Body armor has been way down on my tactical shopping list. For one thing, it’s expensive. While I’ve always wanted a good plate carrier and armor for “just in case” scenarios and for my pistol and rifle classes, I could never justify the cost.  

CapArms has just introduced an extremely affordable solution: their $200 Level III+ carrier and plate set. Over the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time wearing the carrier during my courses and during fitness training.

The carrier is MOLLE ready, made from 1000 denier Nylon. It comes with two NIJ level III+ rated steel plates. It’s fully adjustable at the shoulders and the waist. The shoulders are well padded and sit comfortably, supporting the fully-kitted 24 lbs.

The interior is lined with a mesh material that keeps it from getting too hot and clammy in summer heat. (Texas tested!) There’s also a back rescue loop, so the God forbid incapacitated wearer can be dragged out of a bad situation. More cheerfully, the carrier’s front offers plenty of Velcro real estate for patches.

The armor carrier comes in OD green, coyote tan and black. You can buy the optional three-pouch magazine holder for $29.

The plates measure 10 inches by 13 inches, weighing-in at 10.5 pounds each. They’re made of milspec MIL-A 46100 steel, curved for comfort. The plates feature a 1/4-inch anti-spall coating which CapArms claims helps contain fragments when struck.

CapArms says their plates were tested and “certified to withstand multiple (6) strikes of the following (at 15 meters):”

7.62 NATO BALL FMJ
7.62x39mm PS Ball (AK47 Steel Core)
M193 5.56mm
M855 Penetrator

To test the durability of the armor, I took the plate to John Wayne Taylor’s secret backwoods range and shot it with the following calibers at 15 yards:

CapArms .45ACP 230gr FMJ
CapArms 9mm 115gr FMJ
Wolf 7.62×39 123gr HP Wolf
Berger .308  Federal 185gr OTM
Noser 7mm Magnum 168gr Accubond
Federal .375 H&H Magnum 300gr Power Shock soft point

To our surprise, we saw zero penetration of the actual armor. The heavier calibers merely dinged the steel. The only real damage was some separation of the anti-spall coating from the plate.

I tested the CapArms vest over a couple of months during training and workouts. While easy to put on and adjust, I found the body armor began to wear on my shoulders and back after about 30 minutes of use, due a relative lack of waist support.

But the carrier set provides serious protection from all of the most used calibers at an extremely affordable price. It’s ideal for the civilian who wants to have something simple, easy to wear and affordable for a dangerous or active shooter situation.

Specifications: CapArms Level III+ Body Armor

Size: 12x4x6 inches
Individual Plate Weight: 10.5 pounds
Total Weight: 24 pounds
Colors:  OD Green, Coyote Tan, Black
Price: $199 (carrier and two plates)
Price: $95 (single plate)
Price: $29 (three-magazine pouch)
Price as Tested: $228

Ratings (out of five stars):

Fit/Finish/Quality * * * * *
Fully adjustable and very durable. I rolled around with it quite a bit at the range, through training classes and during training, without any wear or tearing of the carrier. 

Utility * * * *
It’s designed for the prepper in all of us, for just-in-case scenarios. With the level of waist support, you’ll begin to feel it after about 30 minutes.

Overall * * * *
CapArms body armor does exactly what it’s designed to do. It’s a tremendous value.  

62 Responses to Gear Review: CapArms Level III+ Body Armor

  1. I got something very similar previously reviewed here. It was on sale for about the same price. I feel a bit better while teaching classes. Well worth the investment.

    • In the grand scheme of things, it is a VERY cheap insurance policy.

      Plus it gives you a place to attach all your crap.

  2. I don’t see the .375 H&H strikes, a coworker of mine was irritated with me because of 4 holes I put in his “magnum rifle rated “gong using 300group. Trophy bonded bear claws from my .375 H&H.

    • Haha. That’s a sh!t ton of delivered energy! I think it would take 1/2 inch hardened plates to stop that.

    • I can verify the information on the 375 penetration, or lack thereof. The round used was a soft point and did not penetrate the plate and even 15 yards.
      A 300 grain Norma solid sailed through an ar550 plate at 100 yards.

      • I was at 90 yards. I think his was steel target ( human torso silhouette) was about 1/4″ plate the TBB tore a nasty hole in what ever it was.

  3. Couple of comments.

    #1 I want to see impact velocity specs for the M193 or I call bullshit. The main weaknesses of steel plates is that high velocity impacts cause them to basically hole punch a circular chunk of steel right through the plate.

    #2 24lbs? Your ass better be in shape and not have a lot of other shit to haul. My full wrap lvl IIIA vest doesn’t weight 20lbs and that’s with a pair of lvl IV plates riding in it.

