The wars in which the United States has been involved during the last decade have given rise to a great many advances in military armor, which have been adopted into law enforcement protective apparel as well. One of the first such improvements to see action is the now-ubiquitous plate carrier. Originally designed to give the end user the ability to wear hard, rifle-capable ballistic plates over the top of any soft body armor vest, the plate carrier has now developed into a complex load bearing system as well as simple ballistic protection.
Several years ago, Diamondback Tactical
(DBT) came out with a line of plate carriers that have the ability to integrate soft body armor into the plate carrier. This is a reverse of the norm where the plate carrying capability was an addendum to a “normal” ballistic vest. Simply put, the marriage of the plate carrier with the ballistic protection offered much in terms of mobility and protection over more traditional systems.
Realizing that freedom of movement, and thus the freedom to engage a target, is just as important as protection, DBT took a hard look at exactly what protection was needed in a body armor system and set about to produce one of the finest plate carrier systems on the market. The Advanced Warrior Fast Attack Plate Carrier (AW-FAPC) offers a significant level of ballistic protection to the wearer while at the same time offering a high level of freedom of movement.
Designed from the ground up to first incorporate the ability to carry hard ballistic plates, the AW-FAPC also benefits by having been designed to carry soft ballistic armor as part of an integrated package. To top it off, the AW-FAPC features side panel protection in the form of a well-designed cummerbund. This is also designed specifically to carry both hard tactical-level ballistic trauma plates and soft armor inserts.
The well-designed, stiff chassis system essentially supports the entire structure of the armor and plates, which makes this one of the most comfortable armor packages in existence. Due solely to the excellence of this design, the carrier and armor feel many pounds lighter than their actual weight.
DBT sent two AW-FAPC systems for long term testing. Both were placed in service with a working SWAT unit for more than a year to test both durability and long term comfort, which sometimes fades with time as fabric and supports break down.
Both of the AW-FAPCs were delivered in Ranger Green, which is very similar in appearance to the older Olive Drab from years past. This color has much to offer for urban tactical units. Professional in appearance yet able to essentially disappear in the twilight or darkness, Ranger Green and similar colors are becoming a favorite of many modern teams. The AW-FAPC is offered in other colors as well, including black, ACU and MultiCam.
The AW-FAPC has fully padded shoulders that feature DryLex and a breathable spacer material designed to improve wearer comfort. Both shoulders will accept optional armor inserts for even further protection.
At the front of the unit, the cummerbund closes in a clamshell-like “pull forward” motion with two very large Velcro® closures (one per side). Once secured, the front flap, which also covered with molle webbing with an integrated expandable pocket, secures over the top of the cummerbund ends to add both additional security and mounting space for pockets and pouches.
When testing began, there was some initial concern over the area of the body that was provided coverage by this design as opposed to other, more traditional designs. Upon comparing a “Spear cut” or “BALC’s” cut of body armor to the AW-FAPC, there is not a significant difference in the coverage area although it does feel to most end users that this is a much lighter and less restrictive design.
While subjective, this feeling gave rise to the thought there was more freedom of movement with the AW-FAPC, which was born out in tests that included crawling, climbing and finally live-fire firearms training. Officers who tested this unit side-by-side with other styles of vest all commented they felt as though the AW-FAPC offered them a much greater range of motion, which gave them the ability to maneuver into position and engage targets in a more positive fashion.
Throughout the year-long test, the chassis maintained its integrity despite numerous operational deployments and a significant training regimen. All operators commented the vest gave an even weight distribution without the traditional “hot spots” that wear on one part of the body or another and can cause discomfort and fatigue.
Of great importance, the officers who tested this unit said the carrier was cooler than other vests they had worn in the past. This is a testament to both the Drylex lining as well as the padding built into the vest itself, which allows for air to circulate more freely through the AW-FAPC. Less heat means less fatigue, which allows for an operator to stay in the fight longer at a much higher operational ability level.
The AW-FAPC is available with several different ballistic armor packages installed at the factory. The plate carriers in this review used DBT’s QVA 3A armor. QVA armor is a 50-50 blend of Teijin Twaron and Dyneema. This package meets NIJ standards and is rated to stop so-called “special threat” rounds such as the Winchester 9mm 127 grain +P+ and Speer .357 Magnum 125 grain loadings.
Capable of providing both protection and maneuverability along with a great deal of comfort for the end user, the Diamondback Tactical Advanced Warrior Fast Attack Plate Carrier is a complete ballistic protection system. This should receive strong consideration from those units who are choosing new armor systems or want to upgrade current systems to meet a changing mission profile. Scott Oldham is a lieutenant with the Bloomington, Ind., Police Department. After 18 years with the department’s tactical unit, Lt. Oldham has recently left the team after serving in various capacities, including team commander. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.