10 Questions to Ask to Find The Best Level 3 Body Armor

10 Questions to Ask to Find The Best Level 3 Body Armor

Much of our content revolves around the serious nature of federal and state regulations, so we understand that reading about the NIJ can be a little less exciting than actual body armor. 

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There are so many different ways to produce body armor that it can be difficult to know exactly what to look for and what to avoid.

We hope that we can help solve the conundrum of too many choices to help everyone find the best possible body armor for their specific needs. 

Typically, body armor can be made of any material that company can come up with that can withstand the stringent and costly testing of the NIJ.

This means that companies can use plastic, ceramic, steel, rubber, or a combination of them to create ballistic protection. 

Normally, body armor is made from a plethora of combinations including ceramic, steel, or polyethylene (plastic).

If you’re curious about learning more about the different body armor types, read our blog, What Are the Different Types of Body Armor? | Steel, Ceramic, and Polyethylene vs. Duritium® Body Armor.

 SS body armor

1. What is it Made From?

What your armor is made from makes a big difference in it’s capability, profile, durability, and longevity.

It’s easy to assume that a steel plate will be better than any other material because it’s rigidity and composition of metal.

AR500 steel might be more affordable and rigid than Polyethylene, but it doesn’t mean it’s better as ballistic protection. 

Besides the drastic difference in weight from a Polyethylene to a steel plate, how the plate absorbs and displaces energy is incredibly important when you’re hit by a projectile flying up to 3,000 ft/s. 

Duritium Level 3 Body Armor

For example, Polyethylene has a far smaller chance of ricochet than steel which protects you from getting hit in the chest and having a bullet ricochet into your arm or thigh.

Think about if you’ve ever shot steel gongs at a range. How many bullets do you see ricochet off the steel and either back at you or off the sides? 

Polyethylene also absorbs energy so much better than steel that it will keep you in the fight longer when hit.

Steel may be a multi-hit material, but you’re going to break a rib or be left with no air in your lungs when trying to continue the fight.

This is because steel doesn’t displace and absorb energy in the same way Polyethylene does.

2. Is it Chemical Resistant?

Another great question to ask is whether your body armor is chemical resistant and how long does the chemical resistance last on the plate.

As a police officer, you never know what kind of chemical you could be exposed to during a shift, from industrial materials to blood, feces, urine, or dangerous chemicals used to produce street drugs.

ShotStop Body Armor

It’s not uncommon for officers to get traces of fentanyl or methamphetamines on their vest or armor and have life-threatening medical conditions from the armor shedding the chemical into the body. 

According to the ASTM D543 standard, Duritium®  body armor passes the test for acceptable exposure to the following chemicals:



Ammonium Chloride 30%

Pass

Ammonium Hydroxide

Pass

Automotive Gasoline

Pass

Automotive Oil

Pass

Aviation J.P. Fuel

Pass

Baking Soda 25%

Pass

Benzene

Pass

Boric Acid 3%

Pass

Calcium Chloride 50%

Pass

Calcium Hypochlorite 5%

Pass

Citric Acid 10%

Pass

Club Soda 

Pass

Cream Soda

Pass

Crude Oil (Heating)

Pass

Diesel Fuel

Pass

Ethylene Glycol

Pass

Hydraulic Fluid (Oil)

Pass

Hydrogen Peroxide 10%

Pass

Kerosene

Pass

Lactic Acid 20%

Pass

Methylene Chloride

Pass

Mineral Spirits 

Pass

Nitric Acid 10%

Pass

Potassium Hydroxide 50%

Pass

Saline Solution 30%

Pass

Sea Water

Pass

Sodium Carbonate 10%

Pass

Sodium Chloride 30%

Pass

Sodium Hydroxide 50%

Pass

Sodium Hydroxide 10%

Pass

Sodium Sulfate 30%

Pass

Sodium Sulfate 20%

Pass

Sugar Solution 30%

Pass

Sulfuric Acid 10%

Pass

Toluene

Pass

Water (H2O)

Pass


 3. Does Your Body Armor Float in Water?

I know this may sound like a weird question for people who’ve only once full-ceramic or steel plates. However, we have 2 NIJ Listed Level 3 stand-alone plates (3 counting our ICW plate) that will float in water. 

Duritium III+PA - NIJ III Armor Plate that Floats - ShotStop Ballistics


If you’re not exactly sure why this is important, think about what happens if you were to fall in a pool or lake with steel armor on. If you didn’t get your vest off, you’d sink as fast as 20 lbs of steel would move.

ShotStop Body Armor on Federa Agent

However, if you are wearing our Duritium®  NIJ-Listed Level 3 plates, you’ll actually feel weight lifted due to the buoyancy of the Duritium®  technology. 

4. Is Your Body Armor NIJ-Listed?

There is no doubt that you need to know if your body armor is approved and Listed in the governing body of personal ballistic protection.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has a database to check if a company’s armor is listed with a certificate of compliance. If the company you’re considering is not on this list, I would think twice about buying armor from them. 

Is There Another Way to Determine if a Specific Body Armor Plate is Legit?

We understand that not every plate is NIJ-Listed due to many factors, such as cost, time, and bureaucratic issues.

However, if you are interested in a plate from a specific manufacturer, email the company and ask for an independent lab report to prove the ballistic protection claims they’re making. 

ShotStop Body Armor with Mossberg Shockwave

ShotStop®  is always willing and open about our body armor capabilities. This is why we offer independent ballistic tests for each set of armor we have.

If a company refuses to show you an independent lab test for NIJ Level III testing, walk away and don’t put your life in the hands of people who don’t care about you. 