    #3 We have very different definitions of “value”. These kits are basically the HiPoints of the body armor world. What I find hilarious is guys who’ll drop $2k on a DD AR, put a $1500 optic on it, and then run around with a $200 bargain basement armor rig. Rule of thumb, spend as much on your armor as you do on your rifle. You will most certainly appreciate the results.

    • On a side note… as far as tactical nylon goes, my policy is basically Crye now or cry later. The only people who even come close are Tactical Tailor or Blackhawk!

      • I’d like to see how this armor stands up to steel core 7.62x54R fired out of a 91/30. That is a common rifle and ammo. Common civilian gun here, and common military cartridge worldwide

        Also, that setup seems pretty heavy. (But I don’t know much about armor, and don’t have any anyway)

        • While it would be interesting to see how it does against steel core 7.62x54r, the odds of facing some nut job going on a killing spree armed with a garbage rod rounds to zero.

      • #24 pounds is weight, but your body will acclimate. If all you can afford is a Hi-Point, a Hi-Point is what you need, don’t pretend you are saving up for something more expensive, because you might not get there. Start a separate fund.

        Crye Precision is great, but Powersurge means, ‘if you can’t by a Lincoln, don’t even but a bus ticket’. That’s crap. Just be aware of the limitations. Crye Precision products aren’t “undefeatable” and if everyone had/wore Crye Precision, the booger eaters would just hit you with an EFP, and not even an Abrams Tank armor stops those.

        This kit sounds just about right for getting someone into body armor, who wouldn’t otherwise consider it, due to price especially. The rig looks like it’ll sling it. I like side sappies and soft armor shoulder.

        I (do not guarantee it, but) believe these red plates stop the 30.06 and armor piercing http://www.armoradvantage.com/BodyArmor.php

        • Here’s a more likely event (then getting hit with a large caliber / armor piercing round). Can you un-ass it quick_fast_and in a hurry if you are wedged in an overturned vehicle? or on fire, OR UNDER WATER ?! Don’t let your protection kill you. Crye does have some nice release system armor, but that’s still not a reason to not buy any other in the interim.

        • Not really what I was getting at Joe. In my experience, most people aren’t going to stick with the learning curve for a 24lb armor system. Unless you literally have no other choice, most people will drop this thing like a sack of bricks due to the massive amounts of pain initial conditioning will cause. (Even a fit person doesn’t necessarily have the right muscle groups.) If $200-$300 is all you can afford, fine, get a soft police surplus vest that you will actually wear. Spending $200 on armor that you never practice with is a waste of money. Despite people’s impressions to the contrary, working in body armor is a perishable skill. It’s not something you can do without practice.

          As for Crye etc… they are my gold standard for tactical nylon due to my experience with their products. Blue Force Gear, Blackhawk!, and Tactical Tailor all make outstanding carriers. (I have a Blakhawk! STRIKE full wrap vest and a Tactical Tailor plate carrier.) The old adage of Crye now or cry later comes from the fact that Crye gear is something that you only need to buy once. My Crye combat pants are still in outstanding condition despite outliving two 5.11 combat shirts. At this point, if I had bought a Crye shirt, I would have actually saved money.

          Now this is all a moot point if you’re gearing up for your Ghost Recon cosplay, but if you intend to actually run and gun in the gear on a regular basis, higher startup costs actually save money long-term.

        • Yep, I getcha. I just believe that the armor you’re not going to wear most often is the armor you don’t have. I don’t believe it’s a waste to go “Condor” products gear to hold plates. I think the best way to start is to start. Yes, I’ve got some Eagle, and some U.S. Patriot Tactical gear, and it is great. Really tough gear, worth the $$$, I think people can do ok for a little bit more $$$ (than Condor) on Tactical Kitty on ebay. But I would rather people get plates and use them (even if only in a Condor carrier) than wait around to get Crye.

          Besides, all the airsoft people know, it’s not the carrier or the plates that stop incoming rounds, it’s the patches. : )

          And I recommend MilSpec Monkey for that.

        • It’s not U.S. Patriot Tactical, it’s Patriot something, I can’t seem to recall. I have a smaller-ish pack from them that I had an air panel sewn into it. Tough gear, you could beat a rhino to death with it. I’ll have to look at the tag, and correct myself here. They deserve a plug. And my Eagle Industries chest rig that is tough enough to be a tow strap for an up-armored HMMWV. Good kit.

    • I don’t know as much about body armor as I’d like especially considering I wear it every day but my understanding is that the III+ is specifically designed to defeat the M193 since it will poke holes in regular III steel. Not sure how this was accomplished.

      • The thing that bugs me about “lvl III+” is that officially, there is no such animal. It’s a marketing term created by the industry, just like “Gen IV” night vision. Every “lvl III+” spec is different and the impact velocity data is always a bit shysty. I treat all “lvl III+” as basically being lvl III. We all know that m193 can punch steel if the velocity is high enough. Unless I see an impact velocity spec on steel “lvl III+” plates, I’m always going to call bullshit.

      • Since there is no NIJ rating for lvl III+ it is just a bullshit claim that requires no proof.

        This armor might stop m193, but only to a certain fps. A stat that the author seems to have mistakenly forgot to include. Maybe the claim is this armor will stop m193 out of a 14.5 inch barrel, maybe it’ll stop it out of a 24 inch barrel.

        This test though is not much of a test. Velocity defeats steel. Shooting heavy, relatively slow rounds is just giving this armor a pass.

        “See, it’ll stop these 300gr rounds. Its good to go.” But it might not stop your buddy’s varmint round.

        Edit: I guess everyone beat me to it.

    • I’m pretty sure that every time I’ve seen M193 defeat level 3+ ar500 armor has been out of a 20″ barrel with velocity around 3200fps, which isn’t possible out of a 16″ barrel.

      • Very true.. which is why LVL-III is one of the most popular types of armor. It will defeat the carbines and battle rifles you are MOST likely to encounter… but it will not beat everything.

        There’s always a bigger fish…
        ..which means its really a question of how much you are willing to spend on your boat VS how likely you think it is that you’ll encounter a bigger fish than your boat can handle.

        Guys like Pwrsurge are willing to equip themselves to fight the narwhale.. while many others just need enough to protect them from the local sand shark.

    • I seem to recall tests of how well various ammo defeated things like car bodies, the Chinese steel core dramatically out performed the SS-109/M855, and in turn, that out performed all the ball. So if it stops the steel core AK round, I’d expect it to stop the AR-15 round. This was back in the very late 1980s(?), just before ATF banned the steel core AK for being an armor piercing pistol round.

      • I have a few elder signs around as well. The boat I lived on for five years was named Miskatonic and the home port was listed as Arkham in the Coast Guard registry.

  4. Way too heavy. When I get plates, I’ll spend the money for level IV plates that weigh half as much or level III UHMWPE plates that weigh a third as much. A 24lb vest would beat me pretty quick.

  5. Actually got this armor free as a hand me down from my brother when he upgraded to something better. Thanks, Bro! I keep it next to my bed in case of a bump in the night scenario. Nice to know it works reasonably well. 🙂

  6. OK, I have not worn armor since the 1990s (when ceramic plates were the new hotness) but what’s the deal with wearing just the plates? Seems like you end up with really big, heavy plates and still limited coverage.

  7. Jesus, the trolls are everywhere. It is just a suggestion for people that can’t make the jump I to something expensive. All the armchair spec ops telling everyone else what to do. It just gets old.

    • It’s not about being “spec ops” it’s about pointing people to gear they will actually USE. A 24lb plate carrier is something that will sit in your closet and never be used or practiced with. It’s the same reason most self-defense gurus don’t start newbie shooters with a tiny plastic micro .45 that will rattle their teeth every time they pull the trigger. The idea is to get gear that you’ll practice with enough to actually use it. Take it to classes, competitions, etc… a 24lb plate carrier has one hell of a learning and acclimation curve. Most people will put it on, try to run one class in it, get horrible back cramps from the weight that they are not used to carrying around, and throw it in the closet never to use it again. Thus, they wasted $200. Were it me, I’d prefer that my friends get gear that they can handle and practice with rather than garbage that will just fill up their junk closet. Get a level IIIa Kevlar vest if you’re cash limited. They can be had for $250 and willl stop 99% of threats you will actually face and won’t give you massive cramps causing you to wear them once and never again.

      • I agree 100%. No one is going to carry around a 25lb plate carrier. The only use I can see for this is home defense. Since it is extremely rare for homeowners who are not drug lords to face intruders armed with rifles I can not see a use for bargain basement plates. You would be much better off getting cheap soft armor that you might actually wear.

        If you know someone in law enforcement ask if they can get you an expired vest. They usually are only certified for 5 years, so most agencies replace them after this time. There have been several studies that confirm that they will still work for many more years.

        • Police surplus soft vests are available from quite a few reputable vendors. I’ve had good luck with bulletproofme.com.

    • That’s bassically what TTAG has become on every article. It’s a “read this then bitch” website now. No fault of the TTAG staff or writers, just seems like that’s how all the comments sections are now. But to be fair, that’s how all comments sections in all websites are now. People bassically just come to flame.

    • T.J., where in the article did the gentle writer test M193 and M855? Target loads and soft tips are not penetrator rounds, the article does nothing to test this to its claims. Great value? Heavy because of a lack of waist support? Give me a break.

      I’m not dogging on the author too much, but some of us carry this stuff for a living and we MIGHT know a few things. It MAY pay big dividends to listen to those who know instead of those who do not, but blog/comment about it anyways.

