This is a public service announcement: The size of the ballistic plate dictates the amount of coverage in terms of area, not the size of the carrier. I am certain that many of you know this already but I get emails and comments about it frequently enough that it merits discussing it here.
I have posted about a very budget friendly ballistic protection package, a review of the low profile plate carrier from Beez Combat Systems, and the Shellback Tactical Banshee plate carrier. After each of these posts, and every once in a while since posting them, I have received emails that contain questions about or even derision of these set ups because they are perceived to be too small to provide enough coverage. This point of view represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how body armor works.
In most cases, the carrier itself provides no protection at all. It is the hard armor plates that provide protection from rifle threats (they will also stop handgun threats) and soft armor inserts that provide protection from handgun threats (and protection from plate deformation and fragmentation). The size and placement of the hard and soft armor dictate the amount of coverage that is provided, not the size of whatever carrier you are using to hold the plates.
Even the most compact plate carrier and a full coverage body armor set up will provide the same area rifle threat coverage if they are using the same size plates and most do use the same plates. Hard armor plates are sized to be just large enough to cover the heart and lungs of the wearer which is a roughly 10″ by 12″ area. Full coverage body armor can provide additional handgun and fragmentation protection due to larger areas covered with soft armor inserts but the carrier has nothing to do with this. Only those areas covered with hard armor will be protected from rifle threats.
So, while I really like hearing from readers, hopefully I don’t have to get any more emails about how compact plate carriers don’t cover enough. Remember, the size of the hard and soft armor that is inside of the carrier dictate the coverage area, not the carrier itself.