Best Plate Carriers of 2020 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

by

Are you looking for the best plate carrier? The good news is that you can find one that will fit your needs and preferences right here.

Finding the best plate carrier is important for when you are looking to keep yourself well protected in​ dangerous situations as a member of law enforcement or the military. This is a wearable part of your uniform and will work to keep you from being seriously injured during a tactical application.

Before we cover the plate carriers that are considered the best on the market, we’ll cover how a plate carrier works and when it would be appropriate to use one. We’ll also be talking about what makes a great plate carrier based on some features and characters that stand out. 

Comparison of the Best Plate Carriers

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Includes front pouches for armor plates
  • Available in small and medium sizes
  • Accepts hard and soft armored plates
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Made from high-quality polyethylene
  • Molle webbing included
  • Hook and loop fasteners
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Best for the money
  • Fits 6x6 armored plates
  • Base coated for superior protection
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Available in various colors
  • Adjustability in front and back
  • One size fits all
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Available in three colors
  • Made from polyethylene construction
  • Two carrying straps included
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Adjustable size
  • Made from high-quality nylon
  • Molle webbing included
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Made from high-quality Codura nylon
  • Adjustable length
  • Includes Molle webbing for attachments
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Includes velcro for Molle attachments
  • Made with high-quality breathable fabric
  • Adjustable waist and chest lengths
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews

How Does a Plate Carrier Work?

A plate carrier is armor that is ​used by military personnel and police officers that are often in tactical situations. A plate carrier will ​stop any kind of enemy threats that are utilizing firearms as a weapon. The plates are designed to protect vital organs and will prevent any kind of serious injury or death.

When Would I Use a Plate Carrier?

There are a few instances where you would need to wear a plate carrier. It’s important to keep yourself protected if ​you know that you are facing imminent danger. Here are the times when a plate carrier will be appropriate to use:

Civilian Use

If you are a civilian, you can use a plate carrier. Believe it or not, there are those that are also accessible for those who want any kind of armor as part of their survival gear. This will come in handy when you are defending yourself ​in a home defense situation or if you are escaping from disaster and you are facing hostile threats. While the latter might not happen at any point in time, being prepared for self-defense in the direst of survival situations will keep you ahead of the curve.

Law Enforcement Use

Law enforcement officers will often find themselves in tactical situations every day. They also include the tactical teams that are in situations where things can change and take a turn for the worse in an instant. This is a staple among law enforcement along with Kevlar vests that are designed to stop most rounds that a perpetrator will possibly fire. 

Military Use

Military members also face the certainty of imminent danger in combat zones. However, they face the likelihood of being taken out by rifle rounds. Plates that are often placed in these carriers have just enough power to stop various rifle rounds.

What Makes a Great Plate Carrier?

If you are looking for a plate carrier that will fit you perfectly, then it’s important to know some of the features and characteristics that will make one stand out as the best of the bunch. Here are some things that will make a plate carrier great:

Price

If you are looking for a plate carrier that will be perfect for your budget, it’s important to find one that will have the best quality and performance. So find the best that you can afford based on your budget rather than something that is considered cheap and subpar in quality.

Durability

Durability is a must when it comes to plate carriers. So it should be made with the best quality materials that won’t wear and tear. The better the durability, the better the chance that your plate carrier will be durable enough to carry plates and thus keep you protected.

Stopping Power

One of the most important features would be the plate carrier’s ability to stop bullets. In fact, a combo of durable materials and the plates strategically placed inside will ​ensure that it will stop any handgun, shotgun, or rifle rounds. If you are looking for a plate carrier that will save your life, be sure to find one that will be able to stop a projectile right in its path. 

Quick Take - The Best Plate Carriers

These are our recommendations for the best plate carriers:

  1. Law Enforcement Plate Carrier
  2. VISM 2964 Series 
  3. Spartan Armor Systems AR550

Review of the Best Plate Carriers

The following is a list of the best plate carriers that are currently on the market. As you go through the list, be sure to note any features and characteristics that will stand out as interesting to you. That way, you can ​use the  process of elimination and find the plate carrier that protects you best.

