Best Level 3A Body Armor Alternative For Rifle-Caliber Protection

Best Level 3A Body Armor Alternative For Rifle-Caliber Protection

NIJ Level IIIA body armor is the most popular threat-protection level worn by law enforcement officers (LEOs) nationwide. 

According to the F.B.I, in 2021 alone, there were over 38 million new background checks for firearm registration. This each year, weapons sales, especially sales of AR-15 style platforms. 

The PERF & BJA National Survey for LEOs suggests 41% of all LEOS wear Level IIIA body armor over every other type. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the Police Executive Research forum, read our blog, What are the Top 7 Concerns for Police Officers When Choosing Armor? PERF & BJA National Survey Results

This survey isn’t the most up to date, but as a company selling body armor, we’re entrenched within the LEO community.

Anecdotally, both from our work experience and my personal experience, I’m confident in saying most LEOs still wear Level 3A armor. 

ShotStop Level 4 body armor

Nobody I served with wears hard plate armor, unless it’s an active shooter or they know they're going into potential gunfire (SWAT, HRT Teams). 

I’m going to explain today how I convert my family and friends to becoming outfitted in the best possible body armor for LEOs and military personnel. 

The only catch is our Duritium® technology is one-of-a-kind material that repeatedly out performs every other ballistic material made with modern technology.

So, you can’t just buy a Polyethylene plate and think it’s going to match our Duritium® technology.

ShotStop body armor with rifle

How Can I Switch From Soft Plate Inserts to Hard Plate Inserts?

My brother-in-law is a sheriff's deputy in Radford, VA and he always asks me the same questions; How Can I switch to hard plates and not lose comfort, flexibility, and performance?

He thinks because I work for ShotStop®, that I must be trying to get some big lie over on him about what our Duritium® Level III+PA armor weighs. Fortunately, I could sit down with him and show him the same evidence inside this blog. 

Why Wear Level 3 Hard Plate Body Armor?

We’re currently on pace in 2022 to have over 27 million new gun owners by the end of the year. As a former LEO, I can’t help but think of my brothers and sisters that are putting their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. 

The F.B.I. states there are currently over 416, 722 gun checks in the U.S. since 1998 and each year the number of rifle sales continues to climb. 

This worries me so much because approximately half of all LEOs in our country don’t have the proper PPE to defend against rifle-caliber bullets. 

Simply put, NIJ Level IIIA (3A) soft body armor inserts may seem more comfortable and tactical, but it puts LEOs at a significant disadvantage in the field. 

How Many Officers Have Been Killed by Rifle-Caliber Bullets?

I hear all the time from my former colleagues and family members that they’re not really worried about rifles because it’s so rare to encounter a rifle. However, since 2011, there have been over 100 LEOs killed by rifle-caliber bullets

I hate to have to use this analogy, but the amount of police killed each year reminds me of our current climate situation. Each year, we set records in both high temperatures and the number of officers killed in the line of duty. 

Why I Would Never Wear level 3A Body Armor

Level 3A body armor is NIJ-Listed to stop handgun-caliber bullets from penetration. My family and friends in law enforcement can’t get over the feel of soft armor versus hard armor plates. 

They automatically assume that soft armor has to be more comfortable and practical to wear while spending 12 hours in a car sitting down or walking the streets of big cities, such as Chicago or New York City. 

Duritium Level 3 plates

I don’t blame any of my family or friends for believing soft armor inserts are irreplaceable, because for the longest time they have been. 

As someone who has worn NIJ-Level IIIA and NIJ Level 4 body armor, I have a unique perspective. 

I used to think that there would be no way a hard plate armor could ever be more efficient, effective, and practical than a soft armor plate because I always wore heavy or robust plates with a high-profile.

How many police have their soft armor plates roll up inside their plate carrier? How many times in a day have you had to massage the soft plate insert to get to lie flat on your chest after an arrest or physical altercation?


Soft armor inserts like Level 2 or 3A may seem more comfortable, but what are you giving up?

Hyperbole aside, I’d rather wear a thick Carhart jacket than a Level 2 insert. You’ll have similar ballistic capabilities and at least a Carhart jacket looks nice and is more comfortable. 

Our Level 3+ hard plate body armor will never roll up like a newspaper and won’t have to adjust our Duritium® plates after an altercation. 

On average, a Level 3A soft armor insert weighs around 1.5- 2 lbs and will stop penetration from most handgun-caliber bullets (up to a .44 Mag). 

Whereas, our NIJ-Listed Level III+PA plate weighs only 2.7 lbs and will stop at least 6 shots from a 5.56x45mm (M193), 7.62x39mm (AK-47), and a 7.62x51mm 149 grain M80 FMJ

Duritium Level 3 body armor

Is Level 3A Body Armor Multi-Hit?

I understand that level 3A body armor is lighter and thinner than most hard plate armor, but what happens when you get shot in a soft armor plate? 

If a plate is NIJ-Listed Level 3A, it can stop multiple strikes from a pistol caliber bullet. Even though a soft armor plate insert can stop pistol caliber bullets, the backface deformation (BFD) will cause significant damage to your ribs or chest. 

Does Level 3A Body Armor Keep You in the Fight?

If you’re interested in staying in the fight after being shot in your armor plate, NIJ-Listed Level 3A is not the right choice. We may call the Level 3A soft armor insert a second chance, but we sure don’t call it “multiple chance vest”. 

ShotStop Made in America

If you’re shot with a 9mm or .38 Special, you have a solid chance at taking a hit and still being able to function afterwards. Higher calibers will most likely have too much of a BFD to not break ribs or sternum. 

Even if a Level 3A plate stops a bullet from penetrating, your chances of staying in the fight are slim. When I was a police officer in Oklahoma, we used to call our level 3A plate a “second chance” vest. 

Best Level 3 Body Armor Plate

The most popular Level 3A body armor weighs around 1.15 lbs per insert and has an incredibly low profile of less than 0.5”. As exceptional as this sounds, Level 3A armor can only protect you against handguns. 

The Duritium® Level III+PA body armor is only 2.7 lbs per plate and 0.7” thick for the 10” x 12” plate size. 

The Duritium® Level III+PA plate may be a hard plate, but it comes in 5 different sizes with 2 armor cuts (SAPI, Shooter).

The versatility of our Level 3 Duritium® plates makes it the perfect body armor for everyone of different sizes and shapes. 

Is Duritium® Level III+PA a Multi-Hit Plate?

The first time I wore the Duritium® PA plate, it did not convince me it could hold up against rifle-caliber bullets because of its size and thickness. It’s so lightweight that I thought it was an ICW plate that required an additional soft armor insert. 

To my shock and elation, the Duritium® Level III+PA plate is a stand-alone plate that is NIJ-Listed to prevent penetration and excess BFD for at least 6 shots from rifle-caliber bullets, up to an M80 bullet.

Best Body Armor Warranty

As I look at companies like Spartan Armor or AR500 Armor Republic, most warranties for Level 3A armor are 5 years. That may sound like a good warranty, but it's 3x shorter than our Level III+ plates. 

You read that correctly, our Duritium® Level 3 plates come with an industry-leading 15-year warranty. There are more companies that tell you how outstanding their armor is than I could ever list in a blog, but very few will ever have a warranty this comprehensive. 

We offer a standard 15-year warranty on our Level 3 plates because we pride ourselves on walking-the-walk. 

Duritium hard plate insert

We never want our customers to think we say things we don’t mean or we can’t back up. This is why we offer ballistic testing results for every piece of armor we sell and an extensive warranty to back up our claims of durability and longevity. 

Which Calibers Will the Duritium® Level III+PA Plate Protect Against?

  • 5.56x45mm 55 grain ball (M193)
  • 7.62x39mm PS ball (MSC)
  • 7.62x51mm 149 grain M80 FMJ
  • 9mm
  • .38 Special
  • .40 S&W
  • .45 ACP
  • .44 Magnum
  • .357 Magnum
  • .22LR
  • 6.5 Creedmoor
  • 12 Gauge Shotgun
  • 20 Gauge Shotgun
  • Many More calibers!

Why Choose Duritium® Over Level 3A Body Armor?

Our industry-leading warranty, ultrathin, and lightweight plate (Duritium® Level III+PA plate) features a multi-curve design. 

Our Duritium® armor is not only for men in war and law enforcement but also for our nation’s fearless women who put their lives on the line every day, too. 

Duritium®’s multi-curve design provides a curve at heart level to give a little space for women and men with a bigger chest size. Many companies charge extra for a multi-curve design, we offer it standard.

Many of our competitors are concerned so much about the initial protection from a bullet, they don’t think about how to ensure you stay in the fight to save your own life if hit. 

Steel, full ceramic armor, doesn’t do a good job at mitigating the energy of the bullet upon impact. 

Our Duritium® armor can take 6 shots to the chest and still keep you with acceptable BFD to fight back. There is no Level 3A body armor that I would trust to give me the same chance as a Duritium® hard armor insert.

If you’re interested in taking the next step for optimal personal protection, reach out to our sales team at sales@shotstop.com.


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