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Plate Carrier vs Vest: What is Key Difference?

Blog Written by JOHN COTTON / Fact-checked by LOGAN MILLER

plate carrier vs vest

To the layman’s eye they look the same, but in actuality, plate carriers and vests differ in so many aspects. Weight, material, build, and protection capacity are a few of their major differentiating factors.

Both fall under the very wide umbrella of protective equipment. Uniformed personnel, usually those deployed in the field, are commonly seen wearing this body armor.

Expectedly, the two are usually referred to interchangeably. So, to set things straight, here is a plate carrier vs vest comparison guide.

Comparison table

Factor of Comparison Plate Carriers Vests
Weight Heavier and bulkier due to the armor plates around the gear.

Typically weighs 7 lbs

A typical tactical vest weighs 2.5 lbs.

Older models can be heavier due to the use of ballistic nylon as its main build.

Material Combat fabric with the addition of armor plates.

 

Traditionally from ballistic nylon.

Recently made of Kevlar brand fiber.

 

Protection Level A higher level of protection, including bullet proof Protective enough against harsh hazards
Wearability A bit heavier, less mobility and comfort Lightweight and more comfortable, flexible
Load-Bearing Capacity Both plate carriers and tactical vests offer load-bearing capacity, thanks to Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) compartments.

With a long reddit thread hosting the discussion on bulletproof vest vs plate carrier differences, a lot of facts as well as bluffs joined the information mix. So, to sort this out, below is a detailed comparison between the two.

What is a Plate Carrier?

tactical-vest-vs-body-armor

The military plate carrier, indicative in its name, is a vest designed to carry protective ceramic or steel plates. In fact, these are body armor vests with plates. They have carrier slots especially designed to house these armor plates.

With this being said, a plate carrier vest is specifically designed to function in conjunction with ballistic plates. Without them, they are pretty much ordinary tactical vests.

What is a Tactical Vest?

bulletproof-vest-vs-plate-carrier

On the other hand, a tactical vest carrier with no ballistic panels also known simply as tactical vests, is also a protective equipment with a more lightweight and flexible build. It is more commonly known for its storage capacity on top of its protective function.

Essentially, both of these gears provide storage capacity and protective functions but to varying degrees.

Plate Carrier Vs. Vest: What Are the Differences

plate-carrier-with-kevlar

As already laid out in the plate carrier vs soft armor comparison table above. Here’re more details about their differences:

Materials

Typically, plate carriers with Kevlar material are the gold standard for strong yet relatively light protective gear. Furthermore, Kevlar plate carriers are made of a synthetic polymer claimed to be stronger than steel.

Ballistic plate inserts come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. They can go as thin as 6mm and as small as 8×10.”

Meanwhile, recent tactical vest models are often Kevlar vests that are lighter and less bulky than the traditional ballistic nylon-made vests.

Protection level

military-plate-carrier

When wearing plate carriers, we are protected against stabs and slashes. Furthermore, this body armor offers a higher level of bullet resistance due to the hard armor inserts and ballistic plates used in conjunction with the plate carrier.

At best, the plate carrier provides Type III Threat-Level Protection.

Meanwhile, the tactical vest is also stab and slash-resistant but has minimal protection, especially against bullet impact.

High-quality tactical vests go as high as providing Type IIIA Threat-Level Protection.

Comfort

Due to its “slip in” design, heavier equipment weight, and solid exterior, plate carriers offer less comfort and mobility to its wearer.

With the zip-in design and lightweight material, the vest is considered a more comfortable gear. It is more breathable and flexible, offering its wearer better mobility.

Function

tactical-vest-carrier-with-no-ballistic-panels

Additionally, they also differ in use and function.

Use/Function Plate Carriers Vests
For Combat
For Routine Patrol
For Long Distance Deployments
For Civilian Use

Cost

There are various brands of body armor that offer different features, functions, and quality. Of course, they also come with a variety of price tags.

For tactical vests, Yakeda, Tacticon, and Black Hawk are reputable brands with prices ranging from $41 to $150.

For Plate carriers, Shellback, DFNDR, and LBX, Shellback, or Legacy are some of the best brands, with the cheapest unit costing $100 and the high-end ones going up to $300 to $400.

Pros and Cons

The pros and cons surrounding this tactical vest vs body armor comparability largely depends on the nature of its intended use. These pros and cons are specified below:

1. Tactical Vests

Pros:

  • Offers Type IIIA Threat-Protection Level
  • Stab and slash resistant
  • Made more lightweight, comfortable, and flexible material
  • Contains MOLLE’s for load-bearing
  • Easy access to tools due to torso compartments

Cons:

  • Low bullet resistance and lower protection level compared to plate carriers
  • Made of soft armour inserts

Vests boast wearability and good enough protection level, making them the perfect gear for daily use, such as routine patrol duty. Therefore, they are suitable for uniformed professionals and even civilians using them for private protection.

2. Plate Carriers

Pros:

  • Offers Type III Threat-Protection Level.
  • High bullet resistance especially against fast firing bullets (2,780 FT/Sec)
  • Stab and slash resistant
  • Customizable protection level depending on which ballistic plate inserts are added to the armor.
  • Contains MOLLE’s for load-bearing
  • Supports bending and crouching to perform with ease

Cons:

  • Heavier at around 7 lbs. per armor (not including additional loads)
  • Compromises mobility and close combat ability due to weight and bulkiness of the vest
  • More expensive depending on the chosen ballistic plates

Plate carriers boast maximum protective capacity making them irreplaceable in combat. Long-distance deployments also need plate carriers because of the possibility of harsh environments and unprecedented threats.

Frequently Asked Questions

body-armor-vest-with-plates

Which is better vest or plate carrier?

If your armor purchases banks on protection level, specifically, Type III protection, then plate carriers are better.

However, if moderate protection is enough for your needs, such as Type IIIA protection, and wearability is important, then tactical vests are better.

What is the difference between a plate carrier and body armor?

As the comparison table above shows, plate carriers and body armor differ in weight, material, and protection level. The major differentiating factor between the two is the addition of ballistic plates, which is found in plate carriers but not in ordinary body armor vests.

Can you use a plate carrier as a weight vest?

Protection gear has already entered the fitness scene, with some exercise gurus recommending using plate carriers as weight vests. While plate carriers can be used for weight training, it’s not a very budget-friendly move.

Military-grade equipment is pricey and most of the time issued to uniformed personnel. With that being said, you wouldn’t want to spend extra bucks to get your hands on a plate carrier when weighted vests are available in your local sports outlet.

Why use a chest rig instead of a plate carrier?

If storage is the greater concern over protection, say, you’re only on patrol or on a less combat-threatening nature of duty, then chest rigs may be a better option over plate carriers.

However, most uniformed personnel prefer to use both for their body armor since this isn’t a question of either, but rather, a question of whether.

Both equipments can be used in conjunction with one another, depending on preference and need.

Conclusion

Whether it’s the ballistic vest dayz video game influence that brought you here or if you’re preparing your tactical gear setup, hopefully, this plate carrier vs vest discussion has helped lead you to clarity and answers.

Always remember, when in doubt, assess your needs first and go from there. Don’t hesitate to return to this article for any confusion that may arise as you go along.

Put this knowledge to good use, folks!

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