Armor: Plates/Carriers/Helmets- Short Circuit Info For Newbies

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    • #134691

        I’m sure this discussion has been had here and elsewhere in the past, but since I’ve seen recent questions asked here in the middle of other threads, and on FB, I thought it would be good to start a one-stop-shop post to allow this info to be easily found/ shared/ not buried in pages of other gear discussion for new folks stopping by…

        So it’s the new year and you want to buy plates before the Big Igloo, but you have no idea what it all means…Here’s a quick and dirty guide.

        The only official “standard” is NIJ, currently .06, and the only official ratings are IIA, IIIA, III, and IV. An “A” denotes armor rated for pistol threats; numbers with NO “A” are rifle rated.
        IIA is VERY light, rated against like, .22 and 9mm, and IMHO, probably not worth investing in.
        IIIA is the most common pistol-rated armor, and most commonly found in its kevlar form as full vests, plate backers for ICW plates, or side cummberbund armor. HOWEVER, some companies do offer IIIA hard plates, which are an interesting option.

        A “+” is not an “official” rating- it is a denotation, most often associated with hybrid or UHMWPE plates, that a level 3 NIJ-rated plate can *also* stop more types of rounds than it is required to, since everyone knows UHMWPE/Hybrids suck against 855.
        HOWEVER- NOT all “+” ratings mean the same thing. For example, DFNDR armor has “+”, “++” and “X” rated plates, all of which can stop a different selection of rounds per rating, as opposed to say, Hesco, who only have their standard III/IV and then “+” plates, which also vary slightly in what they are rated against, per plate line denoted by their number system (4400/3600/3800/etc).
        Other manufacturers like AT Armor, Velocity Systems, etc., will say “Special Threat” or “Special Threat Tested” instead of “+”, with their own variations on what rounds they are effective against, and how many hits of each they are rated for.

        Long story short- DO NOT take a “+” rating at face value (or any rating, really);

        As a reminder, a level IV “AP” plate, to meet NIJ specs, need only stop ONE hit of the spec’d AP ammunition. Some IV plates may also do well against a variety of other ammunition, others not so much. Again, see what the manufacturer rates them for.

        Finally you have “In Conjunction With” or “ICW” plates. These require either IIIA soft (kevlar) “plate backers” (NOT the “trauma pads” AR500 and others sell), OR to be worn over a IIIA vest, in order to fully meet their shot-stopping specifications.

        >> Plate sizing-
        9.5″ X 12.5″ is standard SAPI Medium plate sizing. However, some plates are noted as “10×12″, and are cut in that size. This is not an official SAPI size, and may vary slightly up or down in size by manufacturer. I have also seen some odd cuts/sizing in this size type (See below for further thoughts on this), so be sure you know what you’re getting. Obviously IF a 10×12 plate is sized exactly, a whopping half inch will make NO difference in how it fits in your carrier, unless your carrier’s plate bags are a bit oversized.

        11×14 is the official Large SAPI size. Some plate manufacturers also make an XL size.
        Most normal folks don’t need to worry about any other sizes, although petite women may benefit from the Small SAPI (8.75″ X 11.75”), or 8×10.
        For men, I am a skinny bastard and Med SAPI plates fit me fine. Unless you are a BIG dude, most people can bet safely on Medium plates fitting them.
        If you’re not sure which you are, the edges of the plate should run “nipple to nipple” as has been pointed out elsewhere. Cut out a piece of cardboard in the size of the plate, and hold it on your chest for simplest size guesstimation.

        >> Plate Cut-
        Basically you have standard SAPI and “Shooter/Swimmer” cut. Shooter cut has steeper angles to the side corner cuts, allowing for more space to shoulder your weapon/move your arms at the small cost of a little less coverage in that area. If the description says something like “full cut”, it’s usually a square plate with no angle corner cuts, and you do NOT want to wear these.

        Personally, I have not experienced an issue mounting my rifle with standard SAPI-cut plates, HOWEVER, my gear is also pretty slick in the shoulder area- I do not have PTT/antennas/cables etc., nor am I extremely fat, or extremely muscular, so YMMV.

        Then you have “Single Curve” vs “Multi Curve”. It is what it sounds like; single curve is only curved horizontally. Single Curve is also usually less expensive than Multi, for manufacturing reasons, however, at the cost of comfort to wear. Long story short; unless you are super strapped for cash and need armor RTFN, you WANT the MULTI-CURVE plates. Your body will thank you.
        I only wore my single curve plates for about ten minutes before I yeeted those things and put the multi-curve plates back in the carrier.

        >> Fit on your body-
        Easy enough- when worn in the carrier, the top edge of plate should be at the height of the bottom of that “U”- notch at the base of your throat, at the top of your chest.