Let’s begin with the first one on our list -- our “best overall” choice:

Pros

  • Easy to put on and take off
  • Snug fit, no discomfort at all
  • Best fit for law enforcement officers
  • Lightweight even when loaded with plates
  • You can still move around quickly without dragging or slowing down

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new users say that this was a really snug-fitting plate carrier that did a good job protecting and covering the body. Regardless if there were soft or hard armor plates inside the pockets, users said that it didn’t feel heavy in the slightest. The pockets were also spacious enough to fit 6x6 armored plates in each. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is made from high-quality materials that are proven to be durable and very difficult to tear. Because of this, it makes it one of the best tactical accessories that you can have for any given situation where your life will likely be on the line due to a dangerous situation. This is a law enforcement grade armored vest that will cover all of your bases, if and when, you know that you’ll be in the line of fire. 

Who Will Use This Most

This will be useful for members of law enforcement who are on the average side of frame size. It will be at a good enough size for those that typically wear small to medium-sized shirts. If you are looking for an ideal plate carrier that will be useful in situations where a Kevlar vest may not cut it, this could be the one to go with. 

Bottom Line

The Velocity Systems Law Enforcement Plate Carrier is well-deserving of the “best overall” title and for good reason. It proves itself as a really tough and very well constructed plate carrier for members of our law enforcement. This can fit any kind of armored plates designed to provide excellent stopping power against enemy projectiles. If you want a plate carrier that will literally keep you covered, this is probably one of the best options you can consider for your own use.

Pros

  • Provides all-over coverage
  • Fits very well for most sizes
  • Easy to install Molle attachments
  • Great for civilians and law enforcement use
  • Accepts a good number of soft and hard armor plates

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new buyers were civilians looking for a plate carrier that would be useful in survival situations or those in law enforcement using it for when tactical situations happen. Either way, they said it was comfortable to wear and very lightweight even when the plates were full. This was easy to deploy and able to fit in a good number of tactical duffel bags and backpacks.

Why it Stands Out to Us

One of the best things about this plate carrier is the inclusion of Molle attachments. You can add on many attachments for the accessories that are paramount to your survival. Whether you want to carry a knife or a sidearm among other things, you’ll always have space for a Molle attachment that can carry something inside.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are looking for versatility and the ability to add on a few more tools that you’ll want to use at a moment’s notice, then this plate carrier might just be what you’re looking for. If you have plenty of Molle attachments on hand and are dying to use them, now is your chance to try them out using a plate carrier that can accept them. But you should consider some priority items like knives or additional magazines so you can have them handy and access them on the fly.

Bottom Line

The VISM 2964 Series plate carrier is the closest thing you can get to a battle-ready carrier on the market. With enough pockets and Molle webbing at your disposal, you’ll be fully loaded with armor to protect you and ready with handy tools that will be key to your survival and the mission at hand. Choose your tools wisely and you will come out of any tactical situation on top and alive. 

Best for the Money:
Spartan Armor Systems AR550

Pros

  • Affordable for most budgets
  • Adjustable for most fits
  • Provides excellent full coverage
  • Fits average and tall heights and sizes
  • Perfect for civilian and law enforcement users

Cons

  • No inside mesh included
  • Some say it's heavier than others
  • Adjustments can be a challenge at times

What Recent Buyers Report

New buyers were impressed with the plate carrier and remarked that it was a great fit for themselves (their measurements ranged from 5 foot 10 inches and above in height). One user said that he was finally able to track down a plate carrier that didn’t look too small or have a very tight fit that made it difficult to move. Overall, the plate applications were a cinch and allowed them to move freely and fluidly, which is a major plus when in a tactical situation.

