I spend a good deal of time wearing body armor. I train at Alliance Police Training Facility a lot. So far, in 2021 alone, I have accumulated more than 400 hours of serious training time at Alliance. Some as a student. Other times as a “helper.” Some time as an assistant instructor. Many of those courses require rifle-rated body armor as standard PPE. Others require the use of a plate carrier to help carry the gear needed for successful completion of the course. Many times I’m wearing my PC and plates, a Defense Mechanisms Mission Essential Plate Carrier and ShotStop plates to be specific – for both reasons.
That’s why I’m talking about plate carriers and body armor…
The bottom line for me is that I have spent a lot of time wearing body armor and as a result, I’ve formed some opinions about what I like and what I don’t.
You might be actively shopping for a plate carrier and plates for a variety of reasons. Maybe you have coursework planned, such as a live-fire shoot house course where plates are part of the PPE. Or you could be looking for a setup to use in your professional work. Or, maybe you are searching for a carrier and armor to use in a worst-case scenario.
Regardless of why you are shopping, I think my thoughts on my current setup might help you to determine what plate carrier and plate combination is best for you.
The DM Mission Essential Plate Carrier and SHOT STOP Armor
This combination provides a superior balance between performance, versatility, and comfort.
I have received goods from both Defense Mechanisms and SHOTSTOP at no cost. Plate carriers, accessories, and plates were received by me in the hopes that I would provide feedback and media coverage (like this article) of those products. You should know this. You should also know that the gear I received was given without the expectation of a positive review—just a fair and objective opinion. You should also be aware that I have spent plenty of my own money with both of these companies. I placed the very first order that Defense Mechanisms ever received and I have purchased 4 sets of SHOTSTOP plates with my own coin.
What I think you should take away from this disclosure is that I have objectively evaluated this gear and it is not only worth my effort to write about it, but I also spend my own money on it. I can’t think of a stronger endorsement.
The Defense Mechanism MEPC
The Defense Mechanism Mission Essential Plate Carrier is a lightweight durable carrier that can easily be customized to fit your mission even if your mission changes.
The foundation of the MEPC is the front and rear plate bags. Both of the bags are built from 500 denier Cordura for durability and feature a 3D mesh liner for comfort and enhanced airflow. The front and rear plate bags are connected and fitted with a set of overlapping hook and loop straps. These straps are secure and provide a wide range of adjustability to fit a wide variety of people.
The two plate bags are sized to fit the size plates they will carry, not the size of the person. The plate bags can accommodate plates up to 1” thick. If you have thicker plates you should increase the size of your plate bags one size.
Plates are held in place in both the front and rear bag by a velcro strap that lifts the plates to the top of the bag and then enclosed by a second velcro flap.
Front Plate Bag
The Front plate bag of the MEPC features a zippered admin pouch, a loop field for use with patches or nav tools, and QASM buckles to attach a placard. The QASM buckles can be removed if you want to use a G-Hook Placard base or simply run your front bag slick. The front bag has a generous loop field for the attachment of a hook cummerbund and is compatible with any hook and loop cummerbund.
Rear Plate Bag
All of the rear plate bags are equipped with a set of hook and loop shoulder straps that mate with the front bag, a hook and loop field for patches and or PID lights, and a fold-flat drag handle. Just like with the front bag the plate is secured with an adjustable hook and loop strap and an additional hook and loop flap.
The flap also acts as a cover for your hook and loop cummerbund to help prevent snagging. When it comes to the rear plate bag you have a choice between two options, slick or Molle. My first DM MEPC setup was a slick rear plate bag. The slick rear bag is lighter weight and contains a single row of Molle with a loop face.
My current setup is the Molle rear bag which allows for the attachment of gear to the rear plate. If you are looking to run comms, breaching tools, or a Recondite bag on the rear plate bag, as I do, you are going to want the Molle rear bag.
Mission Essential Plate Carrier Options
What really makes the MEPC excel in my opinion is the modularity of the carrier. This is achieved through add-on options that enhance the performance of the plate carrier. From communication sleeves to placard options DM strives to be a problem-solving company. Their mode of operation is to innovate and solve problems experienced with traditional gear setups.
The MEPC options begin with assembling a custom placard that can be changed at any time. The placard can have the foundation of 3 AR-15 mags, or simply a hook and loop placard base where you can customize multiple layers to carry exactly the gear you need.
In addition to the placards, you can outfit your carrier with additional options such as split communication sleeves, various cummerbunds, additional pouches for communications gear, or for specific tools such as the Liberty Dynamics Enhanced Diversionary Device.
SHOTSTOP Diritium III+ PA Plates
Inside my DM MEPC sits a set of SHOTSTOP Diritium III+ PA plates. SHOTSTOP’s Diritium plates are lightweight, comfortable, and durable. The materials and construction of the plates are both proprietary and lend to the overall effectiveness of the plates. I’ve had the opportunity to watch these plates be absolutely abused—to the point of being set on fire and shot with multiple rounds of 5.56, .308, and 7.62×39 including edge hits. The plates simply perform.
As I’ve watched the plates be systematically, intentionally, and violently “disassembled” it is clear that the solid construction is a series of layers of proprietary polymer. These layers are able to absorb the energy from rifle rounds and dissipate it into the plates with minimal back face deformation. Of course, the plates are NIJ certified and they grossly exceed the standards the NIJ sets forth for certification.
In addition to being lightweight, the SHOTSTOP PA plates feature a double curve. As someone who has worn single curve plates, I have to say I am a huge fan of the double curve. Our bodies are built with more than one curve so it only makes sense that the stiff armor plates match our shape as closely as possible. Having the plates fit your form is worth the extra cost. A set of plates that matches your body is more comfortable alone. When laden with gear, that closer fit helps to distribute the weight of your kit evenly. In addition, the double curve exploits the thinness of the plates. Together, the thin plates and the multi-curve design help to bring the gear closer to the body. The result is increased comfort and reduced strain. That is a win.
Body Armor Value
One of the attributes that help SHOTSTOP stand out in my mind is value. The PA III+ plates really stand out compared to the offerings standard in the industry. The PA plates are positively buoyant with a 10×12 shooters cut plate weighing in at just 2.7 pounds. The thickness of the double-curved plates is just .7 inches.
All those specs are great. What is really impressive is that the PA plates are backed by a 15-year warranty. The industry standard is 5 years. The SHOTSTOP plates are priced lower than the comparable plates. In addition, they have a 15-year life which increases the value of the plates by 3x.
Why the DM MEPC and SHOTSTOP PA Plates Stand Out
After 4 different carriers and 3 sets of plates, I’ve finally settled in on what works best for me. The combination of the Defense Mechanisms MEPC and the SHOTSTOP III+ PA plates is the ticket. The system is lightweight, modular, and comfortable to wear. The result is the perfect setup for me. I can quickly and easily configure my gear to suit my needs and my rig is comfortable to wear. This leads to more time, effort, and energy invested in my training and less wasted effort, wearing, donning, and doffing my gear.
Both the Mission Essential Plate Carrier, its accessories, and SHOTSTOP plates are available through the Defense Mechanisms website making the actual shopping just about as easy as setting up and using this plate/carrier combination.