I had more time than I expected with the Ferro Concepts Plate Carrier (FCPC) V5 Base and the Adapt 3” Assault Cummerbund (3AC) – both on loan from Tactical Kit. This gave me an adequate opportunity to document their features and form an initial opinion.
The process of writing the review also gave me time to reflect that plate carrier ecosystems like the FCPC’s are getting like phones: with each new generation making the last look like dinosaurs.
The FCPC largely is composed of 500D laser cut Cordura laminate, where the front plate bag presents in the classic Ferro format; confidently optimised for their G-hook placards. The rear, on the other hand, is a rather more slick affair, but incorporates features necessary for the attachment of Ferro’s own back panels.
While the products under review provide the chassis for Ferro’s Assault Solution (their fully featured PC), the FCPC Base by any standards is still minimalist; signature Ferro design, in fact, with clean lines, appropriate use of materials, and that natural penchant for the unconventional.
A pocket, secured with velcro, is located at the top edge of the admin area. It surprises me how often people won’t buy a PC without such a pocket, so this is a good move by Ferro. The pocket has plenty of room, because it’s full width and takes up the entire admin area.
G-hook tabs are concealed below a flap, underneath the admin area. This keeps the plate bag looking sharp – which is very Ferro.
The admin area itself features PALS cut loop velcro, 4 columns wide. Ferro uses a kind of chevron shape for its PALS slots, which are robust and easy to thread.
This area is flanked on either side by vertical slots for PTT placement etc. I don’t use a PTT myself and if I ever use a radio at all it’s for someone to say, “Your burger is ready”; and it’s a BaoFeng in a Ten Speed pouch. Ferro gives the serious, high speed user options, however.
Including, one wrap comms routing on both sides of the front plate bag. This is nicely out of the way and adds to that sharp clean look which is, let’s face it, an important part of functionality. Because style is content: discursive, ideological content. You can quote me on that.
One wrap is versatile stuff. If it’s new to you, think of non-scratchy hook Velcro, and loop that’s like fuzzy felt. These routing points can be sized up or down very easily.
The rear of the carrier is relatively slick, with a full face of laser cut PALS slots.
It could be that you’re considering your first purchase of a laminate PC if buying the FCPC. Don’t be scared.
Laminate has come on a long way since its early days of, er, delamination. Nowadays it’s tough stuff and you only have to look through these pics to see the weight falling away, and naughty slimness becoming the new shit. Laminate takes pounds off a PC, especially the amount of webbing that’s simply not required for PALS columns. And there’s no better advert for that than the rear face of the FCPC.
At the sides, the carrier exhibits zips for attaching Ferro’s proprietary back panels. So – no – Crye panels won’t fit. The most obvious question is why would you think they may do? There’s no universal standard for back panels and if there was one, I doubt it would be Crye’s.
Above the zips, more comms routing. This is not one wrap, but elastic – and wide. Presumably it’s useful for aerials.
At the base of the rear plate bag, things get very interesting. Opening the plate bag exposes the smoothly contoured cummerbund flap. I’d love to know more about the design principles here, because it looks different and amazing.
It’s also right here that the rear of the cummerbund locates. The 3AC is awesome and we’ll learn more about it in the next section.
Closing the plate bag cleanly and completely encapsulates the cummerbund, and prevents it from being ripped open. I mean it’s not something I’ve ever experienced, but it could happen.
The area is covered in slick coyote brown fabric which not only looks good but helps ease the plate in and out of the carrier. The front plate bag features this low friction fabric, too.
Both plate bags feature a divider strip (again in coyote), for soft armour or other components. This can be best seen when the bags are turned inside out. Turning stuff inside out is a great way to see the real quality and where the sewer has been untidy or cheated. Ferro’s sewers are neat and play fair.
The rear faces of the plate bags exhibit an inverted-T centrepiece of Tweave (no surprise it’s coyote brown). Just to demystify Tweave, as there seems to be some confusion over what it is and its capabilities: it’s a brand name for a four way stretch softshell fabric, popular in tactical apparel and kit, which means in this application the plate bags can accommodate plates of slightly different specs. But it’s a softshell fabric nonetheless.
Sliding a plate in, there’s no twisting of seams or an OCD struggle to centre the plate. I think that’s because the Tweave is used in the centre of the bag, not along the edges as is conventional. Very Ferro – radical design thinking. Incidentally, I’m using Travail training plates in this medium FCPC, which don’t pack it out to full extent but are still held solidly.
Lastly, in terms of features, the shoulder straps. Unconventionally, these come complete with a 1” mini Cobra buckle – something often added to carriers after purchase, but rarely bundled with them.
It says “No PPE” on the back, which is slightly worrying until you realise that alternatives on other carriers are made out of plastic and evidently are nowhere near as strong – or as cool.
Naturally the Cobra makes for rapid don and doff, and the buckle is small and unobtrusive; but not so small that it cannot easily be released with gloved hands. That said, ‘rapid’ isn’t ‘emergency’ and there’s no facility for a fast ditch with the FCPC Base – although I’m sure Ferro is guided on these matters by its real guy advisors.
The Cobra can be added to either shoulder strap; the one which doesn’t receive it uses a welded steel ring instead. It looks mildly S&M. Shouldering for me is fine on both sides.
Note that the strap here is uncommonly narrow, which has raised a few eyebrows. However, you can bet that Ferro has put the design through the wringer; and the straps certainly pivot well – conforming to the user and as such deceptively comfortably.
The buckle end of the shoulder straps is necessarily removable from the front plate bag, so as to leverage the utility of the swappable Cobra. It all secures using a PALS system within the FCPC’s admin pocket – back to where we started the carrier review. Threading the strap is a massive ballache, I won’t lie. But when it’s done, it’s done.
It’s important to make sure the ultimate strap lengths are equal, and Ferro includes step by step instructions on configuring this area.
Once equilibrium is achieved, the front plate bag can be connected to the rear, via the corresponding shoulder straps and then adjusted for ride height – and there are multiple ways for the user to make adjustments, to suit preference.
The big draw for me about the FCPC’s ecosystem is the stiffly reinforced 3” Adapt Cummerbund – or 3AC. It spreads load effectively and allows weight to be carried in a stable way, without sagging. It’s Ferro’s equivalent of Crye’s Structural Cummerbund, which I really liked in the SPC’s ecosystem – my review here.
Use of the 3AC isn’t limited to the FCPC. It can be used to soup up a lot of current and legacy plate carriers. But, the FCPC is optimised for it.
The 3AC’s stiffness comes from the meat in the nylon sandwich – a sheet of plastic which, while flexible lengthways, is rigid widthways. It’s that stuff that’s so hot right now, which really looks like a carbon fibre weave but isn’t. Still does the job and the ‘weave’ finish looks very cool. No wonder it’s so popular with manufacturers, aside from its practical capabilities, as it helps sell a product with its good looks. It’s called Tegris BTW – thanks to the guys at Redbeard Tactical for tipping me off.
The circumference of the bund features PALS columns for MOLLE items. The interior features loop velcro. This is a genius move.
It gives the bund the capability to accept hook Velcro backed items, such as Crye’s AVS and SPS pouches – using the AVS pass through. And who doesn’t have SPS pouches? Equally, it’ll accept FirstSpear’s Ragnar line of pouches, and many others.
Back to an area I have absolutely no interest in and I’d hazard a guess this system will also accommodate Crye’s AVS Radio Pouch, or their stellar (I’m told) AirLite Structural Radio Pouch. You can read more PC/comms dilemmas here.
Suffice to say Ferro’s bund will easily take the weight of a 148 or 152, without sagging or deflecting, so my presumption is that a radio carried within the bund would almost be comfortable. YMMV, and I’ll leave it up to you comms superstars to make that decision.
The bund absolutely needs some give to make it move with the user. This is enabled by a hidden elasticated section at the rear – shown here extended.
The bund attaches to the front and rear of the FCPC with Velcro. You can see here that for me it wraps around generously – so if I did want to add accessories on the inside of the 3AC, it has the slack necessary.
At the front end of the 3AC, the plastic sandwich filling that’s not carbon fibre is exposed in handy tabs – for ease of donning and doffing.
A Note on Size
I’m using medium plate bags as mentioned. The 3AC is also medium and is sized adequately both for solo use and with accessories placed inside (as discussed). There’s a lot of adjustment in the bund, and in general Ferro’s sizing seems consistent with most other plate carriers.
Ferro’s product description has more information on 3AC sizing.
For such a low visual signature, stripped down carrier, the FCPC/3AC combination is comfortable – in my limited experience; especially at the shoulders, which seems counterintuitive given how they present as narrow, unpadded straps.
I’d wager what makes the shoulder straps so comfortable is their radical cut and narrow pivot points (Cobra, and welded steel ring). That said, for longer durations and heavier loads, they will need shoulder pads. I don’t like a lot of bulk at the shoulders however – also preferring flat pack straps – so for lighter loads it’s likely I’d use it as supplied.
And that’s the thing about this carrier. Although it’s minimalist, with the shoulder strap design and addition of the 3AC, it’s capable of distributing weight far better than the current standard of lite carriers. So, as much as I like the FCPC itself, for me it’s not complete without the 3AC.
The 3AC’s hidden elastic and rear velcro fastening combination is a dream to work with when compared to the Crye Structural Cummerbund’s bungee retainer; and these competing systems will be subject to no end of comparisons – Crye’s bund being stiffer, but conceptually identical.
I hate to talk about competing products when putting the spotlight on something as new and exciting as the FCPC and 3AC. It’s a lazy writing technique, when the focus should be an exposition of the items at hand. That said, it’s impossible to put comparisons aside in this case, because Ferro’s bund ticks more boxes for me in what is currently a very narrow field. Its AVS/SPS pouch compatibility is a master stroke.
I honestly think that very soon, all of the top end companies will offer a significantly stiffened bund like Ferro’s 3AC. And for those worried about dropping from bigger bunds to one that’s a mere 3 PALS rows wide, don’t be. With the level of rigidity provided, it doesn’t feel as narrow as it looks. In addition, pouches – whether secured with MOLLE or via the AVS method – don’t bounce around, because the 3AC is absolutely solid.
I’d also recommend the 3AC if you have no intention whatsoever of buying the FCPC. It’s a way of modernising your favourite PC – providing it will attach.
Finally, because this review had to be expedient, keen eyed readers may notice that the FCPC shown in some of the pics is lacking the appropriate G-hook AXL adaptor to properly mount a Crye Precision AVS flap on a Ferro platform (thanks to Andy for bringing the AXL item to my attention, as we were discussing the FCPC).