Best plate carriers and setups (side plates, minimalist, military, cheap)

Whether you’re new in the shooting biz or it’s been a while for you in the military, everyone needs a new and improved update in their plate carrier. We cover all the bases for you in this article about the best plate carriers and setups. It includes side plates, minimalist, military, and cheap.

Let’s get started!

What is a plate carrier?

AR500 armor plate carrier

A plate carrier is essential that every military man or law enforcement officer is familiar with. A good plate carrier is a must if you live in dangerous conditions.

It is a system of protection for soldiers wherein it can protect the chest and abdomen from a round of bullets and shrapnel of small weapons. It consists of a normal jacket with ballistic plates made of steel, ceramic, or other materials to protect the chest from

It was only popularized in the early 2000s. Before this, Doron plates or vests were being used extensively. Specifically, the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) was used until 2009. It was when the US military started looking for better options.

They found the KDH Defense Systems plate carriers satisfying and a more durable and lightweight alternative to the IOTV. Therefore, they signed a contract with KDH for supply.

AR500 tustido plate carrier with level III

Uses

Apart from providing a bulletproof shield to your body, these carriers can serve multiple other functions. They are detachable and have pouches. They can be accommodated to carry extra magazines, grenades, and other small weapons inside the pouches.

In comparison to vests, carriers protect a more varied array of weapons. A bulletproof vest can protect you from low-caliber firearms like handgun rounds. However, a plate carrier is needed for protection against rifle rounds.

Greencity Tactical Plate Carrier combo

Best minimalist plate carriers

Plate carriers are preferred for their better protection. It is still a relief when they are lightweight and do their job efficiently. That’s what we call a minimalist carrier that has the best of both worlds.

Maximum mobility carrier

Part of being minimalist is also being highly flexible in terms of mobility. The JPC 2.0 is renowned for its lightweight. It weighs just a little more than a pound and has an easy 2-step doffing. Since the material is stretchable, you can keep various thick plates in the carrier. The adjustable cummerbund makes for easy wearing.

Not to forget the drag handle that has a capacity of 400lbs.

There are webbing loops on the front and back to support front carrier supports or back panels.

All this and more you can get in under $260.

Best carriers with side plates

Side plate carriers are extra protection plates on either side of the body. These are positioned to your left or right. They add ballistic protection to your organs and are also used in the military.

KDH is the brand that provides to the US military and also uses a cummerbund style vest that has side plates.

A budget-friendly side plate

The Condor Modular Operator Plate Carrier is a basic vest with no attachments as far as additional features go. But at just $60, you can buy a close replica of the KDH vest used in the marines.

It has PALs webbing, which makes it easy to use MOLLE attachments.

It does come in a couple of colors like Black, Brown, Navy, Scorpion, Coyote brown, and more. It comes with an adjustable cummerbund and a heavyweight webbing: the lightweight and breezy 3D mesh liner.

The plate pockets are accessible but do not include the ballistic plates themselves.

Best military plate carriers

It’s known that the military is put in the most high-threat situations. Therefore, it’s understandable that they should have some of the most advanced artillery and protection in the field. Let’s take a look at our best recommendation for a military plate carrier.

Value for money TacTec

The 5.11 TacTec Rugged Plate carrier is highly recommended for military operation and at a good price too! It can carry both medium to large ballistic plates. It’s got a one-handed quick-release function as well as extendable emergency GrabDrag.

Although initially designed keeping in mind highly dangerous environments, it is now adopted by the Crossfit community.

The weighted plates are easily accommodated for fitness training. The material used is abrasion resistant and waterproof.

It has also been made keeping in mind both left-handed and right-handed people.

It’s available in exciting colors like Storm, Ranger Green, Kangaroo, Navy, and Black.

Best budget plate carriers

Protection is important, but money matters too! You want something that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket and protects you from bullet holes. The recommendation below achieves that fine balance. Take a look!

Light and Easy Veritas

The AR5 500 Armor Veritas is light as they come. Not only is it a great design on a great budget, but it also has many innovative features. The brand itself is promising and doesn’t let you down easily.

The weight is only 1 pound and 14 ounces, leaving plenty of room for attachments. You can also go versatile with attachments since there is space to accommodate other chest rig mounts and rear load-bearing systems.

It’s highly comfortable with padded shoulder pads. The 5D Cordura nylon is tolerant to abrasion and bar-tacked at the body’s stress points.

Now since you’re getting all this in less than $80, isn’t it the best budget plate carrier there is?

Best plate carriers for big guys

No matter your size, you will find a perfect plate carrier. We have the perfect fit for big guys who believe they won’t be able to fit into regular sizes!

Low-profile vests for larger guys and girls

If your biggest concern is size, this is your most comfortable product. It keeps in mind all the varied body types. You can adjust your size from a small to an XXL. Moreover, it has a great body heat dispersion system because of the 3D mesh.

For larger people, it’s also an issue to have space for mags. This vest gives you enough space for 3 with its pouches.

If you were impressed with 500D nylon, prepare to be astonished by 1000D.

1000D nylon is used for outdoor gear like pet accessories and military gear that is put through tough and rough conditions. It’s resistant to tears, mildew, and waterproof. Drying is also super fast when it does manage to get wet.

Best concealed plate carrier

Sometimes you’d like a more discreet form of protection, and that’s where concealed plate carriers come in. Let’s look at the best one in the market so far.

