Many customers contact us for advice on choosing ballistic vests and plate carriers. So we decided to write this article.
The article will only cover ballistic vests and plate carriers intended for visible outdoor use, as these are the ones you are looking for most often. This article does not discuss base layers and other ballistic vests intended for concealment.
First of all, it is necessary to say what is the difference between a ballistic vest and a plate carrier, and what are their advantages and disadvantages:
(We do not intentionally use the term bulletproof vest, because as is well known everything can be covered, and also because the vest does not necessarily serve as a prevention against bullet wounds, but also against all threats ballistics such as fragments caused by explosions, explosives, grenades, etc.)
A ballistic vest fitted with a soft ballistic insert covers more of the upper half of the body, especially the chest, abdomen, hips and shoulder joint areas, it can usually be supplemented optionally through the neck, arm guards etc.
The covering surface of the ballistic vest is largely formed by a soft ballistic insert (i.e. an insert consisting of several layers of bullet-resistant textiles, which you know, for example, under the trade names Kevlar, Twaron or Dyneema.)
In the civilian concept, the soft ballistic insert is important mainly in protection against pistol ammunition (it can be equipped with a layer against piercing) and in the military concept it is important mainly in protection against splinters shells and other products resulting from explosions of various explosives (grenades, mines, IEDs, etc.).
The importance of the soft ballistic insert in the military is not diminished by the fact that soft ballistics do not protect against long-range rifle ammunition, which dominates military conflict. Although it may seem to a layman that wearing protection that cannot withstand rifle ammunition is nonsense for a soldier, the fact remains that modern armies of the 20th and 21st centuries primarily fight in asymmetric conflicts in which the injury is an improvised explosive system or other explosion. , several times greater than the damage of firing a long infantry weapon.
As it concerns
protection against rifle ammunition, the vast majority of ballistic vests allow the degree of ballistic protection required in the chest to be increased by hard ballistic plates which already support the rifle ammunition. For these purposes, a pocket is placed on the carrier for inserting a hard ballistic plate of a certain size. Of course, the coverage area of ballistic plates directly depends on the type of plate. Link to plate size article.
The size of the pocket for the ballistic plate, or the plate inserted into it, must correspond to the size of the chest of the user.
The problem with some ballistic vests is that the size of the pocket does not match the size of the plate the vest would need, or the position of the plate, especially the height, cannot be adjusted inside of the vest (the pockets are sewn in some cases). It often happens that the user has a ballistic vest fitted with a hard ballistic plate, but the plate is placed in the vest improperly, usually very low or the wrong size and does not cover where it should.
Adjusting the entire ballistic vest system to fit the size of the soft ballistic insert well, then the correct size hard plate was selected and the plate was placed in the correct position, it there’s a bit of chemistry.
Hard ballistic plates may be marked “ICW” (“in conjunction with”), which are the plates that provide the ballistic resistance claimed to be “used with” a soft ballistic insert (separately ICW plates have significantly lower resistance, they are therefore also lighter). For ICW plates, the projectile should pass through the ICW plate and its stop will only occur inside the soft ballistic insert.
The second possibility is the use of “STA” (“stand-alone”) plates, which are plates which alone meet the declared resistance, i.e. the projectile is held directly by the body of the plaque. This is why STA plates can be used without combination with a soft ballistic vest (but don’t forget the anti-shock insert). However, the STA plate is logically heavier than the ICW plate and also thicker. An exception is ballistic plates, which are the most subtle solution in this respect. ballistic plates are thinner than all composite plates and some variants less than 6.5mm thick are even thinner than a soft ballistic insert.
Advantages and disadvantages of ballistic vests:
– large coverage area against pistol ammo and shrapnel
– possibility to connect other “protectors”
(ballistics of the neck, shoulders, groin)
– depending on the type of soft bond over the entire circumference
(easier arrangement of equipment, more space)
– significantly reduced mobility
(clumsiness of the user)
– total system weight
– poor ventilation
– It is problematic to combine it with belts, backpacks and other equipment
– limited possibilities to change the position of the height of the hard plate in relation to the soft insert
(the position of the plate may not correspond to the required position in relation to the chest – the pocket for the plate is often sewn “hard” in a certain position)
– Some vests do not allow you to add hard side plates against rifle ammo
Plate carriers equipped with hard ballistic plates are mainly used to protect the chest, not only from the front / back, but also from the sides.