5. What is The Warranty of The Body Armor Plates?

One of the most important features of personal ballistic protection is how long is that armor plate supposed to last? I think this is a fair question that every company should be able to answer without any hesitation. 

Our warranty for all Level 3 Duritium®  plates is 15 years from the time it was manufactured.

No other company that I’ve discovered in our industry offers more than a 10 year warranty on NIJ-Listed plates.

ShotStop Level 4 Body Armor

The vast majority of all warranties is 5 years because our competitors are not as confident in their process as we are. 

How Long is Duritium®  Armor Expected to Last?

Even though our warranty lasts for 15 years, our body armor is expected to last up to 50 years if you’re taking care of it properly.

The Polyurea finish will keep the body armor protected from chemical exposure for up to 75 years if it hasn’t been damaged in any way. 

Good luck trying to find another company with that kind of coverage for top of the line personal protection.

ShotStop Level 4 Body Armor on Federal Agent

We often get questions if you could possibly give your body armor plate to your kids.

If you follow the cleaning, storage, and basic maintenance we send with all of our plates, then if your armor isn’t damaged, it will last far longer than most plates.

6. Is Your Body Armor Rated to Stop Pistol Caliber or Rifle Caliber Bullets?

All NIJ-Listed Level 3 plates are considered rifle plates. It can get tricky for first time armor wearers because you might see a Level 3A plate and think it's a rifle rated like the Level 3 plate.

Just be careful to ensure you’re looking for stand-alone hard plate or ICW armor with either a NIJ Level 3 or Level 4 NIJ threat-level protection.

7. Is Your Body Armor Proven to Have Multi-Hit Protection?

Will your body armor stand up against multiple hits from a rifle at close range? This is a very important question to consider because of the advancement in technology for AR-15 and AK rifles. 

AR500 Steel and Polyethylene armor are the most likely to stop multiple bullets, but a full-ceramic armor plate is going to crack like your mom’s fine china dishes.

Duritium®  body armor has taken it to a new level by requesting our armor to be independently tested with at least 6 shots with a 5.56mmx45 NATO, 7.62x39mm (AK-47), and the 7.62x51 (M80) bullets.

Our Level III+PA and PS plates may not talk, but their results under pressure speak for themselves. 

8. How Heavy Is Your Level 3 Plate?

Weight and comfort are the two most talked about concerns with wearing hard plate armor for rifle protection.

Looking back on my first tour in Iraq, I was wearing a front, back, and 2 side steel plates for 16-18 hours a day (at least).

With my Interceptor vest on, I was adding about 40-50 lbs. of weight just for a tactical vest, plates, ammo, med supplies, and a grenade.

To make it worse, I was only about 155 lbs. in the service wearing 27-30% of my body weight with a single vest. 

Under most circumstances, you shouldn’t wear armor that is more than 10% of your overall body weight (naked).

ShotStop Body Armor

For example, I’m 180 lbs so that means I shouldn't wear more than 18 lbs. of armor if I don’t want to be compromised in my mobility and capability during a gunfight. 

With our Duritium®  Level III+PA plate, even in the largest size of 11” x 14”, you’ll only be wearing 7.4 lbs for a front and back plate.

In combat I wore a 10” x 12” size plate. But If I had the Duritium® technology in 2006, I would have reduced my armor plate weight from 20-25 lbs to only 5.8 lbs for a front and back plate.

My overall weight percentage would have dropped from near 30% to about 16%-18% with side plates and all other gear.

9. Can a Woman Comfortably Wear Level 3 Body Armor?

When it comes to hard plates and women, I honestly feel bad for my fellow sisters in arms I served with.

It’s easy for many men to say body armor is uncomfortable if it restricts any movement, but for women, it can be painful.

Many girls that I served with would complain about bruised chests and restricted breathing due to their armor. 

The reason rifle-rated hard plates are so uncomfortable is they are normally flat with no give in the chest area to accommodate a woman’s bust size.

When you consider flat steel armor for a woman with a larger bust, it can be dangerously uncomfortable. 

Our Duritium®  armor was made in part to accommodate our heroes that need a little extra room in the chest, stomach and hips.

Our Level III+ plates are multi-curve plates that extend the space between your chest and the plate to allow a more comfortable and safe fit for our women in arms.

10. For Cops, Does Your Body Armor Stop the Caliber of Gun You Carry?

The most important factor in wearing armor for most LEOs is whether the armor will stop the caliber they carry on duty?

Every year multiple officers are killed by their own weapons when things turn south and they wind up in hand-to-hand combat with multiple assailants. 

ShotStop Body Armor for LEOs

Knowing if your body armor is rated to stop the guns you carry on duty has to be addressed and proven to stop your specific caliber.

The good news with our level 3+ plates is they will stop any handgun you want to throw at, including a .357 Magnum, 10mm Auto, at least 6 shots from a 5.56x45mm NATO, and M80 bullet.

I don’t know many cops that are carrying M855 or M855A1 ammo, so our stand-alone Level 3+ plates will check every box you have. 

Conclusion

When choosing the right body armor for you and/or your family, you really could benefit from doing your own research.

Ask these 10 questions to each one of the companies you’re considering buying from and see how they stack up against ShotStop® Ballistics. 

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We don’t just claim to have the lightest, thinnest, durable, and most comfortable armor on the planet. We back every claim up with independent laboratory test results done by NIJ-Listed Labs across the country. 

Our Motto is ,”We Protect The Protectors” and we take that to heart with everything we do. You can trust ShotStop® to never deceive or take advantage of someone’s lack of knowledge.

There is nothing that makes us more happy and proud than to have our body armor save the life of another human being. 


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