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 ballistic protection is true edge-to-edge with no perimeter filler/foam, which is very typical with level III ceramic plates. 


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Depending on the company and materials being used, the outer edges, about 2 - 5cms, aren't considered effective coverage. This is an even bigger reason you shouldn’t compromise protection by wearing smaller plates than you should, just because you want something more lightweight.

Think of it this way. Body armor is meant to protect your vital organs. If you should be wearing a large plate but are wearing a small plate you’re not covering your torso. And those 2 - 5 cms of non-effective coverage mean you’re protecting even less area. As a result, most of your organs are probably exposed, at least slightly.

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. Yes, it conceals that part of your body, but like hiding behind a bush, bullets are probably still getting through.


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We’ve already touched on it in our examples, but we’re really proud we offer edge-to-edge coverage in our level III plates. And no matter which level you purchase, ShotStop® is confident that all of our models will be the lightest, thinnest, and most durable plate on the market today. 

We’re excited to continue our February promotion until March 31st using the code Protect2021. Getting 15% on your next order could save your organization a lot of money. The 15% discount is on all of our NIJ-Listed Level III and Level IV armor and works with the discount we offer our military, police, and other first responder organizations. 

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For partial coverage, the NIJ standards allow for 2” of “not fair shot” along the plate edge. This means if a company’s product is on the NIJ’s CPL (Compliant Product List), then the body armor must be able to defeat the designated rounds with impact points 2” from the edge.  Anything closer to the edge is not deemed a “fair shot.” 

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. It makes for a lightweight plate, and overall it’s more comfortable. These types of plates still offer a great deal of protection and fall under the requirements outlined by the NIJ to land on their CPL—which ShotStop® plates are on!

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! And remember, use the code Protect2021 through March 31, 2021 and get 15% off!

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