You decided to invest in a personal plate carrier for body protection. Don’t stop there– your plate carrier is much more than a defense against assault; it is a tool for carrying tactical gear that adds to your protection.
There are many different features you can look for when purchasing your plate carrier, as well as attachments that you can add or remove to customize your vest as needed. Some add-ons work with your plate carrier even if not attached directly to it.
The features and attachments you choose for your plate carrier can mean the difference between life and death. Design your carrier to see you through many different scenarios.
These are features that are typically built-in to the plate carrier and are not removable. You should check the specs on the carrier before you purchase it to make sure it has the features you want.
These are easily removed pieces of equipment. The detachable cummerbund provides extra webbing for attaching more gear. There are cummerbunds with hooks and pouches, as well as pockets. The cummerbund may be used to help distribute weight and are faster to reach than some other areas on the carrier.
There are multiple types of cummerbunds available:
- Soft armor compatible Molle cummerbund. This cummerbund is the most common and is essentially a belt of Velcro straps used for attaching gear. Some of these cummerbunds have side pockets that conceal extra plates for added protection. However, these added plates also add weight.
- Base Cummerbund: This cummerbund features a quick release and is lighter than others.
- Lace Adjustable Cummerbunds: These are easily taken on and off without having to remove the vest. The lace is in the back of the cummerbund and is adjustable for both men’s and women’s body sizes.
- Flat Fish Cummerbund: This is an external cummerbund that is versatile, lightweight, and has an internally sewn-in stretch weave material for added comfort. Both the front and backside have Velcro loops for attachments.
If you are in a situation where the plate carrier is in the way, you need a method of removing it quickly. The quick-release feature provides that by breaking down the plate carrier and releasing it from your torso. Unclip a buckle or pull a tab and the panels of the plate carrier separate. The weight of the carrier helps it to fall off while you keep moving.
The quick-release feature comes in handy if you are going through obstacles or fleeing, and the padding gets caught and holds you back. A quick pull on the tabs and you are on your way again.
What happens if you are injured and can’t walk? If you have others in the field with you, the drag handle can be a lifesaver. If available, the drag handle is normally attached to the neck of the carrier, although it can be on the waist or chest area.
The handle is used to drag you out of danger rather than trying to carry you out. This simple feature can be the most important if it is ever needed.
If you have ever tried a plate carrier, you know that the shoulders carry the brunt of the weight, making them become uncomfortable quickly. Many carriers now feature built-in shoulder pads. These pads are breathable and made of either gel or some other cushioned material. If the pads are not built-in to the material, they may be available as a detachable option.
There are a lot of decisions to consider when purchasing your plate carrier. Once you have the basic carrier worked out, you need to look at the attachments you need for your gear.
Without attachments, your plate carrier is just that: a plate carrier. It houses your plates and protects your body. Put that real estate on your chest and back to good use, and store your tactical tools on your body. You can choose from many different pouches and holsters or go with a Molle system and use it as your base.
Your magazine reloads are one of the most essential needs if you find yourself in a combat situation. Mag pouches let you carry your extra magazines on your body and within perfect reach for a fast reload.
Mag pouches come in open top and closed top forms. Closed mag pouches utilize Velcro straps or steel buttons to keep the flap closed but easily opened. Open pouches provide quicker access when reloading but fit the magazine tight enough to hold it in place.
These pouches are available in different styles designed for the type of magazines, such as a handgun, pistol, or rifle. Pouches also come in different sizes to hold more than one magazine. The typical pouch holds three magazines.
Pouches can be designed to be built-in to the plate carrier, attached through the hook and loop system, or attached to the belt or cummerbund.
Holsters carry your sidearm and can be found on the plate carrier, belt, or attached to your leg. You should try each one and decide which one gives you the quickest access to your pistol and is comfortable.
Keep in mind that as you draw and shoot, the holster will loosen. Choose a holster with the best and easiest tightening mechanics. Velcro is the easiest and fastest option.
There are generic style pouches that are used to house other gear, like your flashlight, first aid kit, a communications radio, and more. These pouches need to have easy-to-use fasteners, typically Velcro, and fit the gear you are going to put in them. Pouches come in different shapes and sizes. Determine what you are going to carry, and then shop for pouches to hold it.
These pouches are made to hold empty magazines until you are ready to reload them. Dump pouches may have a zipper rather than a flap since you aren’t likely to be in a hurry to get to the magazines. Dump pouches, for some, are considered a waste of space and weight. Reloading and storing the magazine back in the mag pouch is a better use of plate carrier space.
These are options that you can add to your plate carrier if you feel the need or simply want the added protection.
Backpacks are separate pieces that provide storage and extra plate protection if desired. Before adding a backpack to your gear, consider the added weight and make sure you can carry it comfortably.
These pads add a level of comfort to the plate carrier. These pads are installed behind the plates and absorb energy on impact, like when walking and bouncing around. These pads come in different sizes depending on the size of the plate. Today, most plates have these built-in, but if not, these are an option worth considering.
Buying your first plate carrier is only the beginning of the fun. Accessorizing it with the must-haves for personal protection takes some planning and organizing. You can redo your accessories as often as you like. These pouches, pockets, and holsters are easily removed and replaced or moved around to suit the situation you are in at any given time.