What is the BEST Armor (Plate) Carrier for the Money?
This is a great question and has so many different answers. First off what are you using the carrier for? Full blown combat missions? Active shooter situations? Home defense? Airsoft? Or do you just want something hanging in your garage so you can tell the neighbors wife you used to be an operator? Either way, I will try and address all of these options.
This would suggest that you are a professional and want the lightest weight products with the best construction to survive years of abuse in a kinetic environment. Plus you definitely need a bit of cool factor to go along with this…I mean why on earth would you be in special operations if it wasn’t Fu#@ing cool to begin with. There are many companies around that fall into this category that I would personally use, been issued and used in combat many times. Eagle Industries, Crye Precision, Tactical Assault Gear, S&S Precision, London Bridge Trading, First Spear, TYR Tactical, Velocity Systems and Blue Force Gear. All of these companies use the highest quality raw goods and hardware with superior construction. You will not have any issues with quality when choosing any of their products. Typically it boils down to a personal decision on product design, product features you are personally looking for, brand trust, brand loyalty as well as customer service when you are working with companies at this level. All of these companies have been at the fore-front of issued gear to all branches of service since 9/11, have outstanding reputations in the tactical industry with battle tested products.
TAG Gear for Combat Missions. Image Courtesy of Straight 8 Custom Photography
Nothing can be scarier. Innocent civilians being attacked by a gunman or multiple gunmen, typically in highly populated area like schools, office buildings, malls and movie theaters. The assailant(s) is(are) looking to inflict the maximum amount of damage before law enforcement arrives to stop them. Most of these end the same, with the shooter(s) committing suicide or being killed by law enforcement. Because these attacks are sudden and with little to no warning, responding officers do not need and most often cannot afford the best gear in the world. Not because the situation doesn’t warrant it, but more often than not, the departments have limited budgets and are trying to fill an immediate need to equip people who literally are already paying for their own gear. Unlike the military, many state and local police departments do not require that the gear and equipment the police use is made in America. The responding officers are already wearing the daily duty gear, so they literally need an armor plate carrier and a few magazines for their patrol rifle. Here is a list of companies that meet such a need - Blackhawk, 5.11 Tactical, Condor Gear, all make gear overseas and have decent price points. However, if you want to use American made gear that is not going to break the bank of either you or the department, some great deals can be found FROM a few companies that have simple carriers to fill this need. First Spear, Tactical Assault Gear, Point Blank and Blue Force Gear.
Do you need a full combat load out for home defense? That’s up to you as the home owner especially if you want to go full retard and try and talk your wife into the fact that you need 4 grand worth of nylon to protect her…be my guest. Personally I prefer a simpler approach. Spend that money on a quality handgun or shot gun and the rest on training. You need basic things like a flashlight, pistol with a laser aiming device or a good light attached to the shot gun. If you have the time to put it on maybe an armored plate carrier or something with soft armor only. If someone is going to break into your home, it’s coming without warning. Your reaction needs to be swift, violent and without hesitation to protect your family. Your primary concern is to get to your kids and other family members to ensure their safety; a shootout with robbers is not the priority. If it cannot be avoided be first, shoot to kill and then dial 911. Do not be the person who calls the police first and waits up to 7 minutes for law enforcement to arrive and gets killed waiting because you have a sh$#@ty signal. Protection of your family is first, getting on the phone is not even a close second.
This is a tough one. Some folks just want to go out have some fun and experience what airsoft was intended for. Their need for the most expensive gear in the world in non-existent, they want basic products that will do the job. Basically the game is the experience not the gear. Then you have the “milsim” types who literally buy and use what real operators use. They pick different units they represent and spend thousands of dollars on authentic kit FROM companies listed above. For this type of airsoft player they will only use what the units were issued for the time period they are representing. What I’m trying to say is I can offer no advice about gear to “milsim” people. Why you ask, because the basic rule is you can tell them nothing, and even though they have literally never served a day in their life…they will spend all day banging away on a forum somewhere telling the world they are right.
Professional Wannabe SEAL
All you need to pull this off is get a couple pieces of gear FROM any company and a little coaching FROM Uncle Chris. It doesn’t really matter because anyone stupid enough to believe your dumba$# won’t know the difference. Now get some pins and patches off the internet for the unit you wish you tried out for and make your own little shadow box for the house. When girls, family and friends come over use words like, SOCOM, JSOC, SEAL, Team n Shit, Sniper, Frogman, these are all sure to impress your intended target. When pressed for details like how long did you serve the best way to respond is 8 years. Do not talk about BUDS, if you do make them watch BUDS class 234 on the Discovery Channel. Tell them you were not picked to be on camera because you were such a stud that you were pre-selected for classified programs, so your identity couldn’t be compromised. Never and I mean never say SEAL Team 6, or DEVGRU. This is an elite unit within the teams and there is no way in hell anyone would ever believe you had the wherewithal, intestinal fortitude, commitment and courage to go to that level (better to just avoid that altogether). When asked about being a SEAL, be sure to name drop people like Marcus Luttrell, Chris Kyle, Mark Owen, Chris Heban, Chris Osman, guys who have been in the public eye, yet have zero chance of ever talking to someone you personally know. Make sure you say stuff like “when I was down range”, “before I came home”, “last time I was at the VA they said”, and my personal favorite “man, I just wish my ex didn’t throw my stuff out during my last deployment, I would love to show you my pictures.” Make sure you buy our books and wait in line for hours at the SHOT show for an autograph and picture, if you do there is no way they won't think you know and served with all of us. If you talk about your “service”, remember to never commit too much into the lie. It’s very important to leave your victims wanting more so they can tell their stupid friends to help perpetuate your lies until they become truth. Now, no matter what never mention Stolen Valor, it draws too much attention to what you’re doing. Never ever mention Donn Shipley, because he will for sure bust your ass and ruin all of your hard work. Under no circumstances should you ever find yourself at a range shooting a real gun around your victims. Trust me they are expecting a miracle when you shoot. Even amateurs will see immediately that you are no professional and this needs to be avoided at all costs. But if you do find yourself outside, and not in your moms basement licking the glass windows, you have to say “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Not because you have ever been around a battle field, an explosion of any kind or even have a clue what it smells like…you say it to draw the victim in closer and build more trust. If you have to touch an assault rifle (which again, I caution you against) you need to use classic military words like sight alignment, sight picture, squeeze the trigger, DOPE is always a good one. No one around you will know what it means (even you) but they won’t actually ask you either because it’s so cool, and let’s be honest who the f!@k are they to question you anyway. Now this is where the suspense builds before your fake flashback happens in public. Start to reminisce about your M4, how it had a 10” barrel, with a suppressor and a Surefire light on it and an EO Tech before they were recalled and banned for use. Never commit to the number of enemy combatants you have killed, just let your victims assume that you are just a couple away FROM breaking Chris Kyle’s record. Once the shooting starts the sweat FROM your lies should be enough to let people think you’re having “issues” being around the sound of gun fire and when the sweet smell or cordite hits your nostrils, inhale deep so you tear up. This is where you lower the boom. Tell everyone you are having some “problems” and need to sit in the truck for a few minutes. Whatever girl comes over to you to ask “what’s wrong?”…well that’s your future baby’s mama. At this point you are fully committed. The right gear no longer matters, you have won.