Best Plate Carriers | Pros & Cons of Each

Best Plate Carriers | Pros & Cons of Each

Military or tactical team members, preppers, and even role-play enthusiasts may be interested in plate carriers as a critical part of their gear. Many companies are making plate carriers, so the choices can become overwhelming without guidance.

Army Ranger in Full Gear with Plate Carrier

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the basics of plate carriers, what makes a suitable carrier, the pros and cons of each, and list a few of our top choices for various uses at different prices. Remember to read to the end where we give some honorable plate carrier mentions.

What is a Plate Carrier?

A plate carrier is a garment designed to be worn by the user for ballistic protection against gunfire from rifles, handguns, and shrapnel. Sometimes known as a ballistic or armor plate carrier, the carrier offers no protection. Still, it includes internal pouches or bags that hold hard armor plates on the front portion at a minimum and also often on the rear and sides of the carrier vest.

A plate carrier differs from a bulletproof vest in that the latter is soft armor designed for comfort and may even be worn beneath clothing. A plate carrier may be worn over a bulletproof vest in some cases.

Army Ranger With Plate Carrier Holding AR-15

Bulletproof vests are flexible and more comfortable but generally won’t stop rifle rounds, and some handgun calibers may make it through some types of soft body armor.

Ballistic plates are normally classified as hard body armor. In most cases, they will be either threat level III or IV. Armor plates can be made of polyethylene (PE) material, steel, ceramic, or a combination.

Level three ballistic plates offer protection against up to 6 spaced hits of standard and steel-jacketed FMJ rifle projectiles at velocities up to 2,780 feet per second, including the 7.62x51 NATO (.308 Winchester equivalent) M80 ball cartridge. Level IV plates are rated to prevent penetration of at least one hit of .30-06 M2 AP (Armor Piercing) bullets.

Image: LAPG LEVEL III CERAMIC BALLISTIC PLATE

Different Types of Plate Carriers

The features you should look for in a plate carrier depend greatly on your intended use. Suppose you are in a military, law enforcement, or other tactical environment. Your needs will differ slightly from an airsoft LARP enthusiast or a casual prepper who wants a plate carrier for end-of-the-world scenarios.

However, some general characteristics make a good plate carrier, regardless of your specific use.

Plate carriers with wood stitching

The quality of the thread and stitching is what holds your entire rig together. Particularly on lower-budget carriers, watch out for loose threads, busted seams, messy stitching, and single-stitched areas where they should be double-stitched (at least).

Plate carriers with Durable fabric, straps, elastics

The primary fabric should be at least 500 denier nylon (Cordura-type), particularly in weight-bearing areas. 800 or 1000D is heavier and tougher, but won’t be as light or as comfy, so it’ll be a balancing act to get the setup you prefer. Velcro-type (hook-and-loop) panels should be durable and adhere well to each other for many repetitions. Any elastic pulls, zippers, or clips should be high quality and compatible with your desired accessories.

Army Ranger Pointing AR-15 Wearing a Plate Carrier

Carriers that fit the plates you want to use

Obviously, the main point of a plate carrier is to, you guessed it, carry ballistic plates. Otherwise, you can run a tactical vest, chest rig, or war belt. If you can’t fit the plates you intend to use into your proposed carrier, that isn’t going to work. Some carriers are limited to 1-inch thick plates, while others go up to 1.5 inches or more. Check carefully and ideally test-fit your plates before buying a carrier rig.

Adaptive Plate Carriers

If you need a plate carrier that can act as a stripped-down, minimalist rig that might even be utilized under a jacket, but you sometimes need a full loadout with space for all your gear, hydration, comms, and tactical Twinkie pouches, look for slimmer, adaptable designs with your preferred gear attachment system.

Comfortable Plate Carriers

Suppose you plan to spend time in your plate carrier. In that case, you’ll appreciate the little touches like hidden seams at high-friction areas, durable padding in the shoulders, articulated and/or adjustable straps throughout, and good ventilation under the plate bags.

Budget-Friendly Plate Carriers

This is a relative term; only you can determine a good price. However, some rigs give you more for your money, and some rigs are expensive. When it comes to buying the right plate carrier for your needs, remember you get what you pay for.

What are the Best Plate Carriers?

There are hundreds of plate carrier companies out there, and it’s impossible to review them all. However, here is a list of our favorites we think you should consider and why.

