When you decide to purchase a “bulletproof vest”, body armor or any type of tactical gear there are many decisions that will need research and selection. First, you will have to understand that “bulletproof” is actually a misnomer and there are levels of protection afforded by different body armor types. There are two parts in a typical body armor configuration:
- the plate carrier some people call it “vest”;
- the actual “armor” inserts.
Inserts are either “soft” armor or “hard” armor based on the level of protection they afford the wearer. The levels of armor insert protection are classified in the US according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) 0101.06 regulation. The ratings are Level II, Level IIIA, Level III, and Level IV. There are also III+ and SRT plates which stand for special rifle threat; these two options are not subject to the NIJ 0101.06 standards yet. Level II and Level IIIA are protection against handgun rounds.
The other levels protect against the same handgun rounds plus rifle rounds. Level IV is a special case ceramic insert that specifically protects against. 30-06 armor piercing rounds and other armor piercing rounds. These inserts can go inside various plate carriers and backpacks. But mostly they are carried inside a plate carrier. The plate carrier is a fabric vest type holder for body armor inserts.
Don’t be alarmed by the work fabric. Modern plate carriers are tough, durable Nylon based fabrics like Cordura 500D or 1000d nylon, it can be made out of different cheaper material but the US made Cordura Nylon is a top shelf material for this type of application.
Prime Armor uses Cordura 500d and 1000d for all our nylon products from mag pouches, duty belts, battle belts, plate carriers, chest rigs and other tactical accessories.
The plate carriers themselves do not offer any ballistic protection but they must be tough because they form an integral part of the overall body armor protection. But, with the plate carriers being Nylon based fabric, it means there are many color options available. Choosing a plate carrier color can be almost as daunting as selecting the right body armor to start with. This article will offer some considerations when selecting plate carrier color.
A quick bit of research into available plate carrier options reveals over half a dozen readily available colors. Here is a list of some of the most popular available options:
- Coyote (desert-like or khaki)
- Olive Drab Green
- Ranger Green
- Tactical Gray
- Arctic (white with gray trim)
- Multicam Black
- Multicam Tropic
- Woodland Multicam
This is not an exhaustive list of colors, just the ones that you would see most often when researching body armor. Since body armor is usually associated with military tactical operations or special operations gear, the color choices would logically mimic what the military employs.
However, there are many civilian applications emerging for employment of body armor and availability to the civilian market is accelerating. So how do you choose a color? As with most things, it really depends on your specific application.
Getting the right body armor/plate carrier is really an exercise in defining personal requirements. There are many obvious and, less than obvious, situations where civilians are buying military gear. Let’s look at a few applications and discuss color alternatives.
- Hunters – increasingly we hear about accidental shootings of hunters from other hunters. It has gotten prevalent enough that some states are requiring bright orange vests for hunters. So, it stands to reason that some hunters are turning to military style body armor for protection against accidental shootings. A quick look at plate carrier colors even yields an option or two in hunter orange. However, this level of visibility is not consistent with the need for stealth and blending while stalking game. Much hunting is done in forests or woodlands. For this application, a Multicam or OD Green plate armor works very well. It affords protection while allowing necessary stealth.
- Paintballers/airsoft – while paintball or airsoft rounds are not lethal, they can sting pretty good when struck by them. People who play these sports are sometimes buying body armor to lessen the effect of getting “hit”. Having body armor also fits in with the tactical nature of the sport. Appropriate color of plate carriers for airsoft practitioners really depends on the predominance of the terrain where competitions are held. Many times, events are held in woodland settings. Fitting with the tactical theme and need for camouflage, OD Green or Green Multicam work very well. There are occasions when airsoft or paintball competitions are held in more urban environments. This might be a more appropriate setting for employing a color like Black Multicam or Tactical Gray. It really depends on where you do most of your sport.
