Everything you need to know about armor plates

Armor plates are designed to save lives and this is why investing in the right plate is no small matter. However, it can be difficult knowing which of the many options is perfect for you or your department's protection needs. But, finding the perfect armor plate solution does not have to be a daunting task. With the help of the NIJ and other organizations, body armor plates have come a long way to in meeting today’s law enforcement requirements.

Here is what you need to know about the different armor plates:

Armor plate classification

National Institute of Justice (NIJ) rates armor plates into category three and four. These ratings are based on the extent of protection from bullets the plate is capable of providing. Type three plates are designed to stop rifle rounds. These plates are required to take three rounds to meet the required protection levels. Type four plates are designed to provide protection from armor-piercing bullets. To meet the required protection level, a single round is fired at the plate during testing, and if it goes through the plate then it fails.

Type three and type four plates are created differently. And this is where things get complicated. Here are the two common types of armor plates.

Ceramic armor plates

Plates that use ceramic plates to offer protection from bullets have been around for years. These plates come with different types of backing to help increase absorption while protecting the ceramic itself from breaking. The ceramic breaks the bullet while the plate catches the fragments with the Kevlar and the steel.

Advances in technology have resulted in stronger and lighter ceramic armor plates. The most common materials used in ceramic plates are lumina oxide, silicon carbide and boron carbide. Boron carbide is a very high-density yet significantly light ceramic plate. It can be used for producing type four plates that are capable of stopping armor-piercing rounds. However, due to its modest cost, boron carbide is the most common material used for making military armor plates.

Ceramic armor plates are popular because they work well. However, they do have some drawbacks with respect to their construction. For instance, these plates can only take a limited number of bullets because of the damage that happens when the plate is hit multiple times. Another drawback is that the ceramic in the plate can crack when hit or dropped in any way, such as when thrown into a cruiser trunk.

Polyethylene plates

Polyethylene plates have been around since the late 1980s. These plates are subjected to high-pressure treatment to increase their performance while decreasing their weight. Unlike ceramic plates, polyethylene plates slow bullets down by taking advantage of their pin. Because of how they work, polyethylene plates can stop multiple bullets. And because it is more resilient than ceramic, your polyethylene is not likely to be damaged when you drop it. Polyethylene armor plates do come with their downsides too. For instance, the technology is not yet available to commercially create type four armor plates made entirely of polyethylene. Also, polyethylene plates cost about 25% more than ceramic plates.

Finding the perfect armor plate for your protection is a crucial decision. Understanding the threat levels for which you need protection can help go through your available options. Focus your search for the best armor plates on protection levels, mobility, wearability and comfort.