What Goes Into Plate Carrier Setup?

What Goes Into Plate Carrier Setup?

The first question that needs to be asked when talking plate carrier setup is, what are you using the plate carrier for? Is it being used for a professional occupation, home protection, or for a societal breakdown?

When buying a plate carrier, it's best to spend once and cry once. If you really need it,  and your life or a family member’s life depends on it, you’ll want the best. Do you want to bet your life on that $50 Chinese plate carrier off of Amazon, or have steadfast confidence in a proven plate carrier system? You cannot put a price tag on life.

Once you’ve made the investment into a plate carrier system, it’s time to set it up for your needs. There are a few plate carrier setup basics that you’ll need to address. Those are mag pouches to hold extra ammunition, medical, and body armor plates.

Plate Carrier Setup Basics


Some say that you need to carry as many mags on your plate carrier as possible, while other seasoned warfighters will only carry 3 mags across the front and have 1 in the gun. Both are correct answers depending on what your mission set is. 

Typically Tier 1 units such as CAG or DEVGRU will only carry 3 mags across the front and have 1 in the gun. They do that for a few reasons. It reduces the weight being carried and allows them to be more mobile and agile when needed. 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 mag in less than 30 seconds. 

For a soldier in more of a generalized ground combat role, having 6 or more magazines on your plate carrier makes sense. 

Red Horse Troop preps for Night Patrol

For the average citizen looking to defend their home and being prepared for more common threats such as violent riots and other manmade disasters, 3 mags across the front of your plate carrier is plenty, but that’s just our opinion.

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. 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. Regardless, the medical pouch or tourniquet needs to be reachable with either hand in the event one of them becomes injured. 

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 in identifying 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 found in backpacks much of the time and 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, be sure to 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?

How Can ShotStop Help Build Your Plate Carrier Setup?

We offer comfortable plates for both men and women. All Duritium® Level III+ and Duritium® Level IV plates are stand-alone. Duritium® has outstanding multi-hit protection with up to dozens of stopped bullets. You can expect to see at least a 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 ever felt like the armor was too tight and it was 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 heavier weight, decreased comfort, and reduced mobility.

If you cannot shoot, move, and communicate effectively, then you need to rethink your plate carrier setup.

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