Tag Archives: plate carrier

Proper Fit of Body Armor

by Woodsbum

Now that I have body armor and have been wearing it around a bit to see how well it wears, a thought kept creeping into my head, “Is this expense really fit properly and am I wearing it correctly?”

When I was in the military we wore flak jackets. Considering it was simply a vest that you put on, it was quite difficult to wear it incorrectly. Even the new military armor systems are difficult to wear incorrectly because they are also vest type construction that offers very little adjustment.

Here is the article that Gunguy found and sent to me:


Body armor is meant to keep you in the fight.  It should protect the vital organs which, if hit, would quickly take you down and prevent you from putting rounds on target. The possibility of saving your life is a secondary benefit of body armor.  With this purpose in mind we must understand those structures we need to protect which we can realistically protect while still maintaining a great degree of mobility.

Our primary concern is the heart and the large blood vessels which sprout from the top of the heart: the superior vena cava, the arch of the aorta and the pulmonary trunk. These vessels are collectively referred to as “the great vessels”.

The heart is important for its obvious function of providing pressure to circulate blood to the lungs via the right side of the heart and then on to the body via the left side of the heart.  Within the body the heart lies left of center, with its apex near the left nipple.  Thus, while fitting a plate as a general guideline we must select a plate which will cover the nipples to ensure the entire heart is protected.  Note that in some individuals the nipples may be more lateral than the apex of the heart.

The great vessels of the heart lie directly behind the uppermost portion of the sternum, known as the manubrium, and sit directly on top of the heart.  The great vessels wrap and twist around each other, making it likely that a hit to one will likely perforate another and result in massive hemorrhage.

Arguably the most important of the three great vessels in the Aorta, due to its size and high velocity of blood flow, 5 liters a minute.  The average 165 pound man has 5 liters of blood in his body and thus can completely bleed out within one minute if the Aorta is dramatically perforated.  Loss of consciousness can occur with less than 40% of blood loss, approximately two liters, and thus can occur in well under a minute.

Of equal importance to the heart is the respiratory diaphragm, the muscle which, when contracting, allows you to decrease air pressure within your lungs and thus draw in air. Destroy the diaphragm and you destroy one’s ability to breath.  Protecting the entirety of the respiratory diaphragm is not realistic, but the majority of it will be protected by a properly fitted plate.  The diaphragm is dome shaped, following the bottom of your rib cage and doming up into the chest cavity.

Protecting the vertebral column goes without saying -we wish to protect as much of this as possible without sacrificing mobility. Unfortunately, protecting the entire vertebral column is not realistic at this time.

It is important to note that a hit to the lungs may prove to eventually be lethal through blood loss or tension pneumothorax, but is not nearly as lethal as quickly as a hit to the heart and its great vessels. The liver and kidneys, while highly vascular, are also not immediately incapacitating and thus are of secondary concern.  The rest of the viscera in your abdomen are of tertiary concern.

Finding Balance:  Protection vs Mobility

When properly fitted a chest plate should not impinge on the anterior deltoids or pectoralis major muscles when punching out with a handgun or carbine.  Any impingement on the shoulder may create discomfort, premature fatigue and possibly even aggravate certain shoulder conditions.  In some cases too large of a plate may prevent a shooter from assuming an ideal hold on their weapon.  This, and even discomfort, can translate to misses down range.

A slightly smaller chest plate which fits with no impingement while punching out will not expose the heart as long as it still covers the nipples.  A smaller plate will translate to a small increase in exposure of peripheral lung tissue and abdominal viscera, but these are organs which can take a hit without immediate consequences to the shooter.  As stated previously, a shot to the lung, liver or kidney is not immediately fatal.  This should be considered when choosing a plate that fits properly.

NORNAVEOD i Meymaneh i Afghanistan

Positioning of the Front/Chest plate

The top of your chest plate should be at the level of your suprasternal notch, which is also known as the jugular notch.  Tracing the sternum with a finger superiorly, the soft spot you reach at the top of the sternum is the suprasternal notch.  If you press in with your finger and choke yourself you are in the right spot.  The chest plate should ride at least level with the top of your sternum while standing.  An easy way to ensure this is to place a finger in your suprasternal notch and position the plate such that the top of the plate touches the bottom of your finger.

Reference image (anterior view)

  • Red is your heart and related blood vessels
  • Dark Grey/Yellow is a properly positioned plate.
  • The sternum and clavicle are white with black outline


Positioning of rear/back plate

Find the most prominent bony eminence at the base of your neck. This is your vertebral eminence. Count down two bony spinousus (or measure down about 1.5 inches) and that should be above the level of the superior aspect of your sternum and thus level with the top of your front plate. Positioning at least this high will ensure your entire heart and the great vessels are protected from a shot to the back.  The front and back plate should be level with one another when viewed from the side.

The vertebral eminence is marked in the diagram below in blue.


