Proper wear of Hard Armor

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    • #107524

        The thread below is from Lightfighter Tactical Forum and has excellent information about the proper adjustment of armor plates.

        I have noticed many people wear their plates low. Per this article, they should be worn relatively high. I have found that when properly adjusted, my plates do not interfere with my battle belt.

        Here is the thread: Proper wear of Hard Armor (with diagram)

        I’m posting the verbiage here and diagrams below.

        “This is often a misunderstood topic so I thought I should share a bit of my anatomy knowledge.


        Body armor is meant to keep you in the fight. That is, armor is meant to protect your vital organs which, if hit, would immediately take you down and prevent you from putting rounds on target. The possibility of saving your life is a secondary benefit of body armor.

        What to protect

        With this purpose in mind we must understand those structures we need to protect which we can realistically protect while still maintaining a high 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. I will refer to these vessels simple as “related vessels” from here on. A hit to the heart and its immediately related vessels will very quickly take you out of the fight and kill you within a minute or two.

        Second in importance to the heart is the respiratory diaphragm, the muscle which, when contracting, allows you to decrease air pressure within your lungs and thus take in air. Destroy the diaphragm and you destroy one’s ability to breath.

        Protecting the vertebral column goes without saying -we wish to protect as much of this as possible without sacrificing mobility for obvious reasons.

        It is important to note that a hit to the lungs may prove to eventually be lethal but is not nearly as lethal as quickly as a hit to the heart and its immediately related blood vessels. The liver and kidneys, while highly vascular, are also not immediately incapacitating.

        Front/chest plate

        The top of your plate should be at the level of your suprasternal notch aka jugular notch. If you follow your sternum towards your head, the soft spot you reach at the top of it is the suprasternal notch. Your plate should ride at least level with the top of your sternum while standing.

        The importance of positioning the plate at the top of the SN Notch is that you have a bundle of large blood vessels which rest on top of your heart and lie behind the manubrium (the uppermost portion of your sternum), most notably the aortic arch. The aortic arch receives blood from your left ventricle and will have the highest velocity of all the blood in you systemic circulatory system. Get hit here and you will be done. So, make sure your plate is riding higher, rather than lower because protecting your aortic arch is much more important than protecting your guts.

        Also, as you can clearly see with the image below, a smaller plate allows for more comfort and mobility to the shooter will not necessarily mean you will leave immediately incapacitating areas unprotected -large plates will only cover a little more of your peripheral lung tissue and guts.

        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 spinouses (or measure down about an inch) and that should be above the level of the superior aspect of your sternum. Positioning at least this high will ensure your entire heart and its immediately related blood vessels are protected.

        Reference image (posterior view)

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

        Side plates and shoulder plates

        Side plates are intended to protect the highly vascular elements of your abdomen. Side plates were introduced to prevent troops from bleeding out in the chopper on the way to the field hospital. Side plates are 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

        Here are general guidelines to follow at a bare minimum. As always, the more protection you can have without sacrificing mobility the better. This is just the bare bones.

        Front plate: should be even with top of the sternum while standing, extend at least 1.5 inches past the bottom of your sternum and should cover the entirety of your nipples

        Rear plate: should lie no lower than an inch below your vertebral prominence

        Side plates: the higher they ride the better”

      • #107525

          Reference image (anterior view)

        • #107526

            Reference image (posterior view)

          • #107527

              Good info, JC. For the readers….I would encourage you to keep in mind that this plate placement is ideal and the goal. However, sometimes very experienced people might vary off of that a little or even a lot. There may or may not be a real purpose for this variation in the way they choose to wear their plates – sometimes it is just comfort or preference. One thing for sure, don’t assume they are an inexperienced dumbass if they aren’t doing it a certain way. Sometimes, I see this turn into a dogmatic religious battle on the internet where hobby shooters call out professionals because of how they set up and wear their equipment. However, in a nutshell, JC has provided what is generally considered the preferred way to wear your plates and unless you have a pretty good reason, it will be the best way to go.

            • #107528

                What does anyone think about balancing mobility whit protection by only running a front plate?

                yes people get shot in the back often but the biggest threat is when we are n the fight right?

                And then it comes from the front…


              • #107529

                  IMO, if mobility is a driving factor – it would be better to run polyethelene or some other ultralight plate pair instead of a single ceramic or steel front.

                  In UW, the battle is just too fluid and the threats multidirectional.

                  If you want to run a single front, it would probably need to be fairly light (not the thick steel) or it will unbalance your plate carrier and be a big pain in the ass as it constantly keeps riding out of position.

                  Or, just don’t run plates at all. That will piss people off, but it is a valid option and some people do it.

                • #107530

                    I own a very nice pair of Level IV plates in a very nice MOLLE carrier.

                    But I tend not to wear them.

                    If I am doing static defense or about to enter a high intensity battle or operating out of a vehicle then the penalties would be outweighed by the benefits..

                    But on a SHTF woods recon patrol or a scavenging run where to mission is to carry goods back to the cav,e I would not wear.

                    I may experiment just doing the front as a compromise ..
                    if it doesnt unbalance me too much I suspect it might give me protection in 80 % of cases while imposing only 50% the weight..

                    Who knows.. need to think it over and experiment around a bit.

                  • #107531

                      That’s the best way, my friend. Give it a try and see if it works for you. You may find it is the option you want to go with based on your needs and preferences.

                    • #107532

                        Lightfighter forum: please be aware that places like Lightfigher forum are one of the reasons that I created this forum – to get away from the tacticool nonsense they spout, and the fanboy attitudes. I have not read the article referred to, so can’t comment on it, and it may well be accurate. I would be upset to find that I was now driving traffic to a forum for which this forum is designed to be the antidote!
                        My understanding is that it is tightly commercially controlled for commercial interests. Anything other than your standard tacticool/CQB will be pissed on. I know, back in the day I tried to get on it ;-)

                      • #107533

                          I am running a Ceramic IV plate in the front and a Kevlar III in the back. Probably should wear the Kevlar between me and the ceramic plate but that is what I can afford today.

                          A close friend of mine only wears a Kevlar III – Front & Back. He believes that the biggest threat in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, would involve the aggressor using a handgun not a long gun. He is betting on maneuverability with just a bit of protection for a higher percentage actuality.

                        • #107534

                            Sorry Max – It was not my intent to do more than share information that I thought was credible and would be helpful for members of this forum.

                          • #107535

                              JC, no one is upset. :-)
                              it was a interesting link.
                              But Max made some valid points about that other place.

                              Johny Mac:

                              I have performed an analysis for myself and came up with the opposite conclusion than your friend for SHTF..

                              In pre-SHTF (now) soft armor has a lot of validity since there are real social sanctions against carrying long guns out and about as they will never be concealed.

                              Thats why in pre SHTF (now) the threat is almost exclusively handguns.
                              This why police get a lot of value out of thier armors.

                              Once SHTF starts going in earnest (and this is where the real threat is) these social snanctions will no longer apply.

                              Open carry will be the new normal and the cost of conducting business and not being prey during almost any activity not just patrols.

                              And once open carry will be normal people will be carrying long guns since they are so much more effective than handguns.

                              So I would either wear Level IV (vehicle static defense high threat etc) and get useful protection against the (by then) ubiquitous longun threat.
                              Or nothing and enjoy the mobility boost from being w/o armor over wearing soft armor that is entirely ineffective against the primary threat long guns.

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