Hard Armor 101 Overview, Material Differences, and Common Misconceptions (2023)

Disclaimer: All of our guides are free and we spend a lot of time providing this information and ensuring it is correct. If you find the information in our guides helpful, we humbly ask that you consider us when purchasing a bulletproof vest or plate holder.

We understand that bulletproof vest is a sensitive issue. There are many types of materials with their own advantages, disadvantages and properties. Then there are different classifications, shapes, cuts and curves. Also, some manufacturers do not disclose all of the information that you, as an end user, need to know.

In this article, I will examine the characteristics (as well as the pros and cons) of ceramic and steel plates. I'll cover some basic armor testing parameters and explain what NIJ is. I also hope to clear up some common misconceptions about this type of armor and provide some background information so you can make an informed decision when choosing armor to trust with your life. This is not general information for everything, nor is it all-inclusive, not all armor is created equal, even those in the same category. This is just a basic guide for those who are curious and should give you a basic understanding of the subject. There will be exceptions and I will talk about some of them.

For our purposes, we will only consider bulletproof vests, specifically NIJ 0101.06 Tier III and Tier IV (NIJ 0101.06 is the most current NIJ rating system, there are others like 0101.04 or 0108.01 but those are older versions). the basics of the most important topics when it comes to understanding body armor.

What is the National Institute of Justice (NIJ)? What is an NIJ certification?

The NIJ sets minimum performance standards for bulletproof vests and tests against those standards to ensure bulletproof vests meet standards. In other words, the NIJ defines a BASE MINIMUM for shielding performance.

When a given piece of armor has passed the NIJ's rigorous certification process, it means that the armor has consistently been shown to prevent prescribed ballistic threats in a laboratory environment, as well as simulated damage and harsh conditions. Furthermore, it also means that there is some level of quality assurance (in the form of NIJ FIT), which is regular random quality control.

What does an NIJ certification involve? What are the tests?

The manufacturer provides 9 plates for an NIJ Level 3 test, each fired 6 times. The manufacturer provides 37 plates for an NIJ Level 4 test, each of which is fired once. These armor plates are divided into two groups. One is shot without hardening or torture checks, and the others are shot with hardening and torture checks.

Next are thedirectorTests to which the panels are submitted. (I'll delve into this in another article)

1) Drop test:

The armature undergoes a drop test in which a 10 pound weight is strapped to the back of the panel and dropped at a 90 degree angle of no less than 4 feet onto a hard concrete surface. This is done twice. the armor isNOlanded on its edge, but on the impact surface. (Boards are then bullet tested)

2) Warm-/Kaltkammer:

Panels are placed in chambers maintained at 5 degrees Fahrenheit and 149 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Also, during the temperature cycling phase, a panel is placed in a chamber that rotates between 5 degrees Fahrenheit and 194 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours. (The boards are then put through the launch test)

3) Immersion in water:

The slabs are completely submerged in water and drip fired.

4) Shooting events:

The panels are glued to ballistic clay (to measure back strain) and fired. Cartridges are manually loaded to ensure consistency and speed are measured. Then the deformation of the back is measured (it should be less than 44 mm).

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) lists the following threats as the minimum standard for levels III and IV, respectively.1)For the armor to be classified as NIJ Level 3, it must stop 6 rounds of 7.62x51mm NATO Ball (147g) fired from 15m at a velocity of 2780 (+/-30) FPS.2)For the armor to be classified as NIJ Tier IV, it must stop 1 round of .30-06 M2-AP (166gr) fired from 15m at a velocity of 2880 (+/-30) FPS. REMEMBER you ONLY need to test against this caliber of ammo at this weight and velocity to get an official rating. Again a minimum. But that doesn't mean it will just stop such threats. For example, a Tier 4 M855A1 card will certainly stop, as it poses less of a threat.

(Video) Body Armor Guide: 10 Things To Know Before You Buy It


This is an important term or test to know. Testing ANY cartridge outside the NIJ's required minimum size (7.62x51 mm M80 bullet for Tier III and .30-06 M2-AP for Tier IV) is considered a "special threat". Vendors may request their own parameters for specific threat testing, so be sure to read the provided test reports to ensure they test to NIJ standards.

**Special Threat Badges**

Special threat plaques represent a gap in NIJ ratings. They are neither Tier III nor Tier IV, they are below Tier III and Tier IV. Often special threat boards are only capable of 5.56x45mm M193, M855, Stop 7.62x39mm MSC or FMJ.SometimesSpecial threat plates can stop a single M80 7.62x51mm bullet shot, but not the 6 shots required for Tier III. It's incredibly important to look at product descriptions to see which rounds a Special Threat Plate can stop and not deviate from assumptions or rumours. For example, the Hesco L210 cannot stop the .308 M80 ball period, the RMA 1003 SRT can stop a single .308 M80 ball shot, but not the full 6 rounds required for Level 3 certification.

U.S. Army issued ceramic plates are not NIJ certified, they are tested to Mil Spec standards. NIJ is a civilian ballistic test standard generally intended for domestic LE. I will add some approximate ratings as the information is not available to the general public. SAPI/ESAPI boards are very specific military boards tested to military standards. Not all "SAPI cut" boards are real SAPI boards (if that makes sense).1) VACA:Should take a total of 3 hits along with an interceptor vest with M16 (5.56x45mm/ .223 M855/ SS-109) Soft Armor Green Tip, Dragunov (7.62x54mm R-LPS) Russian Light Steel Penetration and FN FAL (7 ,62x51mm) M80 bullet. Later "ISAPIs" that preceded the ESAPIs were further rated for 7.62 x 39 mm 3-shot BZ-API.

2) ESAPI: ESAPI Rev. AE:3 rounds M80 7.62x51mm, 3 rounds 7.62x54 R LPS, 3 rounds M855 5.56x45mm, 2 rounds .30-06 M2 APESAPI Rev G:3 voltas 7,62x51mm bola M80, 3 voltas 7,62x54R LPS, 3 voltas 5,56x45mm M855, 3 voltas 0,30-06 M2 AP, 3 voltas 7,62x54R 7N1, 3 voltas de 5,56x45mm M995.ESAPI Rev J:3 voltas 7,62x54R LPS, 3 voltas 0,30-06 M2 AP, 3 voltas 7,62x54R 7N1, 3 voltas 5,56x45mm M995.

Some terms you should know:

  1. In connection with (ICW):This means that this armor (usually ceramic or polyethylene) must be used in conjunction with light armor (usually 3A) to achieve maximum efficiency.

  2. Be unique:This means this card will stop its maximum rated threat on its own and without the need for soft armor support (support is included).

  3. Single Curve/Multi Curve:This is the number of bends in the shield plate. Single Curve means that the panel has a single curve, vertically through the center. Multi-curve means there are multiple curves, mostly the edges are curved to better fit your body. .Multicurve is recommended for extended wear as it is significantly more comfortable.

Different cuts of armor:

There are two main cuts for common rifle armor plates and they are the SAPI/ESAPI cut and the swimmer/"swimmer style" cut.

SAPI/ESAPI cut plates are their standard plate format, military issued SAPI/ESAPI plates come in this cut. The SAPI/ESAPI military standard size is 8.75 x 11.75 (S), 9.5 x 12.5 (M), 10.25 x 13.25 (L), and 11 x 14 (XL). There are also civilian size signs that use the same profile/cut in 8x10 and 10x12.

Swimmer's Cutout Plates are traditionally based on the Socom SPEAR Military Swimmer's Cutout Plates, which were literally intended for swimming. They feature a more generous shoulder cut to increase range of motion and mobility, which also makes carrying rifles over the shoulder easier. That roomier cut also means a little less material coverage around the shoulders, which can cut the weight a bit.

Then there is a third type of cut, the "Shooters Cut". This is a term that is used inconsistently in the defense industry. Depending on which manufacturer you ask, "Shooters Cut" can mean 10 different things, ranging from 10x12 SAPI, swimmer's cuts, proprietary cuts, and more. However, the original sniper cut (before it was inconsistently adopted as a term) is shown below (middle). They are usually available in 10 x 12 and have the same top profile as the SAPI cutting boards but with the addition of smaller angled cutouts in the bottom section. All of our handle cutting boards are shaped like this. We generally categorize our Shooters cutting boards with our SAPI boards as the profile is the same to avoid confusion and fit issues.

