So, you have a plate carrier (or looking to buy one), and you need to know the different types of body armor plates and which one to get in 2023. You’re in the right spot. For over ten years, we’ve been delivering the best body armor products in the business, so we know what’s best.
There are three main types of body armor plates: steel plates, ceramic plates, and polyethylene plates. Then, there are Next Day Armor plates, the cream of the crop. Let’s dive in.
Steel Body Armor Plates
Steel body armor plates are specially designed metal plates that fit into tactical vests or plate carriers. They protect against most handgun rounds and rifle rounds. Still, they are not guaranteed to protect against supersonic bullets.
Steel body armor plates come in various sizes, shapes, and thicknesses. The thicker the plate, the more protection it provides.
Most steel body armor plates are made from AR500 steel or MIL-A 46100 steel, both of which can withstand multiple impacts from high-powered rounds without compromising their integrity. Firearm targets, snowplows, mining equipment, and other commercial machinery use AR500 steel due to its abrasion resistance.
MIL-A-46100 has been tested and rated for defense against ballistic threats, so you really want Mil-Spec A46100 steel if you go for a steel plate.
While steel body armor offers excellent protection against most threats, there are both pros and cons to consider before making your purchase. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of steel body armor plates.
Pros of Steel Armor Plates
- The primary benefit of steel body armor plates is their multi-hit capability. They can withstand multiple impacts from rifle rounds without losing their protective qualities.
- Steel body armor plates are also highly durable. They are less likely to bend or deform under pressure than other materials like Kevlar or ceramic.
- Steel is cheap. You can get a steel plate with excellent protection for around $70 and up. Remember, it’s better to go with MIL-A-46100.
Cons of Steel Armor Plates
While steel body armor does offer great protection, it does have its limitations.
- Since steel is dense and rigid, bullets traveling over 3,000 fps will hit you hard. You’ll be alive, but you’ll feel like you got hit by a truck because that force is going right into you.
- Steel body armor plates are significantly heavier than other materials like Kevlar or ceramic (up to 10 pounds). They can make it difficult to move quickly in an emergency.
- Lastly, while steel body armor can protect against many types of bullets, it cannot protect against all types of ammunition, such as high-velocity incendiary rounds or armor-piercing rounds, unless you have a thick piece of steel.
Ceramic Body Armor Plates
If steel doesn’t sound like an option, ceramic body armor plates may suit you better. Ceramic body armor plates are made of a particular type of ceramic material, designed to be rugged yet lightweight.
There are also composite solutions that combine multiple layers of materials, such as metal and ceramics, for increased protection while still being lightweight enough to be comfortable to wear over long periods.
The ceramic material absorbs energy from high-velocity projectiles, dissipating the impact on the wearer’s body and protecting them from harm. They also have a layer of Kevlar or another fabric backing which helps to disperse any remaining force that is not absorbed by the ceramic material.
Pros of Ceramic Armor Plates
- Ceramic plates can stop high-velocity rounds like the 30.06 armor-piercing round.
- Ceramic body armor plates are lightweight compared to traditional steel or titanium plates, sometimes half the weight. This makes them much more comfortable to wear, especially for extended periods, and allows for greater mobility in tactical situations.
- Ceramic body armor plates are highly resistant to corrosion.
- Because they don’t contain metal components (at least not always), ceramic body armor plates remain undetectable by metal detectors. This is a valuable feature for those who need to operate in sensitive areas without being noticed.
Cons of Ceramic Armor Plates
- One disadvantage of ceramic body armor plates is their cost; they tend to be more expensive than steel plates.
- Additionally, while they may be lighter than steel, they can be pretty bulky, which can be less than ideal when wearing them in combat situations.
- Dropping steel plates is not an issue, but dropping (or falling on top of) ceramic plates can break them.
- Not all ceramic plates can take multiple hits; for some, it’s a one-and-done use.
Polyethylene Body Armor Plates
The last of the traditional armor plate material is polyethylene (PE), also known as Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. Polyethylene body armor plates are lightweight body armor that provides ballistic protection against various ballistic rounds, shrapnel, and other forms of ballistic threats. It can stop rounds up to 7.62 x 51 M80 Ball and the 5.56 x 45 M193.
This type of armor is frequently used by police, military, and private security personnel to provide additional protection from potential harm in dangerous situations, especially when the plates are worn for long periods.
Pros of Polyethylene Armor Plates
- One of the most significant advantages of using polyethylene body armor plates is that they are much lighter than traditional steel plates; they’re practically buoyant.
- Polyethylene plates also have excellent multi-hit capability, meaning they can withstand multiple hits without compromising their structural integrity.
- PE can withstand high-powered rifle rounds, like the 5.56 x 45 M193.
- PE absorbs rounds, so you don’t have to worry about fragmentation as you do with traditional steel plates.
Cons of Polyethylene Armor Plates
- A significant disadvantage to polyethylene body armor plates is their cost — they are more expensive than ceramic plates and up to five times as expensive as steel plates.
- Polyethylene is also less durable than steel or ceramic, so it must be replaced more often. Generally speaking, their shelf life is only five years, and even shorter if they are stored in hot or humid environments (think self-storage or your trunk).
- Like ceramic plates, PE plates are bulky, coming in around 1 inch thick on average.
- They cannot protect against armor-piercing rounds or other steel core ammunition like the 5.56 M855 Green Tip FMJs.
- They do not provide edge-to-edge protection as they are strongest in the center. Getting shot at the edge of a PE plate may not offer much protection.
Why Next Day Armor Plates Are The Best
Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s why NDA plates are the best. Our plates have a manufactured high-density alumina ceramic core backed with layered woven heat and flame-resistant aramid fiber, finished in a black Cordura nylon covering.
Every single armor plate we sell is NIJ Certified level IV hard armor. What does that mean? Our body armor plates can stop rounds ranging from the beastly 7.62 x39 Steel Core to supersonic 5.56 x 45 M193/M855.
Our stand-alone design can stop multiple hits of armor-piercing rounds, so you can have peace of mind knowing that it’s not a one-and-done plate like many traditional ceramic plates.
Our body armor plates weigh about 8 pounds on average (as low as 6.5 pounds), so you won’t feel like you’re carrying the world on your chest and back, either. Essentially, our plates have the best of both worlds.
Additionally, unlike many of our competitors, we are an Authorized LTC Distributor with warehouses located in the U.S., so we can ship your products for next-day delivery.