We get this question a lot, “Why does body armor have to be so heavy?” and we can’t blame you for asking, especially if you’re the one lugging it around. Coming from someone who’s worn the heavy stuff and then added on an extra 40+ lbs. of gear, depending on the day, I had asked myself this numerous times. Surely, there has to be a way to have ballistic protection AND not break my back? Well, the good news is, after decades of unconventionally heavy ballistic armor, we have created a solution, and it’s called Duritium® Technologies.
But, before we get to that, let’s answer the question that led us up to making such lightweight body armor in the first place.
Does Body Armor have to be so Heavy?
Luckily, the answer to that is, not anymore. However, before we developed the Duritium® technology, even the lightweight stuff could weigh you down. Of course, you could get yourself some soft plates, but on their own, they don't provide the same level of protection as hard plates protecting against rifle rounds. In fact, I worked a mission that let us wear soft plates, but as soon as we left base, we had to insert the heavy-duty stuff. Why, because our threat-level had increased and the type of ballistics used against us was much more harmful. Our soft plates weren’t going to stand up to the job.
So, despite the crippling weight, mission length, or added gear, when our ROEs said insert heavy plated armor, we did. Of course, my back has suffered the consequences, but it was for our own good, right? That’s what they tell us. Luckily, you can now get lightweight hard plates and get the best protection.
We’re not sure if you’ve ever switched from hard plates to the soft inserts, but it’s a game-changer for the body. The plates don’t dig into your hips, back or stomach when you sit, they don’t make your entire body ache after wearing them for days, weeks, months, or even years, and for a while, and you might actually feel like your body could do this forever. Unfortunately, soft plates on their own might not save your life, depending on your threat level. Because soft plates don’t hold up to the higher calibers our military and LE folks might encounter.
Body Armor Materials and their Contribution to Weight
The type of material that makes up body armor plays a significant role in how heavy it is. Below is a list of the various materials used to make body armor and how much they typically weigh per sq. ft.
STEEL BODY ARMOR
While steel might be the most common and cheapest type of body armor out there, it definitely isn’t the lightest. In fact, steel body armor is typically the heaviest, weighing in at about 10.2 lbs per sq. ft., which is why body armor is so heavy—if you’re wearing steel plates.
CERAMIC BODY ARMOR
Ceramic body armor is typically much lighter than steel plates, weighing in at about 5-6 lbs. per sq. ft. However, what you lose in weight, you also lose mobility. They’re also a lot more expensive for a product that can typically only stop a few rounds before shattering. So, while ceramic plates are much lighter than steel, given the lengthy period you’re probably wearing them, that weight adds up.
Despite the fact that polyethylene—generally made from a specific kind of polyethylene, called Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE)—is the most common type of plastic used in the world today, it is not your cheapest body armor option. In fact, it typically costs more than steel or ceramic armor, but the added cost comes with 15 times the abrasion-resistance than carbon steel. Luckily, it is the lightest option, by far, between steel and ceramic, but still not the lightest option on our list.
Duritium® is our patented technology, combining UHMWPE with composite materials for the lightest, thinnest, and most durable body armor—Yes, you read that correctly, lightest body armor.
Duritium® includes polymer-covering sheets, cut using a 3-axis CNC machine. After the plate is hardened and reinforced with polymer, the vulcanization process finishes it off for a perfectly cut armored plate. This process ensures all Duritium® plates can withstand multiple hits in the same location without losing its integrity—much different from that of ceramic plates.
Even better, Duritium® Level IV armor weighs in at an incredible 5.3 lbs. versus 10.2 for steel, 8 lbs. for ceramic, and 6.5 lbs. for polymer combined with UHMWPE. Level IV Duritium® is less than 1" thick (0.9") and will stop any rifle round, including a 7.62x63m M2 bullet fired from a Dragunov sniper rifle.
BODY ARMOR LEVELS AND THEIR WEIGHTS
The higher the level your armor is rated to, the more protection it provides. Typically, that also translated into heavier body armor, more backaches, and lengthier recovery times (of which you were probably never afforded the opportunity). Lucky for you, we make body armor that holds up to higher calibers while maintaining its lightweight, thin looks, and durability.
What all that Extra Body Armor Weight does to the Body – Pounds Equal Pain
We all know all that extra weight isn’t good for the body; it can really do a number on your joints, hips, and back. And when you consider the amount of time you spend wearing your body armor, it only helps deteriorate everything much sooner. That’s part of the reason you see those memes of the 90-year-old looking man that says something like, “John, 21 years old…” in the caption. All that extra unnecessary weight stresses your body, and even if you don’t look 90, your body feels it—I know mine does.
And it’s not just how the extra weight makes you feel that matters, it’s what it can lead to. Not too long ago, Capt Courtney Thompson wrote her award-winning master’s thesis, conducted at the Naval Postgraduate School, on Paying For Weight In Blood: An Analysis of Weight and Protection Level of a Combat Load During Tactical Operations. In her research, Thompson said it only takes an extra 15 lbs. to take its toll on our troops. In fact, that extra weight can be the difference between life and death. Thompson’s research showed those with heavier loads were more likely to become casualties. So, not only are you struggling with the aches and pains of heavy armor, extra gear, and fully loaded pouches but also you’re slowing your abilities down and inhibiting your possibilities of surviving.
Maybe it doesn’t feel like it when you’re younger, but trust us, it catches up to you, and it happens quickly. That’s why it’s important to cut weight where you can, when you can, which is what we did with our Duritium® body armor. You have enough to carry on your back, so let us lighten the load with the lightest body armor you’ve ever worn.
Body armor doesn’t have to be heavy, at least not steel plates heavy. That’s why we use our patented Duritium®. Not only are you getting the lightest weight possible, but you’re getting the best protection body armor can give you.
To learn more about our product, check out ShotStop’s different body armor options.