A plate carrier is something that has a variety of uses; you can use one for something fun like paintball, or you can use one for more serious activities such as enforcing the law (assuming you are authorized to do so). In either case, when you are shopping for a new tactical vest there are certain things you should consider if you are to make the best and smartest decision. In this article I will outline the most important factors you need to consider.
The weight of your vest is important, as if it is too heavy then it can really affect the speed at which you can move. Nearly all activities where you will find it necessary to wear a plate carrier – hunting, chasing bad guys, paintball – will require that you move quickly at a moment’s notice; if your plate carrier is too heavy it can slow your response time and this is potentially very detrimental to you. In a combat situation especially, if you do not respond to some situations quickly enough it could cost you your life.
So if you are not trained to carry heavy equipment for long periods of time you should try to get a lightweight ballistic carrier like the Crye Precision that weighs under 2 pounds. A lightweight plate carrier will give you more flexibility in your movements and you will also be able to move with more speed, which can give you the advantage in any number of situations. If your vest is not so heavy, then you will also be able to use it to carry more supplies as well.
It can get hot and sweaty very fast when you are wearing a tactical vest and actively moving about, especially in the summer when the weather is warm, or if you happen to be lucky enough to live in a warm state like Hawaii or Florida where it is sunny most of the time. Heat buildup is a very real issue with most plate carrier vests; if you know that you will be wearing yours in hot environments you should ideally look for one that has features to help it manage heat, like the ventilation system on the UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest. Many plate carriers will also have hydration carriers or even hydration bladders that can also be very helpful when things start to heat up.
In many situations where you’ll need to wear a plate carrier it will benefit you if it can be concealed so no one notices it. This is true especially for members of the armed forces. If you are targeted by an armed criminal who notices that you are wearing body armor, they will most likely aim to shoot you in areas where you are not protected. Discretion is a large part of the effectiveness of a plate carrier in many situations; if you need to conceal the fact that you are wearing one, you should look for one that you can easily wear unnoticed.
One of the most important jobs that a plate carrier has is to protect you from bodily harm. Its ability to do this job well is definitely something that you should consider when you are shopping around for one to buy. The level of protection that you will need from your plate carrier will depend on the type of threats that you are most likely to face. If you face threats from handgun rounds, a soft armor will typically be enough to repel them. But if will need to repel rifle rounds, then you will need plate carriers from the Level III or Level IV categories for the best protection.
The materials with which the ballistic plates are made is also an important factor to consider – they are normally made with either steel, ceramic, or polyethylene. Each type of material has features that make it suitable for use on plate carriers in different situations. For more information on these types of materials and their properties, you can see my article about them here.
Considering these factors will surely help you make a better decision when you buy a plate carrier, but to me the most important function is protection. If you will be using yours in a potentially life-threatening situation, make sure you’ll learn more about this. It’s your life that’s in stake.