Why it Stands Out to Us

What makes this so special is that it’s made from high-quality materials that won’t wear and tear, thus exceeding the expectations of being a run of the mill budget plate carrier. Other than that, this was made for civilians looking for a good emergency plate carrier that will be useful in home defense situations or for law enforcement officers that are looking to cover themselves underneath their uniforms or tactical gear so they can be prepared for the dangers ahead. 

Who Will Use This Most

This is a great plate carrier that will be put to good use​ if you know that life will certainly be on the line. It’s always a good idea to have this on hand in the direst of situations. And it will be fitting for those who are larger in size and looking for the perfect carrier that won’t feel insanely tight or too small. 

Bottom Line

The Spartan Armors System AR550 might just be the plate carrier you need for all of your protection needs without breaking the bank. It’s got the best in quality and will be able to fit armored plates that will keep your vitals protected against projectiles. In life and death situations, even a budget plate carrier like this can keep you well protected. 

Best Tactical Plate Carrier:
Shellback Tactical Banshee Elite 2.0

Pros

  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Simple application of armor plates
  • Allows for storage of extra magazines
  • Easily adjustable for both the front and the back
  • Best used for law enforcement and military users

Cons

  • Rubber on the strap may warp easily
  • Shoulder cushions may not stay in place
  • Some minor improvements may be needed

What Recent Buyers Report

This was a huge hit with those who are in law enforcement and in the military. They said it was a great addition to their tactical gear and the fitting was nice and snug. They were also able to fit all kinds of armored plates in the compartments along with some additional magazines that are used for their sidearms. One user said that he keeps a couple of extra magazines for his Glock 19 handy when he’s in a police tactical situation. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you are looking for something that will give you plenty of space for armor plates, all over toughness, and a fit that won’t be too tight or loose then you’ve got a plate carrier that will be just for you. This is made from some really tough material that will be impossible to tear with just sharp tools. If you want on the fly adjustments and the ability to keep a few extra magazines at your side whenever you are in a situation where there is no room for error, this plate carrier might just be what you need. 

Who Will Use This Most

This will be ideal for law enforcement and military members that are looking for the best coverage possible from front to back. You’ll be well protected and well prepared for any dangerous tactical situation. Plus, it might be one of the more comfortable carriers you’ve worn compared to some armored vests. 

Bottom Line

The Shellback Tactical Banshee Elite 2.0 is proven to be tough, reliable, and a well-fit part of your uniform that will keep you protected from the dangers of enemy projectiles and shots. With all-over coverage, you’ll have plenty of stopping power at your disposal when you find yourself in a tactical situation that might take a turn for a worse in an instant. 

Best Lightweight Plate Carrier:
Shellback Tactical Defender

Pros

  • Attachment grid allows for tons of extras
  • Perfect fit for most users
  • Easy to add plates in pockets
  • Accepts various lightweight plates
  • Can stop rounds from handguns to some rifles

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

As expected, a lot of new users were very happy with the plate carrier. They said it was very lightweight and allowed them to move around quickly and freely. One user had tested it out at a training range and can confirm that given the armor has the ability to stop most projectiles, he said one of the major things that matter most other than the protection was the ability for him to move around without feeling like he was carrying a heavy bag of sorts. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

While it stands out as a carrier for lightweight plates, the best thing that this plate carrier can accomplish other than providing agility and quickness in movement is you being able to face any dangerous situation knowing that you have something that can stop many projectiles. Whether an assailant has a rifle or a pistol, you’ll have plenty of armored coverage to keep yourself covered so you are not easily hit. Yes, it’s lightweight but it’s shockingly tough. And it can even get your assailants to just throw in the towel and get cuffed. 

Who Will Use This Most 

This will be great for all those who want superior protection but still don’t want to feel weighed down by any heaviness. It’s a plate carrier that will handle any tactical situation and keep you covered for as long as you wear it. Why risk your life and run into a dangerous situation without armored protection? If you need something for EDC purposes or for when duty calls, why settle for anything that might be too heavy and will limit your movement?

