The number of people who have actually worn body armor at work is small. Most are military and law enforcement. In fact, the vast majority of civilians who purchase a plate carrier will do so for airsoft or paintball use. There’s nothing wrong with this, but for those few civilians who have actually had to wear body armor, this article is for you.
After being issued Interceptor Body Armor in 2007, I gradually developed a dislike for the system. In terms of ballistic protection, I can find few faults with it. It’s also very easy to put on and take off, being a front-opening system similar to a jacket. Nonetheless, the weight-distribution features are very poor, as nearly all the weight rests on the wearer’s shoulders.
As discussed in a previous article, steel and ceramic rifle plates are both heavy and cumbersome. It doesn’t take long for the bulk of body armor to weigh you down. That’s why it’s essential to have a quality armor carrier.
Enter the Spartan II, made by Tactical Applications Group (not to be confused with Tactical Assault Gear). In 2009, I purchased this armor carrier from O P Tactical and immediately fell in love with it. Designed to fit IBA soft Kevlar inserts, the Spartan II is a big step up in comfort with a number of interesting features.
As an over-the-head carrier, it is not as easy to don as the old Interceptor Outer Tactical Vest, especially when you tighten up the shoulders. Occasionally this can be a bit painful if you have larger ears that stick out, as I do. However, the tradeoff is increased comfort while carrying armor and increased options for attaching pouches to your armor.
The secret is the cummerbund, which wraps around the waist and fastens in the front, underneath the belly flap. This system allows the
wearer to cinch the armor around the torso. The cummerbund is not so high that a snug fit inhibits breathing. In fact, the close proximity of the band to the waist means that a large portion of the armor’s weight is distributed to the hips. More even distribution of weight results in a substantially lighter perceived load. While I carried Steadfast soft armor and steel level III rifle in my carrier in southern Iraq, I was generally much more comfortable than I’d been in the Interceptor armor. Specifically, my shoulders didn’t ache from the weight of my gear. I should note the cummerbund is also covered with MOLLE webbing, which allows the wearer to attach pouches with ease.
The Spartan II possesses other features worth mentioning. The drag handle on the back of the armor is a standard concept, but this one is exceptionally sturdy. The armor incorporates a section designed to accept soft armor and cover the lower spine. I call it the “butt flap.”
Of particular interest to me are the buckles on the front of both shoulders. As I outlined in my article on the Gear Sector QD Sling Adapter <link to Gear Sector Article>, this buckle can serve to keep your carbine at low ready. The buckles are well-made. I have never had one fail, even with a 12lb rifle attached.
While my Spartan II carrier is sun-bleached and sweat-stained, I would not hesitate to take it back overseas. It’s a fine piece of gear—one that I am very glad I purchased.
By Allen Cosby