        >> Carrier sizing-
        Medium carrier for Medium SAPI-sized plates, Large carriers for…Large Sapi plates. It’s… almost easy… ;-)
        With the exception of the Crye JPC, most companies do NOT make a “small” carrier. People will say “well, you can just fit a Small SAPI in a Med carrier.”
        Sure, and you can fit your feet in a size bigger shoe, but you’re going to feel it eventually… Judging by my adventures in plates, sure it can be done, but it will likely be a poor experience all around. Perhaps others have had differing experiences…

        Beyond that, plate sizing in carriers can be…fun. Basically, some carriers will have a bit of extra room in the plate bag for some reason, and others will fit the plate they are sized for *exactly* (or real close). You WANT the closest fit possible, and many new modern or “current gen” editions of older carriers do this just fine.

        If the oversized plate bags do NOT have an internal riser strap, or something else to raise the plate up into the top of the plate bag for proper fit, in both the carrier and on you, then it generally rides at the bottom, because gravity.
        Which means that even if the *fabric* of the carrier is adjusted to fit your body correctly (see “plate fit” picture above), the armor isn’t. Which means you either need to fabricate a riser block, OR adjust the carrier up smaller than it needs to be to artificially raise the plate to where it needs to ride on your body (which I do not advise, as this can really ruin the fit of an otherwise comfortable carrier…)

        Then you have to figure plate CARRIER sizing to the PERSON who’s wearing it. So, even if you have a petite person you’ve bought Small SAPIs for, and then shoehorned them into a medium carrier with some sort of spacing device you’ve made up, the wearer of such may possibly still be swimming in the medium carrier, because there is still a finite level of adjustment available; you can only make it so small.

        Again, some carrier sizing varies here as well; I’ve had some Medium carriers I’ve had to run the shoulder straps and C-bund at the minimum smallest adjustment for it to *just* fit, others where it fits exactly, and a few where I have room to play with – and that was with Medium plates, NOT small…
        So, sometimes what you see online in pictures and people’s feedback, and then experience with the actual product can differ.

        DO NOT LET THIS PSYCHE YOU OUT ABOUT PICKING A PLATE CARRIER – This is MERELY advisory information, so if it happens to you, you’re not pulling your hair out like I did, trying to figure out why it doesn’t all work the way you thought it would. As always, on your “gear journey” understand it may take more than 1 try to get it right *for you*, not just what the 101 different opinions on the internet said would be right for you.

        That being said, if you get a modern, current gen/current production carrier from a reputable company, or reputable current-stocking vendor, and match it with properly sized/cut plates, you should have no problems with fit. Comfort is entirely different and totally subjective matter… ;-)

      • #134721

          Forum hates me, so I’ll keep this last bit short;


          They’re all IIIA rated.
          There have been some attempts to add rifle protection, like the Velocity Systems SLAAP, but they don’t seem to be commonplace yet.

          You’re going to want them drilled for/equipped with a 3-hole mount. The 1-hole options as I understand them are…meh.

          I’ll save the recommends for NOD mounting arms for others, since it;s been a long time since I’ve delved into NODs and do not remember the exact ins and outs of different options.

          As far as the overseas/clone helmets VS the legit stuff, there’s really no reason to bother with them these days, when you can get into a real helmet for $350-600 if you shop at BulletProofMe or TNVC.

          One of the “selling points” of clone helmets was you could get them for cheap, and then upgrade them with the proper chinstraps/nape kits/pads/NOD mounts, etc. However, with current REAL helmet options, once you do all that, you’re IN or real close to the price range of a legit option anyway.
          So as with many things, it’s worth saving a little more money and going with the real deal to start with.

          Which… I’ve got to say, the obsession with the knockoffs as a “cheaper platform” to mount them to is also a bit ridiculous. If you can afford to dish out for serious NODS…then WHY THE F*** are you goofing off with a fake helmet?
          It’s like all the guys who have $2K or so invested in an AR and then say they can’t “afford” a decent optic. Good grief.

          Anyway, to shorten this discussion up a bit, as an addendum here is a pretty decent UN-scientific test on a CPG, HHV, and OpsCore helmet.

          InRange/P&S Helmet Test

          Short version is that it merely confirms what I’ve seen over the years of people test-shooting HHV helmets; I wouldn’t wear one if they gave it to me for free.
          Now, to spoil the video, did the Opscore blow them all away? No. BUT… it did a better job of handling the impacts than either of the other two in various more subtle ways.
          Long story short, you take a shot to the dome with anything over a 9MM and you’re going to have a bad day, BUT you might have a more survivable bad day with the higher end helmet than the others. Maybe the difference between a TBI and Depressed Skull Fracture…

          Additionally, per “theory of use”, there are some great real-world points here in this Max Talk video that covers this far more effectively than I will attempt to waste more time here explaining.

          MVT Helmets for Day/Night/Real World Ops

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