What Are the Different Types of Body Armor? | Steel, Ceramic, and Polyethylene vs. Duritium® Body Armor

What Are the Different Types of Body Armor? | Steel, Ceramic, and Polyethylene vs. Duritium® Body Armor
One of the main questions we get from potential customers is, "what is our armor made of?”
Before we get into what ShotStop® uses to produce the best ballistic armor in the world, we want to educate everyone on the different materials used to make armor.
When our soldiers started wearing body armor, the only real option was a heavy steel plate.
Luckily, today there are many more options, made from ceramic, steel, polyethylene, and Kevlar.  
When choosing steel armor, I personally wouldn't buy anything that didn't say Mil-Spec A46100.
Although steel is commercially graded between 100-900, Mil-Spec steel is tested against ballistic threats.  


AR500 steel is hardened steel, specifically designed to be abrasion-resistant.
It's used in snowplows, mining machinery, and firearm target creations for the range.
This steel is perfect for snowplows and mining machinery because it can withstand the constant abrasion of hitting other metals and hardened surfaces.
However, AR500 steel is not certified through the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) for ballistic armor.
AR500 will most likely stop all handgun bullets but is not guaranteed to stop supersonic rifle caliber bullets.  


 According to MIL-DTL-46100E, the A46100 steel is tested and rated to defeat all small arms and shrapnel from explosions.

A46100 steel is the same steel our military uses in constructing armor plating for vehicles and body armor.

The A46100 steel is the only steel that is rated to defeat a bullet traveling faster than 3,200 feet per second (fps). 



  • Steel doesn’t have to be taken care of as well as ceramic, polyethylene, or Kevlar. Steel can take a beating without degrading the armor too fast.

  • Steel is the cheapest of any armor material. 

  • Steel can take multiple hits without destroying the armor and leaving you vulnerable. 

  • Steel can be used more discreetly than most Kevlar and ceramic plates.


  • Since steel is rigid and hard, the energy of a bullet traveling 3,300 fps will pass through the plate and into your chest. Steel will save your life from the penetration, but you'll most likely break ribs, sternum, and even collapse a lung if hit in the right spot.

  • Steel is harder to conform to your body, so it’s much more uncomfortable than any other armor.

  • Steel is the heaviest of all the armor materials used. Generally, it’s about 10.2 lbs. per square foot. 

  • Armor-piercing bullets are specifically designed to defeat steel armor. 

  • Steel armor absorbs the energy from the bullet and then redirects its trajectory. So, if you're shot, you'll feel the force, but it won't penetrate your flesh. If hit from the side, a bullet can bounce off the steel and ricochet into your arm, leg, or other soft tissue.

Ceramic Body Armor

Ceramic is an inorganic, non-metallic material, customarily made from nitride or carbide.

It's been used in body armor since around the Vietnam Conflict for its lightweight properties.

With the ever-changing technologies out today, many soldiers have worn both steel and ceramic body armor plates.

For example, during my 1st tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom (2006), I wore steel plates.

On my second tour, I wore ceramic plates. Modern ceramic armor is generally made from a composite that features boron carbide. 


Standard ceramic composite material can be very brittle. However, Boron Carbide is one of the strongest materials on earth, behind the pure diamond.

Our military uses it in everything from tank armor to ballistic shields and body armor. It's incredibly rigid and hard but is still able to absorb and deflect energy.   



  • Lightweight - ceramic is often about 5-6 lbs. per square foot versus the 10.2 for steel.

  • Ceramic is better at absorbing and dispersing energy than steel. This will result in less broken ribs, broken sternum, and collapsed lungs.

  • Ceramic does better against supersonic armor-piercing bullets than steel. 

  • You can add Kevlar to ceramic to reduce the force of a bullet. This customization gives ceramic plates better protection.


  • Ceramic plates are often thicker and reduce the soldier’s mobility.

  • Ceramic plates can’t handle multiple rounds in the same area. Once a ceramic plate is hit, it normally shatters upon impact. It’s great at stopping 1-3 rounds, but steel is better at stopping multiple bullets.

  • Ceramic plates are much more expensive than steel plates.

  • Ceramic plates need more care and maintenance than steel. Ceramic will also only last about 5-7 years, versus 15-20 for steel.

Polyethylene Armor

 Polyethylene is the most common type of plastic used in the world today.

Body armor is generally made from a specific kind of polyethylene, called Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE).

The UHMWPE is rated as the most durable thermoplastic produced. It's known to have excellent chemical inertness, self-lubricity, and impact resistance.

It's also proven to be 15 times more abrasion-resistant than carbon steel.



  • UHMWPE is the lightest body armor on this list (so far).

  • Has the highest chemical inertness of any of the armors listed above. This means that if chemicals spill or are thrown on your armor, it will not react to the chemical. This helps keep the wearer safe from chemical reactions on their body.

  •  UHMWPE has phenomenal self-lubricity. This means the armor reduces friction with anything it touches. This allows the armor to move freely and last longer than ceramic and steel.

  • It can stop multiple bullets in the same place without cracking, deflecting, or reducing its effectiveness.


  • UHMWPE is more expensive than ceramic and steel.


Duritium® Armor

Duritium® is our patented technology that combines UHMWPE with composite materials for the lightest, thinnest, and most durable body armor.

Duritium® includes polymer covering sheets that are 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 the armor's integrity. 

ShotStop Armor plate .jpg


Duritium® is better than everyone else for many reasons, such as it’s lighter, stronger, and has the best warranty out of any other company.

There is also a standard test that all armor companies have to go through, called the V50 Report.

Our Duritium® technology is the only company with an inconclusive rating from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

There was no average bullet velocity that broke through the armor plate.

This means no hand-fired gun’s bullet will consistently pass through Duritium®. No other armor company can make that claim. 


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 the 7.62x63m M2 bullet fired from a Dragunov sniper rifle. 


 When you're spending thousands of dollars on personal protective equipment (PPE), the last thing you want to worry about is how long it will last. ShotStop® guarantees an unprecedented 15-year warranty for all Level III armor.

The industry standard is a 5-7-year warranty. We also offer a 10-year warranty for our Level IV body armor. The industry standard is 5 years for this level of protection.  


Whether you're wearing steel, ceramic, plastic, or a combination, this blog should have given you a better understanding of each.

If you wear body armor daily or for months at a time during a deployment, comfort, and mobility matter.

There is no armor in the world today that compares with the comfort, durability, and mobility that Duritium® displays. Give us a call at 800-986-0795 to set up a consultation.

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  • Right off the bat the dimensions of any round firing through the Dragunov will be 7.62×54R mm, NOT 7.62×63 mm. You wore steel plates in Iraq, 2006? Bullsnot, prove it. No the chemical inertness of UHMWPE will prevent the armor from losing effectiveness. The reality is that premier ballistic protection can only be achieved by utilizing at least 4 mm of Boron Carbide backed with at least 60 layers of Honeywell Gold shield. 6mm backed by 80 layers will give a consistent level 4 performance. It is not that heavy or bulky; I own a full set of such armor including a self-made helmet rig. This is the armor of the future for multiple reasons.

    Chucker Yuditsky on

  • I understand you tout a 15 year warranty. How long is the armor serviceable? While it is unlikely I would pass it down to my son, would I at least have the option?

    J leach on

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