Skip to content

Tactical Vest vs Plate Carrier: What’s the Difference?

Written by:

Table of Contents

Share:

When it comes to choosing protective and load-bearing gear for law enforcement, military personnel, and other tactical professionals, there is often a lot of confusion surrounding the differences between a tactical vest and a plate carrier.

Many people can’t tell the difference between a tactical vest and a plate carrier and assume that the two are either the same thing or they just mistake one for the other.

But in truth, the two are completely different types of gear and serve very different purposes. Both of them are considered to be load-bearing equipment, but the biggest difference between them is that a tactical vest is designed to only carry your gear (such as magazines, pouches and etc) while a plate carrier is designed to carry both your gear and provide protection against ballistic threats.

In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the differences between the two, talk about the pros and cons of each one, and help you decide which would be the best fit for you.

What Is a Tactical Vest?

A tactical vest is a type of load-bearing equipment designed to carry your tactical and critical gear and provide easy access to it during active operations.

Tactical vests are lightweight and comfortable and often usually are either covered in MOLLE webbing or have pouches and pockets built into the fabric.

The main purpose of a tactical vest is to provide easier access to your gear while you are out in the field, so you would have all your mission-critical gear at hand whenever you need it.

They are also highly adjustable, allowing you to customize the fit of your vest depending on what type of gear you are carrying and how large or small your body is.

Chief Tac Tactical Vest
Chief Tac Tactical Vest
Condor Elite Tactical Vest
Condor Elite Tactical Vest
Condor Modular Vest
Condor Modular Vest

What Is a Plate Carrier?

Plate carriers, on the other hand, are designed to both provide the wearer protection against various ballistic threats (such as gunfire) while also providing quick access to their gear (the later is not always the case*).

Plate carriers provide ballistic protection in the form of metal or ceramic ballistic plates that are inserted into an outer pocket on the vest. They usually carry at least two ballistic plates in the front and back panels of the vest. But some also come with side plate inserts.

Most plate carriers also come with MOLLE webbing on them, allowing for the addition of extra pouches and pockets. But as this isn’t really their main purpose of a plate carrier, not all plate carriers have the ability to carry extra gear.

AR500 Armor Testudo Plate Carrier Gen 2
AR500 Armor Testudo Plate Carrier Gen 2
Crusader 2.0 Tactical Plate Carrier
Crusader 2.0 Tactical Plate Carrier
Tomahawk 2 Plate Carrier
Tomahawk 2 Plate Carrier

Differences Between a Tactical Vest and a Plate Carrier?

The most obvious difference between a tactical vest and a plate carrier is the fact that the primary purpose of a plate carrier is to provide ballistic protection while the primary purpose of a tactical vest is to provide a platform on which to carry your tactical gear.

When it comes to carrying gear, a tactical vest is usually more equipped and suited for this purpose. Most tactical vests are covered in MOLLE webbing or have numerous pouches and pockets built into them, allowing them to carry various types of equipment and supplies.

Nowadays most plate carriers also come with MOLLE webbing, but the main purpose of a plate carrier is to provide high-level protection against ballistic threats, not necessarily to carry gear. So overall the space is a bit more limited on a plate carrier and a tactical vest is much better for carrying supplies.

In terms of bulk and size, both tactical vests and plate carriers come in a variety of sizes to fit various body types. However, plate carriers tend to be larger and bulkier due to the fact that they are designed to carry two ballistic plates in the front and back panels.

When it comes to comfort, its going to depend a lot on the specific vest. Both tactical vests and plate carriers can be adjusted to fit the wearer’s body, but some vests are more comfortable than others so you want to make sure you find one that fits you the best.

Price vise, plate carriers tend to be more expensive than tactical vests due to the fact that they are designed to carry heavy plates so they need to be built with high-quality materials.

When Should You Choose a Tactical Vest and When a Plate Carrier?

It really comes down to what you are going to use it for and well on your specific needs.

When you are a soldier, law enforcement officer, or security personnel and you are operating in a hostile environment, then you might want to consider a plate carrier as it offers you protection from potential ballistic threats such as gunfire.

However, if you are a hunter, an outdoorsman, or an airsoft player who just needs a platform to carry his essential gear and doesn’t really need the extra protection then you might want to consider a tactical vest.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that a tactical vest can always be worn over different body armor, so if you need the extra protection, but still want a vest to carry your gear then you can always go for the tactical vest and just wear some sort of body armor underneath it.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to your individual needs and preferences. If you need protection then a plate carrier is probably going to be the best option, but if you just need something to carry your gear and don’t need the extra protection then a tactical vest might be better for you.

Either way, make sure to take the time to research all of your options before making a decision as this will help you find the best option for your needs and budget.

FAQ

In Conclusion

  • Tactical vests are basically military-grade vests that have either MOLLE webbing or pockets, which provide you with a platform to carry your essential gear.
  • Plate carriers are designed to carry ballistic plates and provide protection against gunfire.
  • Most plate carriers can be used as a load-bearing system.
  • The main difference between a tactical vest and a plate carrier is its purpose. Tactical vest are just used to carry your gear while plate carriers are used to provide protection from ballistic threats.
  • Tactical vests offer a better and a more spacious platform to carry your gear, they are cheaper and for the most part more comfortable.
  • Plate carriers provide protection, are usually more durable, and have more features.

All-in-all, tactical vests, and plate carriers are two different systems with different primary purposes while both can be used as a load-bearing system to carry gear.

We, hope this article helped clear the distinction between the two and that you were able to find the best option for your needs.

Share this post!

Related Posts