The plate carrier is the core of any kit. It’s your armor and can also serve as your load bearing platform. Even if you choose to run a chest rig or placard as a load bearing system, many modern plate carriers either come with the capability to mount the placard to it, or there is a company that makes this a possibility. There is a plethora of high quality plate carriers on the market and each offers its own unique design centered around one mindset or another. When I sat down and looked at the options I had a hard time deciding which specific set of features I wanted. Rather than settle on one plate carrier and make a compromise for something I wanted, I decided to assemble all the options I wanted myself.
When I put my first independent kit together in multicam I got a Condor Modular Operator Plate Carrier as the base (as seen in the image above). Condor catches a lot of flack for being cheap and has even been pegged as specific to the airsoft community. I will concede to a degree. Condor’s early tactical gear was not the greatest, but it was usable. They have really stepped up their game in the quality of their products though, and the MOPC does what it is intended to do quite well. When you look at a plate carrier, the name is exactly what it does. It carries armor plates. You could easily create a plate carrier with 100mph tape and 550 cord if that’s all you had and it would do the same basic job. So if an affordable piece of kit can do that basic job, why not? The MOPC ran me $66.00 not including taxes and shipping. It’s pockets are sized for the ESPAI plates or any other plate in the standard 10″x13″ footprint. It’s padded with a breathable mesh liner that goes against the wearer’s torso and has adjustable shoulder and side straps that secure with large side-lock buckles. It also comes with a cummerbund that secures in the same way my old Army issued IOTV did, by lifting the large velcro panel on the front, securing the ends, and then pressing the panel down on the velcro to secure it. It has an admin pouch in the front flap, velcro on the chest and back shoulder area, and molle webbing all the way around. Two things of note with the MOPC: 1) The shoulder pads it comes with are absolute garbage, 2) The cummerbund is poorly designed as well. Fortunately, neither of those parts were going to be retained in my final state, so I didn’t care.
When I ran my multicam kit I didn’t use a cummerbund at all. With the side straps that is a viable option. I don’t use the side plates on my armor. They are too bulky and cumbersome and they always just make the sides of the cummerbund droop and catch on things, so having a cummerbund didn’t strike me as a necessity. I wanted to add a little more load capacity to this kit though, so the cummerbund became an essential part for that reason. I needed a robust cummerbund for that though and I wanted to have it mount in a way that I wouldn’t have to constantly separate that massive velcro panel on the front. I had originally wanted to use a system from the now defunct company Ares Armor. With a bit of looking I learned they had been bought out and the band system I wanted was no longer being made. I looked around and came across Bushido Tactical. They had a full on cummerbund retrofit kit to use their system on another plate carrier. The system is called the WARSOC Retro-fit Cummerbund and it was exactly what I needed.
I placed my order over the weekend when I put in for it and received a call Monday morning from them to hash out some details. Wade was extremely helpful in talking me through my options and even offered to tailor it a bit to ensure fit in my plate carrier. Hindsight being what it is, I wish I had agreed to have that done. The pass through on the back of the MOPC is just under 7″ top to bottom and their cummerbund is made at 7″ wide. He offered to trim it a touch to make sure it would fit, but I passed that up. The cummerbund fits very tight in the pass through on the MOPC, but the molle webbing lines up exactly with the webbing on the carrier. The tension on the sides doesn’t allow it to slide freely in and out of the pass through, but I’ve decided that I am ok with that since it allows me to keep a good tension on the vest and it stays snug on me. I really liked that it uses metal cobra-style buckles to secure it at the front. The system comes with the male side of the buckle attached to two large velcro panels of their own. The end user only has to lift the front of the vest once to install the male buckle to the vest and from that point forward you just secure and release the buckles to don or doff the plate carrier. The cummerbund also has a poly reinforcement, which keeps it from drooping or losing its form and has the option to be upgraded with ballistic soft armor should I choose to do that. It’s not a cheap upgrade by any means, but it is well worth it.
The shoulder pads were also terrible, as I mentioned, but some years ago I got a pair of High Speed Gear Inc. Adjustable Shoulder Pads in a trade for some gun parts. Those were in multicam and I used them on my previous kit, but I liked them a lot, so I ordered a pair for my new kit as well.
The pads are incredibly comfortable and they have a neoprene non-slip texture on the bottom where they press into the end user’s shoulders. This helps keep the carrier in place on my shoulders and makes it feel like the weight is riding on a nice gel-like cushion. They also aren’t all that expensive, so I’d say they’re a great upgrade to any vest or plate carrier that uses the webbing straps at the shoulders.
I had one other feature I wanted to add to the plate carrier that I first saw while looking at the carries made by TYR Tactical. Their PICO DSX has zippers that run down the sides of the back panel and it allows a variety of modular panels to be attached to the back of the plate carrier, adding to the modularity and ability to set up the carrier according to mission demands and varying loadouts. They also make an adapter for non-TYR Tactical plate carriers to utilize this system. The TYR Tactical® Zipper Adapter for the Assaulters Platform mounts to the molle webbing on either side of the back panel and gives a solid connection to the armor to utilize the zip-on Assaulters Platform Panels that they offer.
The design is clever as they incorporated fine gauge shock cord loops at the closing end of the zipper to allow the button on the zipper pull to pass through and secure, making it less likely for the zipper to come undone at the worst possible moment. The panels are all made to order, and when I decide on which one I want to get first I will place my order for it.
That is the basic setup for my plate carrier. I’ll do another article on the pouches and attachments soon. Until then, stay alert, stay alive. Scouts Out.