The market is full of Plate Carrier Vests. However, not all of them offer good value. The best plate carrier vests offer extra room for additional plates, offer flexible fitting, accessories integration and yet are affordable.
In this detailed buyers guide, we will look into why get one, who uses tactical plate carrier vests, what to look for when buying one. Finally, we will identify the best carrier vests.
Why Get A Plate Carrier Vest?
If you are like many gun owners in today’s world, you have probably given a few thoughts to adding body armor to your gear collections. There are some compelling reasons, depending on your situation and your intentions, that having a plate carrier vest outfitted with ballistic plates is a good idea. How you intend to use your plate carrier is a key issue in choosing a plate carrier design.
Best Plate Carrier Vests
Our Top Picks
- 1 1. TacTec Plate Carrier by 5.11 Gear – Best Plate Carrier for the Money
- 2 2. Ultimate Arms Gear ACU Plate Carrier – Top Hunting Vest
- 3 3. Condor Modular Vest – Heavyweight
- 4 4. Yakeda Tactical Vest – Ultra Light & Breathable
- 5 Unique Features
- 6 5. ATS Aegis Plate Carrier – Best Plate Carrier for Tactical Operations
- 7 6. Shellback Tactical Banshee 2.0 Elite – Best Plate Carrier Overall
- 8 7. Grey Ghost Minimalist Plate Carrier – Best Plate Carrier Minimalist Design
- 9 8. Shellback Tactical Banshee Rifle Plate Carrier – Best Plate Carrier for CQB
- 10 9. AR500 Veritas Plate Carrier – Best Plate Carrier on a Budget
- 11 10. Tyr Tactical® PICO-MV Assaulters Plate Carrier –Best Plate Carrier Splurge Buy
- 12 Pros
- 13 Cons
- 14 1. Evike Tough Hook Armor Plate Carrier Hanger
- 15 2. Tough Hook Tactical Equipment
- 16 3. FMA Black Heavy Weight Duty Equipment Hanger
1. TacTec Plate Carrier by 5.11 Gear – Best Plate Carrier for the Money
Most of their data came from law enforcement and military users. The features included with the TacTec plate carrier reflect that input.
If you attend a Crossfit competition, you will likely see many of the competitors wearing a TacTec vest to carry their non-ballistic weights during the competition. The TacTec vest is so comfortable and offers such a wide range of movement that the Crossfit Games have adopted it as their official plate carrier.
Don’t let the fitness angle fool you. The TacTec vest includes all the features that any law enforcement or tactical operator could want.
- Fits standard SAPI plates
- Enhances comfort and freedom of movement
- One-handed quick release
- Oversized airflow panels for cooler wear
- Web ID loop
- Abrasion-resistant 500 denier nylon
- Drag handle
- Durable Duraflex ® hardware
In addition to all the features of the TacTec plate carrier by 5.11, the cost is affordable. The TacTec vest is certainly not the cheapest vest available, but if it as good a value as you are going to find in a plate carrier capable of going into any situation.
- Padded Yoke straps for maximum comfort
- Skeletonizes cummerbund
- Tapered design
- Allows a wide range of movement
- The minimalist design
- Offers limited coverage and protection
- Limited amount of space to attach magazine carriers or other gear
2. Ultimate Arms Gear ACU Plate Carrier – Top Hunting Vest
Along with that, this vest boasts a 17×13 front plate slot, 16×13 in the back, and 8×10 on each side providing maximum coverage of the vital areas of the wearer.
Combine that with the military style digital camo and this is definitely an impressive vest.
* Fits small to extra large
* Military grade nylon
* Includes multiple pouches
3. Condor Modular Vest – Heavyweight
Another entry from Condor, this model shares many of the same features as other Condor products. These include the emergency drag handle, quick-adjust shoulder straps, hook and loop webbing panels, and quick release buckles.
* Quick Release Buckles
* Padded Mesh Interior Lining
* Emergency Drag Handle
* Easy Access Inner Pockets
* Weight 1.4 pounds
Capable of holding as large as 11×14 plates in front and back, this model stays light by not offering side plate options out of the box. Slimmer and lighter than the MOPC Gear Vest, the Modular is one of the best vests on the market to learn with, an amazing starter vest that offers amazing coverage, plenty of molle straps, and is easy to put on and take off.
4. Yakeda Tactical Vest – Ultra Light & Breathable
Featuring a 10×12 plate in both the front and back and of course capable of accepting all molle packs and accessories.
- Adjustable in size S-XXL
- Includes 3 standard magazine pouches,1 map and flashlight pouch, 2 communication pouches and 1 medic pouch, all bags are removable.
- High-quality adjustable buckle and Velcro on shoulder and waist
- Can be combined with a belt (not Included)
- Dimensions 3.7 x 12.5 x 12.7 inches
- Weight 4.05 pounds
5. ATS Aegis Plate Carrier – Best Plate Carrier for Tactical Operations
Tactical operations require lots of movement, often under tense situations. A plate carrier that fits well holds plates securely and keeps things in place during the most strenuous movements.
The ATS Aegis plate carrier is designed for just these types of conditions and get a place on our list as the best plate carrier for tactical operations. The Aegis system is scalable and is sized based on the size of the plates you wish to carry. Scalability makes the Aegis plate carrier adaptable to almost any type of mission. Aegis offers a good mix of quality construction and features in the Aegis plate carrier.
- Fits ESAPI plates
- Will fit 10 x 12 plates
- Take straight, curved or multi curved plates
- Closed-cell foam padding between the plate and the wearer
- Removable shoulder pads
- PALS and Molle compatible attachment points
- Simple 2” web waist belt for a close fit
- Made in the USA
- Lifetime warranty
- Very adaptable to a wide range of uses
- Comfortable for long wear
- Allows a wide range of movement
- No quick-release mechanism
- Can be difficult to configure accessory pouches
- Narrow waist belt can be uncomfortable
Whether you are on a tactical response team or involved in rapid tactical operations in a hostile environment, the ATS Aegis plate carrier is a top of the line piece of kit that you can wear with confidence.
6. Shellback Tactical Banshee 2.0 Elite – Best Plate Carrier Overall
Our overall pick as Best Plate Carrier must be the Shellback Tactical Banshee 2.0 Elite. You won’t get more features with any other plate carrier in this price range.
The Banshee design works in almost any type of situation where body armor is needed. From field operations, when the load-carrying capability is needed to law enforcement patrol, the Banshee plate carrier excels.
Shellback has incorporated an impressive list of features into a moderately priced plate carrier. If you are looking for a plate carrier that offers maximum versatility and proven capability, then you should consider the Shellback Tactical Banshee 2.0 Elite.
- 500 denier Cordura material
- Versatile attachment systems for a wide range of optional equipment
- Fully adjustable padded front and back shoulder areas
- Hydration bladder compatible
- Identifier loops
- Easily wearable over soft body armor or uniforms
- Longer cummerbund for more adjustability
- #D mesh interior padding and lining
- Low profile and lightweight
- Quick-release buckles
- Dra handle
- Lifetime warranty
- Built for combat based on input from combat veterans
- Made in the USA
- Lifetime Warranty
- Doesn’t come with pouches or accessories
7. Grey Ghost Minimalist Plate Carrier – Best Plate Carrier Minimalist Design
Sometimes smaller is better and that is a legitimate concept in plate carrier design and choice. For active shooter situations or to have a plate carrier in your home for self-defense as plate carrier that offered good protection but is small, lightweight and quick to don is an advantage.
Grey Ghost designs all types of plate carriers and their minimalist plate carrier has the same quality and features as their larger and more robust plate carriers.Minimalism in a plate carrier may mean less than adequate service and compromises in protection. That isn’t the case with the Grey Ghost Minimalist Plate Carrier.
- Fits 10 x 12 hard plates
- Accepts ESAPI Plates
- Six rows of MOLLE/PALS attachment
- Velcro hook and look for mounting patches or ID panels
- Stash pocket on the front of the carrier for documents
- Adjustable shoulder straps and elastic side straps make fitting easy
- Inside of the plate carrier lined with air-mesh for comfortable wear
- Plate pockets lined with LiteLok® pack cloth for abrasion resistance
- Low Profile Design
- No cummerbund
- Easily adjustable for ride and body size
- No cummerbund means no side plate pockets
- Plates may peak out of the plate pockets
8. Shellback Tactical Banshee Rifle Plate Carrier – Best Plate Carrier for CQB
If your operations include high threat active shooter situations, counter-terrorism actions, or close-quarters battle, you need a plate carrier designed for plates rated to the highest level of protection.
The Shellback Tactical Banshee Rifle Plate Carrier meets these demands and more. Approved by several large law enforcement agencies for wear by their officers, the Shellback Banshee brings the complete package to the plate carrier table.
- 500 denier Cordura fabric
- Lightweight shoulder pads
- Extreme versatility allows a wide range of load capabilities
- Fully adjustable and padded front, back and shoulder areas.
- Removable cummerbund with exterior and interior PALS and side plates
- Quick Release buckles
- Drag handle
- Wire, antenna and hydration hose guides
- Identity loop attachments
- Wearable over soft armor and uniforms
- Made in the USA
- Lifetime warranty
If you head into situations where the threat level is high and the areas may be tight, the Shellback Tactical Banshee Rifle Plate Carrier is a great choice, especially if you want the added protection of rifle level plates onboard.
- Full coverage plate carrier in a lightweight design
- Easy to adjust
- Comfortable to wear
- Can be hot to wear
- Easy to overload. Take care with your planning
9. AR500 Veritas Plate Carrier – Best Plate Carrier on a Budget
Where else would you look for a budget-priced plate carrier with all the features offered on much more expensive plate carriers than the leading manufacturer of steel armor plates? ARr500 has made a reputation on the quality of their armor products and has made a move to providing carriers for those plates.
The AR500 Veritas Plate Carrier is within the financial reach of almost anyone, coming it less than $100. The low price doesn’t mean a lack of features and quality. At less than $100, you can’t go wrong with the AAR500 Veritas Plate Carrier. Once fitted out with armor plates, you can relax assured that you have a kit that will provide the protection you need in a package that is concealable for undercover operations.
- Cummerbund designed for low profile and comfort
- Padded side plate pockets
- 500 D Cordura material
- Fits standard 10 x 12 plates
- Drag Handle
- #D mesh inner lining
- Webbed Velcro attachments with front and rear ID panels
- Padded removable shoulder straps
- Admin pocket integrated into the carrier
- Allows a good range of movement
- Drag Handle construction and attachment is built well
- Easily concealable under a hoody or jacket
- Needs the cummerbund installed if you are going to run
- The drag handle is a bit small and hard to hold on to with large hands.
10. Tyr Tactical® PICO-MV Assaulters Plate Carrier –Best Plate Carrier Splurge Buy
If budget isn’t a concern and owning and wearing the top of the line plate carrier is in your plans, the Tyr Tactical PICO-MV Assaulters Plate Carrier makes the list. Tyr Tactical Gear is unrivaled in the industry for quality and design. Many professional military and private operators chose TYR over any other brand. The PICO-MV is our choice as the splurge buy on our best plate carrier list.
- PALS webbing for MOLLE attachments
- Tourniquet mounting grommets
- Removable zip on back panel
- Hold 9 Mr4/M16 magazines
- Hydration and communication tabs
- Removable Molle kangaroo front pouch holds three 5.56 magazines
- Side wing 5.56 adapters
- Shoulder pads
- Patented Ballistic Vein ® increases load-bearing performance
- Reinforced Drag handle
- Includes PALS Adapter set
- Anti-Microbial spacer mesh on the interior of the vest is IR/FR treated
- Moisture-wicking mesh lining
- Can be equipped with soft armor as well as hard plates
- PV® material for advanced abrasion resistance and greater strength
- Wider shoulder straps distribute the load better on the shoulders
- Very comfortable to wear even with a full loadout
- Easy to don and doff
- Tends to ride low and is hard to adjust to ride high
- Very Expensive
The Tyr PICO-MV Assaulters Plate Carrier design is meant for long wear during dismounted maneuvers. The price reflects the quality of construction and attention to detail. If putting a price on the protection your plate carrier and the plates it holds provides is not a problem, the TYR PICO-MV should certainly be on your list.
How will you use it?
To keep things simple, we have divided the users of plate carriers into four categories.
Home Defense or Casual Users
If you are concerned about home defense or going to range with your buddies for an afternoon of target or tactical training, you may want to invest in a reasonably priced plate carrier.
Most firearms instructors make it a habit of wearing a plate carrier fitted out with ballistic plates when at the range conducting training. It’s not a bad idea if you regularly shoot at the range.
First Responder Users
Law enforcement officers have been wearing body armor since it first became available. More and more other first responders are wearing body armor as they engage in their hazardous occupations. Paramedics and even firefighters get called to situations that can put them at even greater risk involving firearms.
Combat is risky and dangerous. Any steps you can take to minimize the risk of injury from a gunshot is well worth the price. Those who work in highly volatile situations or in areas where combat style operations are a regular occurrence know well the value of the best body armor available.
More and more those who work out regularly with weights and other types of conditioning are adopting plate carriers as a comfortable and efficient way to add additional weight to their workout routine.
The use of plate carriers is especially true of those involved in the Crossfit regimen. Plate carrier vests keep the weight tight to the body and allow a full range of motion and movement. No matter how you use your plate carrier, there is an option to fit your needs and your budget. Check out our picks for plate carriers and select the one that fits best with your needs.
Types of Carrier Plates
Manufacturers of ballistic armor plates use one of three materials to make their armor plates. Some companies produce composite plates that use two or even all three of the materials in their ballistic armor plates. The three materials used are:
- Titanium Ceramic
Each type of material has its pros and cons. Determining which type of plate is best suited for your situation is a product of several variables including the types of threats you may face, the physical situations you may encounter, and the level of protection you want.
Ceramic vs. Steel Plates
Choosing whether to go with steel or ceramic plates is a decision based on several different factors. You should consider the pros and cons of each type of material in making your decision.
- Steel armor is more durable.
- Steel plate are generally less expensive.
- Generally, steel I stronger than ceramic.
- The ceramic plate is usually lighter than a comparable steel plate and offers more wearability.
- Steel plates can take multiple hits in the same vicinity.
- Steel armor is heavy.
- Ceramic plates are generally more expensive than comparable steel plates.
- Ceramic plates that offer comparable protection to a steel plate are usually thicker than the steel plate which can affect comfort and wearability.
- The ceramic plate may not offer protection from multiple hits, especially from larger caliber rounds.
When choosing the type of material used to construct your body armor, you must take into consideration the types of threats you may encounter, the physical environment in which you may be working, and the level of protection you need.
Buyers Guide: Things to Look for in a Plate Carrier Vest
The biggest thing to remember when looking at plate carrier vest, is that size references the size of plates to be carried, and not the size of the wearer. Those changes are usually covered by adjustable straps or velcro, and are considered standard unless otherwise noted. However, plate size should still be considered when picking your proper size.
Smaller framed men and most women should start somewhere in the medium range. The slightly smaller plates will not affect movement as much. Always make sure the fit is correct, and go with larger plates if necessary.
A properly fitted vest will hold the plate right around the collarbone, and it will extend down to around the bottom of the lungs. However, larger plates can extend down and protect more of the abdomen, keeping in mind that large plates have a higher weight. If you’re planning on carrying multiple packs on your vest, that will also increase the weight.
Another thing to consider is, the number of plates that the vest will carry. Some rigs carry four, including two smaller side plates for added protection. Most rigs carry 2, one in the front and one covering the back, and the lightest of all offer only one plate in the front.
Speaking of the number of plates available in each vest, that in itself can be a very important choice. Are you trying to stay lightweight but are willing to sacrifice plates Or are you going for maximum protection, paying no regard to mobility? Personally, I believe the more plates the better, as this offer the most protection and coverage.
Next, what do you want the vest to carry? I’m not talking about the plates, as those will be carried inside the vest. Rather what do you want to be carried outside the vest, where you can easily access it in any situation.
Does it only need velcro patches for identification, or do you need an entire chest of molle strips for medical packs and ammunition magazines? This is where the real customization comes in with vests, as everyone’s tastes and needs are different.
Someone who only carries a pistol wouldn’t need rifle packs on their vest, but they might still want to carry medkits or hydration packs. Or perhaps they would rather have no extra gear to snag on branches while moving through a wooded environment.
Customizations with packs are almost limitless. When looking at a vest you should still consider how much of the vest is allotted for those attachments, whether you already have packs or if you have plans of doing that in the future. Some vests offer very little and some vests dedicate the entire surface area to retention straps for gear.
Don’t forget simple cosmetics as well. Choosing the proper color or camo can be just as important as the right fit. Most vests on the market today are offered in the basic “military” and “law enforcement” colors, as well as some more extravagant camouflages from around the world.
Accessories: Tactical Vest Hangers
In the end, you are making decisions on which you may place your life. If you routinely go into situations where body armor is a necessity, you want the best kit you can obtain.
If you are a homeowner or casual shooter and you want basic protection is no different. If your life is going to depend on the effectiveness of your kit, you want to find the best you can afford. I hope that this guide helped you find the best plate carriers.