If you are in the market for a plate carrier for protection or law enforcement use, it can be intimidating when you start researching. There is a wide range of prices that can quickly start pushing $1,000. Let’s face it, most of us don’t have a grand to drop on a single plate carrier.
After serving more than a decade in law enforcement tactical units, high-end plate carriers are something I wear daily. After wearing many different types of plate carriers professionally, I can tell you there is not a single one that will serve every purpose. This only adds to the confusion and difficulty of searching for a plate carrier for personal protection. So, it is paramount to understand what type you need, and what it will do.
Let’s look at a few different types of plate carriers, and then look at the one we are reviewing today, the Tactical Advanced sleek 2.0 Plate Carrier by RTS.
Types of Plate Carriers
I use and train with these types daily.
1. General Purpose-Patrol
This type of vest normally carries soft-armor panels that are custom fit to the person wearing them. In Law Enforcement, we wear these types of vests under a uniform or in an outside carrier over a uniform. Trauma plates can also be added to the chest area for additional protection.
2. Tactical-Entry Vest
The tactical entry vest is not only designed to hold heavier plates and panels, but also to hold more gear for tactical teams. These vests are typically much heavier than our general-purpose vests and can be bulkier at times. Years ago, the idea was to have the largest heaviest vest possible for protection, but in recent years, many tactical units are choosing lighter smaller plate carriers as they allow more flexibility and quicker movements.
3. Active Shooter Plate Carriers
The first time I was issued an “active shooter” plate carrier with steel plates, my question was “why can’t we just use tactical entry vests?” The idea of an active shooter plate carrier however is simplicity, speed, and cost. For the purpose of this review, I would put the 2.0 RTS plate carrier in this category.
4. Under-Cover or Plain Clothes Vest/Plate Carrier
We use these types of vests when performing undercover operations or security during formal attire events where we may not want to attract attention as “the guy with the gun” in the room. This type of vest or plate carrier must be worn under regular clothes without being too obvious that a vest is being carried under it.
The RTS Tactical Advanced Sleek 2.0 Plate Carrier can work great for both 3 and 4 from the list above. For the purpose of this review, we will focus on how it can work for not only those applications, but also for personal protection should you decide to take the next step in protecting yourself and your family.
RTS Tactical Advanced Sleek 2.0 Specs
- Weight: 7.0 lbs
- High-Velocity Rifle Ballistic Protection NIJ 0101.06 Level III+
- Size: 10” x 12” SAPI cut single curve
- Coating: Extrema Durable Polyurea Coating
- AR600 USA MADE NIJ 0101.06 Level III+ Special Threat Inserts
2.0 Plate Carrier
- Made with 8mm thick closed-cell (EVA) foam
- The shell is constructed of advanced Stretch Cordura® Nylon.
- Fully Concealable for covert operations
- Ability to carry AR-15 style mags or pistol mags
Built-In Magazine Holders
When wearing the new RTS Sleek 2.0 plate carrier, right away I noticed the magazine holders built into the tactical side straps. That appealed to me because it gives you the ability to carry multiple assortments of magazines while maintaining a low-profile appearance.
During my time wearing the Sleek 2.0, I carried 4 AR mags while training with my AR-15, but then changed to two AR mags and four Glock 17 mags for under-cover operations training. We have recently begun training with PCC weapons that hold high-capacity Glock magazines for operations in populated areas, so I also used the carrier to hold just two Glock 17 mags and two 31-round Glock magazines. The carrier was able to keep the magazines snug up against my sides during training and wearing under clothing.
Because of the elastic style mag holders, it would be very difficult to re-load a mag into the mag holders. This requires the user to place the mags into the holders on the side straps before wearing the carrier. Because this carrier was designed as a low-profile plate carrier that also can hold magazines for a rifle and or pistol, I don’t have any issue with this style of loading mags. While the mags must be inserted in the carrier while it is off, they were very easy to pull from the carrier during re-loading drills while wearing.
Quality and Function of the Sleek 2.0 Plate Carrier
Along with the wide range in pricing for tactical vests and plate carriers, the quality also varies with them. But unlike some products or gear, the price of vests and plate carriers doesn’t always reflect the quality. Sometimes you can find good quality product for a decent price that doesn’t
break the bank. The RTS Sleek 2.0 plate carrier is one of those products. For a retail price of $129.99 (not including plates), the Sleek 2.0 plate carrier was surprisingly well made and appears to be built to withstand the toughest of missions. When using the plate carrier, I focused on some of the areas I have seen have the most issues in the past.
The Velcro Straps
The first of these issues is the Velcro used on the carrier. If good high-quality Velcro is not used, the carrier will become worthless because the Velcro will fail to hold the side straps secure, and the shoulder straps will start to slip from the weight of the plates causing it to ride lower then you want on your chest and back. I made sure to take the carrier on and off as much as possible and I pulled the plates out daily after each use to put some wear and strain on the Velcro. As of the time of writing, I have had no issues with the Velcro on the side or shoulder straps.
Closed-Cell (EVA) Foam
The 8mm thick closed-cell foam made the plate carrier very comfortable and the webbing on the inside made it very easy to breath. I have worn a lot of vests in my day that made me feel like I was trapped in a canvas bag. I was able to wear the Sleek 2.0 however for hours during training events and found it to be surprisingly comfortable. The pads on the shoulder straps made the weight of the vest easy to carry, but they can also be removed when wearing the carrier under clothing.
The AR600 Level III+ Armor-Piercing Round Plates
The AR600 Steel plates that came with the Sleek 2.0 were around a quarter of an inch thick and had a slight curve to them to help conform to the operator’s chest. The Level III+ plates meet NIJ 0101.06 requirements meaning they are rated for multi-hit protection for weapons up to 5.56 M193 and M855, making them durable enough to stop armor piercing rounds. Steel plates can be heavier than ceramic, but they can also take more hits without breaking down and are much thinner.
The opening in the carrier for the plates was very tight. It is designed to hold 10” x 12” plates and you would not be able to place a different size in it, but this also allows the operator a wide range of motion without the plates moving around in the carrier. The steel plates that came with the carrier are approximately ¼’ thick allowing the carrier to be worn covertly. I was able to fit some 10” x 12” ceramic plates that were ¾’ of an inch in it as well without any issue.
The RTS Tactical Sleek 2.0 Plate Carrier is a great option for covert operations for law enforcement and security professional but could also make a great plate carrier for personal protection. The size of the carrier makes it easy to conceal while wearing and storing at home or in a vehicle. I was able to fit mine under the back seat of my truck, allowing me to keep a vest with extra mags that can be thrown on in a matter of seconds. Because the side straps of the vest ride high on the waist, the Sleek 2.0 can be a good option for law enforcement to throw over their uniforms when extra protection is needed without it getting in the way of their duty belt.
The quality was outstanding, the plates were a little heavy, but very thin and the shoulder straps and foam lining made the vest comfortable to wear. This is by far the most compact plate carrier that can hold rifle and pistols mags I have ever seen. I will be keeping mine with me while on and off duty.
The only thing I would like to see different on the carrier is a larger felt area on the chest where the patch is designed to go. For the protection you receive and a vest that is sleek and made to wear under clothing, you can’t beat the price.