Oh dear. Seems that the AR500 Level IV Body Armor above couldn’t withstand multiple 7.62 AK47 rounds. According to officerstore.com, “Level IV body armor provides the highest level of protection currently available. Because this armor is intended to resist ‘armor piercing’ bullets, it often uses ceramic materials. Such materials are brittle in nature and may provide only single-shot protection since the ceramic tends to break up when struck.” There’s your trouble: several of the shots were right on top of each other. “As with Level III armor,” the website continues, “Level IV armor is clearly intended only for . . .

tactical situations when the threat warrants such protection.” Hang on. If someone’s shooting at me, I consider that a tactical situation. And just as I want the largest caliber firearm I can comfortably carry should push come to ballistic shove, I want to clothe myself in the most effective body armor I can comfortably wear on a daily basis.

Generally speaking that’s a NIJ Level 0 Tommy John Second Skin Stay Tucked High V-Neck Undershirt. Sure, I’d consider parking a ballistic vest bedside for BITN (Bump In The Night) emergencies, but seriously: what civilian needs this stuff? Go ahead: dime. Chef don’t judge.

86 Responses to Question of the Day: Body Armor, Who Needs It? [VIDEO]

  1. Ferguson / Baltimore situations. Full stop.

    Basically, the only time the armor comes out of the “War Trunk” is to clean it, the occasional fitting, and situations where the public authorities have decided to give criminals “room to destroy”.

    • I figure it should come out for training and familiarization too. Wearing armor changes your freedom of movement, the weight slows you down, and the shoulder straps can interfere with shouldering a rifle.

      You should train with your complete system, as you intend to use it. That way you can spot potential problems and solve them before you get into a situation where your life depends on everything working together.

      • Oh yes, that. If you ever intend to use that armor, try putting that on at least once, complete with everything else that you intend to wear (mag pouches etc), and then try to actually use your firearm. Better yet, try it from different positions, not just the stereotypical low-ready and unsupported-while-standing.

        When I first tried putting on the carrier w/plates and mag pouches that I had, the very first thought was, “oh shit, this thing is so damn heavy and uncomfortable”. Then, when I tried shooting my AR while prone, and immediately found out that two rows of mag pouches on the front, filled with mags, on top of the thick armor plates, make for very awkward prone position – your body is propped pretty high up, and getting a good cheek weld is difficult. Furthermore, reloading becomes a major hassle because you’re literally lying on those magazines that you need to take out… and when doing this as an exercise, remember that in an actual firefight you cannot get up or even lift your head up significantly without a risk of catching a bullet. I ended up leaving only one row of pouches in front, and moving the rest to the left side where I can easily take them out with my left hand while prone. Still awkward, but better.

        • Training with body armor is something airsoft excels for. Get a replica of your rifle and head down to a local game. You’ll be able to test pouch setup, how the carrier interferes with shoulder and cheek weld, running in armor and shooting from various positions, how best to present your armor instead of “soft” areas, etc.

        • I’ve switched to a similar setup, but with the extra mags on my belt instead of the plate carrier, it makes grabbing them much more natural, even in awkward positions.

          I’ll also second William’s suggestion. Despite the general tendency in the gun community to look down on airsoft it can be a very useful tool for working the bugs out of your gear setup. It also helps teach proper use of cover, how to move stealthily, and a host of other skills that shooting on a square range can’t even touch.

        • >> I’ve switched to a similar setup, but with the extra mags on my belt instead of the plate carrier, it makes grabbing them much more natural, even in awkward positions.

          In my case I’ve got a mag carrier that’s 2 pouches of 3 mags each, and mounted it all the way at the bottom of the MOLLE net (such that half of it hangs down below the carrier). It seems solid enough, and it’s basically right there at the waistline where I want it. Front pouches are still better when standing or crouching, but the side one is perfect for prone.

        • I suppose where you chose to put your stuff comes down to what piece of gear you build your system around. I chose the belt as the core of my system. I can put it on or take it off very quickly, and it’s got all of the essentials: rifle mags, pistol mags, holster, IFAK and drop pouch. It makes it very simple, if I’m only grabbing one piece of gear it’ll be the belt. My plate carrier is supplemental, to be used if needed and as time permits. If I chose my plate carrier as the key piece instead i would probably have a very different layout.

        • Interesting. I have considered using separate carrier and load bearing vest for similar reasons, but this is another intriguing option.

          How many pouches can you comfortably fit on your belt?

