Plate Carrier Review: C2R Fulcrum

fulcrum

/ˈfʊlkrəm,ˈfʌlkrəm/

noun

  1. the point against which a lever is placed to get a purchase, or on which it turns or is supported.
    • a thing that plays a central or essential role in an activity, event, or situation.”research is the fulcrum of the academic community”

“What makes the Fulcrum any different from a number of other carriers on the market?”

Answering this question could be done in one of two ways; and while it’s easy to simply reel off a list of features and tell you what it’s made of, the manufacturer will often have this information on their website anyway.

My job as a reviewer is to tell you things that a manufacturer can’t or won’t tell you, to offer an end user’s point of view. I have the freedom to talk about what I like and as uncomfortable as it might be, telling you what I think needs a little bit more work.

So what makes the Fulcrum different? Well before I give you my take on it, I have an obligation to make you all aware that this plate carrier has been provided on loan to me for this review by C2R.

The understanding that I have with them is the same that I have always had with manufacturers; I don’t do unboxing reviews, the items I review will have been used, and for want of a better word, abused.

I won’t intentionally damage an item, but at the same time, it’ll get sweaty, covered in whatever the environment has to offer. Due to the nature of what its getting used for, it’ll pick up nicks, scrapes, marks and the occasional abrasion or rip.

I don’t go out of my way to damage an item, but I also won’t treat it like it’s made of glass. I’ll run it as hard as I can and when they have it back, it’ll probably show enough wear that it’s unfit for resale.

To their credit when I went through my expectations, C2R gave me a big thumbs up, told me to use it as hard as I possibly could and report back ASAP with anything I wasn’t happy with. Far from being worried, they were eager to know if there was anything that an outsiders perspective could shed light on.


The Fulcrum

The Fulcrum (clever name by the way) has been developed to meet a need for certain units and individuals that may have a number of different mission profiles, and require a plate carrier that is able to work alongside placards, pouches and cummerbunds from different manufacturers. Bringing as many ecosystems into their own umbrella of compatibility as possible.

For reasons that I’m sure are obvious to most, C2R never identify their customers. But anyone who is aware of their background and history will be well aware of who buys kit from C2R, and how often their requirements change.

The fact that C2R have maintained such a good relationship with various units speaks volumes not only about their products, but also their ability to listen to a customer’s requirements and privately design and deliver tailored solutions to rather novel problems.

Having been lucky enough to nose around C2R’s R&D section, I can say that many of their products are incredibly specialised, fulfil a role that off the shelf products simply cannot, and will probably never see the light of day or become an eBay listing.

Forged Under Fire

There’s been a rapid shift in how tactical kit is made over the last 20 years, yet some items are not easily improved upon. Questions such as “how can I continue using my AVS 7.62 placard on my swift-clip equipped plate carrier?” and “Can I have one plate carrier for all my placards?” have up until now been met with bespoke tailoring and ghetto mods, but no real solution has appeared that not only keeps up with what’s currently available, but also looks at what may come next.

The Fulcrum has been developed to be as cross compatible as possible across all popular brands, whilst offering a stable and rugged armour carriage platform, without the inherent compromise that comes with modifications or custom tailoring.

Front Plate Bag

Starting with the front plate bag, the outer face is comprised of 330d cordura fabric, with the chest and torso being supplemented with loop field velcro panels. The upper chest area is reinforced with a laser cut section of 500/1000d Squadron laminate, providing rigidity for nav-panels and EUD holders such as those offered by KÄGWERKS and Juggernaut.

The laser cut PALS/MOLLE on the chest can also be used to hold traditional admin type pouches, or left bare for unit/flag patches.

This laser-cut laminate extends out into a pair of bands each side, each capable of retaining a PTT unit or cabling. Additional retention is provided via some sewn in velcro one-wrap, allowing hydration hoses or comms cabling to be kept neatly out of the way.

The whole chest section sits on a flap, under which is the beating heart of the Fulcrum system. The answer to it’s vast range of compatibility, and the most unique addition to any plate carrier I’ve seen in years: A proprietary, removable and replaceable hardware mounting system.

Underneath the flap, a loop field allows the Fulcrum’s attachment system to securely sit in place, providing unparalleled cross-compatibility with virtually any placard on the market.

A pair of multi-format adaptors are included to attach your placard of choice to the front. G-Hooks are a particular favourite of the C2R team due to their low profile nature, but more traditional Spiritus/Haley/Mayflower type swift clip attachments work very well, and perhaps more interestingly, so does the Crye AVS/CPC/JPC 2.0 style of front flap.

Each of the adaptors are made from a hook backed section of Tegris, with a length of webbing sewn into the front. A captive ITW Ladderloc provides adjustment for the open end of the webbing, even allowing a QASM Buckle to be fitted if desired.

On the lower area of the front plate bag, a large loop field provides the cummerbund with plenty of area for your placard to latch on to. This loop field is bisected into an upper and lower section, with a chevron cut across the middle.

It’s a clever little finishing touch that I assume allows C2R to use readily available 4″ wide MultiCam loop reels and keep the overall look of the carrier aesthetically balanced.

The shoulders of the plate bag are made from the same Squadron laminate, laser-cut with radiused triangular holes to allow the material to better conform with the wearer’s profile. A long section of loop velcro is hidden on the underside of each shoulder strap, allowing overall adjustment of the plate bag ride height.

One other detail worth mentioning is C2R’s quick release system for their plate carriers: A paracord loop is sewn into the top of each shoulder strap, with a cord toggle providing an easily located index point to pull in case of emergency.

As with many of the little details I’ve found on C2R’s products, more time and thought has gone into it than you’d initially think. Placing the cord on the outside corner makes it much easier for the velcro to rip away than if it had been placed centrally, and the exact length of the cord allows the toggle to be tucked away under the uppermost triangular cut-out.

The rear of the plate bag is made from some of the most comfortable and yet rugged spacer mesh I’ve ever seen. It provides about as much airflow as you could hope to get, without incorporating channels or a padded chassis system (as per Crye’s AVS/CPC system).

Turning the entire plate bag inside out reveals that the edge of this mesh is finished with a taped trim, ensuring none of the spacer material creates an unsightly mess. Overly engineered perhaps, but looking in places that’ll never see the light of day, is where you’ll often see manufacturers hiding their worst work. I can tell you now that with the Fulcrum there’s nothing nasty hidden away, it’s finished inside and out with the care and attention that you’d expect from a company with C2R’s engineering pedigree.

A strip of 50mm coyote webbing provides a bottom strap to retain ballistic plates. This is sewn inside the front edge of the plate bag and is hook lined to sit against a loop strip on the corresponding rear interior face, allowing you to cinch up your plates into the bag and avoid unwanted movement.


Rear Plate Bag

The rear plate bag is made from the same materials as the front, but far from being simply “The back”, it boasts a number of features that make it a little different and worth looking at from top to tail.

The most noticeable feature are the YKK Vislon zippers that run down each flank of the plate bag. Strange in that they are oriented inwards as opposed to the outward design that we are used to seeing. This is purposefully to enable heavily laden back panels to remain firmly in place, without the loose middle that plagues certain other back panel designs.

Inward facing zippers might appear as if they’ll only allow smaller packs to be held, but C2R’s prototype PALS/MOLLE panel features four columns of laser cut slots, allowing even relatively chunky packs such as the HSP Flatpack Plus to fit with ease.

The real benefit though comes when looking at breaching or specialist equipment. Having seen a prototype breacher panel on a recent visit to C2R’s HQ, I can confirm that it will hold a significant weight without transferring any strain onto the plate bag itself.

A flap on the lower half covers where the cummerbund joins the plate bag, this hides a pair of slots that allow the cummerbund to be threaded through and joined via shock-cord, whilst remaining tucked away from the elements.

This method of attachment does offer a considerable amount of flexibility, but with the cummerbund wings only being attached to each other and not directly to the plate bag, it can result in the wearer needing to adjust the plate bag into the centre of their back when putting on the Fulcrum.


Cummerbund

The cummerbund is a two row skeletal PALS/MOLLE design, with a full length Tegris thermoplastic backing plate. This Tegris backer provides support to attach heavy items such as Magazines, Radios and other items such as Smoke/Flash/Frag grenades.

At the end of each cummerbund arm, a profiled section of Tegris backed Velcro allows it to be placed in a position that provides the wearer with the optimum plate coverage on both the front and rear. The carrier naturally sits with the front plate bag slightly lower than the rear, which provides a good amount of protection whilst offering improved comfort and range of motion.

Other cummerbunds can be fitted, notably Ferro Concept’s elastic design. Whilst the C2R cummerbund is very cleverly put together, I found it a little small for my chunky frame. This isn’t an issue that will affect the majority of C2R’s customers, but it should be noted that despite my clothes having an X in their size, the cummerbund was still comfortable to wear, albeit at the maximum length available.

My hybrid set up, with Ferro’s elastic cummerbund and C2R’s placard with a Haley Strategic D3CRM SMG insert

Shoulder Pads

Each shoulder pad wraps around the two part straps, anchoring itself into place using a sheet of hook field Velcro. The inner face of each pad is are lined with the same air mesh as the plate bags, providing optional additional padding should the wearer wish. The pads also help keep the shoulder straps from coming apart, and whilst not essential, they do keep the QD para cord out of harms way and free from snag risks. All in all, there’s very little reason to not use them.


Placard

The placard wasn’t initially going to feature within this review, but given that it forms one of the core packages that C2R are offering the Fulcrum in, I felt it required a brief rundown.

The Placard uses a pair of webbing straps and included G Hooks to integrate to the Fulcrum’s proprietary attachment system. Similar to Crye’s AVS system, but lacking the velcro to keep it in place.

The included triple 5.56 insert uses a laminate divider and kydex inserts to hold a trio of magazines in place, and has the abilty to accommodate other inserts should you need them. Haley’s SMG and 5.56 inserts fit flawlessly, Spiritus’s suite of inserts also fit with a little room to spare.

The placard can also accommodate shock cord retention, with laminate pull tabs being one of the options available to purchase.

Behind the magazines, a flat admin type pocket can be used to hold documentation or other flat items. In front of the magazines, a pair of small flap topped pouches can be used for items such as battery caddies, small tools/lights or other essentials.

The flaps are adjustable and removable, with each pouch being designed to accommodate .338 Lapua magazines. However this is a bit more of a niche requirement than the head torch, Haribo and blank firing grenade reloads I used mine for.

Overall it’s a handy little placard, and offers some neat little features that assist with comms routing and storage of smaller items.

I will point out though, there were a couple of things I’d have loved to have seen included: A pair of webbing loops on each side to allow the placard to be used as a standalone chest rig would have cost next to nothing to achieve, yet would have given you the potential to scale the system down to a micro rig level with the appropriate straps.

I would have also chosen either closed loop sewn in G-Hooks or swift clips for it’s primary attachment, as the current system leaves a large amount of excess webbing to hide away in the rear admin pocket.


Overview

The Fulcrum manages to do a lot of things very well, and provides a clever solution to those who require a lot of flexibility in what they carry. Are there things I don’t like? sure: The placard’s two front pockets could be a little bigger, and could feature those aforementioned attachment options.

The shoulder straps could also have a little bit more adjustment in them, as you can only move them a couple of inches before exposing hook field velcro, which isn’t necessarily bad, but I don’t like exposed hook rubbing on anything.

One final thing I’d suggest could be tweaked in the future are their proprietary “hardpoints” (Sorry Fred, it’s a perfect term for what they are and I’m using it). They work well, and (despite my early worries) they’re actually almost impossible to budge once in place.

My issue is that they’re not as visually refined as the rest of the carrier. It’s a minor gripe, and because they’re not visible once in place, it’s borderline petty to suggest they’re not adequate, but they do stand out as a little coarse against the near perfect craftsmanship of the carrier itself.

I should point out that these things have been noted and addressed by C2R, showing that they’re able to accept constructive feedback and put it to use on future revisions.

Back to the positives; The Fulcrum surprisingly showed that it works just as well as a bare bones “slick” plate carrier as it does when it’s loaded up with a full complement of pouches, comms, back panel and magazines.

The weight distribution is fantastic and once properly adjusted, you’ll almost forget that you’re carrying as much as you are. Mobility isn’t hampered one bit, and the plates are effectively wrapped in a thick cushion of air spacer mesh that stops the inner edges from causing hot spots.

It’s an incredibly well made and thought out bit of kit, and one that is absolutely worth looking at if you’re in the market for a new plate carrier.

Would I buy one? Well as with anything tactical, you have to weight up why you’re buying it. If I had requirements that were met with the Fulcrum, I wouldn’t hesitate. And at the time of writing this review, there’s pretty much only two things holding me back from getting one of my own:

  • It comes in plate/cummerbund size medium only
  • It comes in Multicam/Multicam Black only

I can see why they’ve stuck with the Multicam/Medium production for the initial batch, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Once C2R start offering a Ranger Green Fulcrum in a Large, I’ll be sorely tempted to add one to my collection.

As for the one I’ve got for review, I’ll be giving it back eventually… But not without getting in a few more games with it before I feel obliged to pack it up and ship it back to Hereford.

Thanks again to C2R for providing the Fulcrum for review, you can find their media channels via the below links: