Whether you are a freelancing security professional or a weapons enthusiast, a plate carrier is one of the most essential pieces of equipment that you will have to carry into the battlefield. Plate carriers, as the name suggests, are designed to provide protection to the vital organs while holding a number of useful gear and ammunition units. As may be obvious, the ability of the gear to protect you and the availability of the ammunition when needed can be critical to your survival during encounters. This makes it imperative that one gets the best plate carrier before heading into active duty.
Getting such a carrier is easier said than done though, primary because the type and features of such a carrier will vary according to the role – combat, patrol, foot or vehicular – that you are likely to take on. That said, it is still possible to use a set of universal criteria to provide the prospective buyer with a list of best products available in the market. In the interest of your safety in your military endeavours, we have compiled just such a list, and then proceeded to explain the points we used to make our choices so you too can make the vital choice with confidence and peace of mind.
Best Plate Carriers in 2016
1. Condor Recon Chest Rig (Tan)
A perennial best-seller, this Condor product provides unmatched durability courtesy of the high quality nylon used in its construction. At the same time, the rig is designed to provide maximum freedom of movement, and to this end, the traditional chest-covering region has been removed. While this necessitates additional protection for the chest (and the back) it nevertheless provides sufficient kangaroo-closure type ammo pouches to hold six M4 mags and an equal number of pistol or secondary weapon mags.
Further, these pouches are located across the stomach region, thus providing for easy removal of the mags in stressful situations. Further, additional pouches for first aid kits, dump bags and water bottles can be attached around the sides and the back. With the straps being highly adjustable for accommodating those on the higher or lower end of the height scale, this product easily ranks among the best in terms of versatility and all-round utility.
2. Modular Chest Rig
Coming in three different colors and capable of accommodating a range of physiques (from M-XL size), this product offers an additional chest plate as well. The benefit of the chest plate lies in its being removable, thus allowing soldiers to quickly strap on the plate when going into combat and remove it while travelling to reduce bulk. Further, the product comes with a couple of mesh pockets, a hydration carrier and a 6 built-in M4 mag pouches. With additional pouches being attachable without difficulty, this product can handle a lot of ammunition without causing the user to feel unduly burdened.
Furthermore, the product comes with padded shoulder straps that provide much needed comfort during long patrols. These and the waist region are adjustable, thereby making this product easy to use with a range of tactical belts, etc
3. Modern Warrior Tactical Vest with Holster and Pouches - In Camouflage, ACU, Black, Desert, and Teen Sizes
Coming with durable pockets and mesh fibre integration, the best plate carrier option is built to take heavy damage and still last for many years. Its USP, however, lies in the numerous pockets that have been built into it, which together ensure that the product is capable of carrying not only M4 and secondary weapon rounds, but also shotgun rounds and other types of ammunition. Further, these pockets are carefully spaced out, which makes removing mags from them a simple task. The product even comes with a handgun holster for users seeking to use the product in law enforcement scenarios.
Complementing the excellent capacity of the product are padding on the right shoulder and adjustable straps on the sides. While the former allows for better handling of gun recoil, the latter is capable of providing much needed adjustability. Coupled with provision for additional pockets, these features allow this Modern Warrior variant to achieve high scores in virtually any type of combat.
4. Rapid Assault Chest Rig
A cousin of the Recon Chest rig, this product follows a similar structure and build quality, but comes with 6-open top pouches for storing M4 rounds, and an additional pocket at the back. With there being plenty of options for addition of more pockets, these pockets provide the soldier with sufficient options for carrying varied types of ammunition.
Further, the best plate carrier candidate comes with a cross-back shoulder strap that possesses padding sufficient even for the most gruelling of combat routines. Combined with the convenience of the swivel push button release buckle, this comfort-enhancing feature makes this a great product for a range of combat scenarios.
5. Ultimate Arms Gear Tactical Assault Scenario Stealth Black MOLLE 10 Piece Ambidextrous Complete Kit Set
Made of premium quality weatherproof nylon with mesh webbing for superior comfort and durability, the product is a complete solution as far as standard combat scenarios is concerned. For starters, the product not only comes with a range of pockets and pouches for carrying everything from comms and GPS to all sorts of ammunition, the innovators behind the product have also included drop-leg platform pouches and hydration pouches. Indeed, the product comes with a heavy duty belt, which makes adjustment with belts from other companies unnecessary.
As expected of a top product, there are a number of scalable side straps that allow the user to modify the design according to his needs. With metal shoulder loops and a drag handle included, the product is capable of providing a comfortable fit to both soldiers and law enforcement officials who require a range of devices in their daily tasks.
6. Molle Fighting Load Carrie FLC Vest Woodland Camo
Meant for both those in the line of duty and those interested in hunting and non-combat scenarios involving gunfire, this product aims ati provding the best combination of comfort and lightness by offering a body with extensive use of mesh. Of course, the product allows for sufficient addition of ammunition and other pouches without forcing the user into lopsided splitting of the load.
Further, the product comes with broad shoulders that resemble the design of ordinary jackets. While this may not make the product ideal for some forms of combat, it does provide familiarity to even those new to the field. With a simple buckle system enclosing the body snugly in this vest, it is easy for even non-professionals to use this product.
7. Recon Chest Rig By Modern Warrior
One of the simplest in terms of design, this well-built plate carrier allows the user to achieve excellent mobility while keeping his vital organs protected. In addition, there are a number of pockets for carrying ammunition and other vital products, which ensure that wherever the user is working, he can be assured of sufficient supplies. Interestingly, the inclusion of a large number of pockets in a simple design does not create problems of bulk or cause the user to sit/stand in awkwardly.
The straps are as simple as the remaining design, and can be adjusted for superior comfort by people widely differing in height and body structure.
8. Ultimate Arms Gear Tactical Stealth Black Carrier Military Hunting Vest
A close competitor of the Ultimate Arms best plate carrier candidate mentioned above, this product offers the ever-dependable weatherproof nylon makeup, which is combined with plentiful use of mesh to allow for excellent durability and application to a wide scenario range. Offering the attractive MOLLE design, the product comes with seven pockets that make addition of pockets virtually redundant for the average combat scenario.
The real USP of this product though is the availability of seven straps at the front and eight straps at the back, which combine to make this one of the most adjustable products in terms of the people it can accommodate. With there even being support for hydration units and document/flashlight carriage, this product is ideal for those serving on the front lines.
9. Hunter Safety System Elite Vest
A complete vest, this best plate carrier candidate offers the rare jacket neck design, which allows the throat to be protected to a minor extent and more importantly, provides much-needed insulation. Further, the product comes with the interesting 6+2 pocket system that allows users to store everything from the removable bino straps to a range of other products, including of course ammunition with ease.
Speaking of bino straps, these useful straps ensure that the product stays in place without there being awkward or uncomfortable adjustments being made necessary.
Tips to choose the best plate carrier
Now that we have seen the various best plate carrier contenders, it is time to see just how these contenders were chosen, and how you too can make such choices with ease.
- Duration of the event – While law enforcement officials may be sent in for short durations of intense combat, soldiers or those participating in war games would have to last much longer on the field. If the latter is the case, hydration unit carriers and products with low weight are ideal.
- Nature of terrain – If the terrain is expected to be essentially outdoors, it will involve lots of crawling. This involves massive wear and tear of the product concerned, and can lead to premature ruptures if products of sufficient durability are not purchased. Units made of weatherproof nylon are idea for this purpose.
- Nature of equipment to be carried – The nature of equipment to be carried has a direct bearing on the number of pockets required, and this in turn decides how light or heavy the product is. If only sidearms and a few rounds are needed, light vests are sufficient, while for longer and more intense conflicts, it is important to have multiple pouches.
- Ease of access – It must be easy to access the mags when in a critical situation without having to move one’s finger from the trigger. The best plate carriers thus have their pouches at the front and in some cases, on the sides. Those with pouches at the back are not ideal, and should only be used if one doesn’t expect to need to load the weapon during combat (which is extremely unusual).
- Hydration and first aid – There must always be provision for carrying tourniquets, first aid boxes and equipment for keeping the body hydrated. This is especially important for scenarios involving long periods of conflict, where lack of water can cause serious health issues and reduced mobility. Further, the availability of an easily accessible first aid kit means the user can be easily serviced by a comrade should he be injured.
While the nature of the combat involved decides the nature of the best plate carrier to a large extent, it can be said with some certainty that good quality materials, sufficient number of pockets and good fitting and adjustment options are a must for any type of mission. The above products contain (or have provision) for these features, and can help you make your purchase quickly and without confusion.