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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. Wearing-protocol wasn't relevant for me. It wasn't until I concluded my law enforcement career, and my subsequent training with Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Green Berets, that I learned how to set-up and wear a plate carrier properly.

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

Remember, I am sharing what I WAS TAUGHT, and what works best for me. This MAY NOT be what will work best for you in your specific situation. That's fine. If you can walk away after 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 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 - .223 or 9mm (among many other rifle or pistol rounds)?

Are you 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 must be taken into consideration prior to setting up your plate carrier.

Now, let's start with the type of plates you'll need.

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

Once you determine which plates you'll want, you'll next plan based upon the type of weapon you'll carry. 

If not carrying a weapon, it's simple. You won't need any mag pouches for the front and can utilize this area for other items, such as an IFAK or an admin pouch for holding items dependent upon your specific situation.

If you carry a weapon, you'll need to determine how much ammo necessary for your specific situation, and plan accordingly based upon your weapon(s)-type. If you expect to be covering short distances before having access to a vehicle to bug-out, then more than likely you won't need to carry 10 extra mags. But as stated earlier, plan for YOUR specific situation.

If you're gonna be on foot for a while, potentially running into multiple hostile situations, then by all means carry as much ammo necessary to survive.

Extra mags are traditionally mounted on the front of your plate carrier. This allows for easy, immediate access. Position the mags so your natural purchase of the magazine when removing it allows for a seamless transition inside your weapon. In other words, don't keep the mags in your pouch so it causes you to have to flip them around in your hand prior to insertion into you weapon (stay tuned for a video on this).

Some plate carriers offer rifle mag storage along the cummerbund. Unless you're proficient with your weapon systems, I would recommending keeping the mag pouches affixed to front of your plate carrier. You'll find they're easier to access.

The one positive to keeping a mag or two in your cummerbund on your weak side is if you're in the prone position and need to effect a reload. As stated, that's another level of tactics we're not gonna get into here. 

Everything else you'll add to your plate carrier will be placed near or around your magazines. Radios, tourniquets, knives, zip tie hand cuffs...etc.  My rule of thumb is to keep everything positioned to be accessed with one hand quickly (typically my off hand). If I have to fidget to access something while standing within a dangerous situation, more than likely it's not gonna go well when rounds fly at me.

Where Do I Put An IFAK On A Plate Carrier?

I get this question all the time.  I think the confusion comes from the idea that if you'll need your IFAK (which, by the way, stands for individual first aid kit) you'll 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. If you're carrying mags up front, however, this may not be your best option. 

IFAKs typically hold some girth. If you lay this atop your existing mag pouches, you're gonna be hard pressed to lay flat on your belly in the prone position. This is why many opt to carry their IFAK's on the rear of their plate carriers. This allows for a lower profile on the front of the plate carrier and allows easy access to your IFAK with either hand, and for others nearby. 

If you're seeking an IFAK to mount on the back of your plate carrier, one that's easily accessed by either hand via an innovative tear-away design, and is made to carry everything you'll 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 shape, choose your plates accordingly.  For most individuals, 10"x12" plates will do the trick.

The rule of thumb is that the top of the front plate should rest at the soft spot at the base of your neck, right between your collar bones. This will allow adequate protection for your heart and lungs. Remember, plate carriers aren't meant to protect your belly.  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 to rest 2-3 vertebra below your shirt tag. This positions the top of the rear plate to align with the top of the front plate. Remember, you're trying to protect your same vital organs at the rear and front positions.  

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

I hope you get something useful from this article. If you have more specific questions, please email my team at They'll 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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