Ferro Concepts Slickster

Ferro Concepts Slickster is a minimalist, lightweight design and is our pick for the most concealable plate carrier for low-profile or clandestine operations. It can be up-featured with any number of pouches, danglers, pockets, and doo-dads using the ADAPT accessory system, but where the Slickster shines is when you want to keep your plate rig as low-pro as possible. Available in 6 colors for $160 MSRP.

FERRO CONCEPTS THE SLICKER PRODUCT INSTRUCTIONS

FERRO CONCEPTS THE SLICKER PRODUCT INSTRUCTIONS
Ferro Concepts Slickster

Pros:

  • Extremely light at around 0.8 pounds.
  • Adaptable from very basic gear belt setup to full loadout.
  • Moderately adjustable shoulder straps (into the rear bag).
  • A robust and easy velcro cummerbund system with quick-pull tabs can be used over or under a mag pouch placard.
  • Mesh-lined plate compartments front and rear.

Cons:

  • No quick-release shoulder buckles.
  • Shoulder straps require separate purchase of pads when using a heavy loadout.

Video: Minimalist Civ/LEO Plate Carrier Setup -

Ferro Concepts Slickster

Crye Precision JPC 2.0

The Crye Precision JPC 2.0 or Jumpable Plate Carrier is a top choice for a minimalist plate carrier. It’s almost as light as the Slickster at 1 pound but has all the modular features and adjustability you might want if you need a flexible rig. We really like the stretch-paneled plate compartments and Crye’s intuitive, 2-step emergency doff system and seven available colors for $241 MSRP.

Crye Precision JPC 2.0 User Manual

CRYE PRECISION JPC 2.0

Pros:

  • Very light at around one pound.
  • Minimalist design enhances mobility.
  • Fully adjustable shoulder straps and cummerbund to fit any body type.
  • Easily customizable with numerous accessories ranging from mag pouches to side plates, zip-on panels, various flaps, and more.
  • Emergency doff system can get you out of your rig in two easy steps.
  • Stretch panels along the sides of the plate compartment accommodate any common thickness of the armor plate.
  • Made in America from American materials.

Cons:

  • Somewhat expensive for what you get.
  • The minimalist design means some features are missing or need to be added for more cost and bulk.

Video: Plate Carrier Review (Technical): CRYE PRECISION JPC 2.0

Velocity Systems Scarab LT

The Velocity Systems Scarab LT is a popular rig among actual operators and military users. It is our pick for the best plate carrier for heavy or full combat loadout. The patented swiveling shoulder strap design helps distribute the weight well and allows for shooting from unconventional positions while not binding or restricting movement too much. If you’re going into harm’s way and want to carry thick, heavy plates and gear, Velocity Systems can set you up for $338.00 MSRP (some cummerbund options add up to $370 total).

Velocity Systems Scarab LT

Pros:

  • Holds hard plates up to 1 inch thick.
  • Super comfy.
  • Carry all the things.
  • Excellent ventilation.
  • 4 cummerbund options, including low-profile elastic and side plate pocket versions.
  • 100% made in the USA.
  • Battle-ready and durable.

Cons:

  • It's expensive.
  • 4-6 week lead time.
  • The zip-on backpack panel is capacious but adds another $120.

Video: Plate Carrier Setup - Velocity Scarab LT

Spiritus Systems LV-119

Our award for the most modular plate carrier goes to the Spiritus Systems LV-119. A ground-up rethink of what a modular plate carrier system can be, the LV-119 starts with a minimalist front plate bag ($110 for the overt version). Still, it requires the additional purchase of a rear plate bag ($79-$110) and cummerbund ($64-$100) to function as intended.

Once you have those, this slim rig can be worn under a jacket, depending on your add-ons. Those add-ons are the guts and gravy of this system, and you’ll either love or hate Spiritus Systems by the time you’re done. Every additional feature/part is an additional purchase at an additional cost, and getting the exact bits you want in the color you want can be maddening. But if you have money to burn, time to wait, and you like modularity, Spiritus Systems might be the right choice.

