Looking for a tactical plate carrier that will not destroy your budget or get shot down by your spouse due to its high cost?

Look no further!

I rifled through the interwebs to find the best plate carriers of 2022 for those on a budget.

I also include an in-depth buying guide and FAQs to answer the most common questions folks have about tactical plate carriers.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on RiflePal. For more information, read full disclosure here.

TOP 13 Best Tactical Plate Carrier Vests for a Tight Budget

GFIRE Tactical Vest

This Gfire vest fits plates up to 12 by 11 inches, and AR500 plates will fit.

This plate carrier is built for bigger guys and adjusts from medium to extra-large, with plenty of adjustment in the cummerbund. The plates have two strips of Velcro for adjusting, which is a nice feature.

The look of this vest is nearly identical to those issued by the US Military and the quality is as high.

For the price, the build is impressive. It’s as nice as more expensive carriers and looks like it costs more than it actually does.

Pros

  • Holds 10 by 12 plates & 6 by 6 side plates.
  • 1000 D Denier high-quality fabric.
  • Adjustable waist strap and shoulder straps.
  • Includes sturdy drag handle.

Cons

  • If you are slim, the vest may feel loose.

Takeaway

Best tactical plate carrier vest for big guys.

MASII Outdoor Tactical Plate Carrier

The MASII plate carrier is a steal, as far as I am concerned. First off, the mag pouches and pockets seen in the pictures are all included.

Second, this carrier has SEPARATE pockets for the plate and trauma pad! Plus it fits 10 by 12 plates with ease, no struggle.

Unlike cheaper carriers, this plate carrier features pull handles on the waist strap, a very handy feature.

The stitching is on point and looks made to last.

And while the front mag pouches are not removable, the side mag pouches are removable.

Pros

  • Made from top quality 1000 denier nylon fabric.
  • Includes all mag carriers, pockets and pouches shown.
  • Pull handles on the waistband/cummerbund.
  • Separate compartments for trauma pad and plate carrier.
  • Fits 10 by 12 plates with ease.

Cons

  • No place for side armor.

Takeaway

Easily the best plate carrier vest for the money, with all the features of more expensive plate carriers.

Chase Tactical Low-Vis Vest

This Chase tactical plate carrier is designed to be low visibility and worn under clothing.

The extra-large version will hold plates up to 11 by 14 inches, which are the largest ballistic plates made.

The cummerbund is elastic and interchangeable and the straps are fully adjustable, allowing a good fit.

Pros

  • Slim fit, minimal, can be worn under clothing.
  • XL size fits the largest ballistic plate – 11 x 14 inch.
  • Adjustable straps.
  • Made with military spec 500D Cordura nylon.

Cons

  • No MOLLE, not designed for attachments.

Takeaway

Best budget plate carrier in the low visibility concealment plate carrier category.

OneTigris Griffin AFPC Modular Vest

This OneTigris Griffin plate carrier is perfect for training, airsoft, and it even holds medium 10 by 12 ballistic plates.

It has plate holders in front and in the back that fit AR500 and 10 by 12 size plates.

The shoulders are padded for comfort and the cummerbund has some stretch so it is fitted

There is molle right around, except for on the cumberbund strap where it’s stretchy for a good fit.

MOLLE is running the entire circumference of the carrier and it has Velcro for morale, ID, and security patches.

Pros

  • Fits AR500 plates or 10 by 12 Airsoft plates.
  • Fabric and stitching are on point.
  • Stretch fabric cummerbund for a snug fit.
  • Molle throughout to attach your packs and pouches.
  • Quick-release buckle straps.

Cons

  • Runs small – better for smaller frames.

Takeaway

Best plate carrier for smaller frames.

vAv Yakeda Tactical CS Adjustable Vest

This JPC style vest by vAv Yakeda is a comfortable no-nonsense plate carrier that fits (snugly) 10 by 12 plates, comes with 3 mag holders, and has plenty of MOLLE to attach your gear.

It also has external Velcro to attach patches and small accessories. The 1000 Denier fabric is rouged and it fits larger guys, covering up to 55 inch waist.

It is an ideal plate carrier for airsoft, training and is perfect for beginners and occasional use.

Pros

  • Includes 3 M-4 pouches.
  • Ideal for Airsoft and training.
  • Minimal design.
  • Low cost.

Cons

  • The plates fit, but it’s a tight fit.

Takeaway

Rugged plate carrier for training and airsoft, a good piece of gear for the money.

Viper Special Ops Plate Carrier

The Viper Special Ops plate carrier has comfortable shock band shoulder straps to minimize shock from the plates as you move.

There are 3 built-in mag compartments, and an admin compartment in front, plus Velcro for badges and patches.

There is laser MOLLE webbing on the front and back for your attachments if you choose to add any, and the price of this plate carrier is quite reasonable given the quality and functionality.

Pros

  • 3 built-in mag compartments.
  • Adjustable straps and Velcro adjustment in front.
  • Made from 600 D Cordura.
  • Firs up to 13 by 11 inch plates.
  • Velcro loops to hold hydration tubes or radio cables.

Cons

  • Cummerbund adjustment is funky.
  • No place for side armor.

Takeaway

Comfortable, compact slim fitting plate carrier.

OneTigris Low Profile Tactical Vest

This low profile tactical plate carrier by OneTigris won’t blow your cover because it’s designed to be worn under a jacket or clothes.

It fits 10 by 12 plates just fine.

The shoulder straps and cummerbund are easy to adjust to get a snug slim fit that hugs your body and conceals your armor.

It’s one of the best low visibility concealment plate carrier vests out there for this low price point.

Pros

  • Fits AR500 10 by 12 plates with ease.
  • Snug fitting comfortable Velcro adjustment in the shoulders and cummerbund.
  • Zippered admin pouch upfront.
  • 5 by 7 side plates can fit in the cummerbund.

Cons

  • No pockets for side plates.

Takeaway

Best concealed, low visibility plate carrier vest on this list.

5.11 Geo7 Tactec Plate Carrier

The 5.11 Geo7 Tactec plate carrier is a fully adjustable plate carrier for training and more. This high-quality plate carrier has a quick pull tab that allows the vest to split in tow so you can get out of it fast.

This place carrier has an extended drag/pull handle should the need arise that someone needs to drag you along, it will be easier for them to do so.

Plenty of MOLLE and laser cut webbing all around, so you can customize your pouches and packs how you want.

The plate retention of this tactical carrier is great. The Velcro is strong and there is an extra sleeve that the plates go in.

Pros

  • Fully adjustable shoulder straps and cummerbund.
  • Made from 500D nylon.
  • Water-resistant.
  • Excellent plate retention.
  • Holds 10 by 12 armor.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Takeaway

Best tactical plate carrier of 2022, excellent plate retention, and quality.

Gray Tactical Plate Carrier Vest

The Gray Tactical plate is an excellent plate carrier for the price.

The vest is adjustable at the straps and cummerbund. The side straps are secured with elastic bungee cords, creating a snug yet comfortable fit that moves with you and prevents the vest from shifting as you move.

This plate carrier is compatible with smaller sized SAPI plates.

The stitching is good quality and the carrier has Velcro and MOLLE attachments standard on most plate carriers.

Pros

  • Mag flap with 3 mag pouches.
  • Minimalist slim-fit design.
  • Compatible with small SAPI plates less than 10×12.

Cons

  • Fits smaller than standard size plates.

Takeaway

Best cheap plate carrier for smaller folks.

vAv Yakeda Outdoor Tactical Military Vest

This vAv Yakeda tactical plate carrier vest is fully modular!

All of the included pockets, packs, and pockets come off and can be rearranged.

It holds shooter cut, AR500, and curved 10 by 12 plates with no problem. It is an incredible value considering all that is included and its superior functionality.

Pros

  • Made from quality 1000D nylon.
  • Includes all packs, pockets, and pouches shown in the picture.
  • Waist adjustable from 29 to 49 inches.

Cons

  • NO dedicated side plate armor carrier.

Takeaway

Best plate carrier vest decked with accessories pockets and pouches to hold your ammo and critical gear.

WarTechGears Tactical Fast Vest

This WarTechGears plate carrier is designed for large plates and large guys. It’s got great coverage, in fact, it may be too big for smaller folks.

It fits plates up to 11 by 14 inches, including hard and soft armor plates. The Velcro holding the plates in is ample and secure.

It’s comfortable, easy to slip into and out of, and makes a nice throw over plate carrier.

At this price range, the material is not designed for everyday use with heavy ballistic plates. This is for a bug out bag, SHTF situation, or airsoft.

Pros

  • Capable of holding up to 11 by 14 inch plates.
  • Designed for large guys.
  • Very affordable.
  • Quick connect, easy to get on and off.

Cons

  • It maybe too big for smaller folks.
  • The material needs to be more durable for heavy plates. Soft armor and ceramic plates are OK.

Takeaway

Perfect large plate carrier for a bug out bag or SHTF situation.

Vismix Tactical Vest Plate Carrier

This VISMIX tactical plate carrier is great for emergency use and preparedness, and airsoft or training.

It is made from durable 500 denier nylon and you can place three mags in the front, plus there is Velcro and MOLLE attachment throughout.

It accommodates 10 by 12 size armor plates easily.

Overall, the vest is not bulky and fits comfortably. It is a great starter plate carrier and for those who use it for training, airsoft, or emergency use.

Pros

  • 500D nylon material.
  • Front pouch holds 3 mags.
  • Strong Velcro retention for plates.
  • Fully adjustable.

Cons

  • 500 D nylon is not strong enough for everyday use with steel plates. Ceramic and soft armor is fine.

Takeaway

A great plate carrier for airsoft at a fair price.

ThreeH Tactical Vest

The ThreeH tactical plate carry vest is the cheapest LOW visibility concealment vest plate carrier on this list. The fit is slim and you could easily conceal this under a jacket or something like that.

This plate carrier runs small and is best for smaller folks.

Being made from 600 D nylon, these plate carrier vests are good for airsoft and occasional use if you are using real plates with them.

Pros

  • 600 denier nylon.
  • Fully adjustable.
  • Easy to conceal.
  • Great price.

Cons

  • Runs small, order a size up.

Takeaway

Great plate carrier for airsoft and occasional use as a concealed plate carrier vest.

man wearing tactical camouflage and pointing his airsoft pistol

What is a Tactical Plate Carrier?

Tactical plate carriers are tactical gear that covers the chest and back with body armor plates.

These plate carriers have shoulder straps attached to a plate carrier. The carrier has Velcro on the underside where the plate is slipped in. They are held around the waist by a cummerbund, and most have MOLLE webbing and Velcro for gear attachment.

The plates these plate carriers hold can be soft or hard shell and can be made from ceramic, steel for ballistic and bulletproof applications, or softer material for airsoft.

Tactical plate carriers are available for several different applications and styles which I will explain below.

Note: Tactical plate carriers and the body armor plates they carry are almost always sold separately.

soldier in tactical plate carrier vests standing and holding military helmet

Quality: Tactical Plate Carrier Grade Explained

There are two categories of tactical plate carriers when it comes to grade, quality, and use.

I explain each below, and you should know what you want before you choose the best tactical plate carrier for your specific needs.

Ballistics, Bulletproof, Law Enforcement, and Everyday Use

The Ballistics grade plate carriers are designed to hold REAL steel and ceramic bulletproof plates AND be worn every day. This plate carrier is for Police officers, military, professional security, and those who face potential gunfire on a daily basis.

These plate carriers have excellent plate retention and are made from strong durable nylon that plates will not cut or wear through. Most plates in this category cost at least 300 dollars, usually more.

Airsoft, Occasional, Bug Out Bag, SHTF Use

Most of the budget-priced plate carriers on this list are in this category.

While all plate carriers can carry real bulletproof ballistics plates, be aware that because of the material and craftsmanship, they may not hold up for extended use.

If you need a plate carrier for emergency use, like for your bug out bag, or a SHTF type scenario, the budget option is fine, since you should not need to use it every day for long periods of time.

These plate carriers are also the plate carriers used for airsoft and paintball.

soldier in black armor tactical chest rig vest standing with belt

Groupings: Tactical Plate Carrier Type, Style, and Functionality Explained

Low Visibility for Concealment

Concealed plate carriers allow you to wear the carrier under a jacket or shirt. They have no MOLLE, pockets, pouches, or packs and are designed to fit close to the body.

Minimalist Style

Minimalist carriers are for those who want to travel light. They may have space for a few mags and that’s it. They also lack a place for side armor.

The Crye Precision JPC 1.0 Vest is one example of a minimalist plate carrier, but it is a bit expensive.

The Gear Carrying Tactical Plate Carrier

The gear carrying tactical plate carrier carries armor plates in front and back and carries side plates.

It also includes room for mags, a radio, flashlight, and a lot of other gear. The GFIRE Tactical Vest is one of my favorite gear carrying tactical plate carriers. It holds side armor and the 1000 D nylon means it will last.

Of course, it does not come with mag carriers or pouches, so you will need to add those, but the side armor carriers are built-in, which is hard to find, especially at this price range.

man showing his military uniform and tactical equipment

Tactical Plate Carrier FAQs

What are the different kinds of plates?

SAPI plates

SAPI or Small Arms Protective Insert is the cut used by the US military. It is a rectangle cut at the shoulders near the shoulders. It is cut this way to allow your arms to move easier and make it easier to shoulder a rifle. SAPI cut is for military use and is standardized.

Shooters cut

The shooter cut is a common cut for civilians. It is the most popular cut for civilians. There is no standard for this cut, but it is generally very similar to the SAPI cut, and can also have a deeper angle. Since the shooter cut is not a standard cut it can have either a shallower angle like the SAPI cut or a deeper angle, it really depends on the manufacturer.

Note: rarely a shooter’s cut is called a swimmer’s cut. The term is not used much, because who the heck swims with body armor on, but the term speaks to the deeper angle of the cut that allows better arm movement.

So, when you hear swimmers cut, you know it’s a plate with a deep cut angle at the shoulder.

Appalachian Tactical Armor 101 Plate Shapes

Credit: http://jerkingthetrigger.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Appalachian-Tactical-Armor-101-Plate-Shapes.png

Full cut plates or square cut plates

Full cut plates are an old-style not used much anymore. They are rectangles with no or very little cut at the shoulder. They are uncomfortable and allow far less mobility than the cut plates.

Plate sizes

Plates come in many sizes. Here are some of the most common sizes you are likely to see.

Note: if you are in the market for a bulletproof plate. Make sure it is wide enough to cover both nipples.

This will ensure good coverage of your lungs, and this span varies from person to person, but if your nipples are covered, then there should be good coverage of your lungs.

  • Side armor plates: the most common side armor plate size is 6 by 6 inches or 5 by 7 inches plates.
  • Medium: 8 by 10 inches
  • Large: 10 by 12 inches (a very popular size)
  • Extra large: 11 by 14 (Harder to find a carrier that fits this size)

Keep in mind, if it seems like these plates are small, remember that armor plates are designed to protect the heart and lungs, the most critical and vulnerable organs in your torso. They are not meant to cover your entire torso area.

Who makes the best plate carrier?

Some of the best plate carriers for ballistics and real bulletproof plates are made by tactical brands like Crye, First Spear, Scarab LT, London Bridge Trading, British Army Osprey, Spiritus Systems, Eagle Industries, Velocity Systems Mayflower, Ferro Concepts, Banshee, Velocity Systems, Esstac, Beez Combat Systems, and KDH.

But…

These brands sport hefty price tags.

If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a plate carrier, brands like Chase, 5.11, OneTigris, and GFire are great choices that cost less.

Looking for the best tactical brands overall? Check out the best tactical brands here.

