Tactical Vest or Plate carrier, what is the difference?

Tactical Vest or Plate carrier, what is the difference? A bewildered Prepper asked this question the other day and my first instinct was to say none, but that isn’t true really. While many people user these terms interchangeably, they actually are not the same.  Now granted, there is a fine line between the two, so today we are going to look at the differences and their uses in this post.  First let’s look at what each is and what makes it different from the other.


The Tactical Vest – This is designed primarily as an ammo and personal equipment carrier. They usually have several pouches on them for rifle magazines and some for pistol magazines as well. Other pouches that you usually find on them are for carrying items such as flashlights, survival supplies and first aid pouches.  Some even have a cross draw holster on the front of them as well.  They come in many different configurations and materials and some are not intended to be used in real combat situations at all, but rather for Paint Ball games. I have even seen some made of cheap vinyl plastic. There are however many on the market that are of high enough quality that they will work for combat and usually come with a higher price as well.   While some of the cheaper ones claim to also function as a plate carrier, I have yet to see one that I would trust as a plate carrier.  These are primarily used for light security or scouting situations where being able to be light and fast is important.


The Tactical Plate Carrier – This is designed primarily for carrying ballistic plates and protecting you from getting shot as you engage the enemy in combat. They are usually of high quality, but can be a bit heavy when loaded.  While the sides are usually open on a tactical vest, Plate carriers usually have a cummerbund on them to protect your sides as well.  These normally do not come with holsters for holding items on them, but rather are covered with molly straps so you can add your own in whatever configuration you like.  Because these are designed to carry heavy ballistic plates, their construction is designed to take the stress where you need it the most.    Usually found in black and a wide array of tactical colors and patterns, they are easily one of the best investments you can make when it comes to protecting yourself in combat.  Unfortunately, these do not usually come with the plates themselves and they will need to be purchased separately along with ammo pouches for the outside of the vest.  Something else that these usually come with is carry straps for pulling you out of the line of gunfire if you are not able to move on your own.  This can save your life or help you save someone else’s life in an emergency and not something found on some of the tactical vest on the market today.  On the subject of plates, they can be found all over the internet as well as many gun shops and gun shows.  Always look for a reputable brand to be sure you are getting your money’s worth. They come in several different sizes and classes that protect against different types of rounds.  Get the best you can afford is my advice.  While the plate carriers can be replaced, you can’t.


If you are still confused about what each of these are for, you can always talk to any reputable dealer and they will usually be glad to answer any questions you might have. When I first got started prepping, I purchased a tactical vest that was not of the highest quality because it was all I could afford.  The salesman assured me that it would carry ballistic plates just fine, but somehow, looking back I don’t quite believe it.  That is why I stress a “reputable Dealer” if you have any questions.  As for me, I have since moved on to a Tactical Plate Carrier and have started purchasing the pouches I want and arranging them in a way that suits me the best.  This is just one of those things that you will learn in time based on your personal preferences.

Well that about does it for today and I hope that I have given you something new to think about and maybe helped clear up some of the confusion about these two items and their differences and intended uses.   Until next time, just remember that prepping is a direction of travel and not a destination. God bless you and yours!

-The Sargent-

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