Armored Republic Concealment

The AR Concealment is exactly what it sounds like. A slim cummerbund with a tight fit for body-hugging protection against handguns. Remember that a thin and veiled polyester blend like this one will protect against small weapons and shrapnels but not larger ones like rifle rounds.

Weighing just 1.25lbs, it’s surprisingly defensive against handgun threats and is named the most low-profile carrier AR offers.

Best for beginners

Plate Carrier With 2 Body Armor Plates

Maybe you’re someone who recently joined a law enforcement agency or you’re just generally looking to buy a new plate carrier. There are special ones suited for beginners.

The Mayflower Assault is a great option. Despite being for beginners, it fits SAPI, Swimmer, and Shooter plates. It also has three different sizes for the cummerbund.

So if you’re entirely clueless about body armor, go for this option without a second doubt!

Plate carrier vs. Chest Rig

plate carrier

When it comes to body armor, there are debates in the market. One of the hottest debates is the plate carrier vs. Chest rig debate.

What is a chest rig, however?

Chest rigs are a form of storage of military or tactical gear worn on the chest while you are on the move. They are typically worn over Tactical vests. In themselves, they do not provide a whole lot of protection from weapons.

The largest advantage they offer remains the high amount of gear it enables the wearer to carry. All the while, the wearer can keep their hands free for other more important functions during high-threat situations.

Which is better?

Shellback Rampage 2.0 Plate Carrier

It is entirely dependent on a few factors. The first is which kind of environment you are in. Is it high risk, or can you afford to keep protection aside in favor of more gear?

Chest rigs can carry more gear and mags. However, plate carriers have the potential to save your life. Especially carriers with side plates offer even more shielding in times of crisis.

But do keep in mind that they will have quite a significant weight of their own. Chest rigs will be lighter, but their weight will increase as you load them up with the gear you wish to carry.

Another pro of the carrier is its ability to be used in the fitness industry. Especially Crossfit has been making good use of these products in their industry to aid in the training of individuals.

Plate carrier vs. Weight vest

two plate carriers

Since we are already talking about fitness, we can’t avoid talking about weighted vests.

Weighted vests are smaller vests that are worn during fitness exercises. Normal bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, pushups, jumping rope and rope climbing become a tad more difficult as you add weighted vests.

The versatility that these vests offer over plate carriers is an important point. Ballistic plates have a limited number of sizes. Vests can be designed to go from small to larger weights according to body strength.

Carriers are great for tactical use in the field. In a military operation, weighted vests are better suited to the gym and Crossfit.

What to look for when buying a plate carrier?

When you first look for your tactical gear, there can be chaos in the market. To avoid that confusion, consider the following factors before you go shopping.

Purpose

What is the purpose for which you need this product? Is it because you want to keep your family safe from threats? Maybe you’re in a law enforcement agency consistently risking your vital organs for the protection of civilians.

It will decide whether you need a high ammo carrier or one with basic functions.

Size

Size is of utmost importance. An ill-fitting gear is next to useless.

Are you an average-sized customer, or do you think you will require a customized vest for your protection? Many brands offer highly adjustable sizes ranging from small to double or triple XL.

Armor plates

Armor plates are decided primarily according to the threat level you face. If you are on the ground in a military operation, you will require a higher grade, like Level IV. At the same time, a Level III is sufficient protection against local security threats.

  1. Army-approved

Some people may be using their armor in civilian setups but want something that is army-approved. It is because military men and women often end up in the worst combat situations, requiring the best armor.

Therefore anything approved by the Seals, Corps, or military is widely preferred.

What armor plates should I use in my plate carrier?

There are two types of plates available in the market: soft and hard armor.

Soft will only protect you against handgun rounds and small pieces of shrapnel and glass that arise from explosions. Only hard armor will protect you from high-threat rifle rounds.

Hard armor like Level III+ can shield you from M855 rounds, mostly found in AR15 rifles.

The highest level of armor that are typically military-grade is Level IV. They are reserved for high combat situations on the ground. But if your situation warrants such a high level of security, go for it.

FAQ

Let’s look at the most common burning questions in the tactical gear market.

What plate carriers do Navy Seals use?

They mostly use the Crye JPC 2.0. Some SEALS prefer to wear their own armor from other brands as well. But the JPC 2.0 is preferred by most due to its extremely less weight. It’s also extremely stretchable and thus can store various amounts of weight.

Do plate carriers come with plates?

No it’s not widely known for plate carriers to come with their own plates. Most customers prefer to mix and match different weights and brands. To buy the most suitable choice for their body as well as their situation, plates are sold separately.

Are plate carriers illegal?

In most states, it is entirely legal to wear body armor. This makes you the exception if you have been convicted of a crime. As well as this, each state will have its own set of regulations regarding wearing body armor. Check these out before you purchase anything.

What plate carrier does the USMC use?

The US Marine Corps wear the Generation III carrier. It’s known to be twenty-five percent lighter in operation than used by others. Vertical Protective Apparel manufactures it to make it easy for the Marine to move swiftly with protection and supplies.

Should civilians have plate carriers?

It’s not very common for civilians to have plate carriers. Unless you are traveling to an area where you are in danger of getting shot, you will not need a plate carrier in public.

Body armor should only be worn in the direst of times because it weighs a great deal and is only used for great threats and emergencies.