I have never had to wear one professionally, but in my experience, smaller is better when it comes to plate carriers (PC). There are, however, limits on how small a plate carrier can be. The size and shape of the armor plate constrains how small manufacturers can make their plate carriers. The PC has to be large enough to hold the plate. There is no way around that. So… smart gear manufacturers concentrate on making the plate carrier smaller in the right places. Mayflower R&C is certainly a smart gear manufacturer and they push all the right buttons with their APC.
The APC, or Assault Plate Carrier, is a plate carrier that has been designed with a few important principles in mind. It must be lightweight and it must allow a high degree of mobility while still offering a large amount of real estate for carrying gear. To that end, the APC is just about as compact as it can be while still having a PALS compatible cummerbund. I suppose it could be more compact with a simple strap style cummerbund but would limit its load carrying capability.
Speaking of load carrying capability, the APC is designed to allow you to attach a Mayflower R&C chest rig to the front. Other chest rigs with the proper hardware configuration may also work. This is one of the key reasons that I chose the APC (more on this later). The ability to clip on a chest rig lets you scale up the load carrying capability of the APC with just 4 clips instead of spending time moving PALS compatible pouches around.
The APC comes with 3D mesh shoulder pads that have Velcro secured panels that allow you to route wires and hydration tubes. The shoulder straps are placed higher and closer together than on any other carrier that I have tried (more on this later).
The cummerbund can accept 6×8 side plates or soft armor panels. It is secured to both the front and rear plate pocket via typical Velcro flaps. The rearmost several inches of the cummerbund are constructed with a double layer of heavy duty elastic to allow the cummerbund to flex and move with the wearer.
The front plate pocket features a small PALS field on the top front. This PALS field is also covered in loop Velcro for attaching patches and identification. Behind this PALS panel is a small integral admin pouch with interior elastic loops for organization. The lower part of the front plate pocket has a typical 6 column by 3 row PALS field. There is also a “kangaroo” pouch behind the 6×3 PALS field which can accept an optional 3 M4 mag carrier.
The rear plate pocket has full PALS coverage. Both plate pockets have room for both hard and soft armor. There is a Velcro strap system inside the plate pocket that allows you to adjust the ride height of the plate inside the pocket.
Most models of the APC are constructed from 500D Cordura Nylon. However, there is a relatively new Multicam Lite-Lok option which makes an already lightweight plate carrier even lighter.
Observations from Use
You are never going to forget that you are wearing a plate carrier, but the APC does a better job of any that I have tried of staying out of my way. I said earlier that smart gear makers make their carriers small in the right places and the shoulder area of the APC is the perfect example of that. The straps lack hardware on the front and are located higher on the plate pocket and closer together than on typical carriers. This effectively clears the shoulder of obstructions, allowing you to shoulder your carbine relatively naturally which is pretty amazing if you think about. I don’t need to place the buttstock of my carbine on the plate with the APC. I can actually place it on my shoulder relatively easily. Amazing.
The shoulder pads themselves are very low profile and work well though the APC is quite comfortable without them. The pads have seams that go all the way around the perimeter. In my time with the APC I found that these seams can rub against your neck if you aren’t wearing a collar. So… wear a collar or remove the shoulder pads. Eventually, either the seams softened with use or my neck got used to it.
I have plate carriers that let me adjust the plates to ride as high as the APC does, but I don’t have any that do it as comfortably as the APC. Often, with the plates adjusted to ride as high as they should, a plate carrier will cut into your neck/throat when you lean forward into an aggressive stance. The APC is sized well enough and the plates are so well secured that I have yet to feel the plate or plate pocket creeping up onto my neck. The APC is compact enough and rides high enough that it does a great job of staying clear of your belt. It works in conjunction with a battle belt better than any PC I have tried.
The APC can accept most of the available accessory cummerbunds from Mayflower R&C. Eventually, I would like to try the mesh cummerbund but the one that comes with it is so good that I am not sure I will ever get around to it. The elastic sections at the back of the cummerbund are what make it great. The elastic allows enough flex for a forgiving fit and room to breathe when you are huffing and puffing without feeling like the APC is too loose.
The integral admin sleeve at the top of the front plate pocket is one of those features that sounds nice to have in theory but it is kind of a pain in practice. The pocket sits up so high on your chest and is pulled so tight with a plate and soft armor backer in place that access and capacity are limited. It will hold small items but I mostly just forget it is there. The APC doesn’t really need it to be great.
I wanted to build a plate carrier that scaled up from a nearly slick configuration all the way up to being able to carry 4-6 mags without much work. In order to accomplish that, I placed a BFG Ten-Speed Helium Whisper Double Pistol and Single M4 mag pouch on the front. These pouches lay completely flat when I don’t need them. I placed 1 SKD KPMI pouch in each cummerbund. The KPMI are a perfect fit for the cummerbund and allow me to carry two M4 mags off the front of the plate where they are still very accessible but add no additional width to the front of the PC. They are also perfectly positioned to work with the chest rig when it is clipped in place. The result is a rig that can carry 2 M4 mags with no additional bulk on the front, 3 M4 mags when you utilize the BFG pouch as a designated reload pouch, and that scales all the way up to 6 mags when the chest rig is attached (4 in the rig + 2 in the KPMIs). It’s like magic but better.
Chest rig integration is fairly straight forward with the optional Slick Clip kit. However, donning and doffing is negatively affected when the chest rig is installed. You can get the hang of it eventually but it can be a bit of a pain. Donning and doffing without the chest rig in place is easy and drama-free.
There is no padding in the plate pockets but I found it surprisingly comfortable to wear with stand-alone plates. That said, it is far more comfortable with soft armor backers installed behind the plates.
There is definitely a lot of to love about the APC. I love how lightweight and compact it is, how it moves with me, how high it rides while still remaining comfortable, how easily it scales up or down based on my needs, and how it just stays out of my way in general. I certainly haven’t tried every PC on the market, but the APC is far and away the best plate carrier that I have used.
I purchased my APC from Appalachian Training and Mike, the owner, was a huge help in walking me through the sizing and other considerations.