Lightweight Rifle Plates For Law Enforcement | Level III ICW Armor

Lightweight Rifle Plates For Law Enforcement | Level III ICW Armor

It’s no secret that law enforcement officers (LEOs) are not huge fans of body armor. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and PERF, over 85% of officers wear either Level II or Level IIIA body armor. We believe that 100% of officers should wear at least a Level III ICW plate on duty. 

What Is Level III ICW?

ICW stands for ‘in conjunction with’ meaning you have to wear a hard plate over a soft plate. If worn correctly, the Level III ICW plate will provide NIJ-Listed Level III protection.

What Are the Three Biggest Needs for Police and Body Amor?

Improved Comfort

According to PERF, 84% of officers are looking for more comfortable body armor. Comfort can mean a lot of things; however, most officers are referring to the plate cut type, the size, and the curvature of the plate. 

Many officers struggle with full size and SAPI cut plates because they can significantly reduce mobility, especially cross body movement of the arms.

Another issue with rifle plates is the lack of sizing options. For example, most of our competitors only offer the standard 10-inch by 12-inch plate. This is great for the average size male but does not accommodate different body types including women.

Where our competitors leave off is where ShotStop begins. For example, we have at least 3 to 4 sizing options, including 8-inch by 10-inch (small), 10-inch by 12-inch (medium), and 11-inch by 14-inch (large).

Most rifle plates are ‌flat or with a single curve on the plate. All ShotStop Level III plates are multi-curve plates to accommodate all body types, including our women in blue.

Improved Fit

PERF has also reported that 72% of officers are looking for improved fit in body armor. Body armor fit can be tricky because of multiple factors that contribute to a proper fit. These factors include the plate material, the plate carrier, and size.

The material you choose can affect how the plates sit in your plate carrier. For example, many AR500 steel armor plates have a slick finish, causing the plate to slide as you move. In contrast, our Duritium armor features a polyurea finish that provides a sleek feel, but grips to prevent sliding.

In terms of plate size, you can’t get a proper fit if your plates are too large or too small. If you haven’t properly fitted your body for plates, the NIJ suggests using the following steps:

  1. Ensure you insert your armor plate with the strike face outward with the label closest to your chest. Some companies have a strike face side, but we make it easy with our ShotStop® logo. 
  2. Once your plates are properly installed, tighten the vest to your comfort level. The NIJ makes it clear they don’t want you to over-tighten your vest because it will make it uncomfortable and cause potential chaffing or abrasions. I’ve made this mistake before and I didn’t realize until I was chasing a suspect and my armor restricted my breathing because it was too tight. 
  3. The NIJ recommends your armor panels overlap by 2” to ensure full coverage on your torso. The front panel should sit 2” on top of the back panel.
  4. You always want your armor to cover high up into your armpit, but not if it restricts mobility. Adjust your vest to your body and practice moving your arms and drawing your pistol from unique positions (unloaded).
  5. As you fit your armor plates, make sure the front panel extends from just below your jugular down to 2-3 fingers widths above your belt. 

This is incredibly important for LEOs because if you don’t fit your armor panels properly, the plates will dig into your hips and pinch your stomach. 

If it doesn’t pinch your stomach, the armor panel will dig into your neck as you sit down. The back panel should measure 2” below your collarbone and 1” above the belt.

Are you worried about finding the proper fit for your body armor? Use the NIJ personal armor fit assessment

Reduced Weight

The PERF survey also revealed that 64% of officers would prefer lighter weight body armor. 

With rifle plates, there are three common materials used: steel, ceramic, and polyethylene. As we all know, steel is the heaviest material. Ceramic is lighter than steel, and polyethylene is lighter than ceramic.

They make most rifle plates from steel or full-ceramic and weigh between 6-12 pounds per plate. Polyethylene plates normally average between 5 and 7 pounds per plate for Level III NIJ-listed armor. 

If you have read some of our previous blogs, you know the threshold for the human body is 15 pounds of extra weight. 

With that in mind, the added weight of steel and full-ceramic armor can be detrimental to your joint health and lower back and may lead to unnecessary injuries.

What Body Armor Level Should Law Enforcement Wear?

Most LEOs will not change their minds overnight on what type of body armor they wear (if they have a choice). I’d like to use the analogy of teaching abstinence in schools instead of teaching safety. People are going to do what they want to do, regardless of what someone else thinks is right. 

Body armor is similar because I don’t know any police officer that would rather wear hard plates over soft armor inserts, even if hard plates are safer. For this reason, we’d like officers to start with the lightest NIJ-Listed Level III hard plate armor. 

Our Duritium® Level III ICW armor is only 2.4 lbs for a full-size Shooter’s Cut plate and 2.6 lbs for a SAPI Cut. Not only is our Level III ICW plate the lightest Level III ICW plate, it’s also only 0.6” thick and comes in 4 body armor cuts (Full, SAPI, Shooter, and Sprinter). 

Why Should LEOs Choose Duritium Level III ICW?

It’s not enough to claim we have the best or most versatile plate, without offering evidence. We’ve compared the top selling Level III ICW plates with our own Duritium® Level III ICW armor. Spoiler Alert… It’s not even close!

Ironically, Engarde USA Body Armor is a European company out of Amsterdam, Netherlands. We have nothing against Engarde, but they only offer one size, as if we’re all the same height and share the same body characteristics. 

Our Duritium® Level III ICW armor is the most versatile ICW armor made with more sizing and cut options than any other company selling ICW armor.  

It’s always tricky to discuss whether a company is NIJ-Listed because there are multiple reasons ‌a company isn’t actively listed under the Criminal Justification and Testing and Evaluation Consortium (CJTEC)

We ensure that we stringently tested all ShotStop® plates in the field and independently through the NIJ-Listed laboratories. We know how incredibly expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes frustrating it can be to go through the government protocols. 

However, we also know that we can’t ethically and morally suggest our heroes in Blue to wear our armor without the backing of the federal government. 

There are only 2 ways a body armor company can prove their claims to the public and ShotStop® does both. For example, we provide either a NIJ Compliance Letter for each NIJ-Listed armor, or an independent NIJ-Listed laboratory report. 

I’m unable to find an independent lab report to support the claims of the USA Engarde Level III ICW plate. According to the CJTEC, Engarde USA doesn’t have a Level III plate that is actively listed under the NIJ 0101.06 standard. For this reason, there is a way we’d ever suggest someone take their word for it and “roll the dice” on their life. 


USA Engarde Level III ICW

Duritium® Level III ICW

Weight

2.7 lbs

2.4 lbs

Thickness

unknown

0.6”

Cut Options

  • Full
  • Shooter’s
  • SAPI 
  • Full
  • Sprinter

Sizing

  • 10” x 12”
  • 5” x 8”
  • 7” x 9”
  • 8” x 10”
  • 10” x 12”

Warrenty

10 years (W/caveats)

15 years!

Plate Curve

Multi-Curve

Multi-Curve

NIJ-Listed

No

Yes

Buoyancy 

Yes

Yes


US Armor Vs. ShotStop Ballistics

We have no problem acknowledging US Armor as the most popular Level IIIA body armor worn by LEOs across the country. It’s affordable, lightweight, and protects against handgun caliber bullets. 

US Armor is a very reputable body armor company that’s been in business since the year I was born (1986). However, they’re not even close to our Duritium® Level III ICW in weight or durability. 

They can claim whatever, but a full-ceramic plate with an aramid (Kevlar) coating will not stand up to multiple hits from a rifle-caliber bullet like our Duritium® technology. 


US Armor Level III ICW 100 Series

Duritium® Level III ICW

Weight

6 lbs (10” x 12” SAPI)

2.6 (10” x 12” SAPI)

Thickness

0.6”

0.6”

Cut Options

  • Full
  • SAPI
  • Shooter’s
  • SAPI 
  • Full
  • Sprinter

Sizing

  • 5” x 7”
  • 6” x 6”
  • 6” x 8”
  • 7” x 8”
  • 8” x 10”
  • 10” x 12”
  • 5” x 8”
  • 7” x 9”
  • 8” x 10”
  • 10” x 12”

Warrenty

60 days for returns, very limited 2 year warranty

15 years!

Plate Curve

Multi-Curve

Multi-Curve

NIJ-Listed

Yes

Yes

Buoyancy 

Unknown

Yes

 

Why Choose ShotStop® Over US Armor

Would you rather wear 12 lbs of armor on top of your soft plate insert, or 5.2 lbs for a Duritium® plate set? I don’t see any reason ‌anyone would want to wear 6.8 more pounds than they’d have to. 

Although US Armor has many products that are NIJ-Listed, it’s near impossible to tell which one is active because they don’t offer the NIJ Letter of Compliance or an independent lab test. This may seem trivial to some, but are you willing to trust your life on a product that may or may not work as directed?

Our warranty is 5 times longer than US Armor because we prove our Level 3 rifle plates are more durable. There is no disregarding the importance of an extended warranty because it allows our customers to only worry about buying our Level III armor once every 15 years! 

Who Makes The Lightest Level III ICW Plates?

As you can see from the comparison tables above, no other company produces lighter, thinner, and more durable armor than ShotStop® Ballistics. To ‌have a hard armor plate readily available to place over your soft armor insert is the best way to ensure you’re ready for any situation you may get called to. 

LEOs don’t face rifle-caliber bullets very often, but over 85% of officers are wearing armor that will barely slow down a 7.62 x 51mm or 5.56 x 45mm bullet enough to prevent an exit wound. Every LEO in the world is eligible for a 15% discount on every piece of armor we have (more if ordered in bulk!). As our CEO Vall Iliev says, “We Protect The Protectors®”. 


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