(OK...didn't know where in the regular area/forums to put this...so, since i am in AZ, I put it here...which other forum should I / can I put this in...not a for sale, just a 'look what I did'):
Ok...It's done (all but the binding)...The PracTac Experimental Plate Carrier. :)
The genesis of this idea was that I wanted a plate carrier I could use with my MESA vest but not have to wear a separate plate harness underneath it. I realized that with the design of hte MESA, this would limit me to one plate (front), but I thought I'd give it a go. But how to connect it to the MESA? Via PALS webbing, like another pouch. However, I wanted to make something that ALSO allowed the carrier to be used separately if desired.
I wanted to mix my peanut butter with my chocolate. Indeed.
I had two ideas I could have used to connect to the PALS webbing of the MESA...Annex Clips and MALICE clips. Since this carrer would bridge the opening of the MESA vest, it needed to be easily removed, so MALICE was out, leaving Annex Clips.
Given that this was my first ever produced piece of gear (apart from the Knife Drop cum Luggage Handle fiasco), I decided to give myself some leeway in the measurements...and I didn't do too badly.
My biggest hurdle is not accounting for seam allowances when cutting material, even for outside seam "net" measurements. Luckily, I recalled the carpenter's adage "measure twice, cut once" and got it nearly correct the first time.
The first pocket I did had the tan/coyote MOLLE webbing on it. I cut the front of the carrier wider than the rear, and the rear longer than the front in order to make the flap. Sewed the PALS webbing on, which was....interesting. Not that bad, but a PITA, since I had to figure out how many to put on, etc., then spacing and all that. I ended up putting the first row about 1-2" from the top, then used a piece of free webbing to space the alternating pieces. I tacked these in place with hot glue, the proceeded to sew, starting from the right, going all the way down, then doing the next channel. Surprise, they came out straight.
My channel measurements were a little off on the end (left as looking at it), since to do another 1.5" channel would have left about a .50-.75" channel...so I just left it at 2" or a smidgeon less.
Once that was done, I started on the shoulder strap holders. Since this was to be used alone on my MESA, I wanted no/as few buckles left on the carrier, so as to not interfere with me. Thus, I took a page out of Kifaru's playbook, and "made" replacement buckles out of the 2" buckles I purchased (Dremel tool). Sewed the buckle attachment points (the coarse, dark-green webbing at the top of the carrier) to the back piece.
Next came attaching the velcro to the front piece. For some stupid reason, I made the flap come from the rear to the front, like Blackhawk did with their OLD version of the plate carrier. I used a 1" piece of velcro (all I had at the time). Sewed appropriate pieces in appropriate places.
Then attached the female side-release buckles to the carrier, for the waist strap. Because I only had 1" buckles, and because this was to be modular, I used 1" webbing. In retrospect, a mistake, since when wearing the completed unit as a plate carrier, the 1" webbing cuts into my sides. 1-1/2" minimum next time. Attached female buckles vie 1" webbing and box stitches.
Now, to attach front piece to back piece. I did the right side, then the left side, leaving the top. Now, recall, front piece is wider, so as to accommodate plate. When I started sewing from one side to the other, I realized I was going to end up with "excess" material, so I made a small dart near the shoulder strap anchor webbing. Only one, so it's a little lopsided.
Ok...so THIS ONE was going to be the rear plate piece. :)
Now to the next piece.
I used OD webbing since it matched the Busch Cordura better (they sold this to me as Coyote 498, but it looks more MJK or Khaki-ish than brown). Also, turns out that in pics, it's easier to distinguish the two pockets.
On this one, I cut the front piece longer and the back piece wider to see how it would go...and also allow for the velcro and flap to go from front to rear, allowing plate insertions and removal w/o MOLLE pouch removal being necessary.
I used 2" velcro, which was imminently better. Had a problem with the #69 nylon thread "frizzing" in the hook portion, so much so that it kept breaking. So I turned it over and sewed from the Cordura side....presto!
