When it comes to sizing, some of the most common questions we receive at Predator Armor include:
“Will this plate carrier fit me?”
“Is a 10x12 plate big enough for me?”
We get it - You need a plate carrier and armor that fit your body shape and size appropriately - after all, ensuring your heart and lungs are covered and safe from being shot is not something you want to second-guess.
Thankfully, most plate carriers are a standard “one size fits most,” and 10x12 armor is considered a standard for the same reason.
However, I am one of those people that get a little anxious when I hear phrases like “one size fits most” - as someone that is both tall and has a large head, I’ve learned through experience that I’m often excluded from the “most” part of that statement - a struggle for sure!
With that being said, if YOU are wondering how you can ensure a proper fit and size from your personal protective equipment, you’ve come to the right place - we are largely addressing this article to you.
First, let’s talk about the Plate Carrier.
The concept of a plate carrier is simple enough - a couple of straps, two armor-insert sleeves, maybe a few bells and whistles for conveniences. As such, there is only so much you can do to accommodate particularly unique body shapes.
Thankfully, when we say one size fits most with our plate carrier, we really do mean it. We have seen people with shirt sizes ranging from Small to 3XL who have comfortably used the Minuteman Plate Carrier for extended periods of time, while simultaneously being offered adequate vital organ protection. When we say we’re all about versatility, we mean it. We have strived to make the Minuteman as accommodating as possible for the vast majority of people. In other words, we feel confident in asking people to take a chance with it (and we do offer returns if it ends up not working out).
Even so, an important point tends to follow in this conversation:
What about women?
This can get somewhat tricky for reasons you can probably imagine. An influx in recent years of female soldiers and law enforcement personnel has prompted armor manufacturers to recognize the need for more “universal” products than those that already exist in order to accommodate the female wearer. Naturally, some individuals are not able to wear common plate carriers as efficiently as others.
Some methods to potentially assist with this can include sports bras, multiple layers of clothing, and so on. Although it means protection from a smaller array of calibers, soft body armor (which usually combines the armor and vest into one) is also a realistic option to accommodate different body shapes. There are also companies that create specially-curved body armor for women as well.
At the end of the day, a simple chest rig may be the best option for someone that cannot appropriately wear a plate carrier with body armor - not an ideal solution for protection of course, but it will still allow them to carry most of the gear they need. Depending on the mission environment, this is yet another important reason to be with other people who DO have plate carriers - people who can watch over and protect flanks and take the bulk of incoming fire.
Now, on to the Body Armor
Thankfully, this one is much easier to measure. Let’s start with an important question:
Why is 10x12 the “standard” for body armor? Shouldn’t I get as much coverage as I can?
Many people will inevitably have to learn this through firsthand experience. When you are patrolling for extended periods of time, every pound counts. Every pound counts. Through years and years of development, the tactical world has landed upon 10x12 as being the ideal “standard” size for body armor, since it checks off two important boxes: It is light enough to maneuver in, and it provides adequate protection to your vital organs.
We’ll just say this - there is a reason you don’t see soldiers running around combat zones in Juggernaut Suits from Call of Duty.
Still, 10x12 does not cover much more than your vital organs. This is why you should always ensure several individuals on your team are trained to treat gunshot wounds. Any medic will tell you that a shot outside of your “vitals” area will be significantly easier to treat than a shot through your heart or lungs - which is largely why 10x12 is considered an ideal size for protection.
To put it in other words, body armor’s objective is not to completely prevent you from getting shot. Rather, its objective is twofold: First, it is to protect the areas of your body where you have the greatest chance of being shot (you’ve likely heard more than a few self-defense instructors say “aim for center mass” - that’s why). Second, it is to protect the most “vital” areas of your body - areas which, if shot, pose a much higher chance of causing fatality than elsewhere.
Okay, easy then - If I see someone wearing body armor, I’ll just aim for the head!
This statement comes up more than I would like it to, and I wish people would understand the naivety of it - though I also understand why they might not. When you’re at your local shooting range, you have all the time in the world to line up your shot. When you are on a two-way shooting range (where the targets are shooting back at you), do you have the same amount of time to focus on precise shot placement? Obviously, the answer is no.
