A good offense is often the best defense, but when the bullets start flying it might not be such a bad idea to have that whole defense thing covered too. That’s where items like bullet proof vests and plate carriers come into play, offering some solid protection against flying lead for your vital squishy bits. A relatively new player to this game is AR500 Armor, and they’ve sent us one of their Urban Go Plate Carrier kits to test out. And I must say that I’m pretty impressed.
To be fair, the only thing that AR500 Armor actually manufactures is the Level III steel plates that go inside the plate carrier, the rest is made by Condor and sold in the kit. But if Bushmaster can get away with using other people’s parts and re-branding them as their own then I’m going to let these guys slide as well.
The kit comes with two NIJ certified Level III steel plates, rated to stop everything up to and including multiple hits from 7.62 NATO rifle rounds. The plates are coated in AR500 Armor’s special coating, which is designed to minimize the splatter from bullet impacts. Bullets have a tendency to create small particles of lead and copper when striking a solid surface like a steel plate, and while any old plate will stop the round the special coating is designed to keep those nasty fragments from flying up and slicing into your neck and jaw. And from what I can see, they work pretty damn well.
This video shows the steel plate being run over, dropped, and shot with multiple caliber including “armor piercing” 5.56 rounds, but the only result is that there are some slight deformations and the coating is a little worse for wear. I admit that we didn’t test the plates that we were sent as they’ve been earmarked for some fun experiments we have coming down the line, but much like the soft IIIA plates I reviewed a week or so ago the guys at AR500 Armor did a damn fine job of stress testing the plates and putting the whole thing on video. And after talking with their guys, I trust their results.
The plates ship with a plate carrier manufactured by Condor Tactical, as well as two pistol magazine pouches, two AR-15 magazine pouches, and a cross chest draw MOLLE handgun holster. The handgun holster works okay, but personally I didn’t see a real big need to include it when I kitted out the vest. And the reason is based on how the vest is intended to be used.
The guys at AR500 Armor explained that their concept behind the Urban Go Plate Carrier kit is to provide something that can be quickly thrown on during a home invasion scenario, so it makes sense that you’d want a handgun to be part of the kit. I’m guessing that for these guys, the rifle is the go-to gun for home defense and that’s their preference. But for me a handgun is my choice for home defense, and my handgun has a silencer. So even if I took the extra few seconds to put the plate carrier on before jumping all John Woo style into the living room, I’d still have to take more time to get the handgun out of the holster before I use it. I guess the usability of that particular piece of kit really depends on what gun you’re using as your primary HD gun.
For those looking for a SHTF vest, this would suit your needs pretty well also. It’s a minimalist setup with no extra material or straps, just the minimum required to do the job. And the coating on the plates would keep them in good working order for years to come.
The thing weighs about 20 pounds fully loaded, and as my ex-military friends remarked it reminded them of one of the perks of being discharged: you get to stop wearing body armor. It’s not something I would voluntarily take on a hike or wear around town, but it’s not ridiculously heavy either. The only issue I had with it was when I went to shoulder my rifle, the plates interfered a bit with my ability to get a solid grip on the gun. Then again, that’s a training and tactics issue and that problem is common to almost every plate carrier system.
As for the protection it offers, the plates do a good job of covering the vital bits on your body. The thoracic cavity is almost completely covered even on a large guy like me, with the exception being that I think the apexes of my lungs might still be poking out. Oh, and my head, but then again as Sterling Archer puts it it is just a vest after all. There are also no side plates to the vest, meaning that shots from the side wouldn’t be protected by the plates.
In terms of price, the kit is just about on the money when it comes to the competition. But the real winner with this is that you don’t need to go to three different websites to piece the thing together yourself, it comes as a complete kit with one purchase. I tried to price out a comparable plate carrier kit and the cheapest I could make it was about $250, but that was for flat plates (not curved, like these) with no coating on the plates and ordering from three different websites.
Some people don’t feel the need for a Level III chest rig. But for those who do, AR500 Armor’s Urban Go Plate Carrier & Plates kit is a good solution at the right price.
Specifications: AR500 Armor Urban Go Plate Carrier & Plates
Weight: 15 lbs in plates, 1.5 lbs in vest, plus mags and ammo makes it about 20 pounds
Price: $300 as pictured (curved plates and heavy coating extra), $210 base
Ratings (out of five stars):
Ease of Use * * * * *
It comes in a single box, and everything is pretty well laid out in terms of using it.
Utility * * * *
Assuming you need a bullet proof vest with level III protection, it’s pretty damn useful. Extra points for the protective coating, but minus a couple for the lack of side plates.
Overall * * * *
This really is the best value I’ve seen for a level III plate carrier. I’d like to see some side plates on it, though.