Words and pics: Rich Norman
SKD’s Six Twelve Tubes (STT) plate carrier represents a masterclass in delivering Tier 1 functionality in a minimalist, economical package.
Built exclusively for SKD by First Spear, the STT is a price point-driven platform which – as its name suggests – leverages First Spear’s 6/12 and Tubes systems.
6/12 manifests itself here as laser cut, loop Velcro-backed PALS slots – front, back and sides.
Tubes is absolutely the best carrier closure system on the market today and is utilised here on the cummerbund and shoulder straps.
Check out this 30 second Tubes video:
While I’m no stranger to First Spear’s 6/12 technology – having reviewed their original AGB Sleeve back in 2014 – First Spear carriers have always been pretty expensive. Which is why until I got hold of the STT I’d not experienced Tubes myself.
Now I’m a convert.
Watching a video or understanding how the system works is one thing, but there’s a visceral aspect to actually using Tubes for yourself.
Just one try and you won’t want to go back to the standard flap and Velcro carrier closure ever again.
Sure, you do lose the equivalent of two PALS columns on either side of the front plate bag, but that’s a small price to pay for the convenience. Use the time wasted faffing around with a flap and Velcro cummerbund to change your muscle memory.
The carrier that First Spear builds for SKD is a stripped-down affair, lacking the plush luxury of First Spear’s flagship Strandhögg, or the amphibious finesse of their Tier 1 Assaulter Armour Carrier (AAC).
However, spliced with SKD’s DNA, it offers a rather nice twist on the rear of each plate bag – as we’ll see later.
The most important thing about buying a plate carrier is sizing. The STT is distinct in that it is only offered with one size of plate bag. If you use medium SAPI or similarly sized plates, you’re good to go.
The sizing choice at point of purchase comes with the cummerbund. SKD’s size chart told me that I’m a large mammal, which I already knew.
The cummerbund is a two piece affair, with a little stretch derived from elastic sections. It’s this elastic which helps manage the addition or removal of clothing layers, etc. You only set the cummerbund size once – the elastic takes up slack or adds slack, depending on the situation.
The cummerbund exhibits 6/12 on the outside and each side contains a pocket for a side plate.
The cummerbund runs through a channel at the rear of the carrier which, like all 6/12, has One Wrap style Velcro loop backing. The cummerbund attaches to this.
The carrier’s other adjustment points are at the shoulder straps. These employ a relatively simple system that’s easy to use.
The straps are minimalistic and actually really comfortable. I’m not a fan of cushioned shoulder straps, so these suit me really well.
It’s all colour-matched jacquard webbing and Velcro.
The shoulder straps terminate on the front plate bag with more Tubes. These do not hinder me when I shoulder a rifle.
I mentioned earlier that the STT was spliced with SKD DNA: PIG, to be precise, because the reverse of the plate bags exhibits loop Velcro for Patrol Incident Gear (PIG) Pontoons.
These accessories offer a mechanism by which plate stand-off can be achieved, allowing air to circulate freely for cooling.
Bear in mind when sizing the cummerbund that use of Pontoons will alter the fit.
When adjusting the carrier to fit, after installing the plates and any soft armour, it’s advisable to install the Pontoons first; then adjust the ride height via the shoulder straps; then adjust the cummerbund.
As for installing the plates, it’s straightforward.
The base of each plate bag exhibits a colour-matched jacquard tab. Pull the tab, fight the Velcro, and a flap opens. Pretty standard down there.
So what’s the quality like?
It’s excellent. Regardless of price point, First Spear hasn’t slacked off on quality materials or workmanship; the savings are made up in other ways.
As can be seen from the pics, this is a lean beast with no latitude for adornment. I’d use the term spartan if that hadn’t been worn out years ago.
I picked up my STT from Tactical-Kit.
Meanwhile, some specialists in Norway and Sweden (respectively) have got Tubes’d up: