Words & Pics by James (T42J)
The Plateframe Modular (PF-M) is a strangely legendary piece of kit, given that very few people have had hands on in order to gauge its capabilities. Reviews are scarce, too, which is partly what’s motivated this article.
That said, as the go-to rig for former CAG mad lad Tyler Grey’s character “Trent” in TV’s SEAL Team, it’s already been endorsed rather heavily by a man with some serious real world experience. While most viewers are under no illusions that the show has quickly deteriorated into little more than a glorified tactical advertisement, it can’t be denied that most of the kit featured is cutting edge; not to mention photogenic – which is half the battle for plastic-slingers like myself. My curiosity for the PF-M was well and truly piqued.
The Plateframe Modular (PF-M)
I’d like to start in earnest by making it abundantly clear that I’m not using the PF-M for amphibious work (its intended purpose) but rather as simple, slick and lightweight plate carrier using medium Travail swimmer and SAPI cut training plates. Neither am I subjecting it to enough punishment to comment on longevity, robustness or anything of that kind that could be considered remotely useful to professional user. That being said, my assumption is that high end tactical kit is built to take a decent level of abuse, and there’s nothing about the PF-M’s design that persuades me otherwise.
Durable binding snakes around the circumference of the plate to hold it firmly in place. This is a novel solution and a true pain in the arse to set up correctly, but it does allow the frame to support a variety of plate shapes, sizes and thicknesses.
Scuba buckles frame the front plate by way of a quick detach design, and are one of the most recognisable features of this carrier (along with the lattice work at the front and rear plates). The scuba buckles and quick detach kit are a godsend when donning and doffing, and it’s a useful feature to be able to fully separate the front plate from the rest of the harness when collapsing the rig for storage and transportation; or, even in the case of a medical emergency. This is something similarly harnessed-up carriers like the AVS and CPC cannot do, making them less packable.
Skeletonised, Breathable Harness
The breathable harness is skeletonised (thus aiding drainage and ventilation) and is an oddly beautiful piece of design – carbon fibre, bungee, Hypalon and composite plastic all married together in synergistic harmony.
Speaking with @therealMG42 enlightened me to the PF-M’s overarching capabilities. More so than previous Plateframes, it was designed to spread weight through its harness system, away from the shoulders; a true load carriage system, evidently orientated towards amphibious work.
I’ve still a few things to add to my PF-M to get it to a stage where I’m satisfied (for now at least), but when kitted out it spreads weight comfortably compared with a lot of other PCs I’ve used. The composite plastic frame bends and conforms to the shape of the plate, reducing potential standoff between the plate and the frame.
Even on my skinny frame, the weight is distributed away from the shoulders/straps and instead spread throughout the entirety of the upper body.
The harness system breathes with you through the novel use of the elasticated cummerbund, maintaining tension on the front and rear platebags, all while reducing uncomfortable shift throughout the rig. This is full adjustable.
There is PALS space internal to the cummerbund as well as around its circumference. However, my personal favourite bund feature is that it is compatible with the AVS sleeve of the ubiquitous Crye Precision Smart Pouch Suite (SPS). So, your favourite general purpose, radio, magazine and grenade pouches will all slide onto the cummerbund and interface with Velcro for a secure hold.
My one caveat with the breathable harness design is that due to the constant sliding and movement on the carbon fibre chassis (something else that is achingly cool about this rig), I’m terrified that the friction will simply wear through the cummerbund material, reducing strength and longevity. I may well be wrong on this, as I do hope I am.
The front and rear plate lattice is MOLLE compatible. My only bone of contention is that these are a little short for the attachment of chest mounted admin panels. I’m yet to test ATAK platforms from Kagwerks, S&S or Juggernaut so will update when I get the chance.
Overall, I think the PF-M is an excellent carrier, well designed and incredibly comfortable, with pack and without – regardless of load. This isn’t taking into account the prohibitively expensive price of admission, or the impossibility of acquiring suitable pouches; not mention how fragile I imagine the spokes in the lattice work are.
I was lucky enough to receive my rig complete with triple magazine placard, radio pouch and plate socks. However, getting replacement pouches in a suitably jazzy pattern has proven to be quite the challenge, through both civilian and military distribution channels.
Regardless, the MOLLE compatible fronting plate means that you can source alternative pouches easily enough. I’ve also been assured that the plate socks are easily manufactured. If that’s not your style, then other options (such as plate wraps) are also available from all good plate manufacturers.
Thanks to @echo27_xray for hooking me up with a PF-M. I was finally tipped in to doing this review by @ash.jaqen – so thanks to him too.