The U.S. Army currently issues the Soldier Plate Carrier System (SPCS) as the standard for Army infantry. The SPCS has been issued to all overseas combat troops.
The system is lightweight and reasonably comfortable when compared to other systems. It has great resistance to bullet penetration and has protected American troops since 2013. At the time of deployment, this plate carrier was the lightest one tested and had the highest ballistic resistance and performance.
This plate carrier gave soldiers another option to wear instead of the IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest) which was 31+ lb. for a medium size vest. The SPCS with the KDH Magnum TAC-1 in the same size weighs just over 21 lb. This is a significant improvement.
Soldier Plate Carrier System
The Soldier Plate Carrier System was designed for two main reasons. The Army needed a plate carrier to carry hard armor plates to protect soldiers from pistols and rifles encountered during various scenarios. It also needed a lightweight solution that could facilitate ease of movement over all kinds of terrain.
Sixteen companies met with decision makers and four solutions were chosen to compete for the contract. The potential plate carrier solutions were proposed by military suppliers including the KDH Defense Systems Carrier, the TAG Rampage, the Eagle Modular Plate Carrier System-Army (MPCS-A), and a plate carrier from MSA–Paraclete.
After months of testing and direct feedback from soldiers wearing the units, the KDH Defense Systems Magnum TAC-1 plate carrier was chosen without regard to expense, but it happened to be one of the better-priced solutions.
The SPCS can carry hard armor plates in the chest and back as well as side plates. The ESAPI (Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts) and ESBI (Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts) or the XSAPI (X-Small Arms Protective Inserts) and XSBI (X-Side Ballistic Inserts) can be used to protect the front, back, and sides of the soldier.
U.S. Army Approved Plate Carriers
The U.S. Army evaluates many plate carriers and tests them to see if they are approved for use or not. Those that made the grade are listed below.
- SPCS and SPCS Gen II
- IOTV Gen IV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest)
- MSV Gen II (Modular Scalable Vest)
- USMC (United States Marine Corps) Plate Carrier
- BPP (Blast Pelvic Protector)
US Army Issued Plate Carriers
The SPCS known as the KDH Magnum TAC-1 is issued by the U.S. Army to infantry and others in potentially dangerous situations requiring ballistic protection. The contractor making the first generation SPCS was KDH Defense Systems and the second generation unit is made by Carter Enterprises.
The SPCS holds the SAPI (Small Arms Protective Insert) and the ESBI (Enhanced Side Ballistic Insert) side plates with soft armor behind the plates to add another layer of protection.
The plate carrier is covered on the front and rear in PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) webbing for MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) pouches. The side plate pouch also has PALS webbing to enable even more attachments.
Generation II of the SPCS offers an easier quick-release cable system. Gen II also includes a cummerbund which allows the mounting of side plates and offers easier adjustment than previous models.
Check out our review of the top 5 best tactical plate carriers in the market today!
Is the US Army Plate Carrier the Best One?
No, general infantry doesn’t get the best plate carrier available today because they are tied to decisions from the past. The US military is a huge organization and has a bidding and testing protocol to follow to get plate carriers approved. It is dealing with budgets and manufacturing time as limitations as well.
Technology is changing fast in the area of ballistics protection and the Army cannot stay current for long before better gear is available in the private market.
The U.S. Army and other services are due for upgrades in ballistics gear. In April 2020 the Marines began testing new hard body armor in the field. This new plate carrier is from Vertical Protective Apparel LLC and is called the Plate Carrier Generation III.
This new solution will provide even more coverage from shrapnel with a significant 25% weight savings over the previous generation carrier. The company will supply more than 225,000 plate carriers and hard armor plates beginning in September 2018.
There are newer systems being developed all the time. The military is always playing catch-up when purchasing new gear.
What to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Plate Carrier?
A company like KDH, the military contractor that won the contract to supply the U.S. Army with plate carriers to keep soldiers alive, is a great company to buy plate carriers and other gear from because they know military standards they need to surpass for plate carriers and other gear.
Technology is changing constantly. Buy the best gear you can afford now and do it again later when you find something better. Plate carriers are limited mainly by their hard armor plate costs and weight. Pay very close attention to matching plate sizes for the carriers as well as matching side plates with main plates to ensure proper fit.
Used gear can be faulty. Do you really want to buy someone’s used gear when you don’t know what exactly it has been through? Or, when you don’t even know whether it was cleaned properly or left out in the sun for 300 days over a couple of years?
OUR TOP3 PICS FOR PLATE CARRIERS
- Get new gear and get good gear. Your life is worth it!
- Plate carrier technology moves forward constantly, it is probably time to trade up.
- There are 7 warnings beginning on page ‘a’ of the U.S. Army’s Technical Manual for the SPCS (TM 10-8470-209-10) – https://ciehub.info/ref/TM/10-8470-209-10_2013.pdf – that you need to familiarize yourself with because they may save your life. These warnings are generally applicable to other hard armor plate carriers as well.
- The U.S. Army, the Marines, the Navy SEALS, and other U.S. military outfits all have different requirements for their ballistic plate carriers. Don’t just look at one or two, look at as many as you can get your hands on before purchasing one.
Written by Vern Lovic
Vern Lovic is a veteran of the United States Air Force. Stationed at Hickam Air Force Base where he served in the heart of the Pacific (PACAF) on Oahu, Hawaii. For the last twenty years he’s done hard time in Thailand jungles teaching visitors and locals how to manage their deadly venomous snake population. Read bio!