Bottom Line

The Shellback Tactical Defender plate carrier probably will be one of the dark horse choices for “best overall” at some point in the future. Its fabric is quite tough - and best of all, you don’t need heavy plates to stop the most common rounds. 

Best Airsoft Plate Carrier:
vAv YAKEDA

Pros

  • Really durable
  • Affordable for most budgets
  • Perfect for tactical applications
  • Allows for easy Molle attachments
  • You can store any magazines for sidearms, accessories, etc.

Cons

  • Zipper teeth may break off over time
  • Shoulder rest may be an issue with larger frame shooters
  • Some have had issues with the fitting (too small or too large)

What Recent Buyers Report

New users were mostly using this for the ​tactical purposes (both training and the real deal). They said this was fit perfect for their size. On top of that, they were able to carry different tools and magazines for their sidearms. One user who uses a Walther PPK as a concealed carry pistol said that he loved it when he had some extra compartments that were large enough to fit extra mags for his pistol. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This carrier is fitting for waists up to 55 inches. So, it can accept a wide variety of sizes. If you are on the small side or coming in a bit large, you can easily make the adjustments needed ​for it to fit nice and snug. Plus, with the ability to add Molle attachments you’ll be able to add on additional tools that will be imperative to the mission.

Who Will Use This Most

This will have users ranging from civilians to law enforcement members. No matter who you are, you’ll be able to keep yourself protected and able to take on any kind of projectiles. As long as you have the right kind of plates installed and have attachments handy with the right kind of tools, this will probably be the plate carrier that will be your best friend in any given tactical situation. 

Bottom Line

If you are looking for the best airsoft plate carrier in its class, the vAv Yakeda Tactical plate carrier is probably what will stand out the most. It’s got the toughness and the ability to give you freedom and mobility when you are looking to take cover in a dangerous situation. Whether it’s for training or for primetime, this plate carrier is not one to underestimate. 

Best Plate Carrier Under $200:
OneTigris Griffin AFPC

OneTigris Griffin AFPC Modular Vest (Multicam)

Pros

  • Super durable and lightweight
  • Accepts various armored plates
  • Easily adjustable for various sizes
  • Allows for quick and free movement
  • Allows for easy fitting for Molle attachments

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

This was a plate carrier that didn’t feel very heavy even when new users loaded it with armor plates of their choice. They were able to adjust this to fit their frames and sizes (users were of average height and up to six feet). Overall, it gave them plenty of coverage without leaving any spots exposed. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This plate carrier is made from high-quality Cordura nylon. It’s probably one of the toughest types of material that you can find on most tactical equipment and accessories. It’s proven not only to be very tough, but it’s also able to resist torn stitching. Another thing that makes this stand out is the Molle webbing that allows for customization for extra tools and magazines.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are looking for a great plate carrier that will be superior in quality and performance with a price tag of just below $200, you’ll be quite happy with this plate carrier. It’s nothing cheap or flimsy. But it can and will give you the ultimate in protection and tactical readiness that no other plate carrier can provide.  

Bottom Line

The OneTigris Griffin AFPC Modular Vest is no slouch in quality and performance. And it definitely won’t be something that won’t suck the life out of your bank account. This is one of a few plate carriers that will work to your advantage if and when you need something that is tough but affordable. 

Best Plate Carrier Under $100:
Barbarians MOLLE

Barbarians MOLLE Tactical Vest, Outdoor Combat Training Vest Adjustable & Lightweight Tan

Pros

  • Accepts 6x6 plates
  • Really tough quality and construction
  • Molle attachment compatible
  • Great for civilians and law enforcement use
  • Fits most shooter frames from average to large

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

For many users, they said they snagged this because of the ability to include additional Molle attachments that carried different tools for their intended purpose. They include but are not limited to: flashlights, knives, and extra magazines. Overall, the pouches for the plates were spacious and were well fit for most plates. One user, a police officer, said that it was pretty easy to fit and allowed him to move quickly without any heaviness. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Once again, we provide another kind of budget option. If you are looking for something that will be south of $100, you’ll be looking for a plate carrier that will be super tough and impossible to rip. Even better, it’s a pretty good plate carrier that will handle a good number of Molle attachments for EDC tools that will come in handy in situations where time might not be on your side and you need to act fast.