        • My current belt is a large Velocity Systems belt (I’ve got a 36″ waist) with 2 rows 21 columns of PALS webbing. It’s got two kangaroo Taco pouches for rifle/pistol mags and the dump pouch on the left side, and my holster and IFAK on the right side. I could probably fit another mag pouch on the left comfortably if necessary. The back is pretty much completely unused, but I prefer to leave it that way or it interferes with sitting in chairs and the like, and I’d prefer not to have to take it off every time I sat down. I’m actually considering switching to the AWS Assault Belt instead though, it uses a system of movable PALS webbing panels, which should allow me to custom tailor it a bit more.

      • Slick down your carrier and wear a chest rig over it. Most rigs come with a few strategic release clips. You (~ may IMHO) want to be able to un-ass your gear if you enter deep water, or need to fit through or get out from under something / someone (a gentlemen never tells). Shoot/train/do stairs/ vehicle entry:exit:driving. Sweat through it, live there.

  2. Seems like steel/Level 3 might be better all around. I think the likelihood of being shot with AP ammo is pretty darn low.

    • 3+ steel is your best best because it provides multi hit capability with M193 stopping ability. You’re much more likely to be shot with 5.56 than 30.06 AP.

      • Based upon US crime stats, you’re most likely to be shot by .22 LR / .380 / 9mm / .40 / .45 ACP from a handgun.

      • Not all steel will stop M193. And, unfortunately, there’s no formal standard on these things, so you have to specifically look at what every particular company advertises for their plates (they will often be vague about it, e.g. listing “5.56” in list of blocked threats, but then only listing M855 in the specific rounds in a table).

      • I would say if you can get the plus (+), do it. I don’t think you’ll need extra threat protection considering most of the hot 193’s are coming from 20″ bbl’s. I don’t know too many guys that would bring a 20″ gun to riot my neighborhood, or to kick in my door to rob me. I would venture to say *most* AR’s are running 16″, maybe some that decided pin and weld on the 14.5 was a good idea. Just my thinking on the subject.

    • We need more ammosexuals like you. Of course, that’s why I have an FNH PS90 that I’m doing a SBR conversion on. And every 3rd round is one of the special Euro military rounds.

      • So god is a bitter, angry fascist looking forwards to murdering his fellow citizens. No surprise there. He has to demonise his intended victims. Words like Ammosexuals, Jews, Japs makes the genocide go easier. He’s following the playbook.

        Turn your victim into something less than human. Makes murder easier.

      • We need more fascisexuals like you. Control freaks like you don’t have guns. You certainly don’t have any AP ammo. You creatures hate all that stuff with a passion, unless you’re not into being ideologically consistent — which would be par for the course.

        Fun Fact: AP pistol ammo won’t defeat rifle plate, steel or otherwise.

  3. I have some Spartan Armor level III “+” (not an actual NIJ rating, it’s just tested against hot M193 and passes) steel plates. Why? If SHTF I’d wear it around the house incase someone decided to break in. Otherwise it sits at the bottom of my closet.

    • Where do police departments get theirs?

      Will the makers of size 44 chest / 50 waist stuff sell to consumers too?

    • One has to know their market for sure. Couple that idea with a sweater that you can pull over your head in case of confrontations and sell it next to the skinny jean section in the “Mens” department of Penny’s and you might be set for life.

      • Q: Why are skinny jeans like a cheap hotel?

        A: No ballroom.

        Seriously, the guys who are in the 3XL+ size categories are probably better off with the largest level III flexible body armor they can get and then stay behind cover as much as possible.

  4. Who needs body armor???

    It’s like the airsickness bag in the seat-back on an airliner. They’re free, but when you really really need one they are priceless and you will be beating your neighbors with a club to get one.

    “http://www.armoradvantage.com/index.php” RED PLATES FOR EVERYONE

  5. I have a level IIIA vest with level IV plate inserts ; I don’t wear it much but the couple of times I have thrown it on I thought the S was hitting the F.

    For about 6 months I wore a IIA concealable vest because I was dealing with a psycho ass stalker.

  6. Many civilian professions, albeit mostly in the security and investigatory industries, can regard IIIA+ armour as desirable or necessary; otherwise, it is a luxury, and a cumbersome one at that – keeps one warm in the winter though.

  7. I wear a Bulletsafe 3A vest whenever I’m doing RSO duties at my local club. We’re open to the public on weekends and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been muzzled on the static handgun line. It only takes one idiot to ruin your day.

  8. I just ordered some expensive IIIA. I used to own IIIA Zylon years ago – obviously I don’t have that anymore. I deliver narcotics fairly frequently so I may wear it a bit. I also imagine that it is one of those things that could end up being hard to get (and get in time) once you find yourself more likely to benefit from it. I suspect that it might also be a bit easier to shoot well for real while wearing armor.

