Search for a Plate Carrier/Body Armor

by Woodsbum

Due to the extra money I have from my second job, I decided that I was going to buy some things that can only be classified as SHTF, prepper, EOTWAWKI, survivalist or waste of money type items. I have have never thought of myself as a prepper. Being a strong patriarch of our family has made me put things back in case something does happen, however. Things like food, water purification, ammunition, generator, fuel, etc all have found their way into every nook and cranny of my home just in case something bad happens. If you watch Doomsday Preppers, I would never be of enough of a prepper to be allowed onto that show. Our family also isn’t living in fear of a supervolcano, impending economic doom, or an EMP attack. This being said and stated, let me add that I do believe that any responsible family should take their family’s safety seriously. If this ends up including gas masks with different filters so that you don’t have to breath in volcanic ash (since we live between 3 volcanoes – 2 of which are steaming more often than I like) or put back 6 months of food so our family won’t go hungry if any multitude of things happen (to include unemployment or hard financial times). Enough with the disclaimers……

I learned through experiencing all the tough times we lived through in Wyoming that we needed to put supplies back. We lived in Casper when the bottom fell out of the oil industry. There were times when I we were forced to shoot deer or antelope to feed ourselves. My father ended up working all sorts of odd jobs for cash and trade just to keep us from being homeless. During trips to the grocery store I distinctly remember families trying to figure out how to feed their family and mothers crying in the isles because there was not enough money to get everything that their family needed. It was horrible, but I learned a lot from both living it and from all our Mormon friends who seemed to have everything they needed. The LDS church there in Casper had all their members put back at least 1 year supply of food and daily necessities. Their ability to make it through this time when no one had money or a job really struck a nerve and made me realize the brilliance of this lifestyle.

Now let’s fast forward enough years that I will not admit to a specific number…… I have really put what I learned in Wyoming to good use. We keep all sorts of things stored up in case we need something and can’t just go to a store and buy it. As our stockpiles of “stuff” grew, I realized after watching the news that having a way to protect the bodies of my loved ones was not a bad idea. This was when I decided to just bite the proverbial bullet and buy some body armor.

Now here is the problem. This stuff almost requires that you spend a substantial amount of time just to be educated enough to buy yourself something. It is actually quite complex. Features that allow you to move the armor out of the way for medical access, rip cord things to drop the armor if it seems to be dragging you down while swimming, MOLLE vs laser cut attachments, polyethylene vs AR500 steel plates, ceramic plates, protection levels, price, color, fit, padding, whether Venus is in Scorpio during a full moon…  The list goes on and on. It is seriously crazy. To help myself and to help you readers, I am going to pass along a few things that I have learned thus far and point you toward the items I plan on purchasing next week.

First off, let’s hit up some vocabulary and nomenclature:

  • Plate Carrier – This is simply a vest that allows bullet proof materials to be inserted into pockets or under the liner to make your vest bullet proof.
  • Plates – Plates are the bullet stoppers for rifle calibers. There are various types, but just know that anything that looks like a rectangle or rectangle with the edges trimmed off the top is called a plate.
  • Shooter and Swimmer Cuts – See the definition of “Plates” above? The cut off edges allow for you to “shoot” or “swim” depending on how the cuts were made. If you didn’t cut the edges your arms would be hitting the plate and getting all messed up.
  • Soft Ballistic Panel – This is the soft version of a plate, but doesn’t stop the bigger things shot at you.
  • NIJ Level – There are several “Levels” of armor. You might even see NIJ CTP and then a number. These numbers reflect what size bullet and caliber that the ballistic material will stop. For example, you need III to stop rifle bullets. IV means it will stop some AP (armor piercing) rounds. IIIA means that it will stop almost all pistol rounds…..  Do yourself a favor and check a chart.
  • More Terms

Just those terms alone will help you enough to start looking around. Just know that a plate carrier is USUALLY not made of a ballistic material. In another words, your plate carrier needs inserts or plates to stop a bullet. Otherwise it is just a very expensive vest that isn’t very fashionable.

So the first step you need to do is decide upon “soft” or plate armor. I have not done too much research on soft armor other than lifespan. You will have to eventually replace soft armor. It only lasts for a finite amount of time due to fiber breakdown from heat and moisture. Since I want it to stop rifle calibers, this was an easy choice for me. I may get some soft armor later on for concealment reason, but at this point I am just getting something that will save my bacon if shot with an AR or AK.

The next step is to look at your bank account (and in my case cry a little) to decide how much you want to spend. The plates are going to really eat up a good chunk of your budget. AR500 plates are the cheapest and cost around $100-$200 per plate. Sometimes you can get package deals where you get front, back, and side for around $250-$300. This is on top of the plate carrier cost so a simple setup will run you around $400 as a baseline cost and can go up from there. If you go for the polyethylene plates that are much lighter and float, you can see prices around $400 for a single plate. Ceramic plates seem to be all over the place in price from $350-$500 per plate. Either way you are doubling the cost of your armor if you use anything other than the AR500 steel plates.

Lastly, look at the attachments and accessories that you can get for your system. There are all sorts of different items that can Velcro on such as ballistic shoulder/arm protection, ballistic groin protection, ballistic neck protection, shoulder straps, magazine pouches, bags, holsters, the kitchen sink….  All sorts of stuff is available for your pack animalistic pleasure. The price and strength of your legs to carry everything are the only restrictions.

Ironically, the hardest part of the whole body armor purchase has been finding a plate carrier that will be big enough for me. I suspect that most people will have similar issues finding something that fits comfortably. My problem is that I am tall and big. We are talking about someone the mid-sized professional wrestler. Most products I find are too small around the chest if they fit my waist, are too short, or are too big around my waist to fit my chest. There is little middle ground with products so sizing me is always difficult. Since we are talking about carriers that can range between $70 and $700 for those that I looked at, just to get one in for size comparison is an expensive proposition. I think I have found one that will work and isn’t too crazy in price. If it works, I will post about it when I get it. Now, I am not sure how many of you can get a chance to find a vest to check its size. I have been trying to figure that out myself. My best guess would be a LEO outlet or trade show, but I am not sure how that stuff works. I am basically checking YouTube and crossing my fingers.

So here is what I plan on buying as of next week (after this weekend’s 2nd job money comes in):

  • Condor Defender Plate Carrier
  • AR500 plates (front, back, and side)
  • Kangaroo Mag Pouch

This will run me about $400 for the set. It will also be about 25-30 lbs of weight. I guess my rear end needs to get less weight lifting time and more cardio to carry this crap. No matter what, I will show you guys what I have picked up when it comes in as well as my thoughts on it. I will not, however, go shoot it and see what happens. There are more than enough videos online that destroy these expensive plates.

Good luck people and I hope none of us actually has to use this stuff.

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