We currently issue the PPI Operator vest at work. We’ve been looking at and testing various vests, and plate carrier rigs for our next vest replacement which comes up in 2014.
In comes the “PIG” (Patrol Incident gear) plate carrier from SKD Tactical. (http://www.skdtac.com/PIG-Plate-Carrier-p/pig.502.htm). One of my coworkers purchased this plate carrier, set it up and we started testing it. The first thing I noticed about it was the reasonable price. The carrier ran about $340 shipped. SKD’s website boasts that their product’s ship in one business day or it ships free.
The vest itself is very well constructed. A couple of the features really struck me. First off, the carrier is one size fits all. Usually, I turn my nose up when I read stuff like that. One size fits all doesn’t work out for me in hats, why would it work out in a life saving device. The features that allow this vest to be one size fits all are pretty ingenious. The plates, regardless of size are held into the plate pockets by runners. Once the plates are positioned, the plates are assisted into place by velcro on each side to keep them from moving. Any size plate will work, and will be held into proper position to provide the level of coverage of whatever plate you have on hand. It has dedicated pockets for vest backers to soft armor inserts as well.
The carrier is sized to the individual operator in a couple of ways. The carrier has two adjustment straps that cinch the vest up or down to provide the right fit below the neck. These tie into the quick release buckles on the shoulder straps and velcro neatly into place. Pretty slick design actually. The shoulder straps are always the weak point to me in any vest. I like a vest I can run in. And the generous padding in the shoulder straps make the PIG plate carrier a breeze to run in. The cummerbund design ensures the proper fit around the operator. It is pretty standard as to how most cummerbunds are on the mainstream heavy vest/plate carrier designs out there. It also has ample back padding which is a plus for wearing it long hours.
My favorite feature on this carrier is the split cummerbund design. The design is more user friendly than that of the other vests/carriers on the market. It greatly speeds donning the vest during those middle of the night, from a sound sleep to “hey, how’d I get to this barricade” type call outs.
I think the bottom line is a good, lightweight set of plates can make or break a carrier. But, the “PIG” plate carrier seems good to go with older, heavier plates that are more cumbersome.
If you are considering buying a plate carrier, in my opinion, you can’t beat the “PIG” for the money. In the coming months, look for more on the PIG plate carrier, as well as reviews of other manufacturers carriers as I collect impressions and data.