Can Armor-Piercing Ammo Defeat Level III Body Armor?

Can Armor-Piercing Ammo Defeat Level III Body Armor?

Armor-piercing (AP) bullets can be a big problem for NIJ-Listed Level III body armor. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about AP ammo, so we’re going to give you the facts from the Bureau Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the F.B.I. Find out everything there is to know about AP ammo and how ShotStop® can Help!

What is Armor-Piercing Ammo?

Any bullet with a metal stronger than 100% steel (tungsten or copper) and has a jacket heavier than 25% of the bullet’s weight is classified as armor piercing. 

NIJ-Listed Level III body armor isn’t able to stand up to AP ammo on a consistent enough basis for the government to recommend using level 3 for AP protection. 

The heavier jacket ensures the core stays intact as the bullet makes impact. As it held together the bullet, it doesn’t expand as much, which provides more energy upon impact and a higher rate of penetration of ballistic armor.

What is AP Ammo Made Of?

According to federal law, any bullet made from a single source or combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium are AP components. Any metal harder than lead normally meets this requirement, so it’s not only excluded to these metals. 

Any bullet with any composition of lead can’t be classified as AP ammo. This is the reason the M855 was such a bust in the military and one reason ‌our military moved to all M855A1 bullets for our rifles.

What's the difference between FMJ and armor piercing?

A Full Metal Jacket bullet is a projectile with a lead core (or softer material) that expands upon impact, but is also encased with a harden steel jacket. If the jacket is less than 25% of the projectile weight, it can’t be mistaken for an AP bullet.

Is Armor Piercing Ammo Legal?

According to the U.S. Code 921 (a) (17) (B-C), AP ammo for handguns is federally illegal to own, manufacture, and sell in the United States. 

As long as you’re wanting to use the AP ammo for recreational purposes (plinking, sport shooting, hunting, etc…), it’s federally legal if you have a rifle or shotgun. According to the ATF, on August 8th, 1986, President Reagan signed a bill into law making the sale and purchase of AP legal for rifles.

Be aware of each state’s own laws, however. Some states, like Illinois, prevent the sale and purchase of AP ammo, while states like Virginia and Ohio allow them. 

You’d be surprised to find out that 40% of our nation has state laws that prohibit the sale, manufacturer, and possession of AP ammo. To give you an idea of which states have active laws in place against AP ammo, I’ve included a table.

State Gun Laws

Is it Legal to Own AP Ammo?

Alabama

Yes

Alaska

Yes

Arizona 

Yes

Arkansas

Yes

California 

No

Colorado

Yes

Conneticut

No

Deleware

Yes

Florida

No

Georgia

Yes

Hawaii

No

Idaho

Yes

Illinois

No

Indiana

No

Iowa

Yes

Kansas

Yes

Kentucky

No

Louisiana

No

Maine

No

Maryland

No

Massechusetts

Yes

Michigan

No

Minnesota

Yes

Mississippi

No

Missouri

No

Montana

Yes

Nebraska

Yes

New Hampshire

No

New Jersey

No

New Mexico

Yes

New York

No

North Carolina

Yes

North Dakota

Yes

Ohio

Yes

Oklahoma

Yes

Oregon 

Yes

Pennsylvania

Yes

Rhode Island

No

South Carolina

Yes

South Dakota

Yes

Tennessee

No

Texas

No

Utah

Yes

Vermont

Yes

Virginia

Yes

Washington

Yes

West Virginia

Yes

Wisconsin

No

Wyoming

Yes

 

What Calibers Can Pierce Body Armor?

When we consider what it takes for a bullet to defeat armor, it’s all about the metal of the core and the velocity of the bullet. For example, a smaller bullet like an M855A1 or 7.62 x 39mm AP bullet will punch holes through the toughest Level III body armor more often than not. 

The copper-jacketed 100% steel core of the M855A1 bullet will show no mercy to anything less than NIJ-Listed Level IV body armor. A velocity above 2,900 ft/sec with a reinforced steel core projectile won’t slow down or expand as much as it hits the armor. 

This will cause BFD much greater than 44mm and a much higher rate of penetration than lead core ammo (like the M855). 

