Originally Posted by Topgun863
Can you suggest some manufacturers of vests/soft armor that can also be used as plate carriers so I can get some ideas of what to look for? I'd like to eventually have level III armor (maybe even level IV). I saw the link that was posted for what plates to get, but I'm not really sure where to look for the soft armor/carrier.
I highly recommend Beez Combat Systems. I have used their products a lot over the years becasue their customer service is awesome, they make an excellent line of products, and you get a very well-designed & well thought-out piece of gear for relatively little...when you compare their prices to the other Gucci-gear makers out there.
Here's a review I did for them: http://blog.beezcombatsystems.com/bo...ontractor.html
I highly recommend the NIJ-II vest or the OTV LBAV. For body armor that you'll be wearing for an extended period of time, you want it to be comfortable and form fitting. I have encountered many guys in the private security & security contracting world who do NOT wear their issued armor because they say it's uncomfortable or it does not fit well. That's their call. Me, I say in that case, invest in your own and wear it on duty (obviously with permission from the respective stakeholders).
If it's on your own dime, used on your time, then you still want something that will last, will be affordable, and can be tailored to fit your needs. This is why I use the Beez Combat Systems NIJ-II or the OTV LBAV. Both vests will take soft armor inserts. The NIJ-II will take NIJ "standard" vests (I.E. police issue body armor). On the front and back of the NIJ-II , there are pockets for you to insert hard (rifle) plates. So, if you need to, you can "armor up," and tailor your body armor to fit your needs. The cool thing about the NIJ-II is that it has 2 elastic straps on each side and they conform to your body. This is very important. What's the point of having body armor on if it doesn't cover the areas you need?
The OTV LBAV will take the armor inserts from any commonly encountered "Interceptor" vest...the standard GI "flak jacket" that you see soldiers and Marines wear in the news. The OTV LBAV turns the 3-piece "Interceptor" into a 2-piece vest with adjustable straps on the side, so it's easy to take on and off. Plus, it'll take hard (rifle) plates in the front and back as well, also allowing you to "armor up," if necessary.
The other cool thing about both of these vests is that you can throw on a Rhodesian chest rig, or a zip-up tactical vest, or a load bearing vest over these armor carriers. Used NIJ "standard" armor and military surplus "Interceptor" vests are easy to find. Check out www.GunBroker.com
These are just the observations and recommendations of a former Marine and current security contractor. Best bet is to go to some of the different tactical gear retailers around and try some stuff on. Hope this helps. Cheers!