing MOLLE or have velcro pieces that will sandwich under the flap, or just attach over existing velcro.
Cummerbunds also have different fitment adjustment methods. Some use 2 or 3 straps with a sliding keeper of one sort or another, others use a lace similar to a boot, and some use a mix with velcro and elastic. All of them are kind of a pain to deal with BUT you shouldn’t be needing to adjust all that often, maybe a couple times a year when the seasons change and you are wearing more/less layers of clothing.
Other minimalist carriers (that are usually lighter weigh) don’t use a cummerbund, instead they use a strap, which the width of may differ, and a buckle. Some (like AR500s Veritas) are capable of either method. I’ve seen a trend of some companies putting cobra buckles everywhere they can, don’t fall for this. Cobra buckles are great on belts, especially if repelling or using a drag strap, but unless you’re going to be using a lot of weight you probably don’t need one on “X” thing.
When looking at plastic buckles make sure the company uses a good brand of buckles, Nexus is one of the good ones.
Moving onto the shoulders, they usually adjust with velcro strap or buckles and some come with padding that velros around it.
Velcro is lower profile. Buckles are usually closer to the back plate but may still get in the way when you run wires for communication, or hydration hoses. If you are a skinny guy the buckles may get in the way of putting the shoulder pad in the right place (because it pushes them forward). I’ve also seen carriers with only one buckle on the front of the shoulder to make it easier to get in and out of. Be sure to consider how this may effect shouldering your rifle.
Some carriers are “slick” meaning there are no attachment areas on them (although they may still have velcro on the front and/or back), the purpose for these is usually concealment or to be low-profile.
Another useful things that some companies will do is to add a vertical MOLLE strip on either side of the front (as seen on the Veritas, or with an included buckle on the AC1). This is usually coupled with velcro on the lower part so that the carrier is compatible with chest-rigs (like the Spiritus Micro Fight Chassis MK4).
More on chest-rigs here;
Let’s move on to the back of a carrier. Again, there may or may not be velcro here. There should be a drag handle. A drag handle is used to pull someone when they may not be able to walk, whatever the weight is of you + gear that’s what the handle needs to be able withstand. It needs to be easily accessible by a large hand with gloves on, and a large carabiner (so if they have a drag strap). It needs to have good stitching, I’ll go over stitching later, and preferably it needs to run down half or more of the carrier (that way it doesn’t rip off when used).
Back panels seem to be a growing trend in the carrier manufacturer community. They allow you to have different load outs and capabilities while being able to swap out on the fly. The issue is it’s still relatively new, there are experimenting with different attachment methods and as such, there is not a popular one after market companies can go wild on. Just know they are there and if it interests you look into them, I know the HRT RAC is one of them.
Along to the inside, the part that touches you; to cut down on material, some carriers just use cordura (or whatever their base material is). Others use a porous mesh to help it breath and dissipate sweat (be careful of those that use the fake version of this. It’s essentially a thin foam covered in a layer of a material that looks like the mesh). The are companies that are using a sort of baffle or space for airflow to get to, I think the HRT RAC is one and I recall Trex Arms playing around with another.
Where the plates are held there is normally a velcro flap or a strap that snugs and holds your plates in place. There are some that have an attachment point and/or pocket closer to the center where your heart is. That was designed for LEOs (law enforcement officers) that usually wore soft armor, but wanted a little extra protection to cover their hear, just in case.
Some may use zippers and the quality industry standard is KY brand zippers. When it comes to stitching I’m handing it off to a video because its something that’s better understood by seeing rather than me describing; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDoYzwPlbk4
Wanted to also mention that there are companies like Qore Performance that use another material that is laser cut. It is extremely lightweight, but I would point out that all rifle rated body armor fragments (some would say spall) and the carrier helps with containing this.
I hope this clears up some questions so it can help you make a better buying decision when choosing a plate carrier.
AR500 Veritas - https://www.ar500armor.com/veritas.html
TrexArms AC1 - https://www.trex-arms.com/product-category/Body-Armor/
Crye Precision - https://www.cryeprecision.com/armor-equipment
There are many more that are good, these are just the one’s I mentioned above.
Be sure to take a look at my other blog as well; https://www.mymilitia.com/blogs/blog/45-wquons-refrences/
Thank you for taking the time to read this.