Hard Armor 101 Overview, Material Differences, and Common Misconceptions (2)
(Video) [Tanks 101] Armor Protection 1920-1980 - Features and Characteristics

Proper size and fit of shield plates:(Remember, you're buying a vest that fits over your plates, not the other way around.) The general rule of thumb is that the edges should match or slightly cover your nipples. Wear the forehead plate so that the top of the plate is two finger widths below the edge of the sternum. Then the bottom of the panel should end 1 to 3 inches above your navel when seated.

What I usually see is that your plate size is 1 size below your shirt size (for men). Remember that the armor plate is meant to cover your vitals, not your entire torso.

For 85% of people, a SAPI of 10 x 12 or half (9.5 x 12.5) is enough to cover their vital signs. It is also important for overweight people to remember that your internal organs and chest do not expand when you gain weight. So while you'll want a larger board like Large or XL, a 10x12 will generally provide enough protection for your vitals. While I generally recommend a large one for taller people as it offers more coverage, they still don't come with the same weight or mobility penalty as XL panels.

Hard Armor 101 Overview, Material Differences, and Common Misconceptions (3)

Now that we have the science behind us, let's talk about some of the most common misconceptions/misconceptions when it comes to bulletproof vest.

1. Stage III+ or other "Plus" markings

The "+" mark manufacturers use on boards usually indicates that board has been tested against specific threats outside of what the NIJ uses, which is a 7.62x51mm M80 bullet for tier 3 and 7, 62x63mm M2 AP for tier 4 "+" itself is not an official NIJ designation, it does not mean that the whole board is using a made up ranking system. For example, Tier III+ means the plate is the NIJ Basic Threat. 06 Level 3 6 shots .308 M80 PLUS blocks all additional special threats against which the manufacturer has tested. This additional threat could be anything from 5.56 M193 or M855 to M855A1, 7.62x54R B32 API etc. threats the manufacturer has tested the card.

2. Pottery is not as fragile as everyone paints it.

It seems that many people are under the impression that ceramic armor is like glass and needs maintenance or it will shatter and lose all its ballistic capabilities. I mentioned earlier that ceramic tiles must pass a drop test during their certification process. 2 falls 4 feet onto hard concrete with 10 pounds strapped to my back. This is a much tougher case than you're likely to experience during normal use. Well... that doesn't mean you should throw your ceramic tiles across the room or use them as a hammer. You shouldn't drop your ceramic plates, but once it lands on the table-height supporting surface, it's probably fine. The 23rd International Symposium on Ballistics carried out a scientific study on the effects of cracking on the performance of a ceramic tile. Titled "The Effect of Cracks on the Ballistic Performance of Contoured Body Armor Skid Plates", written in 2007 by Celia Watson, et. Alabama. In this study, they evaluated 6 batches of panels over a 12-year production period, with the sixth batch being the oldest. Lot 6 had visible damage, microfractures (cracks) and was considered discarded panels that were out of service. During the test, they put the panel under a hydraulic press and cracked the center. They then took an x-ray to confirm a crack and placed a single round of a 7.62x51mm M80 round directly over the crack. They found that the first 5 batches averaged 15% above spec, or at least 10% above spec, even when heavily cracked. They found that the sixth batch, despite being so old and visibly damaged, was still an average of 12% above specification.

The plates tested in this experiment were British CBA plates. It is designed for M80 bullets along with a bulletproof vest. These anti-aircraft vests had an approximate rating of NIJ Level 1 (intended for flak). Therefore, the tested boards were most comparable to standalone NIJ Level 3 or NIJ Level 3 ICW boards.

3. The 5 year "expiration date" that armor manufacturers set for armor is the end of the WARRANTY (ceramic armor does not expire).

The shield expiration date is the warranty expiration date, a way of limiting the manufacturer's liability, common practice with most security products. The expiration date is NOT when the armor becomes unusable. The ceramic itself does not degrade. The PE/aramid/fiberglass backing never degrades to a sufficient level to cause penetration. Adhesives on modern ceramics are like a heat and moisture resistant epoxy, it takes a lot more than you might think to get loose.