  8. Just askin’: Has a non-military/non-leo citizen EVER actually used plates/tactical body armor/etc., in any situation in which it would have been helpful or actually was helpful? Range drills don’t count. Just askin’.

    • I think range drills are the almost only reason for wearing this gear. Somebody teaching a class of noobs would be wise to wear body armor during the class.

      Somebody engaging in run and gun shooting games would benefit from this gear as a safety mechanism.

      But joe average homeowner? I would be surprised if you could find a non leo or security incident involving gunplay that included body armor. It would be truly surprising to me.

        • What does your statement even mean? You cannot eliminate all risk, no matter what procedures you implement, as long as you are in a live-fire environment- because there are uncontrollable and unpredictable elements (i.e. people) around. So if you can’t eliminate the risk, you can try to mitigate it. Wearing something that will stop a round to your chest is most definitely a way to do that.

          It’s not the first way to mitigate the risk, obviously, but it might be the last.

        • Hannibal, my point is that body armor does not make up for proper training and safety measures. If you are on a range and think you may be shot either do more practice, add more safety measures or shoot with better individuals. Whatever you do don’t strap on a plate carrier and think you can forgo the rest

    • Ken, great question. I don’t have the stats to answer your question directly but I will make a supposition. If the well armed militia referenced in the Second Amendment is ever required, you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll be a good time for armor.

  9. Assuming that it is author standing close to hot zone AND within very moderate angle from direction of fire, I’d say – bold move, man, really bold…but calls for IV gear and helmet, really.

  10. For a home defense scenario, it makes sense. The weight doesn’t matter if you’re only going to be wearing it for maybe thirty minutes or less, until the home is clear or the bad guy is dead.

    Put it on your wife so she can’t move anywhere and do something stupid that gets her shot. 🙂

    But, yeah, for all-day use or wearing additional gear, it’s too heavy unless you’re a 250-pound weight lifter just out of the military and used to 100-pounds of gear (which even the military has declared they want to cut in HALF.). For a 150-pounder that’s 20 percent of your body weight – ridiculous.

    • The ironic part is that it’s hard to build muscle in the military because most pt is designed around stamina not strength that and most Service members have horrible diets.

    • Hack, the human body male / female can comfortably ‘carry’ 2/3’s of its body weight. The real question is maneuverability. Yes, 20% is YUUUGE at first, but it can be overcome.

      Question is: Do you wanna live there. If you wanna live there, pick the damn thing up and put it on daily, wear it around, go up and down stairs, get up and down from chairs, in and out of cars, etc. In Iraq, we looked at the people that we were replacing (who had been in Iraq ~11 mos.) like they were superheroes schlepping their body armor in and out of vehicles no problem. Until you do it for a while it seems impossible.

      Same thing with carrying a weapon. Total PITA until you get acclimated, then you’ll be naked, breathing heavy, and sweaty, without it.

  11. I’ve a question for anyone with experience with these budget sets: can they be used as a weighted vest for workouts and runs without deteriorating their effectiveness as armor?

    At this price point its damn near the cost of a decent weighted vest. If I’m gonna put in road work and bang out pull ups with a weighted vest why not get one that’ll stop bullets too?

    • Since the plates are polymer coated steel, I wouldn’t worry about it. The main problem you’ll have is that the carrier will start to come apart after a few months of hard use. The stitching and material on these cheap Chinese carriers tends to be bargain basement. Good enough for you Ghost Recon cosplay, not so much for actually wearing them long term.

      • The real problem is all the weight will be on your Shoulders. They make decent carriers in this price range but they are usually sans plates.

  12. I’d like to see more plate carrier reviews here. Plates are plates- take your pick, ceramic or steel (and since ceramic isn’t that expensive anymore, it was an easy choice for me). But the carrier is where things tend to break down.

    For example, is there a retaining strap of some sort so they don’t ride too low in there?

    • I find that getting a plate carrier that fits and allows ease of rifle use to be the hardest part. I concur I would like to see more plate carrier and gear reviews.

    • The rule of thumb is that if you carry a rifle (in the case of civil unrest, riots, SHTF, protecting your neighborhood or business etc) than you ought to be wearing rifle plates, as you’ll be amongst the first to be targeted.

      • What interests me is how many people ignore head protection. Even a bump helmet can go a long way. I like my ballistic Kevlar, but it’s a bit pricy one you count the add-on digital earpro / coms and eyepro.

  13. Looks like a good value, I will pick this up for my wife or older kids or as a backup if anything happens. Two is one, one is none type thought process.

  14. Patriot Armor shot holes through it with M193 and you can view it on YouTube. The 46100 plate cannot stop M193, they can be rated for up to .308 or standard NIJ Level III, not III+ with the M193 designation. We have asked repeatedly for NIJ accredited lab results, but they just can’t seem to come up with them.

    https://youtu.be/4UVD6fToa7g

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