In the past few years I’ve noticed a big surge in the popularity of hard plate carriers. Not only for the military (those have been around for a while) but for law enforcement and even civilian use.
Trying to navigate through all the companies that are now producing plate carriers can be quite a feat these days. Just Google armor plate carries and you get blasted with acronyms like IOTV, CIRAS, PIG, LVAC, BOAR, RBAV, and PICO among a bunch of others.
Since we’re reviewing the Shellback Tactical BANSHEE Plate Carrier today, we’ll stick with stand alone designs in this article. You might think looking for a stand alone carrier is easy, but there are so many choices in companies, designs, and options. Trying to work through all this can be a real nightmare if you’re a new buyer.
One major factor in making your choice might be cost. Lets face it, throwing down $300+ on a plate carrier might not be a valid option in today’s economy. I’m a hands on kind of guy and without holding a piece of gear in my hand it’s hard for me to spend a lot of money on something online. This becomes a problem if you’re looking at some of the “custom” companies, as trying out one of their carriers before buying it is going to be a issue.
Enter the BANSHEE
This is where the U.S. Made BANSHEE Plate Carrier shines. At $130.00, it’s hard for other manufacturer’s to come close to the quality and design you get with the Banshee. You also get a product that’s linked directly with TAG (Tactical Assault Gear) which has a solid reputation for quality.
Michael Wratten, the owner of Shellback Tactical, says it’s a strategic partnership but adds Shellback is a independent company. He takes pride in the fact that Shellback is geared toward law enforcement and other first responders.
So what do you get for $130.00? You get a simple low profile, light weight carrier, which isn’t loaded down with things you don’t need. You do get things like hook and loop for identification front and back, body side padding, hidden shoulder buckles, kangaroo admin pocket and full MOLLE cummerbund. Did I mention the lifetime warranty?
Speaking of the cummerbund, there are a couple things to discuss. First is you can run the carrier without one. If you only need the carrier for the front and back plates, you can remove the cummerbund and secure the sides with the removable side straps. This is a great option for law enforcement, where you might need plates, but not a loaded out vest.
Second is you can also run the cummerbund with side plates if you need a loaded out vest with side protection. There are MOLLE on both sides so adding 7×8 SAPI side pockets is simple.
The cummerbund has a shock cord system so getting it adjusted with or without backers isn’t a problem. This is also nice if you switch between going over a uniform or plain clothes. Like most cummerbund systems this simply loops through a pocket in the rear plate carrier. You will have to slide it to one side or the other to get to the shock cord stop in order to make those adjustments. The only carrier I know of that allows adjustment without doing this is the PIG, but in most circumstances you adjust it once anyway.
Another nice option you probably won’t find on carriers in this price range, are padded shoulder straps and padding on the carrier itself. The buckles are over the top of the padding and don’t bite into your shoulders when worn without concealed body armor.
The buckles may be hidden but they are still easy to release if needed. Getting them back together may take some finesse, as it’s a tight fit, but that isn’t a big deal. If you still need even more padding, Shellback just released new shoulder pads.
The plates are held in place by hook and loop flaps front and back. You can run 10×12 plates with soft armor backers but you cannot run XL SAPI plates. There is plenty of room for ballistic backers, but to my surprise the plates don’t float around. I was a bit skeptical since there is no internal fastening system like other carriers use, but the cut of the carriers takes out any play.
There is one thing about the way the front cummerbund flap works that I don’t like. Once the cummerbunds are connected you have to reach up and under the front plate to secure the flap. Some systems use a button or small straps but the BANSHEE uses the entire front flap. When I went to take off the carrier I pulled the strap on the flap and it pulled the entire piece open dropping the front plate out on the ground.
Since I was using the Team Wendy training plates that I’ll discuss below, it wasn’t a big deal. Had this happened with my actual plates, it might have been disastrous. It only occurred once so I’ll chalk it up to user error, but it’s something to think about when you first start playing around with the carrier.
The front cummerbund flap has a large kangaroo pocket which is lined with hook and loop. This is another great feature which is standard. It allows you to run any type of hook and loop internal accessory like the SKD PIG Kangaroo Pouch Mag Insert in the photos. These are a awesome design which allows you to run two magazines keeping everything super slick. You could also run a pistol or radio holster in this area.
One thing about the design is that the pocket goes deep all the way down to the pull tab. If you wanted to keep loose items like pens or documents they’ll drop all the way down and may make it hard to tuck it back up underneath. Perhaps sewing the bottom closed would be a good option in the future designs. If you’re looking to run admin type items in the this area, Shellback just released a Kangaroo Zipper Pouch. This would be the best choice as it will alleviate the above issue all-together, just keep in mind its a pre-order and they may not ship until November.
Another item that I’m sure people will wonder about is why the plates are exposed on the lower sides. You can see the Team Wendy plates in blue in the photos. Since the carrier is cut into a low-profile, you dont have material covering those areas. It’s simply the way the plates are held in place and shouldn’t be a big deal since this is on the inside of the carrier up against your body. I wanted to point this out though, as I’m sure the question would’ve come up.
We have had a lot of questions about the BANSHEE vs. SKD PIG vs. the Mayflower APC. The BANSHEE works really well in a minimalist configuration (in my opinion). If you have a bunch of extra gear you need to run on the vest you might want to look elsewhere, as other carriers have more real estate. However, if you’re looking for a plate carrier for an LEO active shooter situation or PSD type scenario, it’s hard to beat the BANSHEE. With the cummerbund removed, tossing the BANSHEE on is quick and easy. Sometimes light and fast is where it’s at.
The popularity of “war belts” has picked up recently also. Running a war belt would be a great option with the BANSHEE, as you can take advantage of the low-profile while retaining real estate for pouches and accessories.
Overall the quality and workmanship fantastic and what you’d expect on a more expensive carrier. The fit and simple function is what sets this apart from other plate carriers in this price range. If you’re on a low budget dont hesitate to give the BANSHEE a try, I know you won’t be disappointed.
I want to give a huge thanks to Michael Wratten from Shellback Tactical for his continuous support of ITS Tactical and letting us get hands on with the BANSHEE!
Team Wendy Training Plates
As you’ve seen in the BANSHEE photos, I was running Team Wendy’s new ESAPI Non-Ballistic Training Plates. Team Wendy is well known for producing some of the best helmet pads on the market, along with other items like chin straps, seat pads, and knee pads.
These are non-ballistic polyurethane training plates that won’t break or crack when used during training. They are the same size, shape, and weight as actual plates (5 pounds each) and are designed to be stiff yet semi-flexible. They also have the correct cut and curve of ESAPI plates and are about $112.00 for the pair as of this writing.
This is a great way to train without worrying about damaging your own plates. They’re also a good option for some carriers that really aren’t designed to be used without plates. I’ve seen people cut foam and other things to fill the void, but nothing can beat something design specific.
I want to also thank Rob Slattery, the Sales Manager for the Law Enforcement Division at Team Wendy. Rob and his crew were kind enough to send out the sample plates for us to work with and evaluate.
Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!
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