A plate carrier (or PC) is a modular tactical vest with multiple integrated pouches designed to hold different types of armor plates. It can also be used as an all-in-one platform to carry equipment needed for an immediate mission. Plate carriers offer optimum low profile protection with maximum mobility. They are designed to be worn on top of your regular clothes (t-shirt, polo shirt) without any special armor inserts.
A plate carrier is made up of mainly four components: front and rear panels, shoulder straps & cummerbunds or belt kit. The front panel attaches to the rear panel via Velcro or nylon straps along the sides and across the shoulders - one size doesn't really fit all so there are several sizes available (S - XL). Some brands offer thinner / lighter PC's like Mayflower APC or Velocity Systems Lightweight Plate Carrier . Others make more heavy duty gear like Mayflower Assault Plate Carrier (APC), Specter MOPC , etc.
Armor plates are also known as ballistic panels / trauma plates. They will always come in pairs (front & back). Depending on the threat level you may choose rifle plates that offer multiple hits protection or ceramic hybrid type of panels which are lighter and thinner but less durable than traditional steel ones. You can purchase almost any plate size depending on your needs, so it's best to measure your torso length first before buying armor plates because there is no point in carrying weight if your body can't support it.
For airsoft purposes, we recommend using special airsoft armor plates made from EVA polymer just like these ones here: AMOEBA Airsoft Body Armor Plates . Don't even bother with real trauma plates! That'll be the last thing you want to use in a game!
A common PC tactical vest may cost anywhere between $100 for simple low profile designs up to $300-$400. They are available in basic black, olive drab (OD) or desert tan colors.
Some other options that don't fall into the category of plate carriers above because they can't hold plates are chest rigs & Harness systems : Mayflower APC Rig and Mayflower R&C Harness . We recommend them if you're not looking for something cheap and you need additional modularity because these systems can be worn on their own without armor plates (just like regular vests). They come with plenty of built-in MOLLE webbing for extra pouches and accessories, front & back panels are also padded for more protection.
Finally, if you're looking for even lighter alternatives to PC's or harnesses, check out ballistic vests from Mayflower / Velocity Systems . They will offer good protection with a thinner profile compared to regular plate carriers. They can be used as a base layer under a tactical vest or as standalone gear depending on need.
Like we said above, armor plates should always be worn over your clothes because the whole point of using a PC is for it to protect your vital organs from gunfire but at the same time let your body breathe underneath so you don't sweat too much during long games which could cause overheating and discomfort.
This means that if you buy a regular PC, it will be designed for maximum ventilation. This also means that most of the time you'll have to wear additional tactical vests over it in order to hold all your extra pouches and equipment or carry mandatory gear like radio / GPS, map etc.
If this is not something you're willing to do then opt for harness systems instead which are more modular because they can be used without armor plates which means that they offer less weight & better maneuverability but at the cost of protection since they can't stop multiple hits from high caliber airsoft guns.
A strapping system / cummerbunds are an integral part of any modern plate carrier vest. They attach on both sides with Velcro around your torso / waist area and provide additional support when you need to carry heavy equipment or more armor plates. You can easily attach separate pouches for water bottles, tools, batteries, etc on the cummerbunds which is a very useful thing during games!
The last important part of your PC are hydration panels / MOLLE loops also known as internal utility panel . They come in various sizes depending on the size of your vest but they essentially allow you to store all kinds of things inside - from spare BB's & tools, radio sets up to flashlights , food rations and even extra medical kits ! This provides much needed extra space when you're in the field without having to take off your whole PC which will save time and let you focus on the game.
If your pockets are full and you need to reload, just pull out a magazine from one of the storage compartments and load it into your gun while keeping an eye on enemies all around!
The last thing we want to talk about is MOLLE webbing which is a standard attachment system used by most manufacturers for their pouches & accessories. This means that if you have enough equipment, you can actually use them interchangeably between different PC's - all depending on what works best for you in any given situation!
These days PC's come in many shapes and sizes so don't be discouraged if you're not familiar with them. In fact, this might be a good opportunity to learn more about them so you can figure out exactly what works for your needs. The first thing you need to know is that back / front panels should always overlap each other so the vest should be able to protect both of your sides at all times which is where two smaller side MOLLE panels come into play.
These are usually lighter than full plates and this way if anything happens, there's still a chance that rubber or hard plastic BBs might just bounce off without hurting you!
Depending on how much gear you're planning to carry, there are different types of PC's available - full scale replicas (such as Mayflower APC ) which look like their real life counterparts (usually used by experienced air players), lightweight carriers ( Velocity Systems Phalanx ) which only cover the torso and provide less protection but better maneuverability along with ammo pouches & utility panels (like Blackhawk SERPA Defender ), chest rigs (such as MIL-TEC US Assault Pack) for those who just want to carry a couple of extra things or even full plate carriers like this Condor Cyclone PC from our Military section.
If you're not familiar with military gear, there are some great lightweight options available from companies such as Miltec , Condor or 5KU which usually cost around $50-$130 depending on where you buy them from. If you know what's good for you then stay away from cheap Chinese replicas because they can be very uncomfortable and offer little to no protection!
These days many PC's incorporate a built-in admin / map pocket which is usually located on the front plate where you can store your tactical gloves , pens, bb speedloaders or similar items. Some of the cheaper models lack this feature but if you think about it from a logical point of view, clothing designers never forget such small but very important things when they're making their clothes so it's just a matter of time when you'll notice that your expensive PC is missing this little thing!