Spiritus Systems LV119 Setup Guide Video

Spiritus Systems LV-119

Pros:

  • Extremely modular (assuming parts are in stock).
  • Very comfortable.
  • Hidden wire routing for comms/electronics.
  • High-quality material and construction.
  • Front plate bag pocket bottom flap velcro connects on the inside to allow for varying plate sizes, up to 1.2 inches thick.
  • Available quick-detach (QD) MOLLE Tubes cummerbund system, where you can easily slip the tubes on or off when donning or doffing the rig or in case of injury/tangled gear.

Cons:

  • The modular, build-it-yourself concept means you get very little for the basic carrier, and you can spend big bucks getting your rig how you want it.
  • Rear plate bag is a required separate piece at an additional cost (around $110).
  • No MOLLE webbing on the front; you need to run velcro placards (which many people prefer nowadays).
  • The MOLLE panel for the back plate bag is an additional $70 add-on.
  • Extremely annoying cummerbund attachment system where you have to weave the ends into the carrier panels manually using a nylon cord.
  • Zippers and attachments are proprietary and only really work with Spiritus stuff.
  • No QDs are available for the shoulder straps.

Video: Spiritus Systems LV-119 Overt Plate Carrier Overview

LA Police Gear Atlas

The LA Police Gear Atlas is our pick for the best budget plate carrier. It’s built to a $90 price point out of 500D nylon, but it has some nice features that aren’t included on some carriers at 2-3X the price. The shoulders, front, and back panels are primarily nicely padded and fully adjustable, even for super-tall dudes and ladies. The rig's front, back, and sides are covered with laser-cut MOLLE slots rather than sewn-in loops to save cost, with the top portions of the front and back sections equipped with velcro-like material. It’s a basic rig, and you’ll have to add whatever pouches/placards you want, but most other plate carriers require the same. For the price, it’s hard to fault the LAPG Atlas.

LA Police Gear Atlas

Pros:

  • Quick-release shoulder buckles.
  • Lots of adjustment for shoulder strap length (great for tall people).
  • Padded throughout.
  • Tons of MOLLE space.
  • Adjustable, removable cummerbund.
  • Included a heavy-duty drag handle.

Cons:

  • Front and back padding is not perforated/ventilated, so it can get hot in summer.
  • Putting the rig on requires LOTS of velcro tearing/flaps.
  • Shoulder adjust straps aren’t sewed down, so they can flop around.
  • Shorter people may have to remove shoulder padding to get the adjustment they need.
  • The 6-row MOLLE arrangement on the front may limit some users who prefer 8-row setups.

Video: LAPG ATLAS PLATE CARRIER - THE BEST BUDGET PLATE CARRIER

Agilite K19 3.0

We might be saving the best for last: Many users find the Agilite K19 to be the most comfortable plate carrier they’ve ever tried and is our pick for the most comfortable plate carrier. It was designed for and is used by the Israeli military, and they spend a lot of time in hot places in full gear. It’s loaded with nifty features, fully padded and ventilated, and features durable and functional quick-release attachments at the shoulders and front of the cummerbund. With six colors available at a fairly reasonable $289 MSRP, the Agilite K19 3.0 is hard to beat, considering the features you get.

K19 PLATE CARRIER 3.0 Sizing Chart

K19 PLATE CARRIER 3.0 Sizing Chart
Agilite K19

Pros:

  • Excellent padding; super comfortable.
  • Fully ventilated.
  • Industry-best quick-release system for rapid egress.
  • Proprietary Fast-Adjust™ one-size-fits-all cummerbund that the wearer can adjust and fine-tune in real-time.
  • Super-cool velcro panels are also laser-cut for MOLLE, so you can run either velcro placards, MOLLE gear, or both on the same panel.
  • Both left and right quick detach buckles are removable, so you can replace them with minimalist slide buckles (included) for an even lower profile that’s better for shouldering your rifle.

Cons:

  • Not discreet if that’s an issue for you.

Some other plate carrier companies to check out

We can’t even cover all of the best plate carriers, so be sure to check out these other highly regarded makers in your search for the proper rig for you.

Store your weapons and gear in a Liberty safe

Even if you’re not a genuine Operator Operating Operationally, you appreciate the need to secure your gear and weapons. That’s where Liberty Safe comes in. We have a wide range of models and prices to choose from, all designed to keep all your valuable stuff protected from theft, unauthorized access, fire, and even humidity damage. Check out our interactive online catalog of the best gun safes, or find a dealer near you.


*Made in the U.S.A. from U.S. and Global Parts.


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