• Comments (56)

    • 2

      The ShotStop Duritium III+GT are now $380 for 10×12 shooter cut, $420 for 10×12 SAPI cut, and $460 for ‘full cut’. The Hesco 3610 for $399 from bulletproofme.com now beats it out in cost effectiveness, IMO.

      • 2

        Thanks for the update, we’ll take a look soon. BPM was going to update their product lines before we published but they didn’t get it live in time, so we need to circle back on their new SKUs and prices.

    • 2

      RMA Armament all the way If you check out the chart on NIJs website you’ll see they make a lot of body armor for other companies. (same model numbers) They also have the best customer service of ANY company that I have seen!

    • 2

      What’s the difference between silicone and alumina armor types?

      • 2

        Alumina and silicon carbide are the two most common “ceramic” armor materials. But 99.9% of people reading this don’t need to care about the difference between the two, since at the end of the day weight, cost, and threat protection levels are what matters, creating an even apples-to-apples comparison between plates.

        Alumina is the more common type among the mass produced / cheaper ceramics. “Cheap” doesn’t necessarily mean bad in this case — many of the ceramics we reviewed here could be considered cheap because they aren’t $1,200 military gear.

        Silicon is lighter, harder, and more expensive.

      • 2

        Thank you very much for explaining…and for the hard work you’ve put into all of this

    • 2

      Im surprised soft armor is still a thing. Every other dude in America owns an AR15 or equivilant, and dudes with AR15s riding around in the backs of pickup trucks ready to take your gas/car/food/wife is my #1 worry in a SHTF scenario

      On that note, outside if Safelife, I cant find a vest that covers upper torso and shoulders, WITH an insert for a plate.

      • 2

        Soft armor can still make sense for people who are on the job all day every day. The *vast* majority of threats that police face are pistols and knives, so for them it’s worth the superior comfort of soft armor.

        Not surprised you don’t find much for shoulder rigs. Frankly, I don’t think we’ve ever seen or talked to a legit operator who wants that level of coverage (too cumbersome), so there probably isn’t much of a market demand.

      • 2

        Safeguard Armor offers a soft armor solution with this broader coverage. They also have front and rear plate pocket.

        While operators/soldiers need freedom of movement for obvious reasons I am no longer so sprightly. My plans are to hunker down/shelter in place so I like the idea of flexibility: vest with better coverage and plates to supplement. I can always pull the plates out. Normally they are just kept in all the time. I am surprised that ICW options were seemingly so quickly dismissed.

    • 2

      Sorry, but even though I found the info great, your layout of choices is just horrible and confusing to help you decide what is what. Your choices should clearly show what it’s made out of. Instead of saying best protection, say best protection in steel best protection in ceramic, best protection in…

      I’m having to hit each individual link and then spend a couple minutes just trying to find out what the plate is made of and how much it weighs. That information SHOULD be displayed on your side and not the sellers side.

      Just saying best protection doesn’t say much to me if I don’t know the weight and what it’s made out of!

      For such an in-depth article, as I said the information provided is fantastic, I’m just shocked you didn’t make it much simpler when the time came to have us make a choice by displaying under each plate what it’s made out of, what its protection is, and how much it weighs, as well as the cost. That would be a true buyers guide!!

      But I am very confused about one point. So am I to understand correctly, that when it comes to the new poly plates, since they will not Defeat M855, that there is NO poly plate available in a level III+ or level IV? That buyer MUST go with steel or ceramic or possibly a hybrid?

      • 3

        Perhaps you didn’t see the spreadsheet with weights etc and the break down towards the end of the post about the best choices in each material class.

        Most people don’t care about the material per se, they just want the lightest, the cheapest, etc. So we sliced and diced things both ways, but nothing is ever perfect.

        But feedback heard and we’ll look at if/how to improve when we next revise this post.

        It’s been long enough since the research that I don’t want to blanket state that there are no PE plates that stop M855, but the general consensus is that a standalone PE plate can’t handle it, especially the new 855 variant.

      • 2

        Ummmmm YES!!!! I did miss your spreadsheet!!!! Wow!!!!! You actually DID have exactly what I wanted 🙂

        Not sure how I missed it but in retrospect, it kind of looks like an advertisement and I guess it just never caught my attention, but thank you for bringing it to it!!!!

        That now makes this article, hands down, the absolute best guide that can be found anywhere on the subject of bullet proof vests!!!!

        Thank you for taking all that time to put together a guide, just to make it simple for ME 🙂

      • 2

        Thanks for saying so!

    • 2

      This might seem random, but while I keep my vest at home, I keep my bug-out bag with me everywhere (at work, in the car, in restaurants, at home, etc) and something that I worry about every day is an active shooter situation. What would you recommend if I wanted a backpack plate – one I can easily remove once I have my vest and don’t need the extra weight – that could easily make an improvised vest via wearing the backpack on front or back during an active shooter situation?

      • 2

        Also, on a side note, would you consider making an article/reviews on bulletproof helmets? Are they even worth it for preppers, or is that more just for military/combat use? If they are worth it, what would you recommend?

      • 2

        Apologies for the lag — we were in Vegas for SHOT Show, and coincidentally played with some new backpack armor models from companies like Ballistipax https://ballistipax.com/

        We don’t intend on doing a helmet post, at least in the next 1-2 years, because we think they’re impractical for 99.9% of people. But if you want to look, stick with solid companies like Safariland: http://www.safariland.com/p…

        We will be doing a post this year on soft armor and backpack inserts. We haven’t yet because 1) soft armor, which is level IIIA and below, essentially only stops handguns and 2) we’ve wanted to spend more time playing with models and seeing how the industry developed post-Parkland.

        Your chances of being in an active shooter situation are so low (you’re more likely to die from slipping on ice) that we’re still debating whether the extra weight/cost is worth it.

        But sign up for the newsletter to see when we release info on the soft armor inserts and backpacks.

    • 2

      Of the guys who participated in this article/research, is there a breakdown of what they have or plan to purchase? Thanks

      • 2

        I did most of this research. Like many people, I personally started with steel plates (like the recommended AR500.com level 3+) to get to know armor, experiment with my gear, etc. without spending too much. But now I’ve upgraded to the ceramic/plastic plates (Hesco/DFNDR/Velocity) because the weight savings and better comfort are worth the extra cost. So I keep steel plates around for their long shelf life and as backups in case the ceramic/plastic primary plates take hits and need to be tossed.

      • 2

        Wow. Amazing amount of data and insight. Thank you for taking the time to research and present this and share your personal choices.

        I have just a few questions. In terms of ceramic/plastic, do you have any concerns about:
        1. High temperature exposure? Kinda rules out leaving it in the car in the summer, yeah?
        2. Low shelf life/warranty? If you bought a $400 plate are you going to scrap it after it “expires” in 5 years? If not, how long are you comfortable keeping/using it?
        3. Hairline cracks/damage? I’ve heard it is recommended to x-ray ceramic plates at least once a year or once every other year for hairline cracks that are not visible to the naked eye as these cracks could compromise the plate’s effectiveness. On top of that, the type of x-ray machine, how to x-ray, what to look for, and what type of cracks/damage constitutes a compromised plate are things ordinary people don’t understand and even those who claim they do know, they have various sometimes conflicting opinions themselves….

        Thank you, John!

      • 2

        Thanks!

        1) Yes, extreme temps can be a problem for non-steel armor. eg. soldiers in the middle east had difficulties with leaving plates in a vehicle baking in the desert sun. In more moderate climates / most of the US, I wouldn’t leave the plates in the car on a summer day without a reason to, but if you needed to / it was unavoidable in an emergency, it’d likely be OK for a little while.

        2) It’s hard to get answers on this because a) we can’t really test that ourselves and b) manufacturers won’t discuss it due to legal reasons. If you store plates properly (flat, protected, climate controlled, not compressed or bumping around, etc.) I would feel comfortable using it after sitting on a shelf for 7-10 years. Personally, I’ll likely rotate every 7 years.

        3) Cracks would affect the plate’s performance, but IMHO doing an x-ray is overkill for civilians. For the time/cost, you may as well just replace the plate every three years and skip the x-ray.

      • 1
        1. Iirc HDPE armor had the head issues. UHMWPE still should be kept out of the car though.
        2. Ceramic is what you stick into the bottom of a space shuttle as it hurtles through orbit. It’s not going to be affected. The fibers should be fine as well unless you’re going for inhospitable to human life temps.
        3. If you’re paying 400 for two Hescos you’ve been ripped off or are pulling 4800s or something even spicier.
      • 2

        John, how do you wear these plates under your shirt and ensure they stay in place ?

      • 2

        The short answer is you don’t. Hard armor plates (everything in this review) aren’t meant to be worn under clothing. That’s what soft armor is for (concealment, comfort, etc.) but the tradeoff is less protection.

        You could theoretically get some of the thinnest, curviest plates (which will be steel and heavy), put them in a low-profile plate carrier (the thing that holds the plates), and then wear baggy clothing over top.

      • 1

        Well, uh, you wouldn’t.

        I guess that wearing a barebones+low vis plate+soft armor vest would work? I know there are LV plates out on the market for this kinda crap…

    • 1

      While often used interchangeably, the .223 Remington and 5.56mm NATO are not the same cartridge. The .223 Remington served as the basis for the 5.56mm NATO, they are *not* the same cartridge. The 5.56mm NATO round fires at much higher velocities than the .223 Remington. The same applies to the .308 Winchester served as the basis for the 7.62mm NATO round, but again, they are not the same cartridge.

      Aside from offering a little clarification, my point is this: choosing armor rated for the 5.56mm NATO and/or 7.62mm NATO is the better course of action. The reason being: armor that can stop .223 Remington *may not* stop 5.56 NATO, and armor that can stop .308 Winchester *may not* stop 7.62 NATO.

      • 2

        Thanks Jason. We didn’t get into the Rem vs Nato vs Wylde difference here because I don’t know that it creates a meaningful difference in the armor tests. One reason, for example, is that it’s hard to know when a manufacturer says “rated for 5.56” if they actually used a .223.

        Have you seen any data/sources where a plate stopped a 5.56/7.62 but failed to stop the imperial equivalents?

        When we next do a head-to-head field test of these plates, I do have Israeli 5.56/7.62 on hand for the higher-pressure rounds (and some M855A1!)

      • 2

        Buy some Wolf Gold .223, chrono it, and then get back to us on that “higher velocity” thing 🙂

        It’s not that there’s no difference, but it’s nowhere that simple.

    • 2

      Thoroughly enjoyed your article on body armor and having zero prior knowledge on the subject I feel confident as a consumer now. This article and some of your replies in the comments mention a ’shelf life’, can you elaborate please? Do plates actually lose effectiveness over time?

      • 2

        Thanks for saying so MJ, that consumer confidence is our goal! Great question, but with a frustrating answer: we don’t/can’t know for sure beyond what the industry self-reports and what the general rules of thumb are, because it’s impractical for us to independently test it to be sure ourselves.

        It’s probably like medicine, where “expiring” means it goes from 100% to 95-99% effectiveness, and is still fine to use. But when it comes to life saving equipment (and the business/regulatory desire for military/LE purchases to be renewed every few years), a small hairline fracture or weakening of the glue used to compress materials may be enough to say “toss it out, start over.”

        It’s probably like medicine, where “expiring” means it goes from 100% to 95-99% effectiveness, and is still fine to use. Anecdotally, steel will last longer than plastics/ceramics/etc in the same conditions. The key is that they aren’t exposed to weird temperatures, are stored flat, nothing pressing down on them, and so on.

        If I had a plate that just sat on a shelf in proper conditions, I’d be comfortable using it 10 years later if I didn’t want to spend the budget to refresh it earlier.

      • 1

        Ceramic itself doesn’t degrade and the fibers won’t either. Both are very structurally stable, so put them somewhere safe and leave them be. Unless they’re routinely exposed to high temps, pressure, they should be fine.

    • 2

      Do you know of any European manufacturers of steel plates? I cannot seem to find one. Only ceramic plates

      • 2

        Not off the top of my head, unfortunately. The stuff I recall from EU is mostly high-quality ceramics etc from places like the Netherlands and Germany. If you’re struggling to find some, try searching for companies that make steel targets, they may also repurpose that steel into armor.

      • 1

        To be 100% honest, you’d be best served by ceramic. However, if you absolutely are dead set…

        Try to get a good quality armor steel maker. Get a 10×12, 15×16, whatever, piece, curved as needed. Get someone to cut the armor out. Sand and spray as needed.

        Soft armor is still your EDC though.

    • 3

      That is good collection, Once i need. Platecarrierplanet has some great ones.

    • 1

      This was a very educational article, and it makes me think best protection would have to come from something like Dragon scale.

      This would be a fun, home-guncrafting, R&D project to create DIY Homespun Dragon scale, and there’s very few people with the interest, equipment, materials, and knowledge to go this route.

      What could possibly work along these lines?. Most success would likely come from a layered approach. The foundation would likely be a type of chain mail, to which overlapping scales were attached.

      Scales could best be made up of layers of heat-treated sheet-steel, forged into a single scale. This would have a sort of Damascus characteristic, having strength and flexibility.

      Front and back of steel scale would need layers of ceramic composite added to the Damascus steel, to create a ballistic sandwich,which would be covered in built up anti spall coating.

      Some concept like this would stand the best chance of defeating armor piercing rounds,provide the highest level of coverage, protection, and mobility.

      I recall seeinga product only sold law enforcement on the TV series Beyond 2000 years ago.It was tested by a police department with every sort of weapon they have available including a 50 caliber,and was able to defeat them all. I think you can still find reruns online of the Beyond 2000 series,but there are no updates, and who knows what ever happened to this ballistic system?

      • 2

        Oh man I loved Beyond 2000! I don’t know what you’re specifically referring to, but there was a lot of drama (both publicly and legally, if I remember correctly) around dragonscale and similar systems in the 2000s, and that likely put everyone off to the whole topic. eg. if the military is sour on an armor system, you can pretty much bet no commercial company will invest in making one. But your DIY method is interesting for a severe SHTF situation.

      • 1

        There was one company that did have some success. It was called Ceraflex, the armor was, and it did have some use. It was a “Type Five” and rated for M993. Wasn’t all that flexy, was still heavy as shit, but it worked.

        On another note, a rigid segmented armor like LIBA would be the *shit* if you could fine the repair pellets. Damaged ceramic? Pop in new pellets, apply epoxy, boom done back into fight.

      • 1

        This armor was called Dragon Skin. I call it DragonShit because that’s effectively what it is.

        It was heavy, at 47.5lbs for IV. Comparison, a set of 4401 large is what, 14lbs?

        It was prone to failure. The armor was tested by HP White labs and broke almost every time, even dry.

        It was expensive. Couple thousand per.

        What you’re talking about seems to be the SOV 5K edition.  This was rated for M33 FMJ and weighed in the realm of 50-60lbs. For reference, a 1980s North Ireland, effective against the same at 50m with a 10×12 would run you 24lbs for a front/back.

    • 3

      Just came across this article now – tremendous!

      My question is on legality of buying hard armor from overseas. Do you know if it is legal for a private US citizen, who has no criminal history to do so?

      CBP website states there are no import restrictions on soft body armor. This leads me to believe hard armor is regulated if it’s not domestic – any thoughts?

      Also, searching the internet, one person said they thought only LEO or military could “import” hard armor into the country but no source was given.

      Please shed some light if you can. Thank you!

      • 1

        I don’t have something specific to point to as proof (also just did some googling and didn’t find anything new) — so I’m curious what others know — but my general understanding is that you can import. The burden of restricting armor probably falls with the country of origin/export, not where it ends up. So if you’re in the US and buy armor from a Dutch company, the US might not care, but the Netherlands might (kind of international equivalents to US ITAR rules).

        It’s generally not a topic we’ve looked into though, because there’s not much armor available outside of the US that’s worth importing compared to what you can directly get here. The big overseas companies, like Hesco (UK based), have US operations and sell directly here.

      • 1

        You may want to consider firing up Google translate and going to Vario Mehler’s shop. They sell some pretty good stuff down in Germany.

        Currently US ITAR screws you if you run NIJ IV or above through without a loicense. However, overseas… Well, there are ways.

    • 3

      This is another fantastic article – took me from being completely befuddled by the products and the industry to confident in making a choice.

      Do you have any advice for protection for the little ones?  Selecting carriers and plates for my wife and I seems pretty straightforward now, but we have a 2-year-old with us and if we’re in a situation where we both need armor I would want him to be protected as well.  Obviously sizing over time will be an issue also as he grows.

      • 2

        Thanks, glad it was helpful! Totally understand why you’d want to protect the little one, but frankly, I wouldn’t try to “armor up” a child. Couple reasons:

        • Armor is heavy, to the point we even dislike the backpacks for school kids under 16.
        • There aren’t any products for kids, so you’d be putting a square-peg-round-hole together anyway, and that’s probably not worth it or effective.
        • If you’re in that kind of a situation, it is much better to be able to move than to be armored.

        Thoughts?

      • 2

        I had all the same thoughts.  I was thinking, if anything, that a soft vest would be the way to go.

      • 2

        I’d advise for budget a soft vest and some Hesco 4401s. If you’ve got disposable income consider trying to grab a few 4610s when they drop.

        The soft vest will be what you’d wear day to day. It’s paranoia until it’s not, and you/your wife get shot only to slap the other guy’s shit in because you were wearing aramid. I’d float the idea of NIJ 2, unless you want that extra insurance of NIJ 3A. Try to avoid SafeLife, they have Chinese materials, with all the quality control that provides…

    • 2

      Wow the entry line did not age well…

      On another note, the 4401 is here, and it’s generally that little bit better. I saw a deal a while ago off of BAO for 240ish?

      AR500… How do you like the idea of being cheesed by any lead cores over 3100fps hitting the plate? As this is 3+, 3200fps does the job. Plus, with their questionable record…

      The best protection will probably be the 4800 from Hesco, or the 4810, if that ever drops….

      The 4600 and the shiny new 4610 are the cool boiz. Note that 46XX declares series and rating it seems, type 4, series 600… The 4600 is dual rated III/IV, but the 4610 is presumably an upgrade somehow. We’ll see.

      Sometimes you can find stuff like the MH3 CQB out there. These are top dollar plates that you can’t find easily anymore. That plate saved Mike Day when he got blasted. Do note that replacing them will be nearly impossible though…

      RMA’s 1199 G2 is the final word in multihit that’s ez access… But it’s not NIJ certed because they’re waiting on .07. come on NIJ, you said 2019…

    • 2

      I kind of want to disagree here.

      Steel armor should be avoided outright. If shit=sideways, you’re literally better off using the lessened speed to run like hell.

      Ceramic L3 is basically immune to M193 and M855. It’s good enough for most because you’re not going to need much else. It can handle 7.62x63mm, it’s just that you crack out that rate box of steel core and suddenly poom, through you go.

    • 2

      What is anyone’s opinion about the Safe Life Defense Multi-Threat vest?  This is supposed to be a vest that starts out as concealable, but can also be upscaled to handle more advanced threats.

    • 3

      It’s awesome that even 2+ years later, the insight and relevancy of this article is still outstanding. Hat’s off to John and the Prepared. 

      Enough brown-nosing. Relating to trauma pads…my dad taught me that when you get hit in a plate it’s like taking a sledge-hammer to the rib cage, so no doubt they are needed. My question is, what are they made of? I know they are cheap/available, but is there any magic to them (say versus a .25″ EVA foam like the ‘Tubers claim)?

      Some day there may not be internet/Amazon, so Preppers should have good alternatives they can craft at home…

      Also, just some friendly feedback/personal insight without any manufacturer or companies named if you are inclined to read…

      I purchased some leading armor about 6 weeks ago directly from a manufacturer..still waiting (another 10 more weeks they tell me through a form email, though I have directly emailed them two times and called to inquire on status). I bought the same set from a reputable retailer two days ago, and it is set to ship in the next day or two (and was a better price). 

      It’s crazy times for this stuff, so hunt around would be my point.

      Thanks and stay safe all! 

      • 4

        Ok yall. I was hesitant to drop any names, but I feel like “given the current political climate” I’m sure I’m not alone in getting prepared here. I would not recommend going through AR500 directly if you need anything- use distribution partners. These people have had hundreds of my dollars for months and have provided ZERO help in getting me answers/product. I didnt even get a receipt. I know it’s good gear, but it does nothing if you can’t wear it. Sorry, not trying to review a company on this thread, just trying to assist the community and provide some feedback. Stay safe! 

      • 1

        Thanks for the kind words John! I’m looking forward to updating this article soon. 

        Sorry to hear about your troubles with AR500. If you’d like, I can share this thread with the relevant manager there and/or share your email address with them? 

        For trauma pad construction, unfortunately I don’t have a top-of-mind answer. Haven’t personally looked into them much yet since I don’t run pads with my plates. Educated guess: Assuming the armor is NOT an in-conjunction-with model that requires a pad/etc to be functional, anything that would soften the blow should be fine. Especially if improvising in an emergency. 

      • 2

        I got it worked out, but thank you very much for the offer John. Great information as always! 

      • 3

        Hey gang, I have pasted an interesting summary of AR500 steel below. I am no expert, nor am I endorsing the author of the Reddit article. Just make sure you do your research before a big purchase like this (especially if your life is on the line). I suspect AR500 has dropped off since publication of the Prepared review.

        Just so I don’t sound like a Monday Morning Quarterback being critical with no input, I’ll offer my observation based on my own experiences…If I had the money to do it again, instead of dropping $400 with AR500 on steel and sub-par carriers, I would have spent $500 for a NIJ Certified Level IV Ceramic. Most of those plates can handle 3-6 rounds. If you get hit more than that, maybe you are not moving fast enough or maybe you need to hang out with different people? 

        A serious discussion on AR500 and steel body armor [Cross post from /r/Tactical Gear] from QualityTacticalGear

    • 2

      How do I know if I want more curved or less curved plates? My build is slim.

    • 3

      Steel is not the way. I have spoken. 

      Seriously though, spalling sucks even with the bedliner applied. You can buy ceramic for the same price so just go that route to begin with. Shellback Tactical is still stocking plates and carriers regularly and are good stuff. Their plates are rebranded Highcoms and are gtg. Also check RMA and Hoplite armor. May be a bit of a lead time but that’s most everything in the gun/tactical industry right now. T-Rex Arms is also dropping Hesco L210s pretty regularly and re stocking their AC1 carrier. Good for a more low viz low weight setup

      • 2

        100% agree, hindsight (and these AR500 steel plates) are chafing my a$$. Shame on me for not doing more research. 

        I guess I’ll have to wait for the next ’round’.