4 Questions To Ask When Buying Level 3 Armor | Pros & Cons of Level 3A Vs. Level 3 Body Armor

4 Questions To Ask When Buying Level 3 Armor | Pros & Cons of Level 3A Vs. Level 3 Body Armor

We often associate body armor with soldiers in war or police officers on patrol. 

However, we’ve reached a significant point in our society where every law-abiding American has access to personal ballistic protection. 

ShotStop Level 4 Body Armor

Our most popular blog is Level III vs Level IIIA Body Armor | The biggest differences and which one you should buy. If we don’t answer all of your Level 3A Vs. Level 3 questions, we’re confident you can find them in our blogs. 

My goal for today is for you to leave this blog in 10 min understanding why threat levels are just as important as weight and comfort

As much as I complain about wearing steel armor as a soldier, I know that if they shot me in my chest plate, it would hold up. Everyone should have that feeling when they leave the house with their armor. 

The best way to gain confidence is to better understand armor capability, classification, and authentication.

The best way to gain that confidence is to better understand armor capability, classification, and authentication.

ShotStop Ballistics

What 4 Questions Should You Ask Before Choosing A Threat Level?

As I talk to my family and friends about personal body armor, I try not to nerd-out too much on why I believe we’re the best company. 

Instead, I let everyone else dictate the conversation around body armor. This helps me gauge what they know and what their top concerns are to wear body armor. 

No matter who I’m talking with about armor, I ask them 4 questions that need to be addressed before you choose your appropriate threat-level protection. 

  1. What is Your Threat Assessment?

It sounds a little condescending, but everyone needs to know what they’re trying to avoid by wearing body armor. 

If you’re wearing body armor and expect it to stop a 5.56x45mm NATO bullet, you need to be sure it’s an NIJ-Listed Level III armor plate

ShotStop Level 4 Body Armor

     2. What is Body Armor Made From?

Companies have already replaced most fully ceramic armor with steel or polyethylene because a full ceramic plate will not take multiple strikes as well. 

For example, I was told during my 2nd tour (OIF), that even though ceramic plates are lighter than steel plates, they’re unreliable after 1-2 shots.  

The NIJ has proved through meticulous testing that all of our Duritium Level III plates will stop at least 6 shots from a 5.56mm,7.62x39mm, 7.62x51mm (M80) and any handgun caliber bullet. 

Every company should provide you with NIJ-Listed independent lab results to support their claims. If companies don’t already provide them or won’t show you, walk away. 

ShotStop Body Armor

Knowing the ballistic material can help narrow down your search for characteristics you’re looking for (weight, balance, price, comfort). 

If you’re interested in learning more about the specifics of each ballistic material, read our blog, What Are the Different Types of Body Armor? | Steel, Ceramic, and Polyethylene vs. Duritium® Body Armor

How is Duritium Better Than AR500 Steel Armor?

Each material dissipates and absorbs energy differently, so it’s imperative that you know an AR500 steel plate is going to ensure most of the 500 ft-lbf of energy from a 9mm bullet is felt in your sternum and ribcage. 

Our Duritium® technology is unique in how it absorbs and reduces the force of a bullet. In super simplistic terms, think of Duritium and AR500 like a game of egg toss. 

I don’t know about everyone out there, but I’m ultra competitive and love to win at everything… even egg toss. 

You have 2 kinds of people in egg toss, the ones that can reduce the impact of the egg flying 30 ft across the yard and the ones that have no finesse and leave with egg splattered all over their hands and shoes. 

Duritium® absorbs the extreme force of the bullet before its energy reaches your chest. It's like your hands pulling back to not break the shell upon impact in egg toss. 

AR500 steel is stronger than most metal used in a bullet, so it bounces off the plate. It’s great for shooting targets on your home range, but your targets don’t have to worry about the energy from the bullet. 

Simply put, Steel isn’t manufactured to consider what's underneath the plate. 

We created Duritium® with providing the best armor for police officers as our sole mission. 

Let me be clear: Anytime you get shot is going to hurt badly, but our patented Duritium® proves its worth during the Backface Signature Test (BFS) testing at the NIJ. 

ShotStop Level 3 body armor

       3. Will Your Armor Keep You in The Fight?

Other than if the armor will stop a bullet, staying in the fight after being shot has to be the most important consideration.

When choosing between Level 3A & Level 3 body armor, it’s pretty clear that the hard plate Level 3 will keep you in the fight longer

BFS is a way to measure how much a bullet is going to cause a Backface Deformation (BFD).

For all body armor, the allowable BFD is 1.73” (44mm) and only measured during the first 2 shots. Our director of operations, Jason Henkel, explains it better than I can. 

