November 2010 I was standing at attention inside of our Patrol Base, PB Transformer. Positioned in the northern part of Sangin, Afghanistan we were having our second memorial ceremony of the deployment for some of our lost brothers. As I stepped in front of the battlefield cross to place the Kevlar atop the rifle rounds began I impact inside of our PB. We were taking small arms fire from a hill-top so the south of our position, we ran to our gear and made our way up to the rooftop where the firefight increased. We began taking fire from the north, “the Green Zone”. A pair of MATVs outside the PB began to bound forward towards the fire when the enemy realized they were rolling with an M2 and a MK19. The incoming fire quickly died out and we egressed off the roof. Our Platoon Sgt decided that we are at too great of a risk even inside the PB so he made the decision that anytime we are outside of the building we slept in we had to be in full gear. Filling sand bags, going to the bathroom, and exercising quickly became more of a chore because of the uncomfortable weight of our issued kit. I would have done anything to have been running the SHIFT 360 and Rifle plates by Protech.
I’ve been testing out the Shift 360 for about a month and a half now and I can definitely say that it is the most comfortable plate carrier I have used to date. All of the molle is laser cut laminate, it makes for a pretty light system but is a bit more difficult to put on your pouches. The front of the PC is covered in said molle with the top portion having field of loop material for all of your moto patches. Behind the hook molle is an admin pocket big enough to fit small note taking gear in. The only downfall to the front portion of this PC is that it does not offer any vertical molle loops to attach swift clips. The bottom kangaroo pouch is held close by hook and loop and an AR mag insert can be installed so that you don’t have to run any external mag pouches, however, it is a very tight fit and I prefer to use my Tacos.
The shoulder straps and cummerbund are both equipped with First Spear tubes that allow for the absence of hook and loop on the cummerbund and for this PC to achieve what they claim to be the fastest scalable PC on the market. I did a test at the pool with the Shift and the USMC issued plate carrier to see which was in fact faster to remove, and even though we have much more muscle memory with the issued kit, the Shift beat the Issued carriers time of 7 seconds by 3 seconds making the shift a much faster and fluent carrier to get out of in a pinch (Video Below). Like if your helo goes down over water. The Tubes are made of a hard plastic and have the “female” ends attached to the plate carrier itself and the “male” ends are affixed to the cummerbund and shoulder straps. These tubes are amazing, they allow for quick on/off and are silent compared to the Velcro alternative. The cummerbund is also retrofitted with laser cut molle and is padded on the inside as well. On the back where the cummerbund attaches to the plate carrier is elastic material which is nice because it allows the cummerbund to stretch a little as you breathe. I always hate using a cummerbund that has no flex in the back. My complaint with the back of this cummerbund is that it only has two settings for size, it fits me well on the smallest setting but someone smaller than me might find it a little loose. The shoulder straps are one piece of material that runs through the back set of tubes and doubles over to Velcro to itself. It is kind of hard to adjust and I would like to see this as a two piece system where the bottom piece is attached to the front tube and the top piece attached to the back tube or something similar. They also have slits cut into the front of the straps for running comm wires or hoses and also come with pieces that you can insert to add a small d-ring on each side.
The back part of the plate carrier opens up like most carriers like it to allow access to the cummerbund area and secures in place when closed by way of hook and loop. The entire back panel is covered with laser cut molle and has a very robust drag handle at the top. At the bottom where the hard plates slide into the carrier inside is a laminate strap that holds the plate securely in the pocket, the front has this as well. If you have ever used a PC without this feature you will understand how nice of a feature this is.
As I said earlier, this is a very light system, if you plan on spending some long hours in a plate carrier, this is one you should definitely take a look at. Below I put together a table comparing the weights of three different plate carriers and three different plates so that you can see how these products measure up against one another. Keep in mind a USGI magazine with 30 rounds of 5.56 weighs about a pound. Ounces equals pounds and pounds equal pain.
The Rifle Plates that I ran with this plate carrier are Protech’s Rifle Threat III stand-alone plates. I tested out both a shooter’s cut and a swimmers cut. The swimmers cut has a more drastic angle on the top corners to allow for greater movement but offer just a little less protection. Both plates are designed to reduce spall and are curved to hug the body well, and they do. Constructed out of 100% Polyethylene these plates weigh in at 3.2lbs (shooters cut) and 3.0lbs (swimmers cut). Both of these plates are rated at NIJ III standards and will hold up to 6 rounds of 5.56 or 7.62 before penetration plus a myriad of other calibers. Measurements are 10in x 12in so they fit well in most plate carriers. The outer material is a black 1000 Denier-Nylon covering.
In an effort to prove the actual protective capabilities of these plates I did actually shoot them. One plate received impacts from either .308 168 grain Hornady match rounds from a Savage FCP-SR and 7.62×39 from a SKS. The other plate was shot only with 5.56 M855 from an AR15. From 50 meters I shot three round of 5.56 on one plate and 3 rounds of .308 on the other and inspected for penetration.
The 5.56 plate showed some deformation in the way of about a 2 inch wide x ½ inch thick bulge but no penetration. The plate shot with .308 had significant deformation throughout the plate but no penetration. On the second round of shots I moved up to about 25 meters and fired 5 shots of 5.56 and 4 shots of 7.62×39. The plate shot with 5.56 maintained minimal deformation but let the last two rounds penetrating, living up to is rating by stopping 6 consecutive shots. The other plate at this point was so bloated and deformed that I don’t think you could use them any longer, however none of the 7 rounds penetrated this plate, again living up to its rating.
Even though lightweight kit is appealing because of the relief of strain on the body, it does make you somewhat skeptical as to the durability, comfort, and reliability of the gear. I put this gear through the test by running with, shooting with, running the obstacle course with, and hitting the pool with and I can say that it still maintains its reputation of being the most comfortable PC I have yet to use. The skepticism carries over to the plates, how comfortable are you with plates that are supposed to save your life even though the only weigh 3 pounds a pieces? After testing these I would say I’m very comfortable with it. This setup is a top-notch piece of gear but you will definitely pay for it. The Shift 360 goes for 675.00 dollars and the plates are a whopping 650.00 dollars each. My ultimate opinion is that every piece of this is well worth it.
Author – Wes Nanny is currently a sgt in the Marine Corps until January at which point I will be ending my career with the Marine Corps to join the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Texas. I did 8 years as a grunt being a team leader and squad leader. I deployed to sangin, Afghanistan in 2010-2011 with 3rd battalion 5th Marine Regiment. After that I stayed with that unit and went on the 15th and 31st MEU’s. Iv attended numerous schools like CLS, TCCC, Assault climbers course, combat hunter trainer course, HRST masters course, infantry squad leaders course, raid leaders course and some others I cant think of. In my spare time when im not with my family I like to climb, shoot, and hike. I stay very current on firearms and fear of all sorts. I also did some side work with custom kydex for the last two years.