20 Best Plate Carriers & Tactical Vests (2019): Buyer’s Guide and Unbiased Reviews

Are you on a quest to find the best plate carriers and tactical vests?

Then you’re in the right place. Because I have done the hard work for you and have reviewed dozens of products to bring you the best plate carriers and tactical vests.

In addition, I will introduce the following related topics.

  • Product Details (Including advantages and disadvantages) 
  • Buyer’s Guide
  • Certifications and Ratings
  • Plate Types

I will also answer some common questions.

  • What Is A Tactical Vest?
  • When Do You Need Ballistic Protection?
  • Are Plate Carriers With Inserts Very Heavy?
  • What Accessories Can Be Added?
  • How Do You Wash A Plate Carrier?
  • Are You Buying A Protective Vest For Airsoft Use?
  • Should You Get A Camouflage Vest?

Without further ado, let’s begin!

Chief Editor

Brian

Hi! I’m Brian, graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science at University of Houston. I used to be an editor of a sports magazine. Currently, I work as a part-time editor at OutsideHow.com. I like to read sports and recreation magazines, such as Outdoor Life, Sports Illustrated, ESPN and Runner’s World. I hope that this article can be helpful to you.
Brian

29
Hours Researching

60+
Products Evaluated

1200+
Reviews Considered

17
Researched Sources

Top 3 Picks ( In a Hurry? Here are the winners )

Product
Editor’s Choice & Best Seller
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest, Black
Professional's Choice
Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set, Multicam, CS
Best Value
YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D...
Image
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest, Black
Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set, Multicam, CS
YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D...
Price
from $41.75
$84.95
$34.99
Prime
Our Rating
Editor’s Choice & Best Seller
Product
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest, Black
Image
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest, Black
Price
from $41.75
Prime
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon
Professional's Choice
Product
Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set, Multicam, CS
Image
Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set, Multicam, CS
Price
$84.95
Prime
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon
Best Value
Product
YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D...
Image
YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D...
Price
$34.99
Prime
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon

Best Plate Carriers and Tactical Vests

A plate carrier is one of those important pieces of equipment that becomes necessary for the weapon enthusiasts as their life depends on that it is suitable and in working order. The professionals understand the importance of this equipment when it comes to keeping them safe from the potential of gun wounds. The technological advancements have since resulted in phenomenal gear that comes with outstanding features. When it comes to choosing a plate carrier, you need to find one that is not only comfortable but also needs to fit perfectly.

1. UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest – Editor’s Choice & Best Seller

Sale
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest, Black
  • TACTICAL GEAR, HOLSTERS, MAGAZINE POUCHES

This vest is fully adjustable when it comes to both length and girth and is the ideal option for people with a build that is moderate. It comes with 4 adjustable rifle-magazine pouches (3 on the left and 1 on the right), that come with strong elastic Velcro closures and drain holes which secure the magazines into place.

The back of this vest features a mesh-ventilation system that releases heat and moisture which adds to the comfort levels of this tactical vest. The UTG Law Enforcement Tactical Vest comes with 1 cross-draw holster that features a fully adjustable position along with an additional hook-and-loop attachable modular double-mag pouch that you can interchange with your holster for additional options.

This vest fits the majority of sizes well, yet it is not suggested for heavily built or really tall individuals. It is cool and comfortable even when you have been wearing the vest for many hours. However, it may become slightly heavier after a few hours of wear. When it comes to law enforcement this vest is an excellent option as a fast secondary option when it comes to emergency responses. This is also an outstanding choice for airsoft and paintballing fans.

Pros
  • An inexpensive option with loads of pouches and pockets with the choice to add even more
  • This tactical vest is made from durable materials and it can withstand a lot of wear and tear
Cons
  • Becomes heavy for long trips, especially when the vest is fully loaded

2. CONDOR Recon Chest Rig

Sale
Condor Recon Chest Rig (Tan)
  • -Three BUILT IN stackerKangaroo type mag pouch, will hold six M4 mag...
  • -Swivel Push-Button release buckle
  • -Padded cross-back shoulder strap

This is the smaller version in comparison to the Condor Modular Rig. This vest is also known as a “battle bra” because you pull the vest over your head in the same way you would a Sports Bra that comes with a cross-back strapping. The magazine-shingle holders on the front are in a fixed position along with Molle spacing along the belt along with functional Molle located on each shoulder strap which accommodates smaller pouches, like a flashlight holder or small-radio pouches.

The Condor Recon is very popular as a fantastic carrier when it comes to training environments. All you need to do is pull it over your head and the vest is ready to carry all the gear you need to get your job done. If you need to add additional ammo you can think about adding bigger pouches to each side of the rig, otherwise, there is only enough room for 6 front magazines (which for most is more than enough).

Another attractive feature about this Recon is the affordability of this quality rig. Many of the rigs are usually well over the 100 dollar mark. So as a versatile training solution this Recon will not break the bank.

Pros
  • The Condor Recon offers a far more comfortable wear in comparison to the full-body larger vests. It is also a lot more mobile for running and moving around.
  • The Kangaroo Retention straps which hold your magazines are ideal when you need to quickly draw your magazines.
Cons
  • The pouches for the magazines are fixed. Even though there is Molle space across the sides, this might become a problem for individuals that would like to customize the layout.

3. UTG Law Enforcement Tactical SWAT Vest

Sale
UTG Law Enforcement Tactical SWAT Vest, Black
  • TACTICAL GEAR, HOLSTERS, MAGAZINE POUCHES

This UTG SWAT Law Enforcement vest is one of the other outstanding plate carriers which weighs 3.5 pounds and measures 23-inches in length. You can adjust the girth within a range of 40 to 54 inches across your torso, meaning this vest is suitable for the majority of body sizes.

This vest also comes with a rifle and pistol pouches, and a versatile thumb-break holster, a radio-pocket, and elasticized loops for the shotgun shells. This includes all the important features for any person who intends to clash outdoors. These tactical vests are made for firearm enthusiasts and law-enforcement entry teams.

The interior of the vest features a light and comfortable material and the exterior features heavy-duty nylon.

The UTG Law Enforcement Vest is adjustable at both the shoulders and the waist and is also very comfortable. This vest is ideal for people with moderate builds, and every pocket, holster, loop, and the pouch is easy-to-access.

One of the only problems we noticed is that the materials are not very breathable and if you wear them for a long time it can become very uncomfortable. This vest is not a good option for paintball and airsoft players as the zipper mechanism could easily detach when yanked.

Pros
  • Affordable
Cons
  • The zipper is exposed and could easily come off especially for activities that involve airsoft or paintball.

4. YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D – Best Value

YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D...
  • 【ITEM SIZE】Adjustable for adults, S-XXXXL: the maximum waist is...
  • 【ADJUSTABLE】Adjustable shoulder and side straps,belt design...
  • 【HIGH QUALITY】 Made from durable, comfortable high-density 600D...
  • 【MULTIFUNCTION】Has plenty removable pouches and Hook-and-loop...
  • 【USES】CS Game,Army fan, mountaineering, fashion,...

The Tactical CS Field Vest by YAKEDA is a fully-adjustable combat vest for training that fits adults that range from small to extra-extra-large in size. The minimum waist size is 33 inches and the maximum is 53 inches.

This is a tactical vest made from a durable nylon-mesh structure along with air ventilation that provides maximum comfortability. This vest zips up from the front and also features an extra pistol belt.

The left-hand side of this vest comes with a pistol-holder that can hold most of the standard pistols along with 3 magazine pouches which can be adjusted to most magazine heights allowing for a way to store just about any magazine size. The other side of the vest comes with 3 fitted ammo pouches, a shooting pad, and a big shell-carrying pouch.

The Yakeda CS Field is very lightweight and operates as the ideal multi-accessory as well as a versatile multipurpose vest for tactical purposes. This is a vest that is highly recommended for the airsoft and paintballing enthusiasts when it comes to all the accessories and how lightweight the vest is.

The mounted nylon mesh offers sufficient ventilation and overall this vest is incredibly durable due to the heavy-duty materials and double stitching.

Pros
  • Suitable for just about all body types and comes 3 adjustable strap.
Cons
  • The padding is minimal when it comes to the shooting side which makes it uncomfortable for shooting ranges.

5. VISM by NcStar Tactical Vest/Digital Camo Acu

VISM by NcStar Tactical Vest/Digital Camo Acu ,adjustable small/medium (CTV2916D)
  • Constructed of Tough PVC on Top of Mesh Webbing for Maximum durability
  • 4 Pistol Magazine Pouches, 3 Rifle Magazine Pouches, 1 Utility Pouch,...
  • Front Zipper, 2 Buckles and Adjustable Shoulders with 3 Adjustment...
  • Hydration System Compatible (Bladder Not Included)
  • Includes Heavy Duty Pistol Belt Attaches Securely to Vest to keep...

Constructed from a durable PVC along with a high-quality mesh webbing which provides outstanding comfort and durability. The NC STAR also comes with a durable front zipper which uses 3 adjustment straps and 2 buckles on either side. This ensures a truly customized fit.