Since the front was "cut to size", I knew I wouldn't have a problem with the PALS webbing at the edge of the plate....the other panel, the webbing "wraps around" the plate since it's wider and sewn "to" the rear Cordura. This plate was the opposite.
Did OK on the PALS webbing, but had one place where the bottom three rows went askew, so I had to rip them out and re-sew, otherwise I'd have had only a .75", .5" and .3" channel in that section, respectively. The razor blade is your friend. :)
That done, the rest was no problem, but still had the issue of the "left over" PALS webbing creating a wider end channel.
Sewed the seams again...one side, then the other. Since the back portion was wider, the "darts" would be on the back side, and I tried to make two of them, evenly spaced. Worked OK, even though the darts are very small. My concern is that the darts may pull loose.
You can see the darts at the very top
Ok...fashioned the removeable waist straps (each strap has 2 male SR buckles mating into the matching female that is on the plate carrier). Cut a portion out of the center stem of a tri-glide for the back panel, and made the same cuts in 2" SR buckles' female portion. Now, the shoudler straps AND buckles are completely removeable from the plate carriers. The female 1" SR buckles on the side are not...oops...future rev.
Now...for the taste test.
Put it all together and added my PT MLCS-style 308 pouches (made for me by Roger at CTC), a SpecOps X-4 pouch and one of Maxpedition's new H-series pouch.
I tried the carrier with both Israeli Famostone plates (1" HDPE, 3.5 pounds each) and with Ceramic L-III/IV plates (5/8", 6 pounds each). Since I sized the pockets of the carrier to accommodate the 1" HDPE plates, the pockets were a little big for the Ceramic plates, but they still worked fine. The carrier rode well with both plates, though the triple contour of the ceramic was nicer. As noted, the 1" waist straps cut into my sides a bit. Uncomfortable, but not unbearable.
Next, I wanted to try on my MESA vest, as designed. After pulling off my main ammo pouches (A double UMMP from HSG on the right, and a single UMMP from HSG on the left) and two pouches in the chest area, I attempted to attach the ceramic plate with the double MLCS-style ammo pouch, SpecOps pouch and Maxpedition pouch..ok..not the smarted thing to try given shoulder surgery 2 weeks ago. :slap: At about 10 pounds, it was heavier than I wanted to try and hold up while attempting to close the Annex Clips.
As you can see in the pictures, it works. Barely. Because the pocket is about 1-1.5' wider than the plates, esp. at the top where the plate curves in, the PALS webbing on the back (single strip) pulled severely. The Annex clip held, but if it blew, that suck royally. I am not sure this would be as big an issue with the Israeli plates, since they are a single curve and are squared off at the top. I didn't try, though.
Connecting one side of the plate carrier to the vest wasn't too hard, but the second side was tougher to close the annex clips. Additionally, they weren't the easiest to reach in and re-open, so if the vest had to be removed in a hurry (medic!), this would have been a big issue.
So, my proof of concept works, sort of. I need to figure a way to securely attach to the MESA while allowing faster removal. Some sort of woven kydex strip mounted horizontally would be cool, just pull them out and it's off...but you'd need some sort of separate horizontal to vertical PALS adaptor to put on the vest before attaching the plate. Hardly ideal.
As a plate carrier, it works pretty well, though I've not field-tested it. The removeable shoulder buckles seem very secure, but are easily removed.
Overall, I am very happy with my first project...would have been happier if I could have put binding tape on it...I bought some spray adhesive which I'll try until I get a binding foot that will work w/1" tape for my Singer 500, which was the machine I used for this.
If I am going to make darts, cut the fabric wider to make the darts bigger and more secure
Sew hook portion of velcro from Cordura side
Plate carrier flap should go front to back
I am pleased with what I've accomplished...it came out better than I had any right to expect, binding aside. I learned a lot, for sure, and having a machine that will sew very slow is very nice...not like those commercial machines with the motor spinning away at 1 million RPM!! :)
I welcome all comments, criticisms and suggestions for improvement.
Thanks for your time....
Practical Tactical, LLC
purrdy nice.........no handle?
No, I didn't know where to put that...