In a Rush? Here's The QUick List:
What is a Plate Carrier?
By all accounts, the best plate carriers, or plate carrier vests, are a type of body armor which come in the form of a lightweight tactical vest.
The level of body armor protection is determined by the carrier's tactical plates and/or the addition of a side plate.
In effect, when combined with ballistic plates, a tactical plate carrier becomes a “bulletproof” vest or body armor.
Historically and traditionally plate carriers were mostly used by the military as load-bearing equipment.
In this context or use, they are called military plate carriers.
Whenever we talk about tactical plate carriers there is, customarily, a mistaken perception that all tactical plate carriers are bulletproof – they are not.
Tactical plate carriers by themselves can never be catalogued as bullet-resistant unless they are combined with ballistic plates – an issue which I will discuss further down below.
About Tactical Plate Carriers
In the description of tactical plate carriers above, I made mention of the term “ballistic plates.”
Whenever we talk about tactical plate carriers the word “ballistic” invariably becomes a part of the discussion and the reason for this is that the use of these plates will determine if a tactical plate carrier is or is not bulletproof.
In other words, the term “ballistic” as related to tactical plate carriers refers to the level of protection of the user.
Ballistic or hard plates are, in fact, essentially bulletproof plates which are inserted in the front and back pocket of tactical plate carriers.
Ballistic or hard type plates are mostly made of multi-layered ceramic and polyethylene materials like Kevlar and steel, capable of resisting NIJ [National Institute of Justice] levels III and IV projectiles, like stronger rifle rounds.
Military Plate Carriers
I say it is difficult if not altogether impossible to discuss tactical plate carriers without making a connection to their use in the military.
As a point of reference, the Soldier Plate Carrier System or SPCS, known commercially as the KDH Magnum TAC-1 is a bulletproof vest developed specifically for the U.S. Army, which offers improved protection greater than older versions of the OTV [ Outer Tactical Vest].
What to Look for in a Plate Carrier
Whenever I am posed the question of what to look for in a tactical plate carrier or what is the best carrier for me?
I am always compelled to answer in much the same way I answer for most all tactical gear products, which is, always buy your gear based on what you will be using it for.
Will you be using it for work, play, home protection or will you be wearing it in case you want to be prepared for some catastrophic event?
Once you have settled how you will be using your tactical plate carrier, then go on to figuring out other important criterions such as size, armor plates, carrying capabilities, etc.
That said, below I am providing you with a detailed list of those tactical plate carriers which I consider your best choices for this year.
Best Plate Carriers
1. 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier
I am sure you have heard the expression “to each his own”, and that’s exactly how I feel about the 5.11 Tac Tec as my number 1 choice for tactical plate carriers. (Read the full Tac Tec review here)
I have to say, my pick for this one is mostly relative to comfort.
This patented plate carrier is constructed for the highest performance level while remaining rather lightweight and highly mobile.
Built out of 500D Nylon, this one features adjustable padded yoke shoulder straps, perforated mesh, front and back padded panels with built-in oversized air flow channels.
This highly innovative design provides for maximum range in motion, capable of accommodating M-L ESAPI ballistic plates.
This carrier also includes a low-profile Grab-Drag handle and a single-handed quick-release cable escape system for emergency exfiltration.
It also features laser-cut loop MOLLE and web MOLLE platform.
Before making your final decision on which tactical plate carrier to buy, make sure to give this one a forefront consideration – you will be glad you did.
2. FirstSpear Strandhogg MBAV
Coming in at 2nd place in my list of preferred tactical plate carriers is the FirstSpear Strandhogg MBAV.
As far as I am concerned the 6/12 laser fusion platform and the Tubes™ on this one has proven to be extremely robust, good enough for tough combat environments therefore good enough for what I need.
The construction on this gear is as good as you will ever get.
I feel that the quick release of the cummerbund and the rapid-release technology in the shoulder straps via the Tubes™ are, by far, the star of the show in this tactical plate carrier.
This system offers great comfort padding throughout the body with built-in ventilation channels on the front and rear plate bag.
The FirstSpear Strandhogg MBAV Cut Soft Armor-same size as carrier and also accepts SAPI Cut Plates same size as carrier.
Mind you, neither the Soft Armor nor the Plates are included in the price.
Simply put, the FirstSpear Strandhogg MBAV is a superb gear all around – one which you must include at the top of your list of best tactical plate carriers.
3. Agilite K19 Plate Carrier
At number 3 in my list of preferred tactical plate carriers I have the Agilite K19 Plate Carrier, a/k/a the K19.
Got to tell you friends, this one is the ultimate modern plate carrier.
It was designed, and battle-tested in Israel.
As far as the cummerbund is concerned, while most plate carriers come with quick release mechanisms, it is always at the expense of issues with the fit and adjustment.
The K19, on the other hand, uses the Egress™ Quick-release system and the proprietary Fast-Adjust™ cummerbund that can be fully adjusted every which way.
The K19 has a one-size-fits-all cummerbund and along with its multi-sized plate bag will eliminate the usual and typical complexities relative to sizing choices.
With the K19 you are ahead of the game and know it will always fit you regardless of the loadout or mission to be undertaken.
I must say, the Agilite K19 Plate Carrier must be one of the most comfortable tactical plate carriers on the marketplace today.
Absolutely love this one.
Please check it out before you make your buying decision.
4. First Spear AAC Overlap
Ranking 4th in my choices for best tactical plate carriers is the AAC Overlap.
This one was designed and built for Direct Action user roles, the AAC stands for Assaulter Armor Carrier utilizing the latest and most sophisticated First Spear technology for keeping weight to an absolute minimum while offering maximum mission flexibility.
The ACC is one of the lightest plate carriers in the marketplace.
With absolute minimal padding on its shoulder straps, it is designed to keep you streamlined.
This system is cut to fit either “Swimmer” or ESAP/SPEAR cut ballistic plates backed with an unpadded water-resistant nylon mesh.
The carrier can be easily configured with the CTFSS cummerbund, BC inserts and soft armor ballistic inserts to support in conjunction ballistic hard plates.
The standard cummerbund will accept side plates as well as soft armor inserts.
The ACC utilizes the latest technologies including the 6/12 pocket attachment system and Tubes™ technology.
Must check this one out before making your decision.
5. CRYE Precision JPC 2.0
I place CRYE Precision JPC 2.0 as 5th in my preferred list of tactical plate carriers.
This is a minimalistic, lightweight plate carrier. Designed for maximum mobility, weight savings and packability.
At just over one pound the JPC 2.0 offers multiple configuration options to suit the user’s needs in terms of protection, modularity, and comfort.
This kit offers the Skeletal Cummerbund system with a patented Integrated Attachment System which allows for pouches to be mounted on both the inside and outside of the cummerbund.
As such, the system is designed to shed unnecessary weight and bulk while improving ventilation.
The JCP 2.0 is an updated version which offers the same features of the original JCP version with marked improvements on the design of the shoulder straps.
Whereas the original JCP had a Velcro system to attach the front and back plate carriers, the new JPC 2.0 features the same system but instead of a slider, it comes with a Velcro sleeve and a quick pull detachment system.
What made the difference for me on this plate carrier is the fact that Crye Precision is truly a leading American manufacturer of tactical plate carriers.
Be sure to include this system in your tactical plate carrier purchase considerations.
6. 5.11 Tactical All Missions Plate Carrier
At number 6 of my preferred tactical plate carriers is the 5.11 Tactical All Missions Plate Carrier.
Just as the name implies, this plate carrier is one for all missions as it comes equipped with a full range of components enabling you to tailor its configuration to suit your mission’s requirements.
A universal size fits any ESAPI plate.
It comes with the patented multi-angle HEXGRID® load-bearing platform for versatility or a layered raid configuration for a robust maximum loadout of equipment, ammo, and armor.
Talk about versatility, this is it.
Featuring removable kangaroo pouch adaptor for mag storage, adjustable Hypalon shoulder straps and removable shoulder padding, webbing loops on rear for sling attachment, extendable GrabDrag handle for emergency exfiltration, removable front and back body pads, and many others.
Can’t go wrong with this one.
7. Crye Precision AVS [Adaptive Vest System]
At the number 7 spot of my preferred tactical vests is the Crye Precision AVS [Adaptive Vest System].
The manufacturer Crye Precision describes this one a “revolutionary system” and I happen to agree with this description.
