Frank Woods – Plate Carrier Set Up
This should stimulate some lively debate. Gear is a passion for most SSD readers, so let’s keep it on topic and civil.
Following the write-up I did laying out how my personal belt is set up and why, I figured it’d be a good idea to do the same for my plate carrier since I realized I’ve never done that, or haven’t in a long while and it’d be easier to account for any changes I’ve made to it over the years.
So here’s what I’ve got:
– LBT 6094A (Medium)
— Velocity Systems API-BZ plates
– First Spear Admin Pouch (6/9)
– 3x Tactical Tailor single M4/AR mag pouches
– 3x Blue Force Gear single AR mag Ten Speed pouches
– First Spear double pistol mag pouch
– First Spear single pistol mag pouch
– 2x First Spear General Purpose/Utility pouches, Size Medium
– 2x Blue Force Gear Tourniquet NOW TQ holders (CAT 7s)
– 2x Petzl carabineers
– Spiritus Systems DARC drag strap
– Emdom Vehicle Hydration Carrier
—- CamelBak Milspec Antidote 3L
– Blue Photon Light
I’ll break it down bit by bit:
1.) Plate Carrier & Plates: The LBT-6094 (A for Medium plate size) was recommended to me by a retired SEAL friend back when he was still active, and I’ve been using it since 2013. I like it because it’s comprehensive in its simplicity: the PALS webbing is where it needs to be to mount whatever variety of MOLLE pouches wherever I want, so the modularity is tops. I can scale up or down as needed, rather than be pigeonholed into a minimalist design and without going full on gigantor turtle shell with something like an Eagle CIRAS.
It’s an older plate carrier design compared to more recent models that are made of laser cut material or rely on swift clip placards that double as chest rigs when a strap system is introduced, but it holds up damn good in capability despite being a dated option.
Fabric/materials wise, it isn’t terribly heavy (let’s be honest, the plates are where armor carriers get their true weight worth considering from), and I’m still on the fence about the laser cut materials since I’ve heard they tend to sag under weight after a while, so I’ve been waiting to see how the new Gen 3 6094 holds up after a while before rushing into an upgrade I don’t immediately need.
I’ve never been a fan of the clip in placard system typical of most plate carriers these days because I find them limiting in their prefabricated pouch configurations that often rely on double stacking pouches to carry the same amount of gear I’d spread out across the plate carrier and its cummerbund, along with a belt to compliment the limited capacity the placards offer (in terms of rifle mags at least). I know some of the placards come in blank MOLLE webbing for customized pouch configurations, but I’m not the market for an entirely new plate carrier that I’d need for placard compatibility to begin with. If I want to switch from 5.56 to .308 pouches, it’s a simple matter of popping the MALICE clips and switching out the mag pouch array on the front. I’ll go into more detail on that later.
Speaking of the cummerbund, I feel like these are becoming a lost art in the world of plate carriers. Lately I’ve seen a lot of skeletonized cummerbunds that only allow for MOLLE pouch mounting, or a clip and buckle just to keep the armor secure against your body, or straight up slick side elastic bands, the latter two of which you can’t mount shit to. The LBT 6094’s cummerbund has PALS webbing on the outside, but there’s also padding and integrated pouches on the inside that facilitate carrying additional rifle mags or a radio (one of each on each side). This saves me a need for additional pouches for either of those things, but in my use it’s where I like to put my +1 rifle mag.
The Velocity API-BZ plates replaced the Level IV stand alone multi curve plates I had in this carrier previously, which have since been moved to a slick/low profile carrier and feel much lighter than they did here. The API-BZs are a much lighter and therefore comfortable plate to wear, while accounting for a wide variety of most likely encountered ballistic threats. These things are clutch. They come with a high price tag per plate but they’re worth every penny, as is all armor from Velocity Systems.
2.) Admin & General Purpose pouches: Good for odds and ends and delineating where I’m keeping admin stuff like IDs, cell phone, pens, note pads, multi tools, a hand held flashlight, etc, from other stuff that might be essential or good to have for a particular task. They don’t take up a lot of space and I’m glad they’re there when I’m having one of those “Where or how am I gonna carry this easily portable thing I’d rather not go without?” moments. Just don’t forget anything in there (one of the good spots, as my old man likes to say) or be tempted to pack it up with bullshit just to have stuff in there.
3.) AR mag pouches: This may seem sophisticated but I learned it over time and I can’t think of a better way to do this. Typically I like to keep everything on my front “single shingle,” meaning nothing like a double mag pouch that protrudes out too far forward. This is mainly a concern for mobility and going prone, where there’s already an armor plate and the width of an AR mag between me and the ground, so I’m avoiding additional lift off the ground preventing me from getting flat as possible, and if I’m rocking double mag pouches and only have one mag in the pouch I don’t have to worry about the extra unused pouch material getting shitted up from being loose and getting snagged or dragged under me, or failing to retain the remaining magazine cause the retention thereof is hinged on the presence of two mags.
