Best Level 4 Body Armor for the DOD Interceptor Vest

Best Level 4 Body Armor for the DOD Interceptor Vest

For all of my fellow veterans, an interceptor body armor plate carrier system is all we know about how armor should fit, feel, and weigh. 

What I didn’t know until I was a civilian is that Interceptor body armor doesn't have to be super heavy, awkward, and uncomfortable. 

The type of plates you used in your Interceptor vest makes (or breaks) all the difference for comfort, fit, and performance.

Level 4 Police Body Armor

Although I could never wear the best possible body armor when I was in the service, I’m not upset or bitter about it. 

In fact, I’m excited that our ShotStop® Ballistics technology has given my fellow brothers and sisters in arms a chance to save their backs, knees, shoulders, and neck. 

For this blog, I want to explain how our Duritium® Level IV+HA plate is the best plate you’ll ever wear in an interceptor vest. I never got a choice for any sizing options for plates because the government buys in bulk and we have to wear whatever they buy. 

Learn how to size your body armor plate according to your body measurements and which plate cut will work best for your situation. 

Does the Military Use Level 4 Armor?

The U.S. military wears only NIJ-Listed Level 4 plates in active combat environments, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and small conflicts in Africa and South America. The reason they always wear 4 is the protection it offers versus Level 3 plates.

Level 4 Body Armor 

Level 4 body armor plates offer the most protection of any other threat-protection level that our government recognizes. However, there is a lot of misunderstanding around the type of plate that most soldiers wear. 

SAPI Vs. ESAPI Plates

A Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plate can confuse because it even has small arms in the name. To keep it simple, a SAPI plate today is more about the shape of the body armor than it is the capability. 

Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI) plates are the plates the average soldier (like myself) wears into combat. 

ESAPI and SAPI plates are literally the same, except they make ESAPI plates of a boron carbide ceramic, instead of the multiple options (polyethylene, steel, ceramic, Kevlar) for a SAPI cut plate.

What is Boron Carbide?

Boron Carbide is the hardest ceramic ever made and has a tensile strength just below diamonds.

However, according to the scientists who wrote the “Science of Armour Materials”, high-velocity rounds such as the 30-06 APM2 shatter boron carbide like glass

If you’re interested in learning more about what we think of full-ceramic armor, read our blog, Why You Shouldn’t Wear Steel and Full-Ceramic Body Armor.

Why is It Important to Know Your Body Armor Material?

We can make body armor from any material on earth because the NIJ never wants to stop innovation. 

In fact, the NIJ encourages companies to always push the limits on technology because that’s how revolutionary inventions are born. 

ShotStop body Armor Made in USA

As long as an independent NIJ-Listed laboratory tested your material, you can use whatever you want.

Using the military ESAPI plate cut design and sticking with steel or full-ceramic is a disservice to our soldiers. 

A full-ceramic plate shows through many tests, including those outlined in the Science of Armour Materials (2017), that it’s not a great multi-hit option. 

The first time they briefed us on our “new” ceramic armor plates was in 2007. We were all pumped to have a lighter plate than the steel plates we’ve always worn. 

By the end of the briefing, we were told that our boron carbide ceramic plates would stop any shoulder-fired bullet, including from a Dragunov Sniper rifle. 

The newfound confidence in our plates excited all the guys, until the Captain said, “just don’t get shot multiple times in the same area because your plate won’t hold up to over 3-4 shots”. 

Level 4 Body Armor

After reading the IG report on body armor, the D.O.D. was only ensuring the full-ceramic armor held up to 3-4 shots. 

If you’re curious to learn more about the IG Report, read Best Lightweight Level 4 Body Armor | Interceptor Body Armor.

I realized that even though my full-ceramic plates were lighter and more comfortable than steel, they wouldn’t hold up if an enemy got the beat on me and went cyclic on his AK-47. 

Even though we knew it was highly unlikely a cyclic AK past 100 yards would hit us, it could. I could easily take 5-10 rounds in the chest in less than a second. 

With a max rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute, if you get hit, it’s likely you’re hit with multiple 7.62x39mm bullets or larger.

My NIJ-Listed Level 4 boron carbide ceramic plates would shatter like a car windshield if it took 12 rounds from a 7.62mm x 39mm. The full-ceramic plate would take much less if they had the Russian made AP bullets. 

Why Would I Never Want to Full-Ceramic Plates Over Duritium® Plates?

Anybody that was in the Air Force and Army before 2007 wore steel plates and we all wore through Basic, AIT/Tech School, and during most of our 1st tour (Camp Bucca, Iraq 2007). 

The moment we got our hands on a plate (full-ceramic) that was 8.5 lbs instead of 12 lbs, we knew it felt good to lose the weight, but it has its limitations. 

The only plate that I have ever held and worn on my chest (at work, not in service) that didn’t have any limitations to it is the Duritium® Level IV+ HA plate.

It almost makes me feel young enough, and in good enough shape to don the body armor again. 

I know in my short 4 years in the service, I never saw a polyethylene plate that could stop multiple hits from 30-06 M2 AP bullets. 

The Duritium® plate has multiple curves throughout the plate to offer more space for men with L and XL sized chests. 

Just as important, our Level 4 Duritium® plates are the best possible plates for our female soldiers and law enforcement officers. 

As someone who has invested in the company and the product, I love to talk about the multi-hit, multi-curve, chemical resistant features. 

However, I know the biggest difference most of us feel is the decrease in weight and reduction in your overall profile. 

The Level IV+ HA plate is only 4.5 lbs for a Large size plate and is somehow still less than 1” thick (0.9”). 

There will always be risk if you’re a heavy gunner with hundreds of rounds of ammo, but the Duritium® Level IV + HA plate will reduce your overall profile better than anything else with a Letter of Compliance from the NIJ

What Does a Low-Profile Plate Mean?

When we talk about low-profile and wearing an interceptor vest, it’s hard to imagine being able to have both. 

My biggest complaint about wearing full-ceramic plates was my inability to lie prone and keep low to the ground. 

For example, when we started training with our new armor, we conducted hundreds of drills and war games to prepare us for combat. 

The first time I was patrolling and reacted to simulated enemy fire, I went prone and immediately set my M249 (SAW) machine gun and traversed the terrain to acquire a target.

I instantly noticed my Interceptor vest negated any advantage I had lying prone. I was sticking up like a flagpole in an open field. Luckily, that’s why we train for years to do it when it counts.  

The first concern is: When you carry a machine gun, you also have to carry the ammo. 

Nobody else is going to carry it with them, so I have to accept that I’ll have a higher profile if I try to lie prone than any other of my brothers (and sister #JK) on patrol. 

The second concern is: My body armor plate is more than twice as thick as the steel plate I wore on our previous tour. 

The full-ceramic plates we were using are almost 2” thick (Duritium® Level IV is 0.9” thick) and even though they’re lighter than steel, I felt overly exposed with full-ceramic plates.  

A low-profile means that your ammo, gear, and plates are closer to your body and don’t stick out as far. 

How Can I Ensure the Lowest Profile for a Level IV Plate?

Steel has the lowest profile of any material, and we’re not afraid to admit that. However, steel is 2-3x heavier than our Duritium® technology and has serious disadvantages in energy dispersion. 

Steel armor almost always ricochets, and transfers most of the energy from the bullet into your chest. 

We are as cautious about what we put out as every responsible company and remain united in our belief that there is no other NIJ-Listed Level IV plate more suited for our nation's military than our Duritium® Level IV body armor.

Level 4 body armor

Steel may be thinner, but the weight alone makes them outdated for what active-duty soldiers are looking for. 

The multi-curve capability of our Duritium® technology accommodates women soldiers and officers. 

Our engineers designed this armor specifically to accommodate more body types, such as women with larger chests and men that lift barbells 5 days a week. 

These curves allow a natural feel for everyone who wears the armor because we made it be naturally fitting on the human body. 

Can Level 4 body armor stop 50 Cal?

I often get the question if a NIJ-Listed Level 4 body armor can stop a .50 caliber bullet. The answer is no, but with many caveats. 

The NIJ states that a Level 4 body armor plate can stop any shoulder-fired bullet less than a 30-06 (7.62 x 63mm) M2 AP. 

