Our military ground forces dream of having effective body armor that is as light as the uniform they are wearing.
Every ounce (ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain) lifted off the body of a soldier increases their ability to operate longer and faster.
A lot has changed in the evolution of body armor and plate carrier setup, especially in the last 50 years or so, and development is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
A typical Special Forces plate carrier setup is for a soldier who might be working with local forces, in a war zone overseas, or on a direct action mission.
If your average Green Beret wouldn’t carry it on a patrol, then we won’t talk about it.
Plate Carrier Setup Basics
Some say that you need to carry as many magazines on your plate carrier as possible, while other seasoned warfighters will only carry three across the front and have one in the gun. Depending on your mission set, either answer is correct.
Typically, Tier 1 units such as CAG or DEVGRU will only carry 3 magazines across the front and have 1 in the gun. They do that for a few reasons. It makes them lighter and gives them more freedom to move around when they need to.
Why don’t they carry more? We asked that very question to two former DEVGRU operators.
They said that with 10 to 12 guys on a team, there are plenty of rounds to get the job done. They make each shot count vs. going full auto and dumping an entire magazine in less than 30 seconds.
For a soldier in more of a generalized ground combat role, having six or more magazines on your plate carrier makes sense.
Medical | Where To Mount Your IFAK Pouch and Tourniquet
The following is a true statement from a local Purple Heart recipient.
Prior to their convoy rolling out, he instructed everyone in his unit to place their CAT tourniquets on the front of their plate carriers. Making that call saved his life that day.
As his Humvee rolled past a parked car on the streets of Baghdad, that parked car was detonated, throwing him roughly 25 yards from the Humvee. His instincts kicked in, and he grabbed ahold of his tourniquet, ripped it from the front of his plate carrier, and administered it to his own leg.
To this day, he attributes his survival to having his tourniquet on the front of his plate carrier.
In the military, you’ll often see medical kits mounted on battle belts. The mission will dictate the gear and the setup of that gear, but medical needs to be a priority and be staged on your gear properly.
There are companies that make compact tear-off pouches for plate carriers or medical inserts that fit inside a single M4 magazine pouch.
No matter what, the medical pouch or tourniquet should be easy to get to with either hand in case one of them gets hurt.
If there is no room for an actual medical kit, then at the very least mount a tourniquet on the front of the plate carrier that can be accessed from either hand.
Best Body Armor For Your Plate Carrier
Knowing the threats you’re likely to face will help identify the type of body armor to use in your plate carrier. There are two main types of body armor; soft armor and hard armor.
Soft body armor is typically in the form of a soft insert that is rated at level 3a, which only stops handgun rounds. These are often found in backpacks, not inside a plate carrier. For your plate carrier, you’re going to want hard plates in order to defeat rifle threats.
For the best all-around hard armor plates, go with Level III, which is rated to defeat 5.56 NATO and the hotter M855 green tip rounds.
These are the most commonly used rounds with the AR-15 rifle. Level III body armor will also defeat other rifle rounds such as 7.62x39, 308 WIN, and 300 Blackout.
To determine what level of body armor plates you need in your plate carrier, it helps to understand the NIJ levels.
For an in-depth explanation of these, read the following articles we wrote breaking it all down.
- Level III vs Level IV Body Armor | Ultimate Guide to Understanding Body Armor
- Level III vs Level III+ Body Armor | What’s the Difference?
Plate Carriers used by Special Operations Units
I asked around some of my contacts within the SOF community what plate carrier they used, and they all pointed to the LBT 6094 plate carrier as their go-to for missions.
The LBT 6094 is one of the most-used plate carriers in Special Operations, especially in Tier 1 units like DEVGRU and Delta.
Tier 1 guys are issued several different plate carriers because they have a wide variety of missions, from direct action to more covert requirements, like surveillance. As an assaulter on one of these teams, there is probably no better piece of gear than the LBT 6094 plate carrier.
Any deployed military member will tell you that a quality plate carrier is worth its weight in gold. That’s because they work in dynamic environments that can turn from a safe zone to a full-on battle rattle in the blink of an eye.
There are many different types and styles of military plate carriers to choose from, so it’s always important to carefully review your unit SOPs before purchasing.
Aside from the LBT 6094, the Crye Precision JPC Jumpable Plate Carrier seems to always be at the top of every list when talking about plate carriers for the military and special operations units.
How Can ShotStop Help Set Up Your Plate Carrier?
We offer comfortable plates for both men and women. All Duritium® Level III+ and Duritium® Level IV plates are stand-alone. Duritium® offers exceptional multi-hit protection, stopping dozens of bullets.
You can expect to see at least 6-shot protection from our Level III plates.
We understand that not everyone comes in the same shapes and sizes, and that’s why we’ve created our plates to be multi-curved. Have you ever worn body armor and felt like the armor was too tight and restricting your breathing? If so, you should look for a multi-curved plate.
A plate with multiple curves is designed to accommodate as many body types as possible. The curvature of the plate is designed to give you more room in the chest and stomach.
This type of plate still provides the same level of protection as a flat plate, but it’s just going to be much more comfortable for women and larger men.
Choosing ShotStop® gives you the best chance at staying in the fight after you’ve been hit. There is no sugarcoating the fact that even if your armor stops the bullet it’s going to hurt… A LOT.
Remember, just because you have free space on your plate carrier doesn’t mean you need to cover that space with unnecessary gear or ammunition.
Carry only what you NEED, otherwise, you’ll "What-If" yourself into carrying more than you need, resulting in a heavier weight, decreased comfort, and reduced mobility.
If you cannot shoot, move, and communicate effectively, then you need to change how your plate carrier is set up.