Protection in the form of body armour has been a fact of life for most modern forces for over a decade. Over twenty years since the ill-fated US Operation Gothic Serpent in Mogadishu and the general concept of protective armour for the guy on the ground has, on the face of it, changed little. But there has been a steady evolution, not revolution, borne by experience hard-won in theatres of conflict over the past twelve years of the so called “War on Terror”. In that time, many small companies have sprung up with their own take on the protective plate carriers used widely in military and wider circles. One of those companies is quietly making a name for itself, thanks to the quality and functionality of its gear: TYR Tactical.
TYR Tactical is based in Arizona and has risen in recent times to become a highly respected brand. Named after the Norse God of war, victory and heroism in battle, they have a reputation for innovative product design and have produced a range of tactical pouches, bags and armour carriers using their proprietary material pluma vires. This is a composite of cordura and Kevlar designed to be hard wearing but crucially, light in weight. As the concept of lighter, more ergonomically-friendly armour carriers gains traction amongst military users, TYR has listened. The result is the PICO family of plate carriers.
The PICO was designed as a low profile, scalable armour carrier which embraces TYR’s central commitment to weight reduction. In its standard configuration the PICO can carry up to 9 M4 magazines with no external pouches necessary. A three magazine kangaroo pouch, plus space for another three mags on each side of the carrier in the cummerbund spaces makes for an enviable out-of-the-box carrying capacity. The cummerbund has PALS adaptors for attaching MOLLE pouches, and the rear of the carrier is similarly configured with PALS.
The PICO MV is a variant of the PICO, lightly revised to accommodate standard SAPI (Small Arms Protective Insert) and ESAPI (Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert) plates. It sports a modified frontal aspect to accommodate these armour plates, but is otherwise identical to the PICO. Recently, it was announced that the Danish Army were to adopt the TYR PICO MV system as their issued plate carrier.
Unfortunately, these carriers are quite thin on the ground, as TYR manufactures most of their inventory to order, making for long lead times. However, we have been lucky enough to get our hands on a PICO MV system, so let’s look closer…
The first feature that stands out about this carrier is the airlight mesh inners to the plate carriers. The padding gives some standoff from the body and improves cooling. The shoulder straps are adjustable by finding the anchoring buckles, which are inside the rear plate bag. Fastening the cummerbund is by Velcro fields located underneath the front flap, in the conventional manner. The cummerbund is elasticated where it attaches to the rear plate bag, giving ample ability to cope with various waist sizes, and clothing layers. Unlike the LBT6094 system, there is no internal cummerbund to fasten first. This is an elegantly simple set up and at this point it is worth noting that the PICO family are sized according to the plate size to be accommodated, not by the sizing of the wearer. This is facilitated by the excellent adjustability of the carrier.
Our particular example here has had the standard TYR front kangaroo molle flap changed out for a custom TYR hybrid M4/9mm flap, which holds three M4 magazines, and piggybacks three 9mm pistol mags or other similarly sized items, such as a backup torch. Above the flap is ample Velcro for IFF patches, as well as elasticated loops, which gives enough space to fit a map board or admin pouch if desired.
On the left side, one of the cummerbund magazine pouches has been used. Thanks to the excellent padding on the cummerbund itself, there is no feeling of the magazine digging in to the wearer at all. Clearly, these side pouches could easily be used to stash a PMR radio, speedloader or other items. The magazine retention in these side pouches is by sleeves, which are Velcro fixed. This means that the sleeve can be easily removed to allow for the stowage of equipment without the elastic mag retention bungees getting in the way. Another example of how TYR’s concept of adaptive, scalable equipment works. Below the front flap is a lower abdomen platform. Containing soft armour, this confers extra protection in the vulnerable zone between belt line and plate carrier, as well as extra carriage for tourniquets, cyalumes or similar. Easily detachable when not required, it is held by Velcro.
The pouches on this carrier are a mix of TYR and Blue Force Gear, both brands which champion weight reduction. There is a TYR GP pouch to the left side, complete with elastic loops for external stowage, and a Blue Force vertical utility has been pressed into service to carry the radio equipment. To the rear, a TYR 70oz hydration carrier takes care of the water and, once more, is surprisingly lightweight when compared to, say a Blackhawk hydration carrier of the same capacity.
Looking at the Brokos belt, the first thing to strike the observer is that it is attached to the plate carrier. Recently, this type of load carriage system has become more widespread. LBT arguably were the first to bring the concept to widespread notice with the LBT-2711 CASS or Comfort Armour Suspension System. Crye Precision has the StKSS (Structural Kinetic Support System), and TYR Tactical has the X Frame. The concept is to allow the transference of some of the weight of the plates in the carrier to the belt and hips. This eases the load on the shoulders, reduces fatigue and lower back pain.
TYR’s X Frame stays are a carbon fibre/polypropylene mix, making for light weight but high tensile strength. They are able to slide over each other, which supports the wearer as their torso can rock from side to side without unwanted load transference. The stays are anchored inside the belt and the opposite side of the plate carrier, forming an ‘X’ shape. This was quite revolutionary when wearing the whole system. However the torso moves, the X frames can follow, bending forward and back, twisting and rolling side to side, at no point was a build-up of load felt on one side of the other. By adjusting the tension on the frame stays, the amount of weight transferred between shoulders and hips can be finely tuned. The Brokos belt is an excellent load carrier with a high degree of comfort.
As plate carriers go, this author has not come across one as unobtrusive to wear, despite the scale of protection on offer. Striking is the lack of bulk or weight evident in earlier generation carriers such as the Paraclete RMV and Eagle Industries CIRAS. The scalable nature of TYR’s system is demonstrated by the extra up-armour options available to the wearer of the PICO MV. The basic carrier can be enhanced by a number of protective additions. A larger cummerbund, lower abdomen platform, groin protector, ballistic drop leg thigh panels and shoulder/deltoid panels all give the wearer an enviable adaptive system, which can be configured to the perceived threat level. TYR Tactical has taken the lessons learned in the past decade of conflict and produced a remarkably user friendly system.
If you can get one, (and unfortunately that’s a big if), you are unlikely to be disappointed.
TYR products are distributed in the UK by Edgar Brothers.
For more information, contact Edgar Brothers via their website: www.edgarbrothers.com
About the Author
Andy Bourne BSc(Hons) MCOptom is an ophthalmic optician, former reserve forces officer, and keen milsim airsofter. He is an associate optometrist with the Vision Surgery and Research Centre, UK, and his research has been presented worldwide. He currently divides his time between hospital, general practice and airsoft – although not necessarily in that order.