But I do like the option of being able to plus up on mags in anticipation of a scenario where one would want more mags readily available in situations where you wouldn’t anticipate going prone cause mobility on your feet is of higher value anyway. When you’re swapping paint in a force on force shoot house class, you might find yourself running low on mags fast after burning through less than a standard combat load or lending one to a buddy if they’re already dry.
So on top of the single mag pouches I have the three Blue Force Gear TenSpeed mag pouches. They’re very tight and snug when it comes to retention, but when I don’t need them they collapse flat on themselves and it’s like they’re not even there. They’re not hanging open to get caught on anything and get torn up, or adding extra unused material just hanging out there.
Between the dedicated mag pouches and the two spots available on my cummerbund, I have the capability carry 5 to 8 AR mags on the plate carrier alone. Typically it’s 3 + 1 in the cummerbund, plus the 2 on my belt leg rig, and one in the rifle. I can ditch the one mag in the cummerbund if I wish, but the point is I can freely scale up or down as needed. Regardless of where or how many mags I have on me, they never go from my plate carrier straight to my rifle. Since I reload from my leg rig on my belt, that leg rig gets replenished from the mag pouches on my plate carrier. This gives me one consistent location to pull reloads from rather than four or five and having to remember which pouches are still full.
Empties go in the dump pouch, partials go into the mag pouch the last full mag was previously pulled from, going from right to left across my body. This guarantees that if I need a full mag to replenish my leg rig from, the last mag I’m going to grab after my first reload is going to be across my body farthest away from my support side. If I haven’t reloaded the weapon from an empty magazine and I’m doing a tac reload, that’s usually the only time I’ll pull directly from the pouch across from my support side, bring the fresh mag up to the gun, swap mags, and drop the partial back into the pouch I pulled the fresh one from, since the partial was gonna end up there anyway.
4.) First Spear Pistol Mag Pouches. These are pretty straightforward: Double holds two pistol mags. Single holds my Benchmade Infidel auto knife. Double pouch replenishes pistol mag pouches on the leg rig, knife is just there if it’s needed.
5.) TQ holders are self explanatory. One on the front and one on the back for accessibility. There’s a third on my IFAK that’s belt mounted, I need to figure out where to put a fourth (accounting for each limb.)
6.) Carabineers & Drag Strap: Chemlights and bundles thereof get looped onto and pulled from one, situated on my support side. The other links the Spiritus/DARC drag strap to my belt. Said drag strap is a factory mass production version of the enhanced drag strap Rich would have us make out of tubular nylon webbing, which in turn is better than any drag strap that’s ever been sewn into the rear of a plate carrier because it provides much better leverage and therefore ease with which to drag wounded and injured personnel.
7.) Hydration: Carrier fits within the confines of the rear plate bag without hanging below it, bladder fits within that also. I can always underfill it or not fill it at all if I don’t want 3L/100oz of water on my back. Bladder will fit into my Tactical Tailor assault pack if I wish to remove the hydration carrier and clip the pack into the buckles you see woven into the PALS webbing on the plate carrier, in case I determine I have to carry extra stuff on my person without going full ruck (at which point the assault pack could clip onto THAT).
8.) Blue photon light: Carryover from the older DARC packing list that I never got rid of. Good for reading maps or performing medical or other things requiring limited visibility + light discipline to avoid blowing your spot up with white light.
The modular capacity capability is a running theme you see throughout my gear, and I’m a loud proponent of it because it allows me to scale up or down as needed. I see a lot of people lean towards “minimalist” setups for the wrong reasons that doesn’t give them as much flexibility in their setup and I think it’s dumb to shortchange yourself and what your gear can do for you just because “I’m just a civilian, I don’t normally have a need for X cause I don’t carry a gun for a living.”
This contradicts the most often listed reason why civilians buy this kind of equipment: SHTF. Under those circumstances, where you have to busy out the tactical nylon, two factors are now in play: Something (or a series of things) really bad happened and nothing is going to plan + NOW you carry a gun for a living, in order to remain living. That’s the worst time to be doing PCCs/PCIs and thinking “Damn, I wish I could carry more mags.”
Just something to be mindful of. I bring up this context of civilian use since this is my personal gear no different than anyone else could purchase and put together for training use (where plates are required equipment for safety purposes in shoot house classes and the like, or you just feel like running your gear and shaking it out.)
Frank Woods is one of the principals behind the revival of Lightfighter.net