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How to set up a plate carrier, the best place for your IFAK and where your plate carrier should sit on your body.

How to set up a plate carrier, the best place for your IFAK and where your plate carrier should sit on your body.

During my 13 years as a full time Police Officer, I almost never had to wear a plate carrier. So the details around wearing one were never that relevant to me. It wasn't until my post law enforcement training with Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Green Berets did I actually learn how to set up and properly wear a plate carrier.

So for all of you out there that are as clueless as I once was, I'm going to share with you what I've learned over the past 5 years training with some of the best in the business. Some of what I'm about to share you may have seen before. Other things may be completely new to you. Take everything with a grain of salt and know that what is right for one is NOT always right for another.

Remember, I am sharing here what I was taught and what I've found works best for me. This may not be what works best for you for your specific needs and situation. That's fine. If you can walk away from reading this with even a little bit of new found knowledge, consider it a win.

How To Set Up A Plate Carrier

First things first; why are you wearing a plate carrier. You must first answer this question before moving on to the next steps. Are you simply wearing it for protection against being shot? If so, what kind of bullets are you concerned about getting shot with; .223 or 9mm (or one of the many other rifle or pistol rounds)?

Are you yourself carrying a weapon? If so, what kind of weapon; a rifle or a pistol. If so, you will need to carry additional ammo. How much ammo will you need to carry. Maybe you're carrying a rifle and a pistol as a secondary weapon. In this case, you'll have to carry ammo for both weapons.

All these things must be taken into consideration prior to setting up your plate carrier. But for now, let's start off with the type of plates you need.

If you are simply concerned about handgun threats, Level IIIA soft armor panels will do the trick front and back. However, if you are looking for protection against rifle rounds, you'll want to get yourself a set of either steel or composite plates. Steel plates are cheaper but heavier. Composite plates are lighter but more expensive.

Once you determine what kind of plates you want/need you'll have to plan around the weapon you are carrying. Now, if you're not carrying a weapon, it's pretty simple. You will not need any mag pouches on the front and can thus utilize this area for items such as an IFAK or an admin. pouch for various essential items required for your specific situation.

If you are carrying a weapon, you need to determine how much ammo you might need for your specific situation and plan accordingly based on the weapon(s) you are carrying. If you expect you might only be covering short distances before you'll have access to a vehicle to bug out, then you more than likely don't need to carry 10 extra mags on you. But as stated earlier, plan for your specific situation. If you feel you're gonna be on foot for a while and have the potential of running into multiple hostile situations, then by all means, carry as much ammo as you feel necessary to survive.

Extra mags are traditionally kept on the front of the plate carrier. This allows for easy and immediate access. Position the mags so that your natural purchase of the magazine when removing it from the mag pouch allows for a seamless transition into your weapon. In other words, don't have the mags in your map pouches in a manner that requires you to have to flip them around in your hand prior to inserting them into you weapon (stay tuned for a video on this).

Some plate carriers offer rifle mag storage along the cummerbund. However, unless you are very proficient with your weapon systems, I would recommending sticking with the mag pouches on the front of your plate carrier. You'll find it much easier to access mags. The one positive to keeping a mag or two in your cummerbund on your weak side is in the event you are in the prone position and need to effect a reload. But as stated, that's getting into a whole other level of tactics that we're not gonna get into here. 

Everything else that you will put on or add to your plate carrier will now be placed around your magazines. Radios, tourniquets, knives, zip tie hand cuffs...they are get worked in around your mags. My rule of thumb is to keep most everything in a position that it can be accessed with one hand (typically my off hand) fast. If I have to fight and fidget to get something out while I'm just standing there, it more than likely isn't gonna go well when rounds are flying at me.

Where Do I Put An IFAK On A Plate Carrier?

I get this question all the time. And I think the confusion with this comes from the idea that if you need your IFAK (which, by the way, stands for individual first aid kit) you most likely need it FAST. That said, most people feel it's best to carry it on the front of your plate carrier for easy access. However, if you're carrying mags up front, this may not be your best option. 

IFAKs typically have a bit of girth to them. If you add this on top of the already existing standoff caused by your mag pouches, you are gonna be hard pressed to lay flat on your belly in the prone position. This is why many opt to carry their IFAK on the rear of their plate carrier. This allows for a lower profile on the front of the plate carrier and also allows easy access to your IFAK with either hand as well as by others. 

If you're looking for an IFAK that mounts on the back of your plate carrier, is easily accessed by either hand via an innovative tear-away design and is made to carry everything you need, check out the Apollo IFAK.

Where Should My Plates Sit While Wearing My Plate Carrier?

The plates in your plate carrier are meant to protect your vital organs; specifically your heart and lungs. That said, depending on your body type and size, choose your plates accordingly. For smaller stature individuals, 8x10 plates will more than likely offer adequate protection. However for most individuals, 10x12 plate are what you will need to do the trick.

The rule of thumb is that the top of the front plate should rest right at the soft spot at the base of your neck, right between your collar bones. This will allow adequate protection of your heart and lungs. Remember, plate carriers are not meant to protect your belly. So when positioned properly, your belly will be exposed. Once again, these are meant to protect your vital organs.

As for the rear plate, the recommended placement is for the top of the rear plate to rest 2-3 vertebra down from where the tag of you shirt would typically be. This should roughly align the top of the rear plate with the top of the front plate. Remember, you are still trying to protect the same vital organs from the rear that you were from the front. Be sure to check out my video on this as well.

For more info on plate carriers and body armor plates, click HERE.

I hope you got some useful information out of this article. If you have any more specific questions, please email my team at They are there 24/7 to answer all your questions about plate carriers, body armor and much more.

Thanks and remember... stay ready so you don't have to get ready.

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