Proper Wear and Appearance of a Plate Carrier: How NOT to Get Yourself Killed

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

The proper wear and appearance of a plate carrier (PC) can be critical to not only prevent defeat of the protective armor’s coverage, but avoid the overall carrier becoming uncomfortable if worn over a long duration. Ensure that the PC size is appropriate to the size of the plates it is intended to hold, as some PCs are specific to cut and/or dimensions (i.e. swimmer cut v shooter v SAPPI).

Prior to donning the PC itself, you will want to inspect the carrier and its associated hardware (buckles, clasps, eyelets, etc.) to ensure proper fit/function and that no tears, material separation, or de-threading is present.

Prior to inserting the body armor, you will want to inspect the plates accordingly to make sure the armor has not become compromised. If using ceramic body armor, visually inspect to ensure no de-lamination of the exterior has transpired, then while holding both sides attempt to flex the edges of the plate to inspect for potential cracking or fracturing (a cracking or crunching sound is bad).

  • When donning the PC, the wearer will want to first adjust the length of the shoulder straps (depending on PC hardware it may be best to leave the cummerbund open at this point). This will affect the height by which the plates rests on the upper torso. Continue to adjust the shoulder straps so that the top edge of the front plate rests on the sternal angle approximately (within two finger widths depending on body type) below the clavicle (that soft spot in the front where your collar bones join together) and is level. Remember everyone’s upper torso is slightly different so where the top of the plate rests for you, may not be the same for others.
  • In conjunction to the front carrier, the top edge of the rear plate should rest approximately two vertebrae below the vertebral prominence (the dome of bone on the back of the neck at the C-7 vertebrae where the spine meets the shoulder line).
Finding the vertebral prominence
  • Ensure the plates are positioned to offer maximum protection over your vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidney, etc.).
  • Afterwards, fit the cummerbund appropriately by adjusting the width from the back panel of the PC so that the front (depending on connection hardware) offers the greatest enclosure around the waist. The cummerbund should fit snug enough to prevent excess movement of the PC and feel the expansion of the upper torso inside the PC when taking in several deep breaths. If using a cummerbund that secures to the front with hook-and-loop under a kangaroo pouch, then ensure the panels are even and level—avoid angled or offset hook-and-loop connections as that will provide less of a secure hold to the front panel.

To test the fit of the PC, while wearing it attempt several dynamic movements (firearm presentation, burpees, arm-raises, etc.) that put the PC in a more realistic setting on the body. The PC should move with the upper torso and not slide around or allow for a gap between the PC and the body. If the PC does not rise up into the throat or move/flop excessively then it has been fitted correctly.

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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