Unlike ballistic vests, there is no emphasis on protecting the lower abdomen, neck and shoulders, thanks to which the whole thing is considerably lightened and, above all, the mobility of the user is improved.
The cover surface of the plate carrier therefore focuses exclusively on the vital organs hidden in the chest, but not only against shrapnel, but also on rifle ammunition.
Injuries to the lower abdomen and other parts of the body exposed to the body are not considered an acute threat and at the same time easier to operate, which reproduces the logic of how nature created us, because the evolution hid vital organs in a bone-covered chest and left other organs outside.
The plate carriers are ideal for direct stand-alone mounting with hard ballistic plates in combination with an anti-shock insert, which attenuates the trauma effect after the impact.
The correct size of plate carrier is ideal for choosing “tightly” based on the size of the plate, which is chosen to fully cover the vital organs of the chest.
Choosing an appropriate plate size is crucial, as the plates form the entire coverage area of the media. There is no point in underestimating the choice of plates, as there are significant differences in plates, both in size and material composition.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you select the size of the ballistic plates first, and only select a compatible mount type based on their size.
Our supplier produces about 6 different plate formats according to American “SAPI standards”, and several types of media can be selected in the market for each of the formats.
As for the side plates, there are generally two sizes available, namely square 6×6 “or 150×150 mm, or rectangular 6×8” or 150×200 mm (the rectangular plate is installed vertically on the side more long to cover a larger area towards the armpits – i.e. towards the heart).
Some plate carriers have a pocket for the side plates integrated directly into the side panel, for others it is necessary to purchase a special pocket for the side plates and either insert it in the place intended for it, or attach it to the soft attachment at the top of the side panel. If you do not know how to place the side plates, write to us, we will be happy to advise you.
The main advantage of the plate carriers compared to the ballistic vest is not only the lightness of the assembly and a better ventilation of perspiration, which considerably increases the comfort of the user, but also from the functional point of view that the plate carrier can be adjusted significantly better to fit the user properly. In fact, each plate carrier can be easily adjusted so that the hard ballistic plates are in the correct position relative to the chest, which is a common problem with ballistic vests, as they are very important for fit, design, etc
Advantages and disadvantages of plate carriers:
– excellent mobility
– good ventilation
– hard ballistic plates can be easily adjusted to the correct position relative to the chest
– placement of hard side plates is usually considered
– combines well with other equipment
(belts, backpacks, etc.)
– only covers the chest
– limited space to hang equipment
Who is a plate carrier suitable for and who is a ballistic vest for?
When choosing the appropriate “ballistics”, it is essential to take into account the type of task we want to perform there and the degree of threat expected . Everyone has different needs.
Another very important and often underestimated factor is the comfort of the whole system, because as is well known, what is uncomfortable, whether due to incorrect fit or poor ventilation.
If you are a soldier on patrol in a war zone, where the likelihood of injury from an explosion is many times greater than from a handgun, it makes sense to consider a ballistic vest containing a soft ballistic liner, ideally supplemented with hard ballistic plates. It seems logical to choose the highest level of protection possible, since it is likely that if someone attacks you, they will do so from a save.
If you are a civilian user seeking protection from rifle ammunition during regular visits to the range, and the aftermath of explosions does not pose a significant risk, or a soldier who does not perform regular and so mobility plays a crucial role, a plate carrier seems to be a more suitable option.
Our experience is such that the convenience, but above all the mobility that the plate carrier gives you, is so essential that we recommend that you buy a plate carrier.
Tips from the end
– Before buying a plate carrier, first find out what size ballistic plate you need (every chest is different), then choose a specific type of plate carrier compatible with the selected size of plates.
– Always buy STA (“self-contained”) ballistic plates, which you can insert over time into the plate carrier and ballistic vests. Please note that plate carriers cannot only be fitted with ICW plates. ICW plates meet guaranteed strength only in combination with a soft ballistic insert. Particular attention should be paid to composite sheets, which are produced in the two variants STA – ICW, on the other hand, steel sheets are essentially STA.
before buying ballistic plates, find out about their true coverage area
– if you want to combine the plate carrier / ballistic vest with other equipment, such as backpacks or belts, make sure in advance that they are compatible with each other in terms of shape, fit and fixing method.