Tactical plate carrier
Tactical modular plate carrier setup

Tactical plate carriers are modular vests designed to carry hard or soft body armor plates to protect against ballistic threats.

They are commonly used by military and specialized law enforcement such as SWAT, but are also available for civilian use.

Plate carriers are typically made from durable materials such as Cordura nylon and feature MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) webbing, which allows users to attach pouches, holsters, and other accessories, customizing their loadout according to their specific needs and preferences.

Plate carriers offer versatility, and adaptability due to their modular design. There are several styles of plate carriers, ranging from bulky to discrete.

Plate carrier
Plate carrier setup

Are Plate Carriers Illegal? And Can Civilians Buy Plate Carriers?

In most countries plate carriers themselves are not illegal for civilian ownership or purchase.

However, restrictions may apply to the body armor plates they are intended to hold.

Laws regarding body armor ownership and use vary by state and locality, it is your responsibility to know the local laws when wearing a plate carrier or body armor.

In the United States, it is illegal for convicted felons to possess body armor, and wearing body armor while committing a crime may result in additional charges. At this moment, armor plates can be purchased in all states but New York, and California if AB92 is signed into law.

Are Plate Carriers Bulletproof Vests?

Plate carriers and bulletproof vests are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have different distinctions.

What is commonly referred to as a “Bulletproof vest” is flexible soft body armor typically made from Kevlar or polyurethane designed to cover the upper torso of the wearer and contour to their body.

This is really more of a slang term popularized by pop culture, in truth they are designed to protect against pistol and shotgun rounds, as well as blunt force trauma and shrapnel.

Plate carriers, on the other hand, are designed to hold body armor plates that provide protection against rifle rounds.

While plate carriers can be equipped with soft armor inserts, they are not inherently bulletproof without the addition of armor plates.

It is important to understand this distinction before selecting in order to get the appropriate equipment for your needs.

There are several different body armor levels set by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) rated to resist different ballistic threats, body armor is bullet resistant rather than “Bulletproof.”

Tactical Vest Plate Carrier

Tactical vest plate carriers are most often bulletproof vests worn externally with soft body armor, also designed to carry a hard armor plate insert.

This is ideal for law enforcement, who require a constant state of pistol protection, but want the option to insert a rifle plate if called to a situation where a rifle threat may be present. This is ideal for ICW plates. 

“In conjunction with” (ICW) plates are sold as the strike face, or hard portion of the plate, to be used with a soft armor backer. 

Stand alone plates are meant to be thrown into a plate carrier by themselves without the need for trauma pads or soft armor backing.

Plate carriers tend to lend themselves to be overt rather than discrete, however, Tacticon Armament makes the Battle Vest Lite which has the potential to be concealed or worn overtly based on the user and their choice in clothing making it highly versatile and adaptable.

Lightweight plate carrier
Battle Vest Lite

Bulletproof vests are made with law enforcement in mind, this means greater comfort for long durations of time, and the ability to stop pistol rounds, which are the most common threat for law enforcement.

Plate carriers have the ability to hold armor for rifle rounds, they are also extremely modular and allow for mounting a wide array of accessories.

Interested in customizing a plate carrier to build a custom kit of your own? Check out our Bulletproof armor loadout.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.