Full Coverage Body Armor vs. Partial Coverage Body Armor

Full Coverage Body Armor vs. Partial Coverage Body Armor

We’ve been discussing some pretty technical topics lately, from NIJ regulations to the science behind creating ballistic protection. So, today we thought we’d cover something a little less technical but still really important, and that’s the difference between full and partial coverage body armor. 

Yes, the apparent difference might seem to be that one covers more area than the other. But, you’d be wrong in thinking that. Today we’ll discuss why what might seem like the obvious isn’t true and exactly how full coverage and partial coverage affect its user.

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Full Coverage Body Armor

The only thing evident about full coverage is that it physically covers the entire part of your body it’s placed on. Full coverage refers to the plate as a whole; whether that plate is rated throughout for a specific caliber is another matter entirely. Most full coverage armor doesn’t actually offer ballistic protection across the entire plate, which some may call “edge-to-edge” protection. More on that shortly.

Partial Coverage Body Armor

You could be looking at full and partial coverage armor side-by-side and not see the difference, at least not in size. The size of the armor is what we usually think about in regards to coverage. By understanding the term “partial coverage,” customers can know what type of body armor their mission is suited for.

Partial coverage actually refers to how much of the plate contains rated ballistic protection; this is called effective coverage.

Body Armor Coverage

On the edges of the plate, there is typically something known as a buffer or bumper. Many companies add foam filler. However, here at ShotStop®, we use polyethylene throughout our entire level III plate lineup, which is why our level III ballistic protection is true edge-to-edge with no perimeter filler/foam, which is very typical with level III ceramic plates. 

Effective Coverage

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Full Coverage vs. Partial Coverage

If you’re having difficulty understanding coverage and its importance, think about the difference between cover and concealment. Concealment doesn’t protect you from shots fired, but it can hide you. Cover is what you get behind to protect you from getting shot when rounds are flying.

Partial coverage is your cover; it’s what protects you from penetration; it is your effective coverage. Full coverage, however, includes those 2 - 5 cms that might not protect you if you got shot in that zone; it’s more like concealment. 

Strike Face, Partial Coverage, The NIJ Standard

The standard across the industry for “not fair shot” is between 1” and 2”. Those 1-2” of buffer is there to protect your armor from corner drops, keeping your plate from cracking and enables the 15-year warranty.

On our GT2 and Level IV HS and HA models, the "not fair shot" edge protection still protects from 9mm, 357 Mag, 44 Mag, 5.56x45mm 55 grain ball (M193), 7.62x39mm PS Ball as examples.

With edge buffer foaming, it makes for a lightweight plate and, overall, more comfortable. This plate design offers a great deal of protection and falls under the requirements outlined by the NIJ and is listed on the Compliant Products List (CPL).

ShotStop® Body Armor

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To review, here at ShotStop®, our level III plates can withstand the NIJ level III threats throughout the full surface.

With our Duritium technology, we don’t have to worry about protecting the edges from corner drops, which other standard level III ceramic plates do. 

Most companies don’t have edge-to-edge coverage in their level III plates, but here at ShotStop®, we’re proud to say that ours does!

If you’re interested in learning more about our level III plates, send an email to sales@shotstop.com; we’d love to hear from you!


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