I have written more about body armor in the last year than I ever thought I’d write in a lifetime. The good news for our readers is that I know the certification process of armor better than some people selling the body armor. This isn’t a boast or anything like that; it’s more of a fact that I have read every NIJ document pertaining to body armor ever published by the federal government. Today, I wanted to discuss the importance of choosing the right plate carrier for Level 3 body armor under the National Institute of Justice. My hope is that you select the plate carrier that is going to keep the safest, most comfortable, and offer the best functionality for your mission requirements. Good luck and stay safe!
What Do I Look For in a Plate Carrier?
Many people look to the Special Operations community to find what they believe to be the best plate carriers and I don’t blame them. However, one thing to consider is those men are highly trained in wearing armor and how to get the most out of their protection. You’ll often see Special Forces and SEALS wear armor that is incredibly minimalistic to provide them with the most mobility possible. This works for anyone else as well, but I recommend you think long and hard about your mission requirements or purpose for wearing armor in the first place.
I look for a plate carrier that can carry Level 3 or Level 4 plates and keep that plate tightly in place as you move to provide better mobility. I always look for a plate carrier that is lightweight and durable enough to prevent picking of the fabric and handle the wear and tear of rough environments. Always try to find a plate carrier that has compatible slots for your gear, such as PALS webbing for MOLLE pouches and accessories. This will ensure you can attach your ammo pouches, radios, and other gear onto your plate carrier without any additional equipment. I always try to find a plate carrier that has a lower profile to allow for prone shooting and better noise discipline.
1. AR Independence Build Your Own Bundle
I chose the AR Independence plate carrier as my top choice because it has all the attributes I listed above. The AR Independence plate carrier has PALS webbing wrapped around the entire carrier for easy attachment of any MOLLE compatible pouches or accessories. The straps are tightly woven and offer more slots to secure your pouches better than a lot of other carriers. It’s made from 500D nylon to provide incredible durability and longevity. Each row of PALS webbing is bar-tack reinforced to prevent a strap from breaking off if it gets caught on anything. It’s also never a bad thing that the entire plate carrier is made in the United States at their factory in Phoenix, AZ. As many of our readers know, we love to support American companies that support American workers.
2. Valkyrie Build Your Own Bundle
The Valkyrie Plate Carrier is used for any 10"x12" (standard large) trapezoidal steel, ceramic, or polyethylene body armor. The Valkyrie is 100% Berry Compliant, which means that all products to produce the plate carrier, including straps, and all fabric on the plate carrier is made in the United States. The reason I put the Valkyrie so high on my list is because of the versatility and it offers with its dual admin pouches compatible with Kangaroo magazine pouch insert, fully adjustable cummerbund, and generously sized Velcro ID panels. People may think the admin pouches are not that big of a deal, but it’s most likely because you’ve never had a plate carrier with admin pouches. These work great for storing maps, cell phones, and documents. One of the reasons people like this vest so much is the balance it provides for each shoulder to avoid shoulder and nerve pain in your neck.
3. Premier Body Armor Falcon Carrier
Premier Body Armor is a solid company with a track record of providing NIJ-Listed ballistic protection to law enforcement and civilians. Premier Falcon is the most durable plate carrier on this list with an outstanding 1000D Cordura Nylon fabric. Most plate carriers are around 500D Cordura, which is very rigid and provides excellent durability but doesn’t come close to 1000D Nylon. The shoulder straps provide added comfort and versatility by allowing you to adjust the length and release the plate carrier from your body with the push of a quick-release buckle. Another great attribute is Premier Armor is made in the United States and provides dozes of jobs for Americans. This vest is durable, comfortable, and fits almost any size with adjustable straps.