With the touch and twist test, you can easily check the usability at home. If both are approved, you can start. If it passes the torque test, it's still good to go. If both fail or the faucet test fails I would replace it, but they are usually either incredibly worn or heavily used.

Touch and Rotation Test: (You can use a metal knife as a touch tool)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31dO_Xyj5ik

(Video) Why Ceramic Armor? Hard but brittle!

As mentioned earlier in "The effect of cracks on the ballistic performance of contoured body armor plate" (Celia Watson et al.), the oldest batch of test plates were 12 years old at the time, which would undoubtedly have made the production date 1995 This older batch was X-rayed to confirm internal microcracks and the panels had visible external damage. However, all damaged plates were still at least 12% above the required specifications compared to the .308 M80 test bullet. Note that the internal microcracks have not degraded with time or storage.

The next piece shows video of a Vietnam-era ground force variable body armor being filmed. This is the earliest example of cast ceramic armor plate, so there are no earlier examples of cast ceramic armor of any scale. These records were made in 1969, so at the time the videos were filmed (2021) these records are 52 years old.

These plates are chambered for .30 caliber bullets, which is equivalent to a .30-06 caliber M2 FMJ bullet. These plates stopped every threat they were designed for and were only penetrated by a 7.62x54R steel core, which they were not designed for.


Take care of your armor and it will take care of you. Don't randomly throw them off the top of the trucks or play Frisbee with them and you'll be fine. Use the touch and twist test if you are not sure.

4. "Ceramics is not a multiple success"For a properly made ceramic armor plate this is dead wrong, any properly made ceramic armor plate can withstand multiple impacts from ballistic shells. However, the number of hits this plate can take depends entirely on the level of protection, construction, and ammo fired at it. As noted above, one NIJ Level 3 plate must stop six (6) 7.62x51mm M80 slugs, including any Tier 3 rated ceramic plates. However, only Level 4 plates are tested against a single 0 shot. ,30-06 M2 AP, this doesn't mean that a tier 4 card isn't capable of taking more pictures, it simply means that's where it was tested.

When a slab is fired, there will be local damage to the ceramic, likely causing further firings to stop around the original holes. The ceramic core must be bonded to a ballistic polymer backing that prevents the monolithic ceramic tile from shifting after propagation of cracks in the tile. As also mentioned in item 2, the cracks do not have much impact on the ballistic performance of the armor. For this reason, all properly manufactured self-contained ceramic armor plates must have a strong adhesive bond between the ceramic material and the support material using heat and impregnation agents. Strong epoxy adhesive. Simply put, if a projectile hits the ceramic plate, the damage will be localized because the ceramic is adhered to the substrate. Ceramic material decomposes locally and other parts of the plate (often up to 1 inch away) can still interrupt firing. Any high quality or well made Tier 3 or Tier 4 ceramic plate is capable of hitting multiple balls or .308 M80 as well as M193 rounds.

Construction of a level 3 and 4 ceramic tile follows the same principles. The ceramic face weakens, dulls and/or fractures the projectile, allowing it to be captured by the ballistic substrate. Tier 3 and Tier 4 tiles can use exactly the same materials (eg Spectra polyethylene and Bitossi alumina ceramic), but the difference is simply the amount of each material used and the proportions. Tier 4 boards generally use more ceramic material. That being said, all Tier 3 ceramic plates are multi-impact due to NIJ testing requiring 6 impacts, and all Tier 4 plates are also multi-impact due to the same design principles. A properly crafted high quality Tier 4 Ceramic Plate will easily block multiple hits from lower threats like 6 balls 0.308 M80 rounds, 10 rounds from M193, M855 or M855A1 etc. However, not all Tier 4 ceramic plates are capable of stopping 2 or more rounds from 0.30-06 M2 AP (the Tier 4 test round).

5. MIL-A 46100 steel armor is NOT designed to stop the .30 caliber (.30-06 M2-AP) at a 90 degree angle of attack.This type of steel was developed for vehicle armor and therefore tested for final use in vehicles and not in armor. MIL-A 46100 steel reinforcement is rated to stop 0.30 cal when the plate is at a 30 degree angle. Fishing Armor increases its effective thickness.

6. Placing the armor on the ground and shooting it in your backyard is not a valid means of testing the ballistic capabilities of that armor.I linked the parameters to the NIJ tests and a video. If they at least don't add sound to the disc and use a chronograph, it doesn't mean much. (Unless it penetrates... if it penetrates, the pitch doesn't matter.) Verse warp is just as important as penetration/non-penetration and can often say a lot about the reliability of the records.

7. Ceramic plates DO NOT shatter.

Some of you may have seen the video of the AR500 with the balloons where a ceramic plate supposedly "peeled" and popped some balloons. This is a perfect example of a video that is (in my opinion) misleading. The "chips" seen in the video are ceramic pieces. These shards move relatively slowly and are harmless. You can pop balloons because balloons have very little resistance. If you glue a ceramic plate to a vest, make sure you don't get scratched by these shards, as they cannot pass through the thick fabric of the plate holder. Fragmentation of steel plates poses a much greater risk as they travel at speeds high enough to penetrate the plate support structure and still cause physical injury.

8. Uncertified, Relabeled Chinese Plates Are NOT "As Good"

I often see people saying, "Why spend more on RMA, Hoplite, or Highcom when I can get (Chinese X-Board) for $99?" Very easily. They are always non-certified and manufactured abroad without quality assurance. As mentioned above, all NIJ certified panels must pass regular FIT testing. Discs are randomly drawn, burned and scored. Warnings are issued if disks fail these tests. Chinese boards usually use ceramic material of much lower purity than domestic counterparts, and often use support material and weaker quality. I also saw that the glue joint is incredibly weak. When dismantling a tile, you should not be able to easily separate the ceramic tile material with your hands. All of this has a big impact on the performance and longevity of the shield and will greatly reduce its effectiveness over time weak adhesive u Is a sign of a poorly made ceramic tile, these may work when new but usually start to work . n be degraded and separated over time. Therefore, cheap Chinese boards bought today will not perform the same in 3 years, while properly manufactured domestic counterparts are unlikely to experience degradation in performance for decades.

Time after time I've seen ballistic "tests" on YouTube showing excessive column deflection and clearly catastrophic coating delamination. Excessive deformation of the posterior aspect equates to blunt force trauma and the energy your internal organs must absorb.

It's also important to read the fine print on some of these armor plates. For example, LAPG panels are surrounded by an inch of non-ballistic foam. Its 10 x 12 panels actually only offer 9 x 11 inches of ceramic coverage. There's no reason not to buy non-certified Chinese dishes when certified, American-made dishes can be had for $289 a set. https://bit.ly/33mLM4h

You can read more in our separate article here: https://www.apexarmorsolutions.com/post/why-it-s-important-to-buy-quality-nij-certified-not-just-tested-armor


Now that we've gotten over some of the common misconceptions, let's take a look at some of the common materials that make up rifle hazard-rated body armor, along with some pros, cons, and information about them. For simplicity's sake, I won't go into too much depth as it can get quite confusing. This is not a general guideline either, different manufacturers use different mixes of materials and in turn may produce boards with very different threat ratings. I won't say too much about the different compounds and blends as there are so many.

1. pottery."Ceramic plates" is actually a pretty broad category. For simplicity, we define ceramic boards as any board that uses a ceramic mold (Al203, SiC, B4C) as the face/core. With the exception of ICW boards, there are generally no "pure" ceramic boards. Most boards on the market today are freestanding, meaning they use a ballistic mount. This support is usually made of polyethylene, fiberglass (or sometimes Kevlar). This pad is used to absorb blunt force trauma, as well as capture any bullet fragments or shell casings that penetrate the core. Most civil ceramic tiles consist of an alumina ceramic core/face and a polyethylene or fiberglass backing. Some high quality lightweight solutions may use silicon carbide or boron carbide ceramics for lighter weight. Silicon Carbide and Boron Carbide are higher hardness, lighter weight materials that allow for higher end plate solutions to maintain high threat stop levels while maintaining low weight. These materials are inherently more difficult to manufacture/work. and therefore they are more expensive. Ceramic plates use a grain face composed of aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, or boron carbide to break up an oncoming projectile. These ceramic materials are incredibly hard yet brittle. When a projectile hits the ceramic impact surface, the localized material shatters and also fractures the projectile (due to its greater hardness). Remaining projectile fragments or the cloak are encapsulated in the support material. The support and core of a ceramic plate work together to deflect projectiles, a plate cannot function if it is not present. In general, ceramics professionals are; They are generally lighter for their weight around 6.5-8 pounds, their ability to withstand high-velocity AP threats, and they don't produce dangerous shrapnel when hit. There really are no downsides to a correctly manufactured NIJ certified ceramic armor plate. Cracks do not affect performance much and do not decay.

(Video) [#9] Armor Coverage, Standards, and Types

2. UHMWPE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) (Polyethylene or Dyneema)

For our purposes, we are talking about PURE polyethylene sheets. Unidirectional polyethylene sheet raw material comes in large long rolls, this material is usually as thin as paper in this condition. These boards are cut to the desired shape and dozens of layers are stacked on top of each other and loaded into a single hot press mold. This compresses the layers and solidifies the material. These plates are generally the lightest Tier 3 or Special Rifle Threat available. Pure polyethylene shotgun panels are also often neutrally buoyant. However, this is not cost-free.

A pure poly board can often be extracted by a single round of M855 or 7.62x39 mild steel core. PE plates defeat projectiles by warping and deforming them, just like soft PE or Kevlar armor. Harder steel core hulls require at least a thin layer of ceramic on the face to break and deform the core.

Heat and cold were once the enemies of polyethylene films, but generally not anymore with advances in UDPE technology. However, prolonged exposure to moisture AND heat can degrade board performance over a LONG time by delaminating the UDPE layers. This doesn't make them useless, it just slightly reduces their effectiveness after an incredibly long time in harsh conditions. The NIJ subjects armor to torture tests in hot and cold chambers, but this is short-lived. Do not expose your polyethylene sheets to extreme temperatures on a regular basis. It will degrade its performance over time. So pure polyethylene boards are incredibly lightweight, but at the expense of steel core protection.

3. Steel armor (AR500, AR650, MIL-A 46100, etc.)Steel armor, the cheapest and heaviest of all. Personally, I have a huge aversion to steel armor, but I'm here to provide you with facts. How you spend your money at the end of the day is up to you, but I'm not going to recommend a steel plate to anyone for no reason. Firstly, there are several types of steel armor, but the characteristics are more or less the same. It's steel, even if it changes hardness or composition the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, the physics are similar.

The numbers after "AR", whether they are 400, 500 or 650, only indicate the hardness of that type of steel. As you know, the hardest steel can be brittle and vice versa soft. MIL-A 46100 is a Mil Spec or "Military Grade" steel designed for use in armored vehicles or for attachment structures.Let's start with the advantages of steel, since it will be short.1) May be capable of multiple hits.AR500 boards can take a beating as they are traditionally used as shooting targets. They can usually be hit twice in the same spot or fire 30-40 rounds without a hitch.

However, this is not necessarily a good thing, as repeated hits to the same general area will blow away pieces of the chipped coating and put you at risk for dangerous lead shrapnel. Depending on the casing, usually a single shot of a .308 M80 bullet within 2 to 3 inches of the rim can remove the casing. If you take more than 6 hits on your plate alone, chances are you'll get hit somewhere else with no armor cover. Think realistically, don't chase traits that will help you in unrealistic situations.Now with the cons,1) May be vulnerable to high speed threats like the M193 FMJ.

Tier 3 steel plates are vulnerable to FMJ target ammo such as M193 fired at high speeds (>3000 FPS) and AP/steel core ammo. High velocity soft lead FMJ ammunition impacting at high velocities results in what is known as a shear wad failure, which causes penetration with a broken portion of steel larger than the diameter of the projectile that penetrated it. AP ammo/hardened steel core usually has a higher hardness than the steel armor itself, causing the penetrator core to penetrate the armor.

Projectiles like the M193 FMJ or even the steel .223 Tula FMJ case can penetrate the AR500 Tier 3 with a 20" (M16) barrel, but I've heard of cases with barrel lengths as short as 16". penetration plate. Level 3 AR500.

(Beispiel Video, AR500 Tier 3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMYkEMhPsO8&t=1s2) Chipping is a major concern for all steel reinforcements.

Because steel is hard, when a bullet hits the clubface, it explodes into slivers and slivers. The shrapnel produced when bullets hit steel armor generally travels laterally along the surface of the plate. This means that the most dangerous chips come from the sides of the panels. Depending on his stance, he could get bullet fragments in his arms, legs, chin and groin. Imagine throwing a ripe tomato against a wall, bullet shrapnel or "bullet splatter" works in a similar way. The base coat sold with most steel plates is NOT designed to capture fragments. Unique plating is commonly used for corrosion resistance to protect bare metal from the elements. Single coating is NOT enough to stop fragmentation. The Build Coat option is where you start to see the real chip mitigation. Even then, it's only good for about 3 hits in the same general area at 5.56 (still paintable) before the bits blow out and the coating becomes ineffective. Or, often, a single shot from a .308 M80 bullet anywhere near the rim (2-3") will result in instant peeling of the coating in that localized area and allow dangerous fragments to enter your body.

There are "chip bags" or "chip covers" from different manufacturers, but most are constructed incorrectly. Most of the time they just have layers of aramid on the front of the shock absorber. As mentioned above, dangerous shrapnel comes from the edges/sides. If your aramid doesn't wrap around the sides, it won't contain the split effectively. Even if the material is wrapped around the sides, they will not work for dozens and dozens of rounds, they will also fail. Of those that wrap around the sides, they are expensive, and steel sheet assembly costs more than ceramic.

Read our separate article on fragmentation here: https://www.apexarmorsolutions.com/post/bullet-fragmentation-can-kill3) ricocheteiaRicochet is another problem when it comes to steel armor. If a bullet hits at an awkward angle, it can travel along the board and hit one of your arms or legs. Due to the hardness of steel, they are more prone to kickback than ceramic.4) Blunt force trauma/energy transferRifle bullets have an enormous amount of energy and power behind them. Steel is a rigid and hard material. When a bullet hits it, the energy "passes" through the steel and hits the user's chest. Steel plates must necessarily be used with a support (which again adds to the cost), whereas most ceramic plates have this built in.5) WeightThis is an obvious question, a 10 x 12 steel plate weighs 9-9.5 pounds with two layers of non-skid reinforcement. Instead, with trauma padding (seriously, you shouldn't wear these without). Steel worktops with just a primer weigh the same as heavier ceramic worktops, but they have a Tier 3 rating and many drawbacks.

I hope this article clears up some common misconceptions, particularly those related to ceramic hobs. There is a lot of misleading or outright wrong information in the defense industry.If you enjoy our informative articles, please consider us when making your next armor buying decision.https://www.apexarmorsolutions.com/home


1. Standard 0101.06 of the National Institute of Justice: https://www.nij.gov/publications/Pages/publication-detail.aspx?ncjnumber=223054 (PDF)https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/223054.pdf -P 4 (Level III/IV test parameters) -p. 36 (drop test) -p. 49 (posterior facial deformity)

2. MIL-A 46100 D-Standard:(PDF) http://everyspec.com/MIL-SPECS/MIL-SPECS-MIL-A/download.php?spec=MIL-A-46100D_INTERIM-AMENDMENT-2.020498.PDF -P. 22 (MIL-A 46100 D .30 cal-Test bei 30 Grad)

3. Approximate SAPI/ESAPI results: http://bulletproofme.com/Body_Armor_Accessories_Rifle_Protection.shtml

4. SAPI/ESAPI Performance Standards:https://www.wikiwand.com/en/List_of_body_armor_performance_standards

More literature/information:

(Video) Handbooker Helper: Armor 101

If you are interested in knowing more about it, here are more readings and some videos.

  1. NIJ Standard 0101.06 (one of the sources for this article)https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/223054.pdf

  2. Test burn for a Tier IV board:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vL-08x7T4I(Go to 2:10)


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