This vest also features 3 Rifle Magazine compartments and 4 magazine pouches which easily each hold 1 or 2 of the more common pistol magazines, a big utility pouch, and one universal fully-adjustable cross-draw pistol holder.

This is a tactical vest that also features its own pistol belt that comes with 2 pistol-magazine pouches that you can use to store a number of tools such as folding knives or flashlights. This belt attaches onto the vest with the use of buckle flaps, in order to ensure everything remains in place.

Pros
  • They fit most people, and can actually fit any person that wears a T-shirt size from small onto XXL.
    MOLLE compatible
Cons
  • You cannot adjust the magazine pouches because they are sewn in.

6. Condor MCR6-002 Tactical and Duty Equipment

Condor MCR6-002 Tactical and Duty Equipment, Black
  • Padded cross-back shoulder strap with webbing and D-rings
  • Six open-top mag pouches
  • Four elastic loops (two each side)
  • Front pocket pouch with hook and loop panel inside

The Rapid Assault Chest Rig was designed with one purpose in mind, and that includes providing a fast and lightweight option for people that use rifles to carry around the bare minimum. This product is also accordingly priced, making it among the cheapest choices on our list.

The Condor Rapid Assault Chest Rig comes with 6 open-top M4 pouches which feature swivel locks which hold each pocket in place. In addition to the 6 magazine ports, you also have the choice to add MOLLE pouches with these and there are a few outstanding layouts when done in this way. For the moderate layouts, this additional space is helpful for adding in pistol-magazine pouches, along with a MOLLE knife sheath as well.

Some users have said that this is rig will only fit certain sizes of people. We are here to dispel that rumor. These straps are made to fit any person from 5’5 and 150lbs to 6’4 and 300lbs. We have seen all shapes and sizes using this product and not one of these people had problems with the width and length of either the shoulder strapping or the belt. While there is definitely no issues with size for the bigger wearers, the smaller users mentioned that is best to wear another item of clothing underneath in order to ensure the vest fits properly and to stop it from bouncing around.

Pros
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Making adjustments can be difficult

7. GLORYFIRE Tactical Vest Elite Molle Law Enforcement Vest Modular Vest

Sale
GLORYFIRE Tactical Vest Elite Molle Law Enforcement Vest Modular Vest
  • The GLORYFIRE tactical vest with Emergency drag handle; Removable...
  • Adjustable shoulder straps; Hook and loop webbing.Heavyweight webbing...
  • Its' Front map pocket with snap, hook and loop closure; Side release...
  • It comes with Padded mesh interior lining; Adjustable cummerbund with...
  • NOTE: FREETIME OUTDOOR store is the only authorized store to sell this...

This Modular Law Enforcement Vest made by GLORYFIRE, is made to fit individuals from size medium onto extra-large due to the weight and adjustable shoulder straps. It is ideal if you want to add modular attachments from every side and the vest is made from durable materials which are able to withstand extensive and frequent use.

This vest also features shoulder pads that are fully-padded and anti-slip along with hook-and-loop guides. The lining on the inside is a padded mesh with its own emergency-drag handle.

This vest accommodates the Level III sternum, soft armor plates, and can also accommodate the 10 X 12 steel plates.

The stitching and materials are light and of outstanding quality, which contributes to wear that is more comfortable, even if the vest is fully-loaded in comparison to other similar plate carriers at a similar price range.

We tested the vest out on a 260-pound, 6-foot individual which indicated that the vest offers plenty of space to expand when it comes to larger users. This vest is one of the best options for the plus size people that are required to wear plate carriers.

Other added features include the rigid Velcro which will not accidentally open. This one of the recommended products for those who love airsoft and paintball.

Pros
  • The shoulder straps are fully adjustable
Cons
  • Can become heavy once loaded fully with ammo and plates

8. Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set – Professional’s Choice

Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set, Multicam, CS
  • Modular Chest Set, Padded Shoulder Straps, Two internal mesh pockets,...

Condor is a manufacturer that is reliable and well-known for producing affordably priced military vests and plate carriers. You can find this vest online through a number of retailers, which includes Amazon. If you only need a vest that is multifunctional in order to store your magazines along with any other related accessories, this happens to be one of the best options.

This vest can also be worn over your flak jacket. It is very comfortable, and we liked the padded straps along with an area for a hydration bladder built-in ( the bladder is not included).

Pros
  • Built-in bladder pocket and 2 internal mesh pockets
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • MOLLE and webbing functionality
Cons
  • Only available in size large and upwards
  • You cannot insert plates

9. CONDOR Modular Chest Set

Sale
Condor Modular Chest Set Black
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Six built-in mag pouches
  • Two internal mesh pockets
  • Heavyweight webbing for modular attachments
  • Adjustable/removable chest platform

The Modular Chest Set from Condor is made for people from sizes medium up to extra-large due to the waist platforms and removable and adjustable chest. This vest comes with 6 built-in M4 magazine pouches, along with 2 internal mesh-pockets to help you carry your gear.

This vest also comes with an interior pocket which features heavy-duty webbing to accommodate modular attachments. The heavily padded shoulder straps ensure the ultimate comfort, along with a hydration carrier that is built-in. This set does not come with a bladder, which means you would need to purchase one separately should you wish to use this feature.

Our test subject weighed around 190 pounds, and he was 5-foot 9-inches tall. With a moderate build, this vest fitted him well using the Velcro fasteners to ensure the straps all stayed neatly tucked in.

However, we noticed that the front part opens up, which to us seemed like a large issue.

The internal mesh that surrounds the waist area and the well-padded shoulder straps make this vest cool, comfortable, and versatile, even when you are active and you have to wear the vest for many hours at a time.

Pros
  • Versatile product with loads of space for additional MOLLE pouches
Cons
  • Doesn’t come with a bladder hook/hanger in the built-in hydration pouch

10. vAv YAKEDA Army Fans Tactical Vest Outdoor Equipment Supplies Breathable Lightweight Tactical Vest

Sale
vAv YAKEDA Army Fans Tactical Vest Outdoor Equipment Supplies Breathable Lightweight Tactical Vest
  • 【ITEM SIZE】Adjustable for adults, S-XXXXL: the maximum waist is...
  • 【ADJUSTABLE】Adjustable shoulder and side straps,belt design...
  • 【HIGH QUALITY】 Made from durable, comfortable high-density 600D...
  • 【MULTIFUNCTION】Has plenty removable pouches and Hook-and-loop...
  • 【USES】CS Game,Army fan, mountaineering, fashion,...

The Army Fans Tactical Vest by Yakeda is fully adjustable and was designed to fit adults that range in sizes from small onto extra-large. These vests are adjustable to fit both the waist and the shoulder size.

Made from a high-density polyester, this is a material that offers great heat resistance and durability, which make it both comfortable and lightweight. On the right-hand side, the vest features 3 ammo pouches, a big shell-carrying pouch, and a shooting-pad. On the left-hand side is the pistol holder which can accommodate standard pistols, along with 3 magazine pouches, along with the adjustable strap which accounts for height.

The back of this vest comes with a double-ply mesh lining which can accommodate adding in your own hydration bladder. This vest is not suitable for all sizes.

We tested this tactical vest out on a person that weighed 212 pounds and a height of 6-foot, 2-inches. After making a couple of adjustments the vest fitted comfortably with a T-shirt underneath but left very little space for expansion. If you are similar to this height and size, and you require something to accommodate your jacket, this is not the vest for you.

The materials on the exterior are sturdy and durable with double stitching, and the inside is well-aerated and comfortable. The pistol and rifle magazine pouches are designed to hold your magazines securely, while the holster also solidly holds handguns and is designed for fast access.

This vest is very breathable thanks to the mesh lining, while the belt is made from very high-quality materials. Unlike some of the other similar vests, the upper-right shoulder on the back is green which provides more camouflage.

Pros
  • Very adjustable when it comes to the girth, length, holster length and position in association the straps that cover the pouches
Cons
  • Certain magazine sizes will not fit into these ammo pockets very well, which makes it difficult to secure the Velcro top straps

More Products (Our Rating: 4 Stars)

11. vAv YAKEDA Tactical Adjustable Vest-VT-1099
vAv YAKEDA Tactical Adjustable Vest-VT-1099
  • 【ADJUSTABLE SIZE】It is a fully adjustable system for adults,...
  • 【HIGH QUALITY】1000D nylon fabric excellent wear resistance,...
  • 【BREATHABLE】Pockets have been backed with 3D mesh for added...
  • 【MULTIFUNCTION】The shoulders can be worn in different...
  • 【UNIQUE DESIGH】The JPC VEST1099 is the latest evolution of vest...
12. vAv YAKEDA Tactical Rapid Assault Chest Rig Vest
Sale
vAv YAKEDA Tactical CS Game Chest Vest - KF-099
  • YAKEDA KF-099 Chest vest is a versatile and multi-use platform. This...
  • Is a fully adjustable system for adults, S-XXL: the maximum waist is...
  • It also comes with a 3D mesh spacer to allow passage of cool air and...
  • Has 4 removeable, closed top or open top magazine pouches, which...
  • This chest vest also offers you all modular panels give you 4 vertical...
13. Condor Modular Vest
Condor Modular Vest (Black)
  • Heavyweight webbing for modular attachments
  • Padded rubberized shoulders with built in shock stop
  • Hanging guides for pistol or duty belt
  • Mesh back for ventilation with webbing for MOLLE attachments
  • Adjustable shoulder and girth
14. VooDoo Tactical MSP-06 Entry Assault Vest
Sale
VooDoo Tactical 20-8112004330 Men's Msp-06 Entry Assault Vest, Large-XX-Large, Olive Drab
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Our entry assault vest features side-release buckles with adjustable...
  • We've provided 3 pistol mag pouches plus one extra that's attached to...
  • There's also 3 30-round mag holders for use with long guns, a first...
  • Adjustable pistol belt included
15. ArcEnCiel Tactical Molle Vest
ArcEnCiel Tactical Molle Vest, Coyote Brown
  • Military Grade 1000D Nylon materials and stitching, well constructed,...
  • Various MOLLE attachment points for adding pouches. 3 magazine...
  • Adjustable size. The maximum chest size around 50 inches, can be...
  • Molle & Patch. Modular lightweight load-carrying system, powerful...
  • Suitable for airsoft battle, paintball game. Personal protective...
16. Lancer Tactical CA-781GX Modular Chest Rig Tactical Gear
17. Haley Strategic Partners D3CRX Chest Rig
Sale
Haley Strategic Partners D3CRX Chest Rig, Coyote Brown
  • Haley Strategic Partners, D3CRX Chest Rig, Coyote Brown
  • RSR Group is a nationwide distributor of firearms and shooting sports...
  • This product is manufactured in United States
18. Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Carrier Cordura Lining Armor, Olive Drab, Extra Large 32V504OD-CTS
19. EXCELLENT ELITE SPANKER Tactical Airsoft Outdoor Molle Breathable JPG Vest Game Protective Vest Modular Chest Set Vest for Fun
EXCELLENT ELITE SPANKER Tactical Airsoft Outdoor Molle Breathable JPG Vest Game Protective Vest Modular Chest...
  • Constitute by high quality and durable 1000D nylon material,the...
  • Tactical vest in front of have a M4 modules panel that can put 3 pcs...
  • Adjust the size by magic sticker panel of the vest waist,front have...
  • Men and women common style,the tactical molle vest suitable for...
  • Doesn't include the plate and toy mag.Airsoft vests are just CS or...
20. New SDS BAE Releasable Body Armor Vest Systems RBAV-SF Ranger + Accessories
New SDS BAE Releasable Body Armor Vest Systems RBAV-SF Ranger + Accessories
  • SDS BAE Releasable Body Armor Vest Systems RBAV-SF Ranger +...

What You Need To Know About Plate Carriers And Tactical Vests

Just about everyone has watched one of those movies when a person is shot, followed by revealing that they were wearing a Bulletproof Vest under their clothing. Yet if you are in situations that require ballistic protection, then you are much better off if you wear a durable plate carrier. Here is the reason why.

The plate carriers are a type of load-bearing system which is made to offer ballistic protection. The name: plate carrier means that they are made to carry the inserted plates which offer different levels of ballistic based protection. The inserts are designed to fit into the back and front of a plate carrier which is aimed at protecting vital organs like the lungs, the heart, and the chest from projectiles such as shrapnel or bullets.

The main difference between a plate carrier and a bulletproof vest is that the vests are usually worn under clothing. This is why public officials that are working in areas that might be dangerous or security and the federal police will often wear these aids. Some can limit your movement and have an appearance that is bulky. The plate carriers, on the other hand, are worn over your clothing and often use MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment), and they use bulletproof plates that are thin.

The advantage fo the plate carriers has to do with the potential to carry panels and pouches using the MOLLE straps which interweave into different positions on these plate carriers. This is a benefit as it allows the user to customize their plate carrier to match up to the role that they play. For instance, if you are in the military, then you may need a standard M4 magazine pouch, a pistol magazine pouch, and your dump pouch. If you are in one of the administrative roles, you may need an admin-panel just above the magazine pouches.

What Is A Tactical Vest?

The tactical vests are also known as chest rigs, battle bras, and molle vests, these are not like the plate carriers. They are not designed to offer any type of protection, but they do serve other important purposes.

The tactical vests become a preferred option for those users who are concerned about weight, or because these vests are more flexible and mobile to wear. There are, however, also the tactical vest which can attach to a plate carrier using Velcro attachments or fasten buckles. In this way, you are able to use a system you were trained with, over your plate-carrier.

