Types of a Plate Carrier: A Different Design For Many Uses

This is the third in a series of publications entitled “The COVID Chronicles“, and the second of several writings with the intent to grow the reader’s awareness on the topic of plate carriers; their features, designs, and materials.


Generally speaking, there are four different types of plate carriers. Plate carriers have evolved beyond the mere goal of holding up protective armor, and now include additional pouches, sleeves, or webbing that dramatically increase its functionality. Often we hear that a plate carrier should serve three mission critical tasks:

  • Stop Holes – by allowing for the storage of a ballistic plate or soft armor
  • Plug Holes – by allowing the carry of medical items or pouches
  • Make Holes – by allowing the carry of ammunition

More often a plate carrier’s design is intended to address a specific purpose, be it on the range or the battlefield. For the consumer in today’s more modern era, this generally includes several additional variants that arose in response to more dynamic threats encountered by civilians and law enforcement.

Lo-Pro / Lo-Vis:

In the context of this article, Low-Profile or Low-Visibility Plate Carriers (a.k.a. “Covert” carriers) are designed to be worn under a loose fitting garment, such as a fleece or flannel shirt. Their features often include but not limited to; a pouch/sleeve for protective plates, hook-and-loop or elastic nylon shoulder and waist straps, and may or may not include magazine pouches (mission dependent). The entire purpose of the Lo-Pro plate carrier is to give the wearer some measure of concealability among civilians, while still retaining the added measure of protective armor by limiting any unnecessary bulk. These types of “slick” plate carriers are favored among law enforcement detectives, private investigators, and elements within the military or government.

Active Shooter:

Arising out of an era of mass shootings, the Active Shooter plate carrier is a blend between the two main types of carriers and intended to remain compact and unobtrusive, often stored in a vehicle or under a desk. But when needed, it can be rapidly deployed to put the wearer directly into action. One distinctive aspect to Active Shooter plate carriers is its minimalist (almost skeletonized) design, often consisting of just the pouch/sleeve for protective plates and a few speed straps that give the responder added protection than they would have had otherwise without. These types of plate carriers have become increasingly popular among civilians as well as law enforcement.

Professional/Duty Grade:

This type of plate carrier (a.k.a. “Overt” plate carrier) is the more traditional, and commonly found among most law enforcement and military members. It was later adopted into the civilian market as citizens began taking their need for protective body armor more seriously as concerns about safety and stability grew. The result has been a number of designs that push the bounds of material and technology, and incorporate a number of magazine pouches, padding, and features (such as comms or drink tube cuffs) that make the plate carrier far more than just a pouch/sleeve for protective plates. Today the market for Duty Grade plate carriers splits itself between more modest, cost-saving designs and materials (often relying on traditional nylon or Cordura)—to the ultra-high-tech with cutting edge materials (such as the new nylon laminate) and hardware (often at a high-end cost). Generally, civilians often afford the modest-to-mid designed Duty Grade plate carriers with governmental units or organizations affording the higher-end spectrum.

T3 Gear “Patriot” Plate Carrier (Left) & Tomahawk Plate Carrier (Right)


The “specialty” type of plate carriers are those “Overt” carriers that are often specific to a unique function or mission, and incorporate unique elements and materials that aid in those goals. These can include lightweight or skeletonized plate carriers that aid in military airborne operations, maritime risk mitigation or boat operations, or even athletic or training carriers. Often a hallmark to these types of plate carriers will be as a functional base element by which the end-user can customize with additional pouches or packs as needed or desired.

T3 Gear Geronimo Gen 2 Plate Carrier (Left) & Tomahawk 2 Plate Carrier (Right)

The plate carrier segment of the “COVID Chronicles” is sponsored by T3 Gear who offers a number of plate carriers, chest rigs, and other tactical accesories – all made in the USA.

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