You can quickly configure this carrier from a low-vis rig to a fully armored load bearing and everything in between.
To change calibers simply switch out your front mag panels.
To switch load-outs, simply slide off your modular pouches without unweaving them.
If you are shifting threats, just add and/or remove panels without having to modify your gear load out.
If you are switching missions, configure it as a load bearing vest for recce work and change right back to a fully armored configuration as needed.
You can attach packs, zip-on rear panels StKSS™ load supports and plenty of other accessories.
I have owned this system for a while now and I could not be more pleased with it.
Please check this one out before you bring out your pocketbook.
8. Ferro Concepts Slickster
Ranking 8 on my list is the Ferro Concepts Slickster, specifically designed by the Ferro Concept folks to be a multi-mission plate carrier.
Its base platform of the ADAPT Carrier System allows users to scale and customize their PC with the expanding line of ADAPT accessories.
The Slickster is easily adaptable from low-viz and clandestine missions to high-risk direct-action missions.
It's simple, low profile has everything you need to flex and fit a multitude of plates such as SAPI, ESAPI, XSAPI, Stand Alone Level 4, Swimmers Cut, and Shooters Cut armor plates.
Just too many features to list here.
Take my word for it, this one has all you need and then some, making the Slickster a “must” to check in your purchase considerations of a tactical plate carrier.
9. Condor MOPC Plate Carrier
So, at number 9 in my list comes the Condor MOPC Plate Carrier, and let me be upfront with you, one of the principal reasons I picked this system was its very affordable price relative to what you get in return.
Put it to you this way, this one is really a steal for a price range of approximately $60 dollars or thereabouts.
The Condor MOPC Plate Carrier is mostly suitable for civilian applications and most of the time there will not be a need to upgrade.
Yes, there are higher-end systems suitable for a war-zone, but for most people, this vest will do the job.
The Condor MOPC Plate Carrier features wide shoulder straps making it a very comfortable vest.
The design on this carrier highlights simplicity, made by one of the most reputable companies in the business.
It features the PAL system so you will not need to worry about buying MOLLE.
You may say, this one resembles the KHD Defense plate carrier used by Marines.
Check it out.
10. Spiritus Systems LV-119
As they say, “last but not least” at number 10 in my preferred tactical plate carriers list is the Spiritus Systems LV-119.
Well, first and foremost, this system was designed with versatility in mind, no question about it.
Be it in the jungle, a desert or the tropics, this system works well in all types of environments.
The Spiritus Systems LV-119 is completely modular and has quite an array of pouches, plate bags, cummerbunds, and others.
Originally designed for both military as well as civilian use, with the LV-119 you can scale up or down this kit to fit whatever mission you have set your mind to.
I find the LV-119 minimalistic design with plenty of customizable options well worth considering and quite certain you won’t be disappointed if you decide to buy this system.
Summary and Conclusions
Arguably, tactical plate carriers are a complex world of their own encompassing a wide array of systems, styles, protection levels, or otherwise modalities which are as varied as their users.
Choosing the best tactical plate for you, is, like I said earlier, a matter of personal preference as far as what your ultimate use or mission will be.
Your very first step in picking the best tactical plate carrier is to narrow-down the overwhelming options available according to how you intend to wear your kit.
From thereon it is all a matter of customizing your carrier to fit your specific needs whatever those may be.
And as I have said all throughout this review, there are endless options available for your customization.
In summary, I can safely argue the fact that tactical plate carriers could be one of the most important pieces of equipment you will own, consequently choosing which one to buy will be just as critical.
As such, I really hope this review has been consequential in assisting you to make that all-important decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answer is yes, they are.
The same question is also applicable to wearing a plate carrier in public.
And, again, while most states abide by federal laws regarding “body armors”, the purchase and use of body armors like bulletproof vests and plate carriers by civilians in general is legal, with the caveat that you are not a convicted felon.
I should say, this is probably one of the most misleading or most misunderstood issues whenever discussing tactical plate carriers.
As I explained earlier, you must always keep in mind that tactical plate carriers by themselves can never be categorized in any protection level unless they have ballistic plates in them.
The answer to this question then is categorically, “No”, tactical plate carriers are not bullet resistant.
Please bear in mind whenever buying a tactical plate carrier you are not buying a bulletproof vest.