Hard Armor. The only category of Small Arms Protective Insert that can stop rifle fire. Whether you need armor to run a shoot house, as a response vest for an active shooter, or store them ready for SHTF, it’s going to be hard armor.
But hard armor has options.
Polyethylene armor, is the first. Yes, Plastic Armor. Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene is a lightweight alternative to steel and ceramics that cuts the individual plate weight to about one third the original. This cuts your total carrier weight nearly in half depending on your loadout. The weight savings doesn’t come without cost but adding the buoyant plates to your carrier can save the pain and strain on the body while it lightens the wallet a little too. The plates have the industry standard 5-year shelf life although, like ceramic and soft armors, they retain protective value when undamaged and properly maintained.
Next up, AR500 Armor’s Level III+ Lightweight Steel plates. These were fresh on the market a few years ago when we gave them a favorable review. We’re still confident in our positive evaluation of these plates and will be for years to come, the steel has a well above average armor shelf life, 20 years.
Passing the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) performance standards in the first place is no cake walk. Unlike the manufacturing requirements for guns and ammo, the NIJ standards for armor are very stringently enforced and require a large sample size of product to pass. The plates have earned an exceptional reputation in their space.
They tend to hit the sweet spot for many shooters in terms of cost, comfort, and utility, plus the 20-year shelf life. AR500’s plates are the lightest Level III steel plates on the market, we verified on when we reviewed them.
The Advanced Shooter’s Cut available for these armor plates is a substantially more comfortable design than a regular square insert. It increases your freedom of movement when shooting and drawing by relieving area near the shoulders. While surface area is decreased by 9% the plates profile protects the body’s core.
Level III+ is rated to stop most common rifle rounds: 5.56×45 M193 and 5.56×45 M855 SS109 at a velocity of up to 3,000 fps, 7.62×39, 7.62×51 M80 NATO Ball (.308 Winchester) at velocities up to 2,850 fps. Unlike other steel armor, AR500’s lightweight armor is 30% stronger blend which allows it to be lighter and thinner. We put that claim to the test and were impressed to find that a 3/16″ plate could take the impact of a M855 steel core round without any backface deformation.
All in all these plates deliver what they promise with a lighter more comfortable plate at a lower price than ceramic or plastic. Bonus: if you’re on a budget choosing these plates over a competing lightweight material will give you the leftover cash to cover the cost of a nice plate carrier.
AR500armor.com has the full selection of armor, carrier, and accessory options and you can take a look at their gallery of live fire testing videos here while you browse.