What is the best color for a plate carrier?

The color that matches your other gear and or your surrounding is the best color for your tactical plate carrier.

While the military has its own standards, as a civilian, you can’t go wrong with a solid color earth tone like coyote brown. But black is also a popular option for civilians and police and pro-security personnel because it’s hard to see at night.

What brand plate carrier does the military use?

The military has awarded contracts to several brands from different vendors to supply their tactical plate carriers, including Armor Express, KDH Defense Systems, Tactical Assault Gear, and Eagle Industries.

While the body armor plates are standard, military personal sometimes get away with using other brands for the actual carrier, such as Crye.

tactical combat pump shotgun shooting training

What are the reasons to get a tactical plate carrier?

Body Armor

The most obvious reason people get tactical plate carriers is to carry body armor plates. Military, law enforcement, private security personal, armored truck drivers, bail bonds people, process servers, repo men, PIs, and even bouncers, need protection, have a legitimate need to wear body armor on duty and a plate carrier is the way to do it.

Training

Plate carriers have become popular for training. Not only military and law enforcement training but civilians are jumping on the bandwagon too. Adding weight from plate carriers has become a common CrossFit and Functional fitness training protocol.

Mil-Sim

Airsoft and paintball players trying to simulate military scenarios use plate carriers to make their uniforms look as close to real military uniforms as possible. The stock padding plates included with most plate carriers add a small amount of protection from airsoft bullets, which is another benefit.

Many plate carriers also have MOLLE or PALS webbing and external Velcro to attach packs, pouches, and mag carriers to put your gear at your fingertips, giving plate carriers another practical use in addition to aesthetics.

If you play airsoft or want a true to life mil-sim look, try a chest rig, sometimes also worn by the US military. Check out the best chest rigs right here.

What is the best plate carrier for women?

The plate carrier is usually NOT the problem with fitting the female form into body armor.

It’s the fact that the armor plate itself is an awkward fit for the female curves.

RMA armament makes a plate that is curved to fit the female bust better than a flat plate.

This RMA Level III Female Armor plate can be used with a standard tactical plate carrier.

Is a plate carrier bulletproof?

This is a common misunderstanding, but a tactical plate carrier by itself is NOT bulletproof. All plate carriers require a bulletproof plate to be bulletproof. Virtually all tactical plate carriers sold on the market today DO NOT come with plates.

So…

You must buy plates separately for your tactical plate carrier.

Can civilians buy body armor?

In the United States of America, Yes!

It is legal to purchase and wear body armor in all 50 states. You have a right to protect yourself and your family.

The only exception is if you are a convicted felon. Note, using body armor to commit a crime brings with it extra penalties in addition to the crime committed.

Where do you buy bulletproof plates?

There are several places to buy bulletproof plates for your tactical plate carrier. RMA armament, listed above, is one outlet that carries body armor plates.

Bulletproofme.com sells plates for tactical plate carriers and as an added bonus, they only sell gear made in the USA.

Another popular supplier is Bullet Safe in Michigan.

How sung should your plate carrier be?

The shoulder straps and cummerbund should be snug so the plate does not move.

Remember, the plate should fit high enough so both your nipples are covered.

Why?

If your nipples are covered then you have the majority of your lings and heart covered too.

The carrier should be snug, but allow you to take a full deep breath.

How do I pick the right size for a plate carrier?

Pick the plate carrier based on the armor size you need. Most plate carriers are fully adjustable in both the shoulder and cummerbund and made to fit most people unless you are Shaquille O’Neil large or quite petite.

Article Summary

That wraps up this tactical plate carrier guide and the best plate carrier of 2022. I hope you found a budget tactical plate carrier to meet your needs.

While I have you if you are looking to store more gear on you, a tactical vest is the way to go. Take a look at the best tactical vests right here.

Do you love all things tactical? So do we! Here at RiflePal, it’s our goal to bring you the latest gear reviews and news. Sign up for the Rifle Pal newsletter and be the first to receive new gear reviews.

Until next time,

I will see YOU in the field!