Steel vs. Ceramic : Infidel Body Armor, Bulletproof Vests and Plates Made in America, Free Shipping on Tactical Body Armor, Bullet Proof Vests, AR550 Steel and Hybrid Composite Plates

Body armour – New materials, new systems

This is a very timely review of body armour materials and systems since new test standards are currently being written, or reviewed, and new, innovative products released. Of greatest importance, however, is the recent evolution, and maturity, of the Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene fibres enabling a completely new style of system to evolve – a stackable system of Hard Armour Plates. The science of body armour materials is quickly reviewed with emphasis upon current understanding of relevant energy-absorbing mechanisms in fibres, fabrics, polymeric laminates and ceramics. The trend in on-going developments in ballistic fibres is then reviewed, analysed and future projections offered. Weaknesses in some of the ceramic grades are highlighted as is the value of using cladding materials to improve the robustness, and multi-strike performance, of Hard Armour Plates. Finally, with the drive for lighter, and therefore smaller, soft armour systems for military personnel the challenges for armour designers are reported, and the importance of the relative size of the Hard Armour Plate to the Soft Armour Insert is strongly emphasised.

NOTICE: This Level IV ceramic plate has been discontinued — Please see theNEW VERSION of our Level IV plates HERE!

AR500 Armor® Level IV Body Armor SAPI CUT — Curved 10″x12″ (Composite {amp}amp; Ceramic)

Are 30.06 APM2 (armor piercing) rounds a concern? AR500 Armor® level IV Body Armor is rated for up to and including just that threat! We are known for offering the most rugged and affordable body armor in the industry; and we’ve raised the bar again in terms of quality and value with our Level IV body armor solution. With a profile of .75″ thick, our level IV body armor features a thinner profile compared to what’s currently being offered on the market at 7.5lb’s per plate. Rated for a single 30.06 APM2 (7.62mm x 63mm 165gr Armor Piercing, Black Tip) round, and all lesser Level III threats, AR500 Armor® Level IV Body Armor provides protection against a higher threat level than our traditional Level III body armor.

Stand-Alone, our Level IV body armor does not require any additional backing or soft inserts to meet the threat level. The curved contour improves comfort and ergonomics, with a similar design to the contour of our Level III body armor. We utilize a durable single panel ceramic strike face to maintain the best ballistic properties for higher level threats, and a composite backing comparable to a traditional armor system that is similar to what is currently, standard issue in the military. Coated with our PAXCON protective coating in conjunction with our strike face, and spall {amp}amp; fragmentation containment technology, our Level IV body armor is industry leading. Fully sealed from the elements, our PAXCON coating creates a water tight seal which protects the inner armor components from liquids, chemicals, UV, sweat, and other harsh elements and is designed to be used as a front or back plate.

AR500 Armor® Level IV Body Armor Features:

  • Level IV rated for threats up to a 30.06 Armor Piercing round
  • 10″ x 12″ SAPI cut profile
  • Stand-Alone
  • Ergonomic curvature for improved comfort
  • Designed to be used as a front or back plate
  • Composite, Ceramic, and PAXCON construction
  • Thin .75″ profile
  • 7.5lb per plate
  • PAXCON coated, liquid, chemical, UV, and sweat resistant
  • Single panel ceramic strike face, composite backing
  • Works well with our 10″x12″ ASC Trauma Pad
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • 100% Made in the USA

FAQ: The How {amp}amp; Why of AR500 Armor® Level IV Body Armor

After years of development and research we were aiming for a more robust and rugged option than what is currently being offered. That said, with any ceramic/composite armor system, multiple rounds in a small vicinity will degredate the strike face reducing performance on subsequent shots on that section of the plate, unlike our Steel Armor. The strike face plays a critical role in causing the bullet to deform, and tumble, allowing the composite backing to catch and stop the round.

Since we did venture away from steel on this offering, we wanted to chime in on the «Why». The reason for this was weight, cost, {amp}amp; performance. When attempting to defeat 30.06 M2AP rounds, the required thickness of steel adds enough weight and cost to the point of ceramic becoming a viable and very effective solution (with current technology). Simply put, a steel level IV solution in 10″ x 12″ would weigh nearly 13lb’s per plate.

We feel we have one of the more rugged and durable level IV options available, for ceramic/composite construction. Designed to defeat a single round of 30.06 Black Tip M2AP, and any lesser rifle round per NIJ standards. We aim to over deliver on our armor, and with reasonable shot placement, have stopped multiple rounds of M2AP.

We want to make sure our views are clear as we foresee a few questions as why we ventured away from steel for our level IV armor solution. Our mission is simple. Put out the most reliable, high quality product we are capable of producing at a reasonable price. Anything less than that and we won’t even consider putting it into production.

Simply put, if 30.06 M2AP is not a concern, our Level III solution provides above average protection within the realm of level III threats.

AR500 Armor® Body Armor is made in the USA!

John S. is a guest writer who is concentrating on the subject of body armor. This is his second article on TFB, his first one being

For simplicity sake, I’m not going to go too in depth as it can be rather confusing. This also isn’t a blanket guide, different manufacturers use different blends of materials and can in turn produce plates with very different threat ratings. I’m not going to talk too much about the different composites and blends as there’s too many.

  • Ceramics.
    Often in the form of a composite blend, one of the most common Ceramics used in plates currently is Alumina Ceramic (Aluminum Oxide). Now often lots of Ceramic plates have a Dyneema/ Polyethylene or Kevlar blended back. This is mainly just for reducing blunt force or acting as a backer for the bullets.

Currently the US Military’s ESAPI plates are made of Boron Carbide (Type of Ceramic), which allows it to have a higher threat rating, at a lower weight. ESAPI is a military rating and generally you will not find civilian plates made of Boron Carbide to ESAPI specifications. The only civilian ESAPI I know of is made by and costs $460-640 per plate (depending on the size).
Generally, the pro’s of Ceramics are its weight they are generally lighter at around ~6.5-8 pounds, their ability to withstand AP threats and they do not produce dangerous spall when hit.
However the cons are Ceramic must not be regularly rough handled, I mentioned Ceramic is not like glass, but don’t toss your plates around or toss them on the ground. They are especially susceptible to damage when dropped on the edges.

Exception: As I mentioned before, not all armor is created equal.
RMA Armament produces Ceramic plates model #1189 that are not fragile and are rated up to 6 rounds of .30-06 M2-AP.

  • UHMWPE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) (Or Polyethylene or Dyneema)

For our purposes here, we are talking about PURE Poly plates, I will talk about these composites shortly.
This is a type of ballistic polymer, a type of molded resin. Therefore, it has the properties you would find in a polymer.
These plates are generally going to be the lightest and or thinnest level 3 plates available. However, that does not come without a cost.
A pure Polyethylene plate can be defeated by a single round of M193 or M855. It would pass through the plate quite literally like a hot knife through butter. (Think hot fast metal against plastic).
Heat and Cold can also be an enemy of Polyethylene plates. When exposed to extreme heat (think Texas summer in the trunk of a car) the plate can become soft and warp, which in turn decreases the ballistic effectiveness. When exposed to extreme cold (think winter in Maine) the plate can become brittle, which also decreases the ballistic effectiveness. (-15F to 150F)

Again, keep in mind this is not a blanket assessment, not all plates are created equal and not all manufacturers make the same plates.
Polyethylene composite plates are less susceptible to the weaknesses of pure Polyethylene. This again depends on the manufacturer and what kind of composite.
Its very important to look at the rounds that the manufacturer has tested outside of NIJ requirements when choosing a Lightweight Polyethylene plate.
Poly composite plates are also heavier, due to different materials such as ceramics or metals being added in.
When in doubt, email or call the manufacturer to make sure.

  • Steel armor (AR500, AR650, MIL-A 46100, etc)
    Steel armor, the cheapest and heaviest of them all. I personally have a strong dislike for steel armor, but I am here to provide facts. How you choose to spend your money is none of my concern. However, I will not be recommending any steel plates today.

    First off there are several types of steel armor, but the properties are going to be roughly the same. Its steel, even if you change the hardness or composition, the fruit isn’t going to fall far from the tree, the physics are similar.

The numbers after “AR”, whether it be 400, 500 or 650 is just denoting the hardness of that type of steel. As you know… harder steel may be brittle, and the other way around it may be soft.
MIL-A 46100 is a Mil Spec or “military grade” steel that was designed to be used on armored vehicles or to fortify structures.

Let’s start off with the pros of steel since it’ll be short.
1) Can be multi-hit capable. AR500 plates can take a beating, as traditionally they were used as shooting targets. They can be struck in the same place twice generally without issue.

2) Low-visibility/ concealment. Steel can be thin, yet stop rifle threat rounds, hence its usefulness in concealment scenarios. However, Ceramic/ Polyethylene technology has reached a point where steel is obsolete for this role.

Now with the cons,
1) Can be vulnerable to high velocity threats such as M193 or M855 fired at a high velocity. Mainly FMJ and steel core/ penetrator type ammunition.
(Example, AR500 Lvl 3){amp}amp;t=1s

2) Spalling is a major concern for all steel armor. Since steel is hard, when a bullet impacts the strike face, it will explode into shrapnel and fragmentation.
The spalling that is generated from bullets striking steel armor generally runs along the face of the plate. Which means fragmentation is likely to go into your chin, arms and legs/ groin if you are crouching.
Pretty much all steel armor is now sold with at least one build up coat of spall liner (Rhino, Line-X, etc). However, a single coating generally does very little for spalling and is best for one or two rounds.

3) Ricochets.
Ricochets are another concern when it comes to steel armor, if a round hits at an odd angle, it may travel along the plate and go into one of your arms or legs.
Due to the hardness of steel, they are more prone to ricochets than Ceramics.

4) Blunt force trauma/ energy transfer
Rifle rounds have a tremendous amount of energy and force behind it. Steel is a rigid and hard material, when a bullet strikes it, the energy will “pass through” the steel and into the chest of the wearer.
If the plate is struck at the right place, depending on how strong your bones are, it may break your sternum and puncture your heart.
A few rounds to the chest could even equal heart stoppage/ internal bleeding.
Ceramics work like a “net” where the ceramic breaks and catches the bullet, also dissipating some of the kinetic energy, though not all of it, it is less severe than steel.

