WHAT IS A PLATE CARRIER?
A plate carrier is an important piece of tactical protective equipment. It is designed to protect vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, arteries, and more) from life-threatening trauma (mainly, bullet and knife wounds).
Conventionally, a plate carrier consists of two parts: an armoured plate and a textile cover into which the plate is inserted. Typically, the plate will be either a hard-ballistic stand-alone type or of the ICW (In-Conjunction-With)—both are available in different protection classes such as NIJ, VPAM, and CAST. The cover by itself provides no protection; for that the plate must be added. The cover also serves as a point of attachment for other tactical equipment.
In its basic form, a plate carrier consists of two covers connected by straps and fasteners. The straps rest atop the wearer’s shoulders, allowing one cover to shroud the chest and the other the back. The fasteners permit the two covers to be securely connected at each side of the wearer’s upper torso so they don’t flop to and for as the wearer ambulates or engages in other motions. However, when the plates are inserted, protection is afforded to the wearer in the front and back only, not at the sides, which are exposed.
This can be overcome with the addition of plates attached to the sides (plates can also be added in other areas of vulnerability, such as the larynx, upper arms, abdomen, lower body, and thighs.
Plate carriers are available in different designs, shapes, and sizes, and can be configured to meet the wearer’s mission-specific needs. The primary users of plate carriers are military personnel and law-enforcement agencies—the plate carriers used by each differs in accordance with the operational objective and threat situation encountered therein. Plate carrier weight can vary considerably from one setup to the next depending on the base unit being employed, the extra gear attached to it, and the type of operation undertaken.
Plate carriers are often confused with overt vests. The confusion is understandable: in some regards the two are similar although there are important differences in certain criteria. Read our handy guide to ballistic vests to find out about these similarities and differences.