- Home Protection – this is probably the largest civilian employment of body armor. There are several scenarios of home protection where body armor might come into play. Consider hearing a crash in the house at night or sounds of someone walking around in your home. Since you have no idea what could be awaiting you, donning protection is a safe bet. Many home incursions happen at night, so you wish to remain stealthy and blend with the darkness. Perhaps, you must exit the home to check noises outside. Again, the desire would be to blend into the darkness. For these situations your best bet would be Black body armor or a strong second choice of Black Multicam.
- Private Security – because of the inherent danger associated with conducting security operations, body armor is becoming a standard tactical kit. Private security takes many forms. Everything from personal security of individuals at events to team security functions for large venues. A key consideration in this arena is to be inconspicuous. If significant portions of your security work are in public and visible, monochromatic “universal” colors will likely work best. Tactical Gray is a great choice as is Black for your body armor. These colors can fit in with dress attire or more tactical attire. If the private security application is more tactical, military colors will be better choices for color. This would be OD Green or Multicam.
- “Bug Out” – another key use for the civilian market is situations of unrest. This can be due to the breakdown of governments and services or due to natural disasters. Either of these situations will be chaotic times and people with low character will be opportunistic to try and benefit themselves. This could very well be at the expense of you and your family. So people who are prepared will likely “bug out” of areas of high stress for safety. When people leave for areas of safety, the journey will include packing a prepared kit of items like first aid kits, food, water, fuel, and other necessities. These kits should include body armor. Many people think of a bug out or “worst case scenarios” as leaving the city for a cabin in the forest. But there are many urban preppers that have identified safe zones inside cities where they can rally with other prepared people. For a bug out inside a city it is important to think of blending in so a Tactical Gray or Black Multicam would be a useful color for plate carriers. If you have the luxury of leaving urban areas for remote areas like a cabin in the woods, the color choices are a bit different. Multicam and OD Green would be a much better choice for this situation.
- Fitness – an interesting application of body armor these days is used for fitness participants. This is not an immediately obvious application, but it is rising. At least two recent studies have shown that a practitioner can burn 10-15% more calories, even with moderate exercise, while adding carried weight during their routine. There are sport equipment options that add weight. However, the number of attacks on individuals working out alone has been steadily increasing. So, some people are turning to body armor for both protection and added weight. For these situations, many body armor colors would work. Black, Tactical Gray, and Multicam are really good choices.
Once a self-assessment of needs is complete and you have narrowed your choices to a couple of potential colors, there are a couple more considerations to account for. These choices have to do with configuration of the plate carrier.
Plate carriers come in multiple configurations. Modern plate carriers are more than just to carry your armor that protects you from projectiles. They are truly multi-mission. You can attach things to the plate carrier to assist with whatever mission needs you have. Things like magazine pouches, trauma kits, tourniquets, knife scabbards, canteens, and document pouches that can be attached to most plate carriers through the molle or velcro system that makes them modular.
The most common accessory system for plate carriers is MOLLE. MOLLE is an acronym meaning Modular Lightweight Load-bearing Equipment. There are two standard types of MOLLE for plate carriers, the loop MOLLE and the laser cut MOLLE. The key difference is with laser cut MOLLE the plate carrier will have a series of precision slots to mount accessories and the “regular” MOLLE is a series of loops that stand proud of the material. Both styles are extremely durable and have pros and cons. Additionally, plate carriers can be slick. This means they don’t inherently have attachment points for accessories. This type of plate carrier is more ideal for fitness applications. When thinking about your personal needs it is important to think through what accessories you want on your plate carrier to fit your identified need. Then ensure they are compatible with the color selections you are considering.
Researching body armor and other tactical gear requires a lot of thinking though needs and choices. Determining the right configuration and accessories are key. These choices depend on intended use. Intended use also means environment, time of day, and activity. The color of your gear chosen will enhance the utility of body armor in use scenarios. So configuration and, yes, color decisions based on need will yield a plate carrier purchase that will not fail you if ever needed.