In most of the training exercises conducted in the military where there is no real explosives or artillery being used, the soldier wears a chest rig in order to carry ammunition supplies, batteries, medical items, note keeping, communication gear, and a hydration bladder. Many people that use plate carriers for dangerous situations, will also use chest rigs when it comes to training purposes.

When Do You Need Ballistic Protection

If you have read over this and you are wondering if you will ever require ballistic protection, and you don’t think you will get into a combat situation when a plate carrier becomes a must, the chest rigs are probably the better choice for you.

The tactical vests become useful when you are at a range for fast reloads, for carrying your cleaning kits, magazines, or even MOLLE pistol pouches. The tactical vests also have other uses like carrying specific types of equipment for fisherman, airsoft players, and hunters. They are actually useful for any job that requires equipment and tools that could benefit from using one of the chest rigs.

Regardless of what role you play, the tactical vests are highly customizable to match up to your needs. With this information about plate carriers and tactical vests, we will now move onto the different options available.

Buyer’s Guide:Tips On How To Choose The Best Plate Carrier & Tactical Vests

1. The Level Of Protection

The protection levels are one of the most important considerations. Different plates and vests are linked to different types of rating levels which will indicate what they are able to effectively stop when it comes to rounds. Before we go into those details, here are the vests on the market that you are able to select from.

The plate carriers are made to hold inserts that are designed to stop the real “ballistic” rounds. The interior plates inside these vests protect and cover your upper body and your vital organs. Some of these vests provide a way to insert back and side plates, yet these are a bit excessive when it comes to civilian use. However, if you are not worried about carrying around additional weight, this may be an added option for you. These vests usually have MOLLE pockets and attachments to carry other items linked to military-style gear.

The bulletproof vests that are soft are popular as they are far lighter than the plate carriers and they are concealable. Yet, even with these favorable characteristics, there are also a few major drawbacks. While these bulletproof vests are able to effectively stop the smaller rounds which include shotgun pellets or 9mm rounds, they are not effective against the firearms of a higher caliber.

The multi-functional vests are regarded as tactical and ideal to attach other accessories such as your magazine pouches along with other associated gear. These vests are usually lightweight, yet usually, do not provide an area to insert soft or hard plates. When it comes to protection, these vests are similar to just wearing a regular shirt or vest.

2. Certifications And Ratings

The NIJ (National Institute of Justice), which falls under the Department of Justice is the governing body that has set the standards for body armor for many years. Here is the link to the website of the National Institute of Justice where you can find out more about the armor standards. These standards will give you more information on the round types the armor can stop. Below are the different levels.

The Handgun Calibers:

  • IIA Level: This level is used for effectiveness against 9mm up to .40 ammunition that is fired from the handguns (short barrel). This level is not ineffective against ammunition fired from rifles.
  • II Level: Useful for the 9mm and the .357 magnum shots fired from the handguns (short barrel). This level is also not effective in providing protection against fires shot from a rifle.
  • IIIA Level: Useful against rounds shot from .357 and the .44 magnums from handguns (long barrel). Also not effective from ammunition shot from a rifle.

The Rifle Calibers:

  • III Level: Effective against the 7.62 FMJ core ammunition.
  • IV Level: This level is effective against .30cal steel for the armor-piercing rounds.

3. Plate Types

The SAPI Plates which stands for Small Arms Protective Inserts are utilized by every branch of US military and is something that we used when we were in the Marines. The Kevlar vests may be great, yet when it comes to rounds that are bigger than 9mm, they become largely ineffective. The SAPI plates were made specifically to stop the higher-caliber rounds when compared to just wearing a Kevlar vest. The SAPI plates are made from ceramic which is covered with a durable composite material which traps fragments.

These plates also vary, yet the standard designs are made from silicon-carbide ceramic or boron carbide. They offer a high level of protection, yet they are significantly heavier when compared to the soft plates. The main drawback of ceramic and SAPI plates has to do with that they can only stop a single impact in one specific spot. This occurs when they shatter after impact in order to absorb kinetic energy produced from a round.

Plate Weights (Estimate):

  • The Extra Small Plates: weigh around 2.8 pounds
  • The Small Plate: weighs approximately 3.5 pounds
  • The Medium Plates: about 4.0 pounds
  • The Large Plates: 4.6 pounds
  • The Extra Large Plates: 5.3 pounds

The ceramic plates are the more common type of plate. They were originally utilized on a larger scale especially over Operation Desert Storm. This was regarded as one of the innovative breakthroughs when it came to technology for body armor and at this stage was a much lighter option when compared to the available armor. Yet, these plates were still somewhat bulky and heavy.

When it comes to ceramic plates you need to think about the advantage of an increase in protection with the drawback of having to wear a heavier vest. It is very common for men in the military to remove their back or side plates in order to decrease the weight so that they can maximize their mobility. It is also important to consider that because they shatter once struck by bullets, the plate is only effective for stopping a single round in one area. When it comes to the ceramic plates that cannot be dropped, and they will need service should they take on hard impacts.

An alternative to the ceramic plates comes in the form of the polyethylene plates. These are much lighter in comparison to ceramic plates. This type of plate often includes woven-shield materials that use the spin of bullets in order to absorb any impacts. It is the heat produced by bullets which will melt the polyethylene materials which assists with stopping the round.

The steel plates are not very common anymore, and they are not recommended due to their weight. Steel has been in use for hundreds of years and is thick and durable enough to stop a ballistic round. These plates were first designed to stop the rounds that came from musket rifles, yet they are still an effective option against today’s firearms.

4. The Purpose

Your most important consideration before you buy the best plate carrier would be the Mission. How do you intend to use a plate carrier? What environment will you be using it in? Do you require low-vis or high-vis? Other considerations include whether you need a versatile vest that comes with parts that you can change, or do you need something that remains as it is every time you wear it.

5. The Design

The overall design of the plate provider should be able to fulfill your requirements. For instance, if you plan to use this item for fishing activities, and you won’t be carrying a lot with you, a sock that features a minimalist layout that is less costly and with less pockets should fulfill your needs.

Yet if you are the type of individual that prefers not to carry around extra bags since you know what you need through past hunting and fishing activities, then the minimalist layout probably suits you best. The advantage of using human body-armor that features a simplistic design has to do with that it is far easier to wear and carry around.

6. Storage

Many army officers and gun owners use their vests as their primary location. In addition to functioning as armor, the enhance pliers or plate carriers have become increasingly popular in association to the storage that they provide. With various pockets, these vests often provide the opportunities to carry what is needed without having to carry around a backpack for ammo along with other strategic and smaller accessories.

7. Adjustability

This is an important part of these vests. Shooters have their own preferences when it comes to the locations of the pockets, and just about every person prefers to store their gun in a holster. Owning a jacket which provides flexible accessories which enables you to adjust the locations or remove them is very important.

If shooter adjustability is very important to you, think about making the necessary adjustments if you happen to be lefthanded.

8. The Fabrics Used

Many of the manufacturers prefer using nylon net when constructing these vests. This is a durable yet lightweight material that is easy to wear over your standard equipment such as a shirt, coat, or another jacket.

9. Durability

The military personnel usually wear these plate carries for extended periods especially when on guard duty or patrol. These individuals should look for the low-weight systems along with a hydration attachment. The security officers and law enforcement usually use a plate carrier over shorter periods. These types of professionals can afford to use heavier carriers that feature a higher level of stopping power. You need to think about how long you plan to wear a carrier in order to decide on the right type for your requirements.

10. The Size

This may seem like a given, yet without the correct fit, you might not be getting the protection that you actually need from one of these vests. Some of the tactical vests are only available in a single size, while there are many others that come in various sizes to ensure they fit you snugly, while still providing you with maximum mobility. If you are female, a small or a big man, you probably should stay away from the one-size-fits-all models, as you will more than likely land up with an item that is too loose, or too small.

11. Accessories And Equipment

Additional equipment, extra accessories, and attachments will have an effect on how your plate carrier sits, the profile and how heavy it will feel. In most cases, adding any other equipment to the plate carrier will totally change the way it feels and how you are wearing it. You should also consider the systems which are more versatile. The better plate carriers can either be loaded-up using a variety of gear or you have the choice to strip it down to only accommodate the most important necessities. Versatility is very important.

The majority of the tactical vests will be MOLLE compatible, this means you are able to attach the additional MOLLE accessories like radio pockets, grenade pockets, holsters, pouches and more.

The plate carriers are also a popular item for fishermen and hunters since they are able to accommodate additional gear such as water, snacks, sunglasses and more. These types of vests offer a significant benefit when blind fishing or hunting, since anything that you will be needing will be in immediate reach the instant you have marked a target.

12. Ease Of Acess

The best of the plate-carrier systems will always offer ease-of-access to any of your attached equipment. You never want to find yourself fumbling in a dangerous situation when you are unable to draw your magazine or pull out your tourniquet. When your life is in danger, each second is important. You should be looking for the systems that provide a good balance between freedom-of-movement and protection.