      • Lots of pharmacies deliver controlled substances to all manner of destinations – hosptials, institutions and other health care facilities, home delivery, distributor to retailer, so on. I used to work in mental health and had to count and sign for controls all the time. And heaven help you if ANYTHING was off by even so much as ONE pill if it couldn’t be accounted for. So I can imagine body armor makes good sense in this day and age.

        El Chapo? Pssht, the least of my worries.

        Tom

        • Yeah, I work for a division of CVS. We mostly deliver liquid drugs in IV bags. The narcotics are usually hydromorphone, but it is also sometimes fentanyl and regular morphine. The deliveries to people who get them regularly are the ones I worry about because some of the neighborhood might find out what is going on. There is one crazy woman who sometimes won’t answer the door for minutes at a time even though I called ahead of time, so I end up standing on her doorstep in south Minneapolis with enough morphine to feed a really big habit for a week.

  9. Also, putting on body armor with hard plates on the exact moment you actually need them sucks. It’s difficult to do, it feels like it takes forever, and uncomfortable. whether that’s a mortar strike, a direct assault, or a bump in the night at home.

    • Depends on the carrier. I have a condor sentry I can get on in 10 seconds. You just throw it over your head and click 1 buckle and you’re set. It only holds 2 plates and isn’t super secure but for a home invasion you can’t do much better.

  10. Strapped as it was to a rigid metal target is a good way to get worst case performance out of armor. For a real world test try putting it in a plate carrier vest wrapped around 60lb of free standing sandbags. It makes a difference.

  11. This guy is a moron. This is a poor test for what this armor is supposed to do, done by a guy that doesn’t know how it’s supposed to work or the difference between steel and ceramic plates. It would handle one 30.06 AP round just fine, maybe two if not right next to the first hole. AR500 steel plates would handle AK rounds all day. But I’m guessing most of you knew this test was doomed to failure from the start, as soon as he said 5 rounds. Especially on a ceramic plate.

  12. You must accept some risks in life. The probably that Joe citizen will ever have a DGU with shots fired is tiny. Since we are dealing with black swan events you would have to wear it all the time. So unless you live in or near the ‘hood body armor isn’t worth the cost.

    • For the price of AR500 armor (~$150 for a full LVL III+ setup) I believe almost every responsible citizen should have a set living in a closet somewhere.

      Because 2nd Amendment.

  13. I bought some of the IIA stuff years ago and ended up shooting the snot out of it testing it’s ability in stopping 22WMR ammo . I also did some comparison testing with .17 HMR and several higher caliber stuff . I realized soon enough that all the advertised stopping ability was with the higher caliber ammo , slow and big stopped dead cold , 45 -50 grain HV stuff , 80% penetration .

  14. Not a cop or soldier. Vast majority of shootings in this country involve handguns. And the vast majority of those are survived.

    Body armor is an expense and hassle that just doesn’t pay off for most of us.

    • I use an AR500 level 4 insert in my laptop case. 200 hundreds dollars to give me more of a chance against an evil man is not a big expense.

      History is a good lesson and If I am in a gunfight, I appreciate having a shield and a flashing sword. Plus, being able to not have to cower for cover allows me to not take my eyes off the target.

  15. Correct me if I am wrong … I thought that the entire point of a ceramic plate was trading weight for the ability to stop multiple rounds. A steel plate can stop multiple rounds but it is much heavier than a ceramic plate, no?

    Like everything else in the world, you don’t get something for nothing. You can get a relatively light plate that will stop one or two rounds, or you can get a heavy plate that stops multiple rounds. Pick one.

    • Seems reasonable; one fullbore round probably enough to put most people on the floor, and hopefully out of the initial line of fire, anyway?

    • >> I thought that the entire point of a ceramic plate was trading weight for the ability to stop multiple rounds.

      Not just weight, but also absence or ricochets & spalling.

      • “Not just weight, but also absence or ricochets & spalling.”

        There are special coatings that will help with that, and you just have to pay a little more.

        • As noted in the comments below, coatings will only help against spalling (and even then not when the hit is close to the edge of the plate), not against ricochets.

  16. Another attack on the AK. Most people on TTAG know the truth about the 7.39×62 round and where it falls power wise. Like the attempt to kill the AR platform, this is what this amounts too for AK.

    • An AK that shoots 7.39×62 !!! The muzzle velocity must be north of 3,400 feet per second! Get some!!!!!!

      /end_sarcasm

  17. LOL body armor for a BITN, aka a burglar, are you serious?? “i head a noise, before i arm myself let me strap on this body armor” what a joke.

  18. Level II from Galls, I wear it on my motorcycle frequently because 1) I go though a kinda skeezy stretch of downtown Seattle on my commute, 2) it’s additional trauma protection if my motorcycle has an oopsie, and 3) in cooler months it really helps keep my core warm.

    I also wear it at the range when RSOing or teaching.

    Wear it when I’m just out and about on walkabout? situational.

  19. I’ll keep my level IV ceramic, thank you. The chances of a rifle round deflecting off a steel plate and hitting some important part of the body is far greater than the chances of multiple rounds hitting my ceramic in close proximity to each other to finally penetrate the plate. I plan on moving, and shooting back.

    Few people have tested AR-500 and other steel rifle plates at angles – I have. The entire projectile deflecting off the surface of the steel plate at any impact angle approaching 45 degrees and greater is a guaranteed result.

    A common moderately bladed stance with a shouldered long-gun has the threats in front able to land rounds onto non-perpendicular surfaces (to the incoming rounds trajectory) and curved portions of the steel plate, at angles steep enough to deflect. This does not happen with ceramics.

    Not sure I’d want my right arm/bicep taking a rifle round from a deflection during a firefight – it’s attached to my trigger finger. If the bad guy is firing from above or below, deflections off the surface of the steel plate can readily end up in your: neck, chin, groin, or vital arteries of the lower abdomen and thighs. Seriously.

    • >> The entire projectile deflecting off the surface of the steel plate at any impact angle approaching 45 degrees and greater is a guaranteed result.

      Do any of the coatings in use with higher-end steel plates mitigate this in any way?

      • Nope. Nada. Worthless.

        The LineX (high-end Rhino lining) polyurea top coat helps hold down, and when thick enough can completely eliminate (when the round hits away from an edge) copper jacket and lead fragments splashing out from a disintegrating projectile. But surprising to many wearers of steel armor plate, these coatings are not helpful at all in reducing inevitable whole round deflections at impact angles approaching 45 degrees and greater….

  20. Well there is level V body armor. Called dragon skin. It will stop up to a 50. However, the company making it was ordered to stop because the DOD didn’t want it made, or something like that.

    • Dragon Skin is also ceramic, it just has a fancier construction permitting it to be lighter and contour to the body better.

      Also, Army did some testing on it, and they have concluded that it is inadequate compared to traditional hard plate designs, esp. against dedicated AP ammunition. However, the accuracy of these tests is itself in dispute.

      Anyway, the company is still around, and you can buy the armor, if you have a spare $4K+…

      https://dragonskinarmor.com/product-tag/dragon-skin-trs/

  21. I don’t know what a civilian needs armor for, however, a Citizen may need it for all sorts of things. I really can’t make a better case than the recent events in Baltimore and Ferguson. I’ve done a fair amount of training with my DKX level 3 plates and they are the bees knees. They’re multi hit rated, comparatively light as a feather, and they float. They will definitely come in handy if I ever need to take a more “hands-on” approach in the fight against government tyranny.

    • >> DKX level 3 plates and they are the bees knees. They’re multi hit rated, comparatively light as a feather, and they float.

      Do they claim protection against M855? None of the pure polymer plates that I’ve seen do that (usually they just carefully omit that particular threat in their test tables).

      • Most “pure” lightweight polyethylene composite armor inserts rated level III will not stop 5.56mm M-855 green tip. Some that are rated III+ (by the manufacturer – IIIA+ is not an NIJ rating) when worn in conjunction with a quality level IIIA soft vest (preferably Kevlar / Aramid construction with no soft polyethylene layers) are usually (but not always) capable of stopping green tip right in the top strike face surface of the soft vest. Even when fired up close, from a long AR barrel.

        As distances from the barrel become greater, impact angles become steeper, and barrel lengths get shorter, the margin of safety grows more in your favor – especially the steeper impact angle factor.

        If M-855 was the only realistic threat …. and 7.62 X 54 was NOT a viable threat in my neighborhood or theater of operation, I personally would not have any problem what-so-ever wearing a pure polyethylene III+ plate on the front of a 100% Kevlar/Aramid soft vest (tactical or concealable). If you want to safely defeat both above rounds, from any/all angles, weapons, and distances, then a level IV ceramic is what you need.