Any caliber bigger than a M80 bullet will push NIJ-Listed armor past its proven parameters. For example, a 30-06 M2 AP bullet will destroy a Level III armor panel, but it won’t penetrate Level IV armor.

Can armor-piercing rounds go through Kevlar?

Kevlar is the brand, but they often use aramid fibers that make the Kevlar in Level IIIA body armor. Unfortunately, any soft armor insert you have is going to get shredded to pieces against a heavier 100% steel or copper core with a jacket that adds 30% of the projectile weight.

Why Should You Know The BFD of Your Armor?

The BFD shows us how far into the armor panel the bullet went by measuring the length of deformation from the backface. Any deformation over 44mm is considered penetration and can’t be supported by the NIJ. 

Full-ceramic armor might seem enticing because it’s lighter than steel and more affordable than polyethylene, but it holds up to multiple hits like fine ceramic “China” that our moms never pulled out until Thanksgiving or Christmas. 

The BFD is often unforgivable after the first shot, therefore ceramic armor is outdated for military use.

Can Body Armor Stop Armor-Piercing Rounds?

Fortunately, yes! NIJ-Listed Level IV (RF3) body armor is rated to stop a 30-06 M2AP bullet and will stop at least 3 shots from an M855A1 bullet. 

We have 3 body armor plates are specifically made to defeat AP ammo with multiple hits, including the Duritium® GT2, Duritium® Level IV+HS, Duritium® Level IV+HA plates.

Our Duritium® GT2 plate is our response to federal agents facing M855A1 ammo in the field. It’s not rated to stop the heavier 7.62x63mm, but it works perfectly against AP ammo fired from an AR platform like no other.

Our nation’s largest cities face some of the world's largest criminal organizations. The ability to gain “cop-killer” ammo has resulted in a need for AP protection against an AR platform.

How Can ShotStop® Help?

Our Duritium® Level IV+HS, Duritium® Level IV+HA plates can stop 11 armor-piercing rounds from exceeding 44mm BFD. Normally for our competitors, this kind of protection requires adding 15-20lbs of armor. 

Our Duritium® Level IV+HS plate offers the highest level of protection of any ballistic plate on the planet. It’s one thing to say our armor can stop AP ammo, it’s another to show you evidence.

Stopping M855A1 bullets with an astounding speed of at least 2,880 Ft/Sec is a tall task that few manufacturers are up to.

Ballistic Resistance Test

AP ammo normally has a higher velocity over FMJ bullets because of different propellents and higher quality metal components. 

You’re going to need an armor plate that doesn’t buckle under the intense pressure of a solid steel projectile. 

Our Duritium® Level IV body armor can take multiple hits from a long rifle, such as a Draganov (7.62x54R) or the 7.62x63mm (30-06 M2AP).

What’s The Best LightWeight AP Protection Body Armor?

Coming in at only 4.3 lbs for a SAPI cut (10” x 12”) NIJ Level IV plate, the Duritium® Level IV+HA is the lightest plate available. Available in both SAPI and Shooter’s Cut, the Duritium® Level IV+HA is a multi-curve plate to accommodate different body types. 

For those who’ve worn Level IV body armor, imagine having both plates installed and carrying less than 10 lbs of total weight on your body? 

If you’ve read our previous work on body armor weight, you’ll know that according the research conducted by the U.S. Marine Corps, 15 lbs of extra weight is the threshold for injury.

Duritium IV-HA Advanced Body Armor Plates

Why Choose ShotStop®?

First, we’re an American made, American-operated company that produces all of our armor in Stow, Ohio. We employ dozens of Americans, including many veterans, to gain the knowledge of war-fighters to build the best armor for our soldiers.

Our warranty on all Level III plates is 15 years, versus the average of 5 years for our competitors. 

We have a 10 year warranty on all of our Level IV plates (AP protection), which is at least 2x what our competitors offer. This extended warranty negates the initial cost of our plates and makes it cheaper‌. 

Finally, all first responders and soldiers will receive at least a 15% discount from MSRP for their service. To make it even better, the bigger the orders, the more we can offer in discounts. 

For example, if the 1st Infantry Brigade or an entire police department wanted to order armor for their people, we could offer a legendary discount that will ensure the best pricing on the market. If you have ‌questions about what ShotStop can do for you, please reach out to our sales team at sales@shotstop.com.


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