Setup Recommendations for a Plate Carrier & Range Belt: The Final Word

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

While there are a number of ways/opinions on the “proper” way to setup a plate carrier (PC), there are a few general recommendations to follow when assembling one. As before, remember that a PC is often intended to be used in conjunction with a (range/battle) belt and both should be built to accomplish three critical mission 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

So, a lot of self-reflection should be done on what it is you would need the PC to achieve as it relates to how you want to use it (i.e. its purpose). Do you need a PC that is just good for a day on the range? If so, what would you need on it to address the three mission tasks? Do you need a PC in case of an Active Shooter or otherwise non-descript setting? If so, what would you need for that? Or, do you need this PC for professional/duty use? Those are questions only you can ask yourself, the answers of which can help guide you in how your PC should be set up. Recognize that anything beyond that is excess, a pleasantry that you will be carrying.

What follows are merely a series of recommendations based on my personal prerequisites for a range/duty plate carrier (and in conjunction with a range belt) using the MENs approach:

Note: The italicized text represents my own input into the process for demonstrative purposes.

  • Mission (What do I need this equipment to do, or what is it for?)
    • I need a PC that will serve me in carbine/pistol training and professional settings.
    • This PC will augment a range belt that is the primary equipment used for training and in any professional setting.
    • TCCC aid elements must be incorporated
  • Essentials (What elements are essential to accomplish the mission?)
    • This PC will need:
      • Magazines
      • IFAK
      • Admin pouch
    • The range belt will also necessitate:
      • Magazines
      • IFAK
      • Holster
  • Needs (How many of these essential elements do I need to attain the mission?)
    • This PC will need at a minimum:
      • 3x pouches for magazines (rifle: total 90 rounds rifle)
      • IFAK with (1) TQ
      • One admin or accessories pouch
    • The range belt will also necessitate at a minimum:
      • 3x pouches for magazines (rifle and pistol: total 90 rounds rifle, 54 pistol)
      • IFAK with (1) TQ, (1) Israeli Bandage, (2) Gauze, (1) Quickclot
      • Holster
  • Total ammunition on hand:
    • 180 rifle, 54 pistol
  • Can TCCC be attained for GSW?
    • Yes

General Observations:

To Stop Holes:

Consider your torso’s size in relation to the body armor/plates you use. Generally, you want the size large enough to protect your vitals. Today many plates also incorporate “shooter cuts”, “swimmer cuts”, or multi-curves that allow for greater freedom of movement in shouldering a weapon or performing tasks. Some PCs allot, or don’t, for specific designs so make sure your PC matches the size and cut of your body armor/plates.

To Plug Holes:

Don’t overinvest in an aid kit or IFAK that has resources you have no training in using. Oppositely, you should have at least a minimal knowledge of how to render both self and buddy aid for a gunshot wound (GSW). This could be merely carrying a tourniquet (TQ) and having a base understanding of where/how to apply it if needed. It could be as in-depth as attending Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) courses and knowing how to apply pressure dressings, hemostatic devices, TQs and more.


In general terms, an IFAK on a PC should be placed on the non-dominant side so-as to access while still presenting the rifle against a threat if needed. The IFAK itself should be easily accessed with one hand in the event the other is wounded.

To Make Holes:

The number of magazines you mount should be proportional to the mission at hand that you want to accomplish. A static range setting is different than one for law enforcement or the military expecting prolonged contact. It should also be balanced with other equipment you may be using at the time (such as a range belt).

Regardless of how many magazines you feel you need on your PC, try to keep the magazines centered and flush to the carrier. Pouches that are bulkier or have a greater profile make shooting from the prone or seeking cover on the ground that much more difficult. Additionally, once fully loaded if the pouches are dominantly on one side you will gradually feel that weight disparity in your shoulders and back the longer the PC is worn.

A Word on Accessories

You will notice that nowhere in this discussion is there mention of things like a PC hydration pouch, a dump pouch, knife sheath, flashlight pouch, etc. That is because these are accessories that should only be added based on your MEN evaluation IF you need them to accomplish the mission at hand. Otherwise you are just adding excess items, excess weight, and excess bulk when you don’t need to. Thus choosing the minimal needs necessary with accessories that are a “nice-to-have” is a careful balancing act.

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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