        • >> Some that are rated III+ (by the manufacturer – IIIA+ is not an NIJ rating) when worn in conjunction with a quality level IIIA soft vest (preferably Kevlar / Aramid construction with no soft polyethylene layers) are usually (but not always) capable of stopping green tip right in the top strike face surface of the soft vest. Even when fired up close, from a long AR barrel.

          Very interesting. Given that III+ can mean virtually anything for the lack of a former spec, and hence varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, can you list the specific manufacturers of polymer plates for which this hold true? If polymer plates could be viable M855 stoppers in conjunction with IIIA kevlar, this would be a massive improvement over steel wrt weight and spalling/ricochets.

  22. @int19th

    Can’t list manufacturers as I’m only familiar with some Federal and military procurements that call out “must defeat 7.62 x 39 MILD STEEL CORE” (msc). That’s what makes a polyethylene plate a theoretical level III “Plus” plate.

    Plate manufacturers who defeat the 7.62 X 39 MSC ‘free-standing” within the plate (not in conjunction with another vest in the rear), and can offer the test laboratory documentation to prove it (@ nominal muzzle velocity, multiple hits, and perpendicular) are what you want to buy. That specific round is what makes these plates a plus. FYI: Soviet made 7.62mm X 39 MSC has a harder mild steel core than the popular Chinese Norinco MSC. So, if you find a plate manufacturer that knows the difference, and has stopped the Soviet MSC, then you’ve found the best.

    No level III or III+ polyethylene plate manufacturer is going to put 5.56mm M-855 in writing anywhere because the tiny steel pin will exit the rear of the plate, and the plate manufacturer has no control over what (if anything) is worn behind the plate.

    • Hmm. I went looking for these things, and the very first thing I see is this:

      http://www.bulletproofme.com/RP-Polyethylene.html

      But!

      “The main tradeoff is you don’t get a protection rating for Level IV Armor-Piercing (AP) threats such as .3006 or 7.62 by 51mm AP, or the semi-AP 5.56mm SS-109 / M-855 (the M-16 round). Will stop the common AK-47 MILD Steel Core 7.62 X 39mm threat, though.”

      Or is it because this is without soft armor backing? And with IIIA kevlar plates this should be good to go?

      • Yes, should be good to go … but: The ballistic standard quoted on their web literature is outdated. It’s NIJ-Std 0101.05, the latest and current standard is .06 which waves a red flag. Also, although they claim “Made in USA” and manufactured in an ISO-9000 shop that’s their claim and not backed with any documentation.

        The website is saying the right stuff, and obviously they want you to trust them. As a reseller, and not a manufacturer, they likely deal with many different plates from different manufacturers. Some probably good, and others maybe not so good. Some costing costing them more, and others less. Some maybe newer, and others older. Remember their website still refers to an outdated NIJ ballistic standard. But all their level III poly plates seem to be the same selling price to you, regardless.

        I would suggest calling them on the phone and voicing your desire to purchase poly level III plates with DOCUMENTATION to attest to their claims that the stand-alone plate you want to buy will definitely defeat 7.62 X 39 MSC. If you get the run around and they won’t divulge who made it, and why there is not a specific ballistic laboratory test report to prove it, then I would be very suspect of their internet marketing claims and what they plan on selling you.

        Buyer beware.

  23. Wouldn’t wearing body armour also help in other ways? You fall down a flight of stairs and the body armour lessens the probability of breaking ribs, that sort of thing.

  24. Not many average civilians “need” this level of body armor. The ones that do need it, will find their need immediate and urgent. Having it available may be a lifesaver. And if you’re wearing it when struck by a .30 caliber round I think the odds are you won’t remain upright.

    Being retired and not going into sketchy areas reduces my daily need for even level III/A stuff. The bigger worry is when things get bad enough that trouble comes seeking you. However, unless you’re facing a coherent military force or ex-military guys, most civilian malcontents are hardly marksmen. You’re probably more likely to be hit by random spray & pray from a weapon held “gangsta” style. In a home invasion protection is an advantage but I also know interior walls are not cover just concealment – except for the master bedroom.

  25. If you hear a bump in the night and want to grab a gun, would you be able to take an extra second to don some quick armor? Maybe. Maybe not. The option would be nice, though.

    Maybe in an emergency evac? A little low level armor as you walk/drive out would be comforting in my mind. Never know what feces will hit the ol’ wind mover in an already bad sitch.

    I will grant you the cases where armor is useful are incredibly limited. But most people say the same thing about guns, and well… here we are.

  26. Ferguson, Katrina, hurricanes, earthquake, extended blackout… If society is breaking down, I want hard armor available.

    Otherwise, soft armor is sufficient for normal life in higher risk environments.

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