Skip to content
11 Things to Know About Owning a Plate Carrier

11 Things to Know About Owning a Plate Carrier

Protective gear is often tied very closely in conversation to the exercise of the Second Amendment. While this view is more than valid, it may serve to narrow the scope of tactical gear applications in the mind of the average consumer. The utility of a plate carrier setup extends far beyond the pro-firearm community and may be very applicable to your circumstances.

Numerous emergency service members may find themselves in positions where a lightweight plate carrier is appropriate to carry, especially with rising crime rates and global instability. Today, we'll make the case for owning ballistic plates by going through 12 key things to know about this equipment. Keep reading to see how you can better protect yourself. 

1. Plates Sold Separately

Right out of the gate, it's good to state that plate carriers are a separate product from actual ballistic plates. We say this so that first-time buyers can plan their purchases and budgets appropriately. It would be disappointing to buy a plate carrier only to learn that you're not actually adequately protected yet.

That's not to say that deals may not be available for those buying ballistic plates and plate carriers together. The main aim of this opening point is to encourage proper budgeting and to dispel any idea that the plate carrier on its own is sufficient protection.

2. Getting the Right Plates and Carrier

Ensure that you get ballistic plates and a plate carrier that correctly fits your body's size. The most crucial element is that the plates must be big enough to protect you. However, you must also avoid getting oversized plates because they reduce mobility and comfort.

You'll want to look for a suitable armor rating when plate shopping, and the best way to guarantee that you're getting the right plates is by choosing a trusted brand. We personally recommend HighCom and LTC plates. Both of these brands offer a range of NIJ Certified and USA-made ballistic plates that have been trusted by law enforcement for decades.

A plate carrier that's well suited to the wearer and the plates will be most comfortable to wear. Most plate carriers are adjustable, but you'll want the design to do most of the "fitting work" while using straps and buckles for more minor adjustments. Something more tailored to your stature will always be more comfortable than a one-size-fits-all solution.

3. You Must Match Your Carrier to Your Needs

Your reason for buying a plate carrier can also change which type of carrier suits you the best. Firstly, if you've purchased or received armor plates before anything else, it's good to double-check their dimensions to see how big the plate carrier needs to be. If you have side plates and a back plate, you also need to make sure the plate carrier can accommodate them.

If your ballistic plates are particularly heavy, you may also want to invest in a sturdier plate carrier. This doubles in importance if you're going to be doing a lot of running, climbing in and out of vehicles, and moving over obstacles on a near-daily basis. Heavy ballistic plates bobbing up and down are sure to tear right through a cheap plate carrier before long.

4. Lightweight Plate Carriers

All plate carriers are lighter than other types of body armor (standard bulletproof vests with soft armor, for example) because the carriers themselves aren't the armor. They only become body armor when paired with ballistic plates. Three factors influence the actual weight of your plate carrier setup.

Firstly, ballistic plates get heavier the higher their armor rating and the larger the area they need to cover. Secondly, plate carriers themselves can be very minimalistic and easy to conceal (often known as “covert”) or load bearing for extra storage (often known as “overt”). Lastly, everything extra that you carry on your plate carrier can also add up to make it a heavy piece of equipment, especially when it's ammo or water.

5. Carrying More Than Just Plates

Many plate carriers come with several places to which pouches can be attached commonly via MOLLE. MOLLE allows operators to attach and detach pouches to specific spots of the carrier. This helps anyone needing extra ammo, med kits, or other equipment to be handy and ready.

These tactical plate carriers can help save precious seconds as the wearer can avoid digging through a backpack for something they need.

6. Suitable for Many Environments

Together, the previous two points begin to show that you can take a lightweight plate carrier into almost any environment. Super-slim plate carriers paired with thinner plates can be concealed underneath civilian attire for extra protection. This is a handy alternative to more obvious armor options like bulletproof hoodies or vests.

Your plate carrier can also serve you well out in the wild. You can fill the pouches with various items to make a long ruck or a hiking trip more bearable.

7. Good for Work and Fun

The usefulness of personal protection gear extends well beyond the realm of military, policing, and security working environments. Social disturbances often result in a need for emergency services (paramedics and firefighters) to rush into dangerous riots. Even volunteer groups going into these situations to assist the communities benefit from having extra protection.

Plate carriers can also be utilized for fun in several low-stakes environments. Beyond doubling as an alternative to a conventional backpack, they can also be useful as airsoft and paintball gear.

8. Comfortable Carriage

Using a quality plate carrier instead of a cluttered backpack can be more comfortable in working environments. Most of your gear is easy to reach, and the weight distribution is easier on your shoulders and back. This can be quite valuable for jobs where operators may spend continuous hours on their feet with little or no breaks.

Many modern plate carriers also have better moisture-wicking and air circulation. Together, these can improve mobility and comfort for the wearer.

9. Caring For Your Plate Carrier

Cleaning and maintaining your plate carrier properly helps in two ways. Firstly, it greatly increases the useful life of this equipment. Secondly, it ensures that you won't suffer an equipment failure when you need to armor the most.

When cleaning your plate carrier setup, start by removing the ballistic plates. You'll want to avoid using any harsh chemicals and rough brushing or scrubbing tools, as these can damage the plate carrier.

Disassemble the plate carrier's various parts and hand wash each part individually. This lets you inspect the carrier more carefully for damage and allows you to spot and remove twigs, wires, leaves, and other debris that may be tangled in the rig. Hang the plate carrier up to dry away from direct sunlight once you're done.

10. Legal Status of Body Armor

Because a plate carrier isn't bulletproof body armor on its own, it's perfectly legal for anyone to buy a plate carrier. However, it's important to know how US law regulates body armor since most people pair their plate carriers with ballistic plates.

Anyone over the age of 18 may purchase body armor in the US as a general rule. There are State and local laws that may vary how the purchase should take place. Your State or city may require face-to-face-only purchases or written permission, for example.

If you've been convicted of a felony that was violent in nature, then you're not allowed to own body armor. It's vital that you consult Federal, State, and local laws regulating armor as part of your research.

11. Wearing Body Armor in Public

The laws regulating body armor ownership are also separate from the laws regarding the wearing of body armor. It's generally lawful for an adult with no violent convictions to wear body armor in public. However, there are many situations that may change this.

Openly wearing your plate carrier (even without armor) is quite conspicuous. Even if it's legal, you'll likely attract more attention from other citizens and law enforcement. Private businesses also have the right not to allow you onto their premises if the owners don't like seeing someone in body armor.

Get the Best Tactical Gear Today

A lightweight plate carrier is applicable in endless scenarios. Though our list of applications is extensive, it's not exhaustive. If you have a need that a plate carrier (and armor) can fill, then you should get one, but there's a ton to be aware of.

You must research your local laws before buying armor. You must also make sure that they plates you get for the carrier fit your body well. It's best to shop for trusted brands to get gear that will work and will last a long time.

Find it all at a great price at Top Armor.

Previous article What Is a Chest Rig? A Complete Guide