Are you searching for the best tactical vest and plate carrier?
In this article I’ve reviewed the most popular models available and after reading this article you will know my recommendations.
Check out the quick list below for links to customer reviews and prices for the best tactical vest and plate carrier picks, or read on for the full review:
Plate carriers are a soft body armor that has compartments for adding protective plates for stopping ammunition impact.
With the addition of the metal plate inserts your plate carrier can stop ballistic shots from high caliber rounds. Most Plate carriers are equipped with a MOLLE system which will allow you to laches more equipment.
A plate carrier provides exceptional protection and gear carrying potential. The main downfall to going with a plate carrier is the significant weight. Between the plates and added gear, plate carriers are hefty.
Plate carriers are not best suited for scenarios where you must move in silence and tight spaces. They are best suited for open areas and when protection is your number one priority.
Tactical vests are equipped with a MOLLE system for attaching all your gear. They are light weight and comfortable when compared to a fully loaded plate carrier.
Tactical vests will not provide any ballistic protection. These are perfect for the range, hunting, or sport shooting. With the MOLLE system you can attach extra ammo, pouches, and provisions.
Body Armor Ratings
The NIJ, National Institute of Justice, has laid out a standardized rating system for body armor. These ratings spell out what caliber shot a particular piece of body armor can effectively stop. Use this guide when evaluating your specific protection level needs.
Handgun Protection Ratings
Level IIA: Effective against 9mm to .40 ammunition fired from a short barrel handgun. Not effective against rifles
Level II: Effective against 9mm and .357 magnum ammunition from short barrel handguns. Not effective against rifles
Level IIIA: Effective against .357 and .44 magnum ammunition from long barrel handguns. Not effective against rifles
Rifle Protection Ratings
Level III: Effective against 7.62 FMJ core ammunition
Level IV: Effective against .30 caliber steel for armor piercing rounds
Types of Plate Carrier Plates
Small Armor Protective Plates
Also called SAPI Plates, these are used in all military branches for stopping high caliber ammunition rounds. These plates are generally composed of boron carbide or silicon carbide ceramic. The design allows fragments to be stopped and trapped preventing penetration.
While these plates can be added to all positions on your plate carrier, they are designed to only withstand one shot. If hit, a plate must be replaced as they shatter when absorbing a hit.
SAPI plates come in four different sizes. These plates weigh between 2.8 and 5.3 pounds.
While lighter than SAPI plates, ceramic plates are still relatively heavy when added to your plate carrier. They boast exceptional protection power but much like SAPI plates, they are designed to shatter upon impact.
Due to this you must replace them and be careful not to drop them as they will shatter on impact.
These old school plates are exceptionally heavy. They provide excellent stopping power and can withstand more than one shot. Overall, due to the weight factor, these plates are seldom used or recommended.
These plates are much lighter than even ceramic plates, making them an exceptional option for those looking to reduce weight. These plates have an ingenious design that accepts the ammunition rounds spin to aid in absorbing the impact. The friction from the spin on impact, melts the plate polyethylene and stops the roud.
When choosing a plate carrier or tactical vest you must ensure selection of a model constructed of quality durable material. If opting for a plate carrier, consideration must be given to the type of plate you intend to use as this is the deciding factor on total carried weight.
If you plan to wear your carrier for extended use, a lighter plate is a must.
Whether you choose a plate carrier or a tactical vest, a model equipped with MOLLE system is recommended. This allows you to keep all necessary gear and equipment right where you need it. You will have the option of attaching pouches, ammunition, water, and holsters to your vest.
5 Best Tactical Vests and Plate Carriers
Condor Outdoor Modular Chest Set Multicam CS
This tactical vest has ample slots and compartments for gear and equipment storage. With built in magazine pouches you won’t have to add extra ammo pouches which frees up space for other gear or just keep the total weight down. One of the best features on this model is the hydration bladder sleeve on the back of the vest. It’s a simple design that adds little weight.
– Modular Chest Set
– Padded Shoulder Straps
– MOLLE System
– Adjustable waste strap
– Durable construction
– Does not come in smallest sizes
– No rear protective plate slots
Rothco Molle Modular Tactical Vest
MOLLE system equipped tactical vest in a light weight package. The MOLLE webbing covers most of this vest allowing you to add all essential gear. Designed with two quick release buckles which can come in incredible handy. I like the recoil pad on the shoulder for when shooting as it makes a great stable grip for the butt of your gun.
– Durable and light polyester construction
– Comfortable while not sacrificing functionality
– MOLLE system webbing
– No plate slots
Condor Outdoor Modular Chest Set
This is a tactical vest and does not have plate slots. This vest is equipped with magazine pouches and is fully adjustable. With MOLLE webbing you can lash all your most important gear. I like the addition of the two internal mesh pockets. For the money this is an excellent tactical vest.
– Six magazine pouches
– Two internal mesh pockets
– Chest plate is adjustable and removeable
– Durable construction
– No plate slots
Gloryfire Tactical Modular Assault Vest
This is an excellent tactical vest that comes with fully adjustable shoulder straps and hook and loop webbing. Perfect for attaching needed equipment while maintaining a low overall weight load. The interior lining is padded adding to the comfort when fully loaded. This vest does not have body armor features and is best suited for shooting, military training, hunting, and even paintball.
– Durable construction
– Hook and loop webbing system
– No plate slots
– Not as many items can be attached as other models on the list
ArcEnCiel Tactical Molle Vest
This model has three magazine pouches, a radio pouch, map slot, a flashlight slot, and medic andd communication pouches. The MOLLE webbing allows for additional items to be attached outside of the pouches. This is an excellent tactical vest for those looking to carry a lot of gear with them.
– Military grade nylon construction
– MOLLE system
– Many gear pouches
– Excellent suspension belt
– Not suitable for people over 250 lbs
– Mag pouches too small for M4 magazines
Most people will be happy with any of the tactical vests on this list. When in the field you need a durable vest that can handle all your gear without unnecessary weight that will slow you down.
My overall favorite is the Condor Modular Chest Set. Due to it’s high quality construction and MOLLE system, this tactical vest is suitable for most situations. It will stand up to use and it isn’t too heavy to wear me out when I’m using it for extended hours.
Fred is the Ready Zeal owner and editor. He has been passionately pursuing all things emergency preparation since working alongside his grandfather as a boy growing up in the Midwest. When not working on the family homestead he can be found brewing coffee and reading a good book or backpacking in the wilderness. Contact Fred at [email protected]