The Basics of Body Armor

AR500 armor is a company that focuses on making body armor affordable for the average person. In addition to making affordable gear they have been working hard to make people aware of the legality of body armor. To be clear there is no rules prohibiting you from owning body armor. While it is not inexpensive the cost is much lower than it used to be and is far less than a hospital visit.

This first part of the review will focus on the various types of armour available as well as the differences. For those new to armor plates this is an important starting point.

The Basics of Body Armor

Armor comes in a few varieties but to keep it simple there is soft armor that us usually worn under clothing and typically rated for handguns and there is plate armor that is rated to various rifle speeds.

For a more indepth look at the rating system used you can see the below table.

Soft Body Armor Standards NIJ 0101.03

Tested for:


9 mm FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) at ~1,090 fps
(332 mps)

.40 S&W
 Full Metal Jacket at 1,025 fps
(312 mps)

Minimum Recommended…

…for the vast majority of threats encountered on the street, though you would sustain more blunt trauma injury than Level II or III-A. The thinnest and best for concealability and comfort.

Level II-A has fallen out of favor, so generally a special order item now.


9 mm FMJ, at ~1,175 fps
(~358 mps)

.357 JSP at ~ 1,400 fps
(~427 mps).

A great balance…

…between blunt trauma protection, versus cost, and thickness / comfort / concealability. Handles the blunt trauma of higher velocity +P rounds better.

What we recommend most often for concealable wear.


9 mm FMJ at ~1,400 fps
(~427 mps)

.44 Magnum Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point at ~1,400 fps
(~427 mps).

The highest blunt trauma protection rating in soft body armor. The best for very high-risk situations to cover more of the uncommon or unusual threats.

Minimizes blunt trauma injury to allow more effective return fire.

Hard Body Armor (Plate)

Tested for



.308 Winchester Full Metal Jacket =
7.62 X 51 mm NATO

6 rounds at ~ 2,750 fps
( ~838 mps).

~1/4″ Ballistic Steel (6 mm)
~1/2″ Ceramic (13 mm)
~1″ Polyethylene (25 mm)


.3006 Armor-Piercing
.30 M2 AP
One round at ~ 2,850 fps
(~869 mps)

The highest rating for Body Armor.

~ 3/4″ Ceramic (18 mm)

~1/2″ Ballistic Steel (12 mm) for vehicle armor

(too heavy for Body Armor)

We are going to focus on Plate or hard armor for this article. The reason for this is that hard armour is often rated to withstand a higher velocity projectiles and it is more affordable. Since most people are going to be using the gear in training classes, ranges and hazardous situations soft armor is likely not going to provide the needed protection.

Be careful when buying armor form retailers as some plates are actually designed to be worn with level II soft armor under them. If you do not intend on wearing soft armor make sure your buying what is classified as “Stand Alone Plates”.

Types of Plate Armor

Ballistic Steel

The heaviest of the plate types and the least expensive. They require the least care when handling. Ballistic Steel is also the thinnest of the plates and will fit in all plate carriers. Thickness varies based on rating from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick (reserved typically for vehicles) and weight varies greatly by manufacturer.

Without additional coatings these types of plate present a real danger of secondary wounding from spall.

Ceramic Plates

More expensive than Steel and less expensive than Polyethylene stand alone plates. Require more thickness than steel to stop a bullet of the same force. Ceramic plates are considerably lighter than steel as well.

Ceramic plates require more care and can actually be broken by being dropped. It can handle the average beating but the corners especially can be sensitive to blunt force. While Ceramic plates are lighter than Steel plates the added thickness can make maneuvering a bit more difficult. Make sure to look for a shooters cut if the armor is intended to be used in a combat situation.

Polyethylene Plates

Ultra light material weighing as little as 1/3rd that of steel. Requires more thickness than Steel or Ceramic to stop ballistic threat with a thickness of roughly 1 inch. This added thickness requires special plate carriers in many cases with extra large pockets. This added thickness also requires a more aggressive shooters cut to allow for proper use of a firearm.

While not prone to breakage like Ceramic Plates, Polyethylene Plates are affected by heat, cold, flame and excessive sunlight. They must not be exposed to temperatures below -15 degrees F or above 150 degrees F. This means for those of us in Michigan they can not be left in your car during most seasons. These plates are also very expensive costing 2 times as much as Ceramic and more than 4 times as Steel.

Mitigating the Risk of Steel

As you can see from above Steel plates offer a thinner solution that is more cost effective. However the nature of the product created a risk of either personal or collateral damage when spall would be created. To combat this risk of spall damage companies like AR500 armour have started to coat steel plates in additional materials.

Ar500 Armor for examples uses a product called PAXCON a division of Line-x (the truck bed spray coaters)a  Military grade anti-spall & fragmentation protective coating. For an added $25 they offer a s build up or double spraying of the steel to mitigate the risk of spall further.  This Line-X coating completely seals the armor, helping reduce spall and fragmentation; and additionally protects it from chemicals, liquids, and other harsh elements. This fully sealed design combined with the advanced ballistic plate result in a Maintenance Free body armor solution.

This means unlike the other more expensive solutions you can leave the gear in your car, basement or anyplace without risking its integrity when you need it. This gear is perfect for the emergency stash and grab or bug out situation or for those occasional tactical training classes.

