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

This is the fourth in a series of publications entitled “The COVID Chronicles“, and the third of several 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 also make the overall carrier uncomfortable if worn over a long duration. Ensure that the PC is appropriate to 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, one will want to inspect the gear and its associated hardware to ensure proper fit/function and that no tears or material separation is present.

With body armor, one will want to inspect it 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 attempt to flex the edges of the plate to inspect for potential cracking or fracturing.

  • When donning, the wearer will want to first adjust the length of the shoulder straps (depending on PC hardware). 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 level. Remember everyone’s upper torso is slightly different so where the top of the plate rests for you, is not the same for others.
  • In conjunction, 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 of 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.

Categories: Tradecraft

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