13. Heat And Weight Considerations

Weight is also an important factor, and this is even truer if you have plans to wear the vest over many hours at a time. If you are interested in a vest for workouts, then you will probably need to look for something heavier.

If you are interested in a vest for sports such as airsoft or paintball or home defense, you will be better off with something lightweight. We will give you a list of the different vest weights below, in order for you to compare.

If you wear one of the heavy vests and you are active, keep in mind that you will sweat. After hikes, when I was in the marines, my cammies would be completely soaked. If you have plans to wear a plate carrier over many hours at a time, I would suggest a hydration-bladder attached to the front or back to stop you from overheating and to stay hydrated.

14. Quality

You need a plate carrier you can rely on. You want to avoid shoulder straps made from cheap materials that rub you raw or a non-flexible material which makes it difficult to insert the plates. Durable stitching will make sure your plate doesn’t slip or fall out. While sturdy and well-made pouches will make sure your gear stays where it should.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Plate Carriers With Inserts Very Heavy?

A simple answer is that they can be. Generally, the carrier is not heavy, but if you are running, hiking or wearing them for a prolonged period of time, they can become uncomfortable. The actual weight of a tactical vest will vary depending on the model. Most of those on the market will weight between 2 and 6 pounds when the pockets are empty.

What Accessories Can Be Added?

You will need to check if the vest is MOLLE compatible. If the answer is yes, there are a lot of pockets and accessories that you will be able to add. If you have a vest with a cross-draw design, you will usually not be able to add more pockets to them.

How Do You Wash A Plate Carrier?

You should never put your vest into your washing machine unless the instructions attached clearly state that this is okay. If you need to remove stains, you should use a wet cloth and rub the vest.

What Should You Do If The Vest Does Not Fit?

Most of the top vests that you can get will be adjustable and able to accommodate a wide range of sizes. However, if you are not getting a vest that is adjustable, you will need to ensure that the seller accepts returns. This allows you to send the vest back and get on that properly fits.

Should You Get A Camouflage Vest?

Camouflage plate carriers will often be more expensive. In a lot of situations, camouflage will not be advantageous enough to justify the costs. However, if you are going to be using the vest in woodland setting for airsoft or paintball, it might be a good idea.

Are You Buying A Protective Vest For Airsoft Use?

The type of protective gear that you need to consider will vary based on whether you play outdoor or indoor airsoft. Indoor airsoft will have a faster pace and a short range. In these situations, you will need t plate carrier vest that offers increased torso protection.

However, if you are playing outdoor airsoft, players are more likely to shoot from a longer distance. You will also have more gear to keep track of which is why you should look at a lightweight or MOLLE vest. These vests are light, but also allow you to load them up with all the supplies you need.

Does It Have To Carry Protective Plates?

Not all of the tactical vests on the market will have the option of Kevlar, foam or rubber plates. This is something that you have to pay attention to. If you are playing paintball or range shooting, the ability to add plates will not be a consideration. However, if you are going to use the vest for police or military applications, plate support is very important.

What Is The Strap In The Back Of The Vest Meant To Do?

The strap on the back of your vest should allow you to carry the vest with greater ease. It will also allow you to drag someone who is wearing the vest to safety if you need to.

Conclusion

There are many different types of body armor that have become more popular with civilians. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important is to protect themselves and their loved ones. Another reason is for sporting activities such as airsoft and paintball which are considered risky. These activities are fun and challenging, but you need to be safe in your gear.

Body armor is a great way to secure yourself whether you are a hunter or preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Plate carriers are suitable for many different purposes and some have been made with tactical operations in mind while others are better for outdoor activities. It is important that you find the ideal vest for your needs.

References

Best Plate Carriers & Tactical Vests ( Top 3 Picks )

Product
Editor’s Choice & Best Seller
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest, Black
Professional's Choice
Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set, Multicam, CS
Best Value
YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D...
Image
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest, Black
Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set, Multicam, CS
YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D...
Price
from $41.75
$84.95
$34.99
Prime
Our Rating
Editor’s Choice & Best Seller
Product
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest, Black
Image
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest, Black
Price
from $41.75
Prime
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon
Professional's Choice
Product
Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set, Multicam, CS
Image
Condor Outdoor Condor Modular Chest Set, Multicam, CS
Price
$84.95
Prime
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon
Best Value
Product
YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D...
Image
YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D...
Price
$34.99
Prime
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon

Last update on 2019-08-15 / Rating by Author / Affiliate links, Images, Descriptions & Price from Amazon Product Advertising API

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