We will be testing exactly how much of a difference the added build up makes when we shoot some plates form Ar500 armor late in May.

However this video speaks volumes to what can be done with properly built Steel Plates.

So after being run over, dropped repeatedly it still managed to stop the most common rifle rounds with repeated shots.

Picking the Right Armor for You

Body armor is not for everyone but chances are if you’re reading this you engage in some form of activity or prepping that has made you consider buying some. The type of armor you should buy will depend on 2 critical factors.

  1. Budget
  2. Amount of Use

When looking at a budget I have one goal. Buy quality once to avoid buying a second time. Oddly enough I find that Ar500 armor compared to the competition is actually one of if not the least expensive solution I can find. Further the PAXCON coating they use with additional build up ($25 upgrade) has been proven in numerous videos to offer incredible spall protection mitigating the risk of Steel Armor. 

While a larger budget would allow for different materials such as Ceramic or Polyethylene in most cases these are not more beneficial for the casual or emergency user. Many emergency use cases call for the armor to be stored in less than ideal conditions for Polyethylene Plates. While Ceramic Plates may have a place in your kit think seriously on if they are enough of an advantage to justify the cost.

Amount of use imho is the real deciding factor. If you are a police officer, contractor or Bodyguard your needs are going to differ from that of an average joe. The added weight of steel might become an issue and you may find the upgrade to Ceramic is worth the money. The same may be true for tactical instructors who have to wear plate several times a week. If your not wearing it more than once a month and only a few hours each time steel is likely the way to go. If however you are regularly wearing the armor you will have to decide on how much the weight affects your ability to comfortably wear the gear.

Reasons to Wear

The number one reason I would, and do wear armor is because I like my body to have only the holes god gave me. I have no piercings and I intend to keep my body bullet free. Due to the environments I train in, as well as a natural instinct to plan for the future, body armor is a priority for me and the family worth the investment. That being said we are in the minority and most people only buy plates if they “need” them. Typical reasons for plates include:

  • Training in classes that involve run and gunning
  • Spend large quantities of time at ranges
  • Preparing for SHTF or WROL
  • LEO, Contractor or Bodyguard
  • Home Defense

Determining what your need for armor is will help in making sure you pick the right kind. For me steel is an easy choice as it is not tempature sensative so can travel in the car easily with me. It is affordable as a full set of plates and a carrier can be had for as cheaply as $125 with a upgraded carrier as little as $175 from

Another Point Worthy of Thought

I am not a know it all and learn every day by writing these articles. They take time, training and research to complete and that is what keeps me interested in writing. We do not get paid from sponsors and other than Adsense money from ads on the right column I make no money for running this site so my interest in these topics is really a driving force.

Through training, forums and personal connections 248 Shooter is lucky to bring the benefit of knowledge from NRA instructors, Military. LEO, Contractors, Bodyguards and law abiding citizens serious about training. Here is a quote from a classmate that I felt was worth thinking about.

When people ask me why do you own an “Assault Rifle” or “Body Armor” or “Weapons” my answer is very simple because “I can.” 

After the shooting in Connecticut we’ve heard many Americans especially the liberals like Piers Morgan asking “Why do American
s Need an AR-15?” 

What many Americans still fail to grasp is the true idea of freedom and how our founding father’s envision the maintenance of freedom. 

“Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; and to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary. But no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. In fine, the people of this commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent.” – John Adams Thoughts on Government, 1776

John Adams also said, “It already appears, that there must be in every society of men superiors and inferiors, because God has laid in the constitution and course of nature the foundations of the distinction.”

A lot of knowledge can be derived from both quotes. 

Early in my life I found an immense amount of validity in the second quote. Something as simple as a playground fight can bring to light an individuals existence in our world. There will always be humans who’s mutated visions of life lead them to believe they are superior to another being. This may be due to a number of reasons like size, money, power, and strength are a few examples. Those visions or ideas of life lead those individuals to believe they have a right to take whatever they want. There are criminals in our society and always will be. These criminals often come to the conclusion, I take what I want. 

Historically this nature of humans is even more evident. Even our own country participated in such acts during it’s building. The atrocities the Native Americans suffered are an example.

Take a look at this line from a famous manuscript that you may know of.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. – Deceleration of Independence 

While owning these items is legal, it seems currently possession of these items labels the individual as a domestic terrorist by certain leaders if the individual isn’t military or law enforcement. Due to this fact a far more difficult question to ponder is if and when I may have to use these tools in my defense against individuals misrepresenting this nation I love. The decision to use these tools against criminal individuals who are representing their own ill intentions seems simple enough. 

Here it is Plain and simple though owning such tools are a Declaration of my Independence.

James Nurkka in Patriot Defense Training Alumni Group

Our next article will go into the differences of the various plate carriers and how plate should be worn. We encourage you all to research the topic and discuss with your family if having plate is something you want to consider adding to your preps. Compared to the cost of ammo and weapons these days plate is a cost effective way to protect yourself if you feel you may be in a situation that involves gun fire.

Charles is the editor for 248 Shooter a midwest based gun news and gear review site as well as Online Content Director for On Target Magazine. He is an avid student taking classes from top tier trainers around the country. Charles shares his love for training as well as experience and opinions on some of the most talked about gear and products used by competitive shooters, military, leo and civilians.