Overwhelmed by the vast number of options when it comes to plate carriers?
We totally get it. And that’s why at Predator Armor, we’ve made it a point to hire and surround ourselves with people from all walks of tactical life. We’ve got civilians, current and former law enforcement, current and former military, combat veterans, and SOF members all working to get you the best protection you can have, for an affordable price.
We reached out to a few of these people and asked them what they look for in a plate carrier. A few of those responses are included below, as well as a few pieces of feedback on our very own Predator Armor Minuteman plate carrier. We invite you to look out for the common themes and tips throughout them - The best way to learn quickly is from other peoples’ experiences, mistakes, and triumphs.
Colton Z. - United States Marine Corps
It’s pretty simple. From my experience, I look at a plate carrier the same way that I look at a concealed handgun: If it is bulky or uncomfortable, you won't want to train with it or wear it. Although the number one priority is how well the product performs under stress, you cannot ignore how well it fits. If you are constantly re-adjusting or shifting, you can't focus on the task at hand and will be less effective overall.
In the low-probability scenario that the average citizen would need a plate carrier, I still would not cheap out on the reliability, fit and function of good quality gear. Because of the old saying "it's better to have it and not need it."
Alex S. - United States Army, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Throughout my 10+ years in the military, I have worn many different variations of body armor. From the IBA (Interceptor Body Armor) AKA the tri-folding one, to the IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest), to the Second Chance vest for working as both a Detention guard and working the road in Europe as a Military Police officer, to now finally the Special Forces Crye Precision Plate Carrier, as well as our own Predator Armor Minuteman. One of the main things I would look for in a vest when I was getting issued them was how it fit/felt on my body. I always took the vest that gave me that tight-hug feeling. I did not like having a baggy vest that would move around or leave open pockets of space between me and the vest. The second thing I looked for was range of motion. Was I able to still move around and pick up things without feeling like I was constricted. These are all tests I did before I chose my vest. Sadly, most of the time the Army would just issue you a vest based on your size and you really didn't have much time to try it on. So, I have had my fair share of bulky, uncomfortable vests.
Now me personally, I have always been the kind of person who would wear my vest around the whole time I am on a live fire range and rarely remove it. Reason for this is because, A: I don't like my gear being left unattended, and B: I liked the hugging feeling I got from it. When you are forced to wear body armor for 12 hours plus at a time, you start to find the annoyances with it.
For example, the IBA would ride high in my armpits and cause a rash. Also, the velcro was pretty worn down on the one I wore so when I would bend over the velcro started to come loose and open up. Also the compartment that would hold the plate was really big and would cause the plate to move around while wearing it. With the IOTV, I had the yoke-and-collar assembly and that would begin to rub my neck and give me a rash. The yoke part of that assembly would leave marks on my shoulders and start to become uncomfortable, and bruise after hours of wear. Also, accessing the plate compartment for this one sucked ass. When you would lay prone with this carrier you sometimes couldn't really look up because the system would push against your helmet. Both the IOTV and IBA were a bulkier system and would prevent a lot of range of motion once you add pouches. They would catch on things all the time when I was climbing around the inside of a Humvee or the gunner hatch. They also covered up my natural resting position for my rifle when shooting so my sight picture was usually a bit off.
The Second Chance vest was a much smaller vest and was designed to only stop small calibers and maybe a knife. This vest was also meant to be worn under the uniform top. The annoyances I found with this vest were that It would make you start sweating almost immediately after putting it on because there was no breathability. Also, if you got a used vest, you would find the elastic that they used for the cummerbund was pretty worn out and would have a lot of stretch to it. Wearing this vest I could never get a nice tight hug that would keep the vest in one place. When I wore this vest while working in the camps at GTMO, it would constantly push up to my chin or neck when I sat down or bent over. It would move all over the place and that was super annoying.
The Crye plate carrier is a trimmed up version of the IOTV and the only real thing I have noticed that I don't like about it, which is very minor, is the buckle they have on one of the shoulder straps tends to start bruising my collar bone after hours of wear and when the carrier has weight added to it, aka a full combat load of 7 mags. You can also feel the ceramic plate pushing through the plate carrier compared to the IOTV or IBA. You can't really feel it at all.
Tanner B. - United States Army, 2nd Cavalry Regiment
“I served 4 years as an Infantryman with 1 tour in Afghanistan, RC South. While in the Army I had exposure to several types of carriers. We were all issued an IOTV, and I can tell you from experience that a more minimalistic, breathable and functional carrier and piece of armor is going to suit you FAR better than more coverage. The problem with your bigger and bulkier carriers is the immobility. If you can't move, you can't fight. Trying to even get through the gunner's hatch or unload from the Stryker or MATV with a full bulky-ass kit sucks.
For me, I prefer a very slim and essentials-only carrier. One preferably with a solid stitch, drag handle and only really covers the vitals. I'm a bigger guy and want something that allows me to keep up with the little guys. Side plates aren't bad, but I like the option to have them on or not. I need enough molle on both the front and back to have all of my kit. If you have seen the Predator Armor carriers (and in particular the drop pouches), that is what I am talking about. Plenty of molle, solid drag handle, and minimalistic. I can't emphasize enough how nice it is to have a drop pouch that will roll up and be out of the way. I also can wear it on my belt instead of taking up room on my carrier. A few triple mag pouches, IFAK, ties, knife and tourniquet are what I tend to roll with.
While I was in the Army, we didn't have the cummerbund system - which is a pretty awesome system and really helps hold everything together - but not what I ever had or used. Simple quick-release clips and the ability to side saddle the carrier is all I had and wanted. The durability and mobility is really much more important than everything else.
Having steel vs SAPI plates has never been a concern either - steel is extremely reliable, and much slimmer than the SAPI plates I had (again going back to the functional and mobility aspect). Spall and Frag mitigation on plates is a must and equally effective as you're going to get with SAPI plates - trust me on that. For hell sakes, our SAPI’s were only meant to take 3-ish rounds before we were toast. I have seen many sets of Level 3 and 3+ rated Predator Armor plates take WAY more rounds than that and still have life to give.”
Marshall T. - United States Army, Security Force Assistance Brigade
As a current 12-year Infantryman in the United States Army with 2 combat deployments to Afghanistan and one to Africa, I have worn many types of body armor and carriers.
I have worn everything from the old-school IBA, IOTV of 2 different models and plate carriers. I have ran, rucked, maneuvered and shot in all of them. However, certain things make plate carriers themselves stand out.
I often had to wear a carrier for long hours, or even days - You need something that is as comfortable as possible. You’ll need a carrier that distributes the weight evenly on your body, and that does not rub your shoulders raw from basic shooting movements. The ability to put it on and take it off with ease is essentially, including without snagging or binding up on the smaller parts that get more movement (side straps and where side plates are held).
Many companies talk about it, but how many can really live by it? You need a carrier that is stitched extra at ALL the load-carrying seams, and those that have friction constantly. You need something that is durable to all types of conditions: Weather, sweat, blood, and everything else.
I received my Predator Plate Carrier around November of 2020. I have worn it running, working out, under load, with steel and ceramic plates, and loaded with a standard M4 load of full mags (7). It is comfortable, reliable and easy to use. I can take it on and off with a quick pinch of a clip, or tighten it as much as needed. I would recommend it to anyone that needs a durable, reliable and affordable carrier. You could spend a lot more money and buy Crye or other “top of the line” gear. But why spend double or triple the price when you can buy quality gear, made here in the U.S., for a fraction of the price? Be smart - try it out, and you won’t regret it.
We are always grateful to the men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for our freedoms and personal safety day after day. We are equally grateful for the wisdom and experience they acquire from doing so, as it allows those of us back home to understand what works and what does not, in various scenarios that we hope to never encounter ourselves.
One of the best things you can do to become a better fighter and an adequately-prepared citizen is to learn from those with more knowledge and experience than you.
So get out there and learn!