Reply to "Confused About Buying Rifle Plates, Carriers, and Helmets for PATROL OFFICERS? Start Here."

I hate to tell you this but I am not going to make any recommendations on which specific items to buy. I will provide some general recommendations along with more attachments. I will also end this post by telling you what my agency ultimately purchased.

Regarding Plate Carriers for Patrol Cops:

I strongly recommend you avoid anything with large exposed plastic buckles because they tend to get caught/crushed in car doors or trunks, hung up on hinges or wires,  and basically crushed, snapped, or lost. Get something that is made to rapidly don over the top of the patrol uniform (and underlying soft body armor). 

Avoid anything made "offshore" unless the vendor can provide adequate proof of quality (and preferably a list of other professional end users). Be sure there are bar tacks (reinforced lines of stitching) at critical load-bearing points. Make sure it comes with at least one pouch or pocket. MOLLE is nice but consider the follow on issues of logistics and purchasing of pouches.  

Check out the first attachment to this post entitled, "Proper Wear of Armor" and this post about the same right here on LIghtfighter. Stay focused on the reason you are getting these things in the first place. The primary purpose of a plate carrier is to hold the protective hard armor plates in place. Their secondary purpose is to enable the patrol officer to carry mission-essential equipment. If you don't control methodology and doctrine early on, you will have some of your people overload the carrier with stuff they don't need. Some might even compromise their ability to perform at their peak effectiveness.  For example, watch out for the guy who loads his carrier up with 6 spare magazines (in addition to the one in his rifle) but doesn't have a place for other important items (trauma kit, radio, multi-tool, flashlight, etc.).  

Side Note RE Patrol Rifle Magazines: Even if it takes an average of 6 rounds to stop 1 bad guy, three magazines loaded with 28 rounds each is still enough ammo to kill 14 bad guys.  Using that same math, a single magazine loaded with 28 rounds will enable you to put down an average of 4.66 bad guys. Patrol cops can do a lot of good work with a rifle and 2 spare magazines (for a total of 3 magazines). 

Do not take any vendor's word for anything. Period. Get your hands on the product. Put two heavy plates in the carrier and then have different sized people at your agency try it on. Then have them run with it. Dance in place. Make it shake. Make it shimmy. Get out your seat and jump around. Jump up, jump up and get down. You might surprised at how many of the "offshore" plate carriers will fail this simple test in the first 30 seconds. 

If you keep seeing "knock off" carriers which are clearly a copy of another company's plate carriers...that's a clue about the products you should be looking for.

Regarding Ballistic Helmets for Patrol Cops:

The preferred helmet style/pattern for most police patrol operations is the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH). The MICH pattern is also acceptable as it is effectively identical to the ACH. There are several other helmet profiles similar to the ACH/MICH pattern which would likely meet your needs.

 The ACH/MICH helmet profile is compatible with most standard public safety style gas masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). The ACH/MICH has been in service since approximately 2002 and is now the standard “workhorse” of helmets for both military and law enforcement. It can be used in its simplest configuration or it can be upgraded later to accept modular components (rails, search lights, night vision mounts, etc). See the attached photo and this article for more information about the ACH.

 Some agencies choose to avoid the PASGT profile because of the visor or “lip” which can make it difficult for some officers to fire their rifle from the prone position and/or interfere with acquiring a proper sight picture, especially when using a red-dot sight. This is not always the case and it's certainly not a hard-and-fast rule (I can sense the Marines bristling now). It goes without saying that a PASGT-style helmet is definitely acceptable for officers who are not using patrol rifles.

 Whatever helmet you decide to go with, make sure it provides Level IIIA ballistic protection. While most helmet manufacturers state their products provide level IIIA ballistic protection, it is important to note that NIJ does not certify Level IIIA helmets. The NIJ certification for helmets only provides for testing up to Level II. The only comprehensive Level IIIA testing protocol for helmets in the U.S. is conducted by H. P. White Laboratory, Inc.  Though NIJ Standard 0106.06 does not address helmets, most reputable manufacturers conduct or contract testing of their helmets consistent with or similar to the Level IIIA requirements of that standard.

 Here’s some verbiage that may be helpful for writing your specifications:

 “Helmets considered for purchase must conform to the requirements of Type II classification as defined by the NIJ Standard for Ballistic Helmets (0106.01). Vendors must provide documentation of ballistic testing consistent with the Level IIIA requirements of NIJ Standard 0106.06. Additional documentation of testing conducted in compliance with the following standards is strongly preferred:”

 Helmet Manufacturers (non-exhaustive list):

 Helmet Vendors (non-exhaustive list):

 If you're still reading this post, I know what you're thinking: Enough of your blather! What did y'all buy? 

These are the products my agency went with.  I am not suggesting that you should do the same thing.  

Plate carrier (one per officer)

Shellback Tactical Banshee (black in color)

More Info re Shellback Banshee @ SKD Tactical

Plate (two per officer)

ProTech Model 2120-5, Level III+ Stand Alone, Multi-Hit  /  This is a multi-curve ceramic/polyethylene composite plate weighing only 5.5 pounds. It is capable of stopping 6 hits of some of the most potent 5.56mm and 7.62mm rifle ammo available. They are drop-tested and include padding on the surface worn nearest the body. This plate is rated for all the ammo listed in our specs and it does not need to be x-rayed every year. It is the best value we could find in terms of protection, weight, cost, thickness, and curvature.

Helmet (one per officer)

United Shield ACH/MICH Level IIIA with military pad system (black in color)  

While we sought the best possible price on items meeting our specifications, these are not “low bid” products. This is professional-grade equipment intended to ensure our officers' survival in the face of extraordinary threats. We believe these products provided us with the best possible combination of personal protection, durability, weight, cost, and delivery time.  A “better” product does us no good if it cannot be delivered for another 5 months or if we cannot afford to buy it for every member of our department. 

Please check out the attachments for additional information. I'm happy to answer any questions as much as I am able. 

 

Attachments

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