Side and Shoulder Plates

Side plates are intended to protect the highly vascular elements of your abdomen. They were introduced to prevent troops from bleeding out in the chopper on the way to the field hospital. Side plates were not necessarily intended to protect the heart, but if you wear them high up into your armpits you can protect some of the lower portion of your heart.

Protecting your heart from a shot to side is accomplished by shoulder plates, such as the ones manufactured by Crye Precision.


To Sum it Up

  • Chest/Front plate:  Even with top of the sternum while standing and covering the entirety of each nipple.  For best fit, the plate should not impinge on the shoulder when presenting a weapon.
  • Back/Rear plate:  Should lie no lower than an inch below your vertebral prominence.  A back plate one size larger than a chest plate is optimal.
  • Side plates:  The higher they ride the better.

An example of proper chest plate positioning


An example of improper chest plate positioning


Hopefully, this article will help you to understand how hard plates work. Obviously, you will not be walking around like a juggernaut and completely bulletproof from toenail to beanie. You also don’t want to go into a dangerous situation in a Speedo and flip flops. Find what works for you and just make sure you wear it as intended.

Good luck!!!!

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Body Armor – Part 3

by Woodsbum

Yesterday the UPS driver finally delivered all the boxes that were supposed to have been dropped off last Thursday. It only took an extra 2 working days due to holiday laziness. I guess I should actually be happy that it arrived at all with only 1 of the boxes having been opened up and rifled through. The reality of having received the latest addition to my body armor has made me a bit giddy. I am not sure how odd it is to want to sit at a desk all day in Level III plates and work on computers. HR would probably send me in for an evaluation.

This post is Body Armor – Part 3. If you are looking for Part 2 or Part 1 of the series you can follow those links to get caught up.

Since my first post, I finally have my AR500 plate kit that includes both front and back plates as well as 6×8 side plates.

My AR500 Deal

My AR500 Deal

I originally picked up some ceramic plates that were 12×10, but they were WAY too small for my torso. These are 14×11 and fit much better. They also fill out the whole carrier pocket so there is less fabric flopping around the sides of the plate. The coverage is also MUCH better as is the overall fit with the thinner, metal plates. I felt like Raphie’s brother in A Christmas Story where he can’t even drop his arms.

Carrier and plates now

Carrier and plates now

A couple thoughts on these plates and this carrier:

  • They are about 2x heavier than the ceramics I had. Even though they are 2 inches taller and 1 inch wider, this additional 30-ish square inches of steel vs ceramic adds a lot more weight.
  • The thinner construction actually allows more unhindered movement with the steel plates. All four plates are actually the same thickness of one ceramic plate.
  • Steel is a lot easier to deal with in regard to “being careful.” Ceramic can easily break or chip. These steel plates are much more sturdy and thus allow for easier transport without fear of damage.
  • My carrier with plates is almost the same weight as my daughter’s Army IOTV (current issue military body armor), maybe even a touch lighter with both all geared out.
  • As opposed to ceramic, these plates can withstand more shots. The tags alone on my ceramic state that it is rated for 3 hits and these plates are rated for 6. I am no rocket surgeon, but I think that is twice as much……

Here are a few pictures of the tags and the plates themselves. I do wish that the side plates were curved, but it really isn’t too big of a deal. I plan on wearing them upright and forward so as to create more frontal protection. This will also work well with the abdominal plates and carrier that I ordered. The IIIa will cover the rest of my side and kidney area. Although my back will not be nearly as covered as my front, I feel fairly confident that most bullet impacts I should fear if I really need this armor will be from the front. My kids are not THAT bad of shots and they like me so back armor is less important. If I keep a 2nd LT bar off my body, I should be fine (that was a joke in case you were wondering)…….

Side Plates

Side Plates

The plates themselves are rated to take 6 shots of 148 gr .308 (ok – 7.62x51mm) hits. If you were buying plates for a SHTF (Shyt Hit The Fan) type scenario, this might be a good choice. If you are buying it because you are the main protector of your family and you don’t trust that cops will show up in time to save everyone then these are perfect. Since I am getting this setup due to the later and not former reason, I think I have a winning combination.

Armor tag

Armor tag

I guess that everything really depends on your particular needs. Since I won’t be going into direct combat (hopefully) with mine, I think the $200 price tag for a complete set of plates is a great deal and I couldn’t be happier about it. Even if you use this equipment daily or regularly to protect you, I also think that this is a great setup. My daughter is actually looking at getting the Level IV version of these plates for her upcoming deployment. All the ceramic ones she has been issues are bulky and have cobwebbed edges, so at least she knows these will take a beating and still protect.

The next update in this series will either be when my side plate carriers come in or when I get the abdominal plate. Either way, I will keep you guys informed as I upgrade my load out.