Who Will Use This Most

This will be an ideal starter carrier. Indeed, the starter might mean the quality is decent. But the quality is way better. Starter carriers are often affordable so that’s a plus for those who have never used a plate carrier until now.

Bottom Line

The Barbarians Molle plate carrier will in all likelihood be a popular plate carrier for those looking for something affordable. And it might not be due to the price alone. If you have plenty of Molle attachments that you need to put to good use, then this carrier might just take the cake -- icing and all. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Plate Carriers

Every plate carrier has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to know what these are before purchasing one for your own personal use. Let’s start off first with the advantages:

Advantages

Plate carriers are a great addition to your tactical gear:

Provides Excellent Protection

Every plate carrier will in all likelihood cover you from front to back. They are intended to protect your vital organs from being penetrated from enemy projectiles that will be fired from various firearms. Plus, you’ll get excellent coverage with the help of armored plates when placed in every compartment. 

Can Stop Various Projectiles

With the armor plates you have included for your carrier, they will have the ability to stop any possible projectiles ranging from pistol rounds to even rifle rounds like 30-06 and possibly AR-15 rounds. Consider your options as far as what you are looking for in terms of plates and what they are designed to stop.

Allows For Customization

Most of the carrier plates will have Molle attachments that will allow you to attach any additional accessories like knives, flashlights, magazines, and so on. It’s important to consider what you’ll be able to attach if you are going to utilize a plate carrier in a tactical situation.

Disadvantages

Indeed, there are some shortcomings that a plate carrier can have. Here’s what they are:

Most Will Not Be EDC Friendly

Keep in mind that these plate carriers are not a substitute for Kevlar vests. They can only be used in tactical situations where danger is imminent along with the possibility of facing enemy projectiles. So if you are looking for armored protection for everyday wear and use, a Kevlar vest will likely be your best bet. 

May Be Heavy to Carry

Depending on the weight of the plates and how many you are carrying, you face the task of carrying a little bit too much weight that your body can handle. Even if it seems lightweight on paper, wearing a heavy vest for longer periods can cause adverse physical effects down the road. 

Conclusion

The best plate carrier will be one of the models listed above. It’s important to find one that will best fit your size and able to handle your intended applications. Whether you are in law enforcement or a civilian, a great plate carrier will save your life if and when you use it properly. Find one that will suit you best and be useful whenever you need it most. 

People Also Ask

The following is a list of frequently asked questions that pertain to the use of plate carriers. Use this guide so you have a better understanding of how they work so you can make a more informed decision. Here are the following questions:

Are Plate Carriers Bulletproof?

Yes and no. Plate carriers are bullet-resistant in their own right. Not to mention, they are harder in armor compared to bulletproof vests themselves. However, some fragments can ​tear through the fabric and cause injury. 

What Are Plate Carriers Made of?

Plate carriers are often made from high-quality fabric materials like nylon or various soft materials designed for the purpose of providing protection to users. The materials may vary by manufacturer. 

Are Plate Carriers Legal?

Yes, it is legal to purchase plate carriers. However, they do have some restrictions as if you were purchasing a firearm. For example, you cannot be a convicted felon if you intend to purchase one. 

Where Should a Plate Carrier Sit?

The front part of the plate carrier should be a couple of finger widths below the collarbone. You should also tighten the straps (usually in the back) to ensure a good fit, but make sure that the front part is exactly where it’s recommended.

What Size Plate Carrier Should I Get?

This will depend on the size of your frame. You can consider some of the various armor measurement charts around the web so you can find out which size is appropriate for your height, weight, etc. 

About Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis the managing editor at Gun Mann and when he isn't writing about guns he is more than likely tinkering with them. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors. As a lifelong gun owner he knows his stuff!

Leave a Comment