The NIJ also has its input on backface deformation.

“There’s a backface deformation allowed [according] to the current NIJ 0101.06 standard [that] allows for a 44mm backface deformation on the first two impacts from these rifle rounds. Then beyond that, stop four more rounds from penetrating. There’s no backface deformation requirement on the last four rounds of the six shots NIJ compliance test.”

-Jason Henkel, Director of Operations, ShotStop® 

Getting shot in your armor is one thing, but being able to stand and keep fighting can be the difference between life and death.

It’s important to understand the importance of BFD so you can make a more informed decision on which armor will keep you in the fight the longest. 

Our multi-hit Level 3 plates can stop over 2 dozen rifle-caliber bullets without penetration. The independent lab tests prove our armor will stop 6 shots from an AK-47, AR-15, and .308 rifle.

Are you interested in learning more about Backface Deformation, What is it and Why is it important? 

4. Is Your Armor Stab-Resistant?

For most civilians, one of the most dangerous threats to our safety is sharp-edged weapons like knives, box cutters, and ice picks. 

The NIJ created the Stab Resistance of Personal Body Armor in response to the threats to corrections officers in prisons. 

ShotStop Body Armor

Understanding whether your armor is stab-resistant is incredibly important because not all armor stops a blade. 

There are 3 protection levels in the NIJ guidelines: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 (highest protection standard). 

You can find the NIJ Compliant List for stab-resistance in the same place for ballistic resistance; on the NIJ Compliant Products List. 

For the record, it does not list ShotStop® body armor under the stab-resistance standard (NIJ Standard–0115.00). However, our Level 3+ Duritium® plates will undoubtedly stop any blade in the spike or edge blade class with relative ease. 

Pros & Cons of Level 3A Body Armor



Level IIIA Body Armor is one of the lightest NIJ-Listed Body Armor type (1.5 lbs/plate on average)

Will only stop handgun caliber bullets

More flexible and comfortable than most hard plates

Soft armor inserts offer little protection from the concussion of a projectile

Offers more coverage than hard plate armor

Soft armor will not keep you in the fight if you’re shot

Concealed easier than hard plates in normal clothing or in uniform

Soft armor doesn’t last near as long as hard plate armor

More affordable than hard plate armor

Doesn’t offer edge-to-edge protection

Very low profile of only 0.5” thick (average)

Which Calibers Will Level 3A Armor Stop?

  • .357 Magnum 
  • .22LR
  • .38 Special
  • .45 ACP
  • .40 S&W
  • 44 Magnum
  • 9mm

Pros & Cons of Duritium® Level 3 Body Armor



Duritium® Level III+PA Plate is only  2.7 lbs/plate

More expensive than soft armor inserts

Very low profile of only 0.7” thick for Duritium® Level III+PA Plate

Soft armor provides more coverage than Level 3 plates because soft armor can wrap around your body

Proven by INDEPENDENT NIJ-LISTED LABORATORY to stop multiple strikes from a 7.62x51mm (M80)

15-year warranty on all Duritium® Level III+ plates

Our Duritium® Level III body armor offers incredible shock absorbency and distribution to limit the impact of a bullet

Duritium® Level III+ plates are multi-curved to offer superior comfort vs other hard armor inserts

Duritium® Level III+ plates float in water for superior mission capability and versatility

Full Edge-To-Edge protection for all Duritium® Level III+ plates

All Duritium® Level Plates are the lightest Level 3 plates on the planet

Which Calibers Will Duritium® Level 3+ Armor Stop?

  • .357 Magnum Handgun
  • .22LR
  • .38 Special
  • .45 ACP
  • .40 S&W
  • 44 Magnum
  • 9mm
  • 5.56mm NATO (M193)
  • 7.62x39mm
  • 7.62x51mm 149 grain M80 FMJ (.308 Winchester)
  • 12 Gauge Shotgun


Deciding to wear body armor, especially as a civilian, is a stressful situation because it means you must be worried about your personal safety. 

The 4 questions I pose today should help relinquish some of those fears and anxiety. Body armor doesn’t have to be complicated if you buy with a company you can trust. 

We built our company around the motto of, “We Protect the Protectors®”, because we value our law enforcement and military communities. 

ShotStop® Level III+ body armor is the lightest, thinnest, and most durable ballistic protection you’ll ever wear. We take great pride in providing body armor that not only works, but is comfortable enough to wear for long 12-hour shifts.

ShotStop made in USA 

Choosing ShotStop® will give you 15 years of warranty coverage, versus the normal 5-year warranty for most steel armor.

If you’re interested in learning more about why you should choose ShotStop® Ballistics, contact us at sales@shotstop.com.

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