“Use Extreme Care When Handling Ceramic Body Armor Plates”

This is from an actual disclaimer for a ceramic body armor manufacturer.

When you’re in the field, the last thing you want to hear is “use extreme care” related to your body armor plates. But this is exactly what the warnings are when it comes to ceramic body armor plates.

The following is part of an actual disclaimer from a ceramic body armor manufacturer/distributor:

Use extreme care when handling ceramic body armor plates or ceramic small arms protective inserts (SAPI). Although they can withstand the impact from a high velocity round, ceramic protection plates are breakable, and can be easily damaged or even shatter if dropped. Just a small chip or hairline crack invisible to the naked eye can affect the plate’s integrity and its ability to stop incoming rounds. It’s a good idea to have ceramic plates x-rayed at least once a year to check for unseen cracks.

Let’s break down this disclaimer piece by piece…(pun intended!)

 “Use Extreme Care When Handling Ceramic Body Armor Plates”

We’re talking about BODY ARMOR, right? At what point in your law enforcement or military activity are you using “extreme care?” Whether it’s being used in an active threat situation or just being tossed into the trunk of a squad car, the idea of “extreme care” seems like a complete disconnect with the world in which you live on a daily basis.

“Ceramic Protection Plates are Breakable, and Can Be Easily Damaged or Even Shatter If Dropped.”

Do you want your body armor to be “breakable?” We’re talking about an essential piece of equipment that is meant to save your life when in use; “breakable” is probably not the description you want to hear when it comes to your body armor.

“Just a small chip or hairline crack invisible to the naked eye can affect the plate’s integrity and its ability to stop incoming rounds.”

Picture a ceramic tea cup with a small chip or hairline crack in it. If you were holding it in your hand, you would give “extreme care” to that cup so it doesn’t crack or break any more than it already is. Now, granted, a ceramic body armor plate and a ceramic tea cup are NOT the same thing; but the mental picture should help to understand the issue here. That chip or crack - even a crack that’s “invisible to the naked eye” - creates a potentially weakened area of the body armor panel that may not be able to stop incoming rounds at the level it’s supposed to protect against.

“It’s a good idea to have ceramic plates x-rayed at least once a year to check for unseen cracks.”

Not only is this concerning overall, but the process of getting your body armor x-rayed once a year - whether you are an individual or part of a large department - can create two major issues: one is the actual cost of getting your ceramic body armor x-rayed every year, and the second is the time in which the body armor plate is out of service. No matter which is more of an issue for your particular situation, the fact that “unseen cracks” could exist in your body armor should be cause for concern.

What Is the Answer to These Issues with Ceramic Body Armor Plates?

Many law enforcement agencies are realizing that Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) panels, often called poly body armor plates, are the solution to address the many problems that ceramic plates present. Poly body armor is made of “plastic” - an ultra high molecular weight plastic - that is not only up to 50 percent lighter than ceramic, but also much more durable.

Duritium® polyethylene plates from ShotStop® can be dropped, thrown, stomped on, and run over with a truck, while still maintaining 100 percent integrity in their ability to stop the incoming rounds they have been tested against.

Poly body armor plates are also very strong when it comes to receiving multiple hits without penetration. Often times, when a ceramic plate is hit once, it immediately affects the integrity of the entire plate to receive any further hits.

In most cases, agencies choose ceramic body armor (despite its downfalls) due to its affordability relative to other the price of body armor made of polyethylene. However, with a standard warranty of only five years, a ceramic plate actually has a higher lifetime value than ShotStop’s Duritium 100 percent poly plates which include a 15-year warranty. So, even though the initial out of pocket investment may be higher for a Duritium panel, your agency will have to buy three new ceramic plates over the course of 15 years, whereas only one Duritium poly plate will last that whole time.

What Should You Do Now?

This article may have sparked some other questions for you. We’re here to help. Please reach out to us here or let us connect you with a dealer.

We also have a couple great resources that may help you:

  1. Download the FREE “Insider’s Guide to Body Armor Costs” to learn everything you need to know about body armor costs.

  2. If you are currently considering a body armor purchase for your agency, check out our Body Armor Free Trial Program.

Good luck out there...stay safe! And THANK YOU for your service