If you are of the mindset that total collapse is imminent, then you have likely invested heavily in firearms and ammunition. You may have a safe full of rifles, shotguns, and pistols, in addition to multiple ammo cans full of various calibers of ammunition. These firearms and ammunition are great to have, but if you do not have a plan when SHTF, then your preps are for nothing. How do you intend to carry your weapons and ammunition in a mobile environment, when you are moving from point A to B or scavenging for resources?
I am not advocating that you should be prepared to fire every weapon in your arsenal, or exhaust every available round during an exchange. In reality, I advise the opposite. The longer or more frequent you are engaged in combat, the more likely you are to be wounded or killed.
I believe that the use of firearms is the most practical means of defending your family. That is, if you have proper training and reliable firearms. Additionally, having supporting equipment, such as a plate carrier, is just as important. Since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, there has been a significant increase of commercial products tailored for the tactical community, which have significantly improved the chances of survival. We can now leverage these products for survival purposes.
During the Iraq invasion in 2003, I was equipped with a flak jacket, a ballistic plate (yes singular), and a Load Bearing Vest (LBV). While the system worked, I did not find it practical for the environment. The flak jacket provided protection from shrapnel, but the LBV was not the best setup for combat. Using a LBV, magazines were not easily accessible, there was a lot of bulk around the torso, and you sacrificed available surface area.
After leaving the military, I started working as a defense contractor and returned to Iraq. Not being restricted by unit’s equipment standards, I adopted a MOLLE equipped plate carrier. For those not familiar with MOLLE, it was first introduced in 1997 and utilized the PALS system, and is now the standard for the US Military combat forces. The PALS is a grid of webbing that allows backpacks, vests, and other gear to be easily customized. When utilizing MOLLE compatible gear, you can easily modify your system by adding different components.
My View on Plate Carriers
When picking your survival gear, you should think about long term usage. It is easy to go to the store, and purchase something that looks sexy, or you think you can find a use for. If you are on an unlimited budget, then that may work for you. But, if you are on a tight budget, making the right purchase the first time is important. Additionally, if you adopt a system that can be customized for each situation, you ensure your gear remains relevant.
If you plan on carrying a full combat load of ammunition on your person post SHTF, then a MOLLE style vest or plate carrier is probably your best option. Some may argue that by using a vest/carrier, you may bring unwanted attention to yourself. I partly agree. However, you can wear a full vest under a jacket if you really needed to. I have used this method several times while walking through the streets of Afghanistan.
A MOLLE vest / carrier allows you to maximize available space on your torso, and to fully customize you load out. You can carry magazine pouches for the specific calibers you intend to carry, have pouches for accessories, medical items, and electronics. And you can change your configuration until you find a system that works. If you need more storage capacity, you can simply add another pouch if you have available mounting space. The point here is by adopting a MOLLE compatible system, you are not restricted by your gear.
Not all tactical gear is created equal. I am a firm believer that if you want something to last, you need to buy quality. However, there are a few budget products that can work well. While not what I consider budget, I have extensively used the BlackHawk series of plate carriers when deployed in combat. And, I have never had an issue.
Also, when purchasing a plate carrier, you do not need to have the plates. Sure, it would be nice to have the added security of ballistic plates, but they are heavy and expensive. If you have the money, then purchase some. If not, a plate carrier is still a practical piece of equipment, even without the plates.
To find the right carrier or vest, you must conduct your research. Additionally, some products are sold in modular components, such as the Blackhawk series. When purchasing a plate carrier, find out if it is a one or two piece system. Also, if buying from an online vendor, ensure you are purchasing the correct size.
When selecting pouches to hold ammunition, I do not recommend purchasing the large pouches that allow you to store 2 or more magazines in one compartment. The large pouches are great for storing multiple magazines, but they are not practical for quick magazine changes or fast movement. I have had several magazines fall out of these large pouches, when under duress. Instead, I recommend purchasing pouches that are designed to retain a single magazine, which can also include linear pouches that contain multiple single magazine pouches.
BlackHawk Strike Enhanced Commando Recon Harness – The enhanced harness is the front portion of the BlawkHawk plate carrier system. It can be used with or without plates, and with or without a back panel. The enhanced series has eight built in M16/M4/AR15 magazine pouches. If you are not using an AR type rifle, then the Enhanced is not necessary. But, if you are using an AR, you can save a lot of money in pouches if you purchase this plate carrier.
BlackHawk Strike Commando Recon Harness – The recon harness is similar to the enhanced, but it does not include the built in AR style magazine pouches. This is a good option if you plan on carrying a non-AR rifle.
BlackHawk Lightweight Commando Recon Back Panel – The back panel can be used with either BlackHawk chest harness, and completes the plate carrier. The chest harness can be used without a back panel, but I believe the back panel makes carrying your gear more comfortable, as it will help in distributing the weight to your full torso.
As with every piece of gear, you must decide what works for you. I have complete faith in MOLLE compatible plate carriers, and similar products. If you are of the mindset that you need to carry several hundred rounds of ammunition, then a plate carrier or vest is the best platform. Please let us know what you think, by commenting on this article. Be Prepared. Get Connected.