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Body Armor – Part 1

by Woodsbum

Although I don’t like to be called or considered a “prepper” per se, I do believe that it is the responsibility of every adult to ensure the safety and welfare of their family. This includes safety items such as guns and associated equipment. Lately, I included body armor as part of that equipment due to some recent national and local incidents that truly gained my attention. I have started buying body armor and tactical pieces for my son, my wife, and myself. There are also additional reasons that I feel that this is important such as: I am a bouncer at a bar on the weekends and I teach hunter’s safety classes with live fire. Either way, it has become an item that was high on my list of required equipment.

The first post in this series (Body Armor – Part 1) will cover what I initially purchased and branch out to what changes I have made to my initial investment. More correctly it will explain what I purchased and why, then will add more depth to the already murky water I have entered in my search for proper/appropriate ballistic protection. Body Armor – Part 2 is located here. It will cover the information about the police surplus armor I picked up, my thoughts on it, and what I plan to do to it so that it will fully suit my needs.

When I first started looking at body armor, step 1 for me was the carrier. I was VERY persnickety about the carrier and what I wanted in a carrier. My criteria were as follows:

  • Multicam or Coyote in color. I did not want digital or black…. ESPECIALLY ACU. I am not fond of camo built only for rock quarries.
  • Padded shoulders that make it actually comfortable.
  • That it fit, which means that it be capable of fitting a large framed person.
  • That it not be as breathable as possible.
  • Something less than $300.

What I ended up with was the Mayflower APC.

Mayflower APC

Mayflower APC

I am not fond of having all sorts of crap hanging off my chest so I only added a kangaroo pouch for 3 magazines to the carrier for normal wear. I do put my 1911 on the front in a military surplus flapped holster when I am not wearing my battle belt. My other mag pouches, holster and dump pouches are on that battle belt. Eventually a radio pouch will be added for my HAM radio, but I have been having a hard time finding a pouch that I like and fits my Yaesu. Basically, what you see now is what I use on my carrier. Of course everyone is different so other people might have things dangling left, right and sideways.

I felt that using a Taz blanket in the background was completely appropriate considering we are showing tactical items.

Mayflower APC

Mayflower APC

When I started looking for plates, I was interested in saving as much weight as possible while providing the most protection all for the cheapest price. This was tough to do since most lightweight plates are not big enough and those that are big enough are pretty much only the AR500 materials. Since I did not have $1000 per plate to spend on custom poly plates I was really stuck with either ceramic or steel. It ended up with me purchasing Level VI – in conjunction with – plates from BulletSafe. They have a video where they shoot the crap out of one of their plates and it seems to stack up quite nicely against other manufacturers. Add the $180 price tag per plate and I was sold. Now I have found that the 12×10 plates are just too small for my large frame. I was originally going to get Level IIIA backers and just run with what I had, but then I ordered a Level II vest to wear concealed as I needed. This changed my outlook on my plates and I ended up ordering some AR500 plates instead. These ceramics will be passed along to my wife.



The side panels I picked up are Level IIIA soft armor. Level III side plates seemed to all be of the steel construction or only 6×6 sized in ceramic. This left me thinking that 5×13 was bigger than 6×6 so I went with soft armor for at least a little bigger area getting some protection.

Since I found an AR500 kit in 14×11 front/back plates with 6×8 side plates, I figured I would increase my coverage area and forgo the Level IIIA backer plates. The weight difference is still going to be a total of 6 lbs between both ceramics with backers and the AR500 plates. Now I am wondering if I should either add the plates to the front corners of my vest to work as added abdominal/side protection in addition to my side panels or keep the current Level IIIA soft armor as is and give the side plates to either my wife or son.

Side Panel

Side Panel

Another wrench to throw into my whole quagmire of bulletproofing is that I picked up a Level III abdominal plate that is still 7 weeks or so from being built and delivered. It will look like this.

Abdominal Ballistics System

Abdominal Ballistics System

Because I have added this additional piece, now have extra large steel plates for front and side, have Level IIIA side panels, and am getting a Level II soft vest I really need to sit down to figure out how I am going to divvy all this out. Either that or I can go walking around like a juggernaut. The reason I picked this up was due to my experiences in the field dealing with GSW victims. Many victims I saw had been gut shot where vascular structures or such items as kidneys were hit. This can cause someone to bleed out and die as quickly as a chest wound. It only made sense to me that abdominal protection was needed to properly protect me in the even that this gear was worn for real.

The argument that pelvis and upper leg protection, neck protection and even upper arm protection would be needed if I was go so far as to include abdominal protection. I don’t think I will end up going that far because a reasonable expectation of movement must also be factored into the whole process. If I add all this additional ballistic protection I will be moving like the kid from Christmas Story when his mom bundles him up. If I fell over I would be like an overturned turtle trying to break dance. All in all it would be bad.

So at this point, I have spent a crap load of money and am still not sure how I want to outfit my family or myself. I do believe that it has helped me to start off small and then add to this project so I can pass things down the line that don’t work. My only concern is that I will end up wasting money in the long run on items that don’t fit into any of our “kits.” Only time will tell, but I do have quite a good base to start with.

Next week I will show you my soft armor in Body Armor – Part 2 and continue with my saga.

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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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