Home Defense Plate Carrier Setup

Home Defense Plate Carrier Setup

In this article, we’ll be going over our recommendations for building a plate carrier out for a range of home defense scenarios, and how you should scale your setup depending on likely threats you wish to prepare for. As an American, it is your right to have access to life preserving equipment like body armor, just as much as you have a right to bear arms.

In times of uncertainty, being armed is only part of the equation to protecting your life, liberty, property and the security of your loved ones. With threats ranging from armed home intruders to violent mobs during mass civil unrest to government overreach enforced via violence, increasing your survivability with a plate carrier setup is a worthwhile investment.

Understanding Threat Levels

To select the right armor, you must first understand the NIJ (National Institute of Justice) rating system. The NIJ classifies body armor by levels: Level IIA, Level II, Level IIIA, and Level III and IV. Each level denotes the type of ballistic threats it can withstand.

*7.62 X 51MM
7.62 X 39MM
7.62 X 63MM
5.56 X 45MM
M855 A1
*7.62 X 63MM
7.62 X 39
7.62 X 39MM
7.62 X 54MM
7.62 X 54MM
7.62 X 54MM
R-B-32 API
5.56 X 45MM
5.56 X 45MM
*7.62 X 63MM
.45 ACP
7.62 X 39MM
.40 S&W
180 GR JSP
FN 5.7 X 28MM
40 GR SS 197
158 GR FMJ
.357 SIG
125 GR FMJ

The above information was provided directly from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, NIJ standards. Ballistic Resistance of body armor, NIJ Standard-0101.06 – visit www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij

Level IIA through IIIA are rated to pistol calibers. Level III through to level IV armor plates are rated for rifle calibers, to what degree is explained in the chart above. Importantly, your assessment of your personal safety needs will determine the level of body armor you should invest in.

Soft Armor vs Hard Armor

  • Soft Armor: soft armor is made from layers of woven fibers or laminated materials like Kevlar, soft armor primarily protects against pistol rounds. It is more comfortable and can be worn covertly.

  • Hard Armor: hard armor is constructed from rigid plates made from materials like ceramics or polyethylene. It can stop pistol and rifle rounds, but hard armor is bulkier and heavier than soft armor.

Home Intruders: An In-Depth Analysis

Burglar wearing balaclava with military MOLLE backpack.

Intruders may break into your home for various reasons: burglary, personal disputes, or even just random acts of crime.

Likelihood: Medium - High

Threat Level: Low to Medium

Optimal Plate Carrier Setup: Active Shooter Rig, minimalist design, high mobility, soft armor (optional)

Rapid Assault Sling (RAS) active shooter chest rig.

Above: Rapid Assault Sling (RAS), an alternative to body armor for rapidly donning magazines, medical equipment, flexicuffs, illumination tools, etc. RAS is a modern take on the Active Shooter Rig.

Detailed Recommendations:

  • Speed: For regular home protection, you might want something you can quickly throw on other than a plate carrier. For this purpose, we recommend the RAS (Rapid Assault Sling).
  • Front and Back Plate Bags: While side plates provide additional protection, they might not be necessary against a lone intruder and can limit mobility. If armor is desired, a simple carrier with front and back plate pockets should suffice.
  • Level III Armor: Home intruders are generally seeking valuables. As a result, something small, light and concealable like a handgun is likely to be their preference if they carry a firearm at all. Level III plates will stand up to this threat.

Civil Unrest: Beyond the Chaos

D.C. riots in reaction to George Floyd’s death. Rioters stand next to burning debris.

Above: A mob in the nation's capitol, Washington D.C., during the summer 2020 riots stands next to burning debris. Photo courtesy of Washingtonpost.com, Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post

Population centers can quickly descend into chaos, whether the cause is political turmoil, power outages or natural disasters. A volatile populace can pose various threats. From blunt force trauma from thrown objects to acts of arson and firearm threats, it's unpredictable. A mob or looters on a rampage can rapidly escalate and destroy entire neighborhoods or city blocks.

Likelihood: Moderate

Threat Level: Medium to High

Optimal Plate Carrier Setup: Level IV plates, MOLLE system, extended coverage

Detailed Recommendations:

  • Hydration + Thermoregulation (Cooling/Heating): Compared to the rapid reaction needed for a home intruder, the build up to mass civil unrest is usually apparent hours or days before it comes to a head. If you're navigating a chaotic environment or wearing a plate carrier in a static position (like your home or business) for hours on end, hydration and cooling (or heating in cold climates) will significantly improve your physical and cognitive performance under stress. To integrate cooling, heating and hydration, we recommend IMS Pro or IMS Versa. For hard cell hydration only, we recommend the IMS.
  • Shoulder Pads: If you’re wearing your carrier for an extended period, comfort and endurance becomes significant factors. Quality shoulder pads like ICEVENTS® Classic or ICEVENTS® Aero can distribute weight more evenly, reduce fatigue and provide continuous airflow under load to aid in endurance. 
  • Level IV Armor: With the potential for rifles to be amongst a mob, we recommend Level IV armor to be best prepared for this threat.

Armored Intruders: Preparing for the Worst

Men wearing MultiCam uniforms, plate carriers and wielding rifles scan a dark hallway.

This is a scenario no one hopes to encounter. Such intruders have both the intent and means to cause harm.

Likelihood: Low

Threat Level: Very High

Optimal Plate Carrier Setup: Level IV plates, full coverage, additional pouches

Detailed Recommendations:

  • Medical: Medical equipment should always be a high priority, but a determined armored threat poses an extremely high risk. Carrying medical equipment on your plate carrier is a must.
  • Level IV Armor: When a threat is likely to be using a 5.56 NATO or 7.62x39 weapon system, we recommend Level IV armor to best defend against this threat.

Regular Training and Familiarization

Whichever setup you opt for, regularly train with it. This ensures you're familiar with its weight, the layout of your pouches, and how it restricts (or doesn't restrict) your movement. The best gear in the world won't help if you're not familiar with its operation or if you're paralyzed by fear during an emergency.

In Conclusion

A plate carrier is more than just armor; it's a commitment to safety, preparation, and survival. Whether you're preparing for potential home intruders or larger-scale threats, understanding your equipment's capabilities and limitations can make the difference between life and death. As with all things defense-related, it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

The subject matter expert who reviewed and approved this article is: Justin Li

Justin Li spent almost eight years with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department where he worked a wide variety of law enforcement assignments including patrol, alpine mountaineering, border work, wild fire evacuations, manhunts, SAR, and Active Shooter Response. He is trained and certified in a wide variety of law enforcement skills including, Patrol Rifle, Search And Rescue, First Aid/CPR, Chemical Agents, Less Lethal, Defensive Tactics, Alpine Mountaineering, Off-Road/ATV, Emergency Vehicle Operators Course, Impact Weapons, TCCC, and Shotgun.

Since leaving law enforcement, Justin has invented and designed multiple innovations for military and law enforcement use which carry both U.S. and international patents.


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