This is why most trained fighters teach people in combat situations to aim for center mass - your ultimate goal should always be to stop the threat, and center mass will provide the average shooter with the best opportunity to do so. If you are in a situation where the enemy is not aware of your presence and is wearing body armor, then that may be the time to focus on more precise shot placements. But if you’re defending your home, chances are the intruder is not wearing armor. Shoot to stop the threat.
So how do I know which size of body armor to use?
While 10x12 is the “standard” in the industry, does that guarantee it will fit you? Well, the obvious answer is no - there are individuals that will need or want more (or even less) protection. Next to the 10x12 size, 11x14 is another popular option for larger people needing additional protection. However, don’t go off assuming that because you’re a “larger” person, you automatically need it. The same goes for being a smaller person and opting for 8x10 armor.
For me, this process is simple: Cut out pieces of cardboard to the sizes of 10x12 and 11x14. Cut the corners slightly to replicate the size and shape of body armor. Hold it up to your chest: If the 10x12 sufficiently covers your vitals, go for it. If you need the 11x14, go with that. If you feel that the 10x12 is still too big for you, see what the 8x10 feels like.
There are additional body armor sizes as well (you’ll see SAPI plates as small as 7¼ x 11½, among other sizes). You are welcome to experiment with those, of course, though you will need to ensure whichever plate carrier you are utilizing can accommodate the size you select. For the record, Predator Armor currently carries 10x12 armor only, and our Minuteman Plate Carrier will not accommodate other sizes at this time. Keep an eye out later this year for additional sizes and accommodations!
What about Side Plates?
We’ll touch on this one quickly. Side plates are an awesome piece of equipment, but you’ll quickly find that the tactical community has no “majority opinion” on them. I know SOF guys that swear by them, and others that refuse to use them. They usually come in sizes 6x6 and 6x8 and are made of both hard and soft armor.
There are simple pros and cons to side plates: They offer additional protection, but they add additional weight and can impair mobility, especially if you’re a smaller guy using 6x8 plates. Personally, I choose to run 6x6 Level 3A soft body armor for side plates - they are lightweight, allow for full range of motion, and will stop most pistols and shotguns - which is what I foresee most of the encounters entailing where I am being targeted from the side.
One last thing - “I don’t plan on getting shot from the side” is not a valid excuse for skipping out on side plates, the same way “I don’t plan on getting shot” is not a valid excuse to not wear body armor at all.
Positioning your Armor and Carrier
Just as important as having the right size of body armor is knowing exactly where to position your plate carrier and armor on your body. Remember that the single most important guideline is to ensure your heart and lungs are protected. Your body has many organs, muscles, and functions, most of which can be treated for gunshot wounds with relative ease if done so quickly and professionally. What cannot be treated easily, however, is a gunshot through your heart and/or lungs.
First, if your armor is curved, ensure that it is inserted properly into your carrier. Armor will typically have a “Strike Face” side and a “This Side to Body” side. Check that the armor is snug and properly secured within the carrier itself.
The general rule of thumb is to position your carrier so that the top of your armor is right at your sternal notch. Place your hand on your sternum and slowly move it up until you feel a “V” and a soft spot in the middle - that’s right where your coverage should start. To better illustrate this, imagine you’re wearing a tie - you want your armor to start roughly where the bottom of the tie knot would be. The protection you’ll need from your backplate is similar, so make sure to adjust accordingly (and for the record, most companies do not have specific “Front” and “Back” plates - they are universal). Lastly, the bottom of the plate should sit several inches above the waistline. Here is an example to illustrate proper fitment:
The most idealistic scenario is full coverage of your heart and lungs, while still allowing you to be mobile enough to perform any and all necessary functions - such as sitting in a vehicle, running, utilizing equipment on your plate carrier, and so on.
Stay educated, Stay safe
Take extra care to ensure your plate carrier and plates fit your body well. You’ve heard it before and we’ll continue to say it: these are life-or-death choices you are making, so make sure you’re making them properly. Take the time to get educated - read articles like this one, watch Youtube videos, talk to experts, go out and practice. Diligently seeking knowledge on these matters will make you better prepared and provide a noticeable tactical advantage, should you ever need to apply the principles you’ve learned.
So get out there and learn!