The good and the bad: Ballistic hard armor plates

Hard armor plates, body armor plates, ballistic plates. Hard armor plates have many names, and it can be a jungle to manage to see the difference between a good and bad plate, when looking at your next hard protective inserts.

The body armor industry is as many others not only about saving lifes, but also building a profitable business. This makes many people choose the wrong decision either because they do not know better or simply because they want to earn as much as possible.

This guide will give you some extra knowledge about hard armor plates, and hopefully it can assist you to make the right decision when buying your next pair of ballistic plates.

Through my years in the industry I have seen a lot of different hard armor solutions, and some of them are quite dangerous and people with no knowledge about ballistic hard armor plates.

For plates made in pure polyethylene it can be difficult to spot whether it is a good or bad plate, and this would require a test report from the manufacturer. Then you can see whether it lives up to the ballistic standard mentioned or not. 

Ballistic standards for hard plates

The most common standard and most known standard for hard armor plates is the American NIJ standard 0101.04 & 0101.06, as well as the German VPAM standard which is used often in Europe.

*Vpam APR 2006

Besides being able to stop the ballistic threats mentioned in both the NIJ and VPAM standard, it is also required to endure some mechanical threats as being dropped, exposed to water and temperature changes.

By exposing the plate to water, drop and temperature changes,the structure of the material composition needs to be different, as these threats can be quite difficult to build into the plate structure. Furthermore it also costs extra money, which makes some skip these parts.

All the plates from PGD is made with extra anti drop foam against drops as well as water resistant and special coated linings to make the plate resistant against suddenly temperature changes or liquids.

When not adding these materials, you can probably save around 30% in manufacturing cost, making it more low cost and competitive.

Ceramic face with foam edge

For ballistic hard armor plates made with a ceramic face, it is often seen that the ceramic face is smaller than the plate itself.

If a standard plate is 300×250 mm, the active protective area would be 250×200 mm, and the missing 50×50 cm is filled with foam. This means that only ⅔ of the plate is offering ballistic protection as 2,5 cm around the edge is foam, rubber or similar hard material to make it look like the real.

Many would state that this is protective foam to protect the plate from drops.

This picture shows the difference between a 3 cm foam edge (left picture) and edge-to-edge ceramic (right picture).
  • These plates are often very cheap and light
  • The company behind the plate is often a private label or a unknown brand.

The ceramic face can be made in different ceramics. The most commonly used is Aluminum Oxide (AL203) and Silicon carbide (SIC).

  • The AL203 ceramic is a very strong and durable ceramic which is heavier yet very economical making this a popular ceramic for the cheaper plates.
  • Our Silicon Carbide is used is around 30% more expensive than AL203. Silicon carbide is lighter

Depending on the solutions chosen, some are stronger against multihits (The small hexagon shaped SIC pieces) vs. the monolithic SIC ceramic, which is more stable against extreme temperature changes.

Different types of Ceramic for ballistic hard armor plates

Back face signature

With and without anti-trauma layer

Please note that some manufacturers do not test the M80, but instead they test the AK47 and call it a NIJ III+ plate. The AK47 has less Back face deformation, and is easier to pass than the M80 in some cases.

If the standard says that the M80 is to be tested, then the manufacture need to show you proof of this. In some cases, the manufacture only test the AK47 and SS109, as the deformation on these bullet types will be significally smaller than the 7.62×51 NATO (M80)

  • Test reports only showing tests of the AK47, SS109 and NOT the M80 is probably not living up to the back face requirement which is below 44 mm according to NIJ 0101.04 and NIJ 0101.06

To reduce the back face signature, special traumaliners are used to reduce the kinetic energy of the bullet. These back face traumaliners can be expensive, and require some technical experience to add in the plate structure.

You can read more about our ballistic plates here.

Any questions please feel free to comment below, or e-mail me at Jonas@protectiongroup.dk

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