 We’ve seen our Level 4 body armor used in ballistic testing for a .50 cal and not allow penetration, but we would never recommend it to stop a .50 cal bullet, especially from a shot on the edges of the armor.   

Once you add the force of a projectile at 13,000 FT-LBF, our body structure can’t hold up to that kind of energy. 

In short, I wouldn’t trust any personal armor that says it will stop a .50 cal bullet. 

How Do You Determine Armor Plate Size?

Too often companies show you 1-3 sizing options and think that covers every body type. So, ShotStop® has 4 different sizes of body armor to accommodate every body type we can think of. 


How to Wear a Plate Carrier & Body Armor

Use the body armor charts below to find your correct size so you can make the best decision for your body type. 

Follow the video above and measure your chest according to its instructions (seeing and doing a task is far easier to understand a task). 


Men’s Size Chart For Body Armor

Chest 

Waist

Small (​​8.75” x 11.75”)

34" - 36" (86-91 cm)

29" - 31" (74-79 cm)

Medium (9.5” x 12.5”)

37" - 39" (94-99 cm)

32" - 34" (81-86 cm)

Large (10” x 12”)

40" - 42" (102-107 cm)

35" - 37" (89-94 cm)

Extra-Large (11” x 14”)

43" - 46" (109-117 cm)

38" - 41" (97-104 cm)

 

If I Weigh 200 lbs, which body armor plate Should I Choose?

A 200 lb man at 6’0” tall would choose a Large or Extra Large plate, based upon body composition. 

Another way to think about it is, your chest should be 10 - 12 inches larger than your waist.

Weight

5’-5’8”

5’10”- 6’

6’1”-6’4”

6’5”+

100-125 lbs

Small

Small

Small

N/A

150-175 lbs

Medium-Large

Medium

Medium

Small

200-225 lbs

XL

Large-XL

Large-XL

Medium

250+ lbs

XL

XL

XL

XL


This measurement ensures you maintain a funnel-shape with a tighter neck and loser chest. 

Another Substantial Reason Duritium® is Better Than Steel

When you sit down or start running, you’ll appreciate taking the time to do this measurement before you buy a plate. 

If you measure correctly, the Interceptor vest and Duritium® plates should give your stomach room to expand as you sit your truck, MRAP, or C130. 

I also noticed the plate never affected my breathing as I gasped for air, running up hills and sprinting. 

Steel plates always ride up inside my plate carrier sleeve and make it uncomfortable to sit and move my neck. 

ShotStop Level 4 Body Armor

Duritium® Level 4 body armor plates are so lightweight that they are far less impactful while moving up/down hills, mountains, or sprinting. 

In the future, if I gain a few lbs throughout the year, I use it as my notice to run more miles and eat less chicken wings and burgers. 

Life happens fast and I know it feels a lot easier to gain weight faster as I get older. Having a reminder of where I should be just encourages me to be more active and healthy.  

Why Our Customers Can Trust Us?

We created ShotStop® out of a need and desire to support the men and women who protect our nation through military service, but also the ones in Blue who protect our communities while we sleep in peace. This led to our company motto of We Protect The Protectors

ShotStop shares some of the same core values that each branch of the military share, including integrity, honesty, and dedication to excellence

We also know from the many other veterans at our company the military likes evidence to support your claims. 

ISO Certified

It’s one thing to say we have the most effective combat body armor on the planet, but it’s another to bring receipts. 

We take great pride in offering all of our customers free access to our independent laboratory test results

Do We Offer a Military Discount?

With as many veterans as we have on staff, there is no way we wouldn’t have a great military discount. The most effective way is to buy in bulk for entire squadrons, battalions, and even a Division. 

ShotStop Level 4 Body Armor

Nothing would make us more proud than supplying the 1st Infantry Division in Ft. Riley Kansas. It’s no coincidence that I chose a place as obscure as Ft. Riley, KS; This is where I was born in 1986, while my dad served under the 1st Infantry Division. 

If that dream scenario would ever take place, we’d be able to offer a substantial discount in order to ensure our soldiers are wearing the best armor for combat. 


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