5) Weight
This is an obvious one, a 10×12 Steel plate is 8.4 pounds with two buildup coats of spall liner. Then more with trauma padding (seriously shouldn’t wear them without).
Steel plates weigh as much as the heavier end of Ceramic plates, but has a level 3 rating and many disadvantages along with it.

How you choose what armor you require is up to you. Armed with this knowledge hopefully you can make an informed choice. I always urge you to do more research on your own.
Before choosing what armor is best suited for you, you should ask yourself these questions and be honest when doing so.

1) What is the REALISTIC threat you are facing? Do you really need the bulk and weight of AP protection if you’ll never face it?

2) What realistically do you need more? $400 in training? Or $400 for a set of plates “when it hits the fan”?

3) Is saving $200 more important than getting quality armor if you truly NEED it?

Choose a quality brand:

When it’s time to buy the armor, make sure to choose a reputable brand.
The following are some good brands to buy from and some of their choices.

1) Velocity Systems:
You cannot purchase directly from Velocity Systems unless you are MIL/LE/GOV.
-PSA Level 4 Standalone (10×12 Swimmer) $304 Each (US Elite) or $320 (AT Armor)
2) AT Armor:
-FFS4 Level IV Standalone Special Threat Tested (SAPI Cut Sm-XL, Shooters cut 10×12) $185 Each
-STOP Plate (See website for rating) (SAPI Cut Sm-XL, Shooters cut 10×12) $430 Each
3) Hoplite Armor:
-Level IV 10×12 Single Curve Swimmer Plate $150 Each
(Hoplite makes great rifle threat rated shoulder plates too, one of a kind)
4) RMA Armament:
-Model #1155 (10×12 Single Curve SAPI Cut Level IV Standalone) $135 Each
-Model #1189 (10×12 Single Curve SAPI Cut Level IV Standalone) $300 Each
(Non-Fragile and multi-hit .30-06 M2-AP
5) Highcom Security:
-Guardian 4SAS7 (Level IV Standalone, Sizes vary from XS-XL, side plates, SAPI cut, Swimmers cut, Square, etc) $160-230 Each (Chest) $130 (Side).

6) Ceradyne:
The manufacturer of the current US Army issued ESAPI plates. Most of their armor is not available for purchase to the general public but much of it is legal to own if you find it.


  1. National Institute of Justice 0101.06 Standard:
    -pg. 4 (Level III/ IV testing parameters)
    -pg. 36 (Drop testing)
    -pg. 49 (Back-face deformation)
  1. MIL-A 46100 D Standard:
    -pg. 22 (MIL-A 46100 D .30 cal testing @30 degrees)
  1. SAPI/ ESAPI approximate ratings:

Polyethylene Plates weakness against AP/ Heat {amp}amp; Cold

Further Reading/ information:

If you’re interested in more of this, here is some more reading to do and some videos.

  1. NIJ 0101.06 Standard (One of the sources for this article)

Shooting test for a Level IV plate: (Skip to 2:10)

I’m an armor dealer, I sell armor to police, preppers, etc. I don’t sell steel. Steel is not stronger, it is much heavier, and wears out your plate carrier much faster. As mentioned it’s very dense, armor made out of polyethylene on the other hand floats, combine that with boron carbide, the third hardest substance known to man, and you can create something that will reliably stop APM2 rounds and weighs a little over 5 pounds. Steel has other weaknesses, for example rounds moving above 3200fps will constantly punch through a level III plate, and even if the round is stopped, the round will…

Law enforcement personnel, military combat units or those
who are interested in optimal protection during a crisis already know the
answer to one question about body armor.

Q: Is body armor
essential for critical protection during life-or-death situations?

A: Absolutely,
positively, 100% yes.

But there’s another question that many of our customers
have, and it’s not so cut and dry.

Q: Which type is
best, ceramic armor or steel armor?

A: They’re both
great options, depending on what you’re looking for in body armor.

Spartan Armor Systems
offers an extensive variety of both body armor types, so we thought it would be
a good idea to compare and contrast each kind of armor.

Depending on your particular need or application, you may
prefer steel body armor over ceramic armor, or vice versa. Some people like the
advantages that both types of armor provide, and use both steel and ceramic in
tandem for comprehensive threat protection.

Let’s review some key differences between ceramic and steel
body armor.

Ceramic or Steel? Selecting
Your Ideal Armor

Coke vs Pepsi. Ford vs Chevy. Apple vs Android. Some brand
and product debates are seemingly timeless. For anyone that wears armor, here’s
another one: Steel body armor vs ceramic body armor.

Your unique protection requirements dictate which type of
armor is best for you.

Protection {amp}amp; Durability: Steel armor has a reputation as the
most durable body armor available. Steel plates are one of the most affordable
(more on that in a moment) and widely-used body armor configurations in the
world. But ceramic body armor also offers impressive protection, thanks to
ultra-durable attributes. While steel armor technically is a stronger material
than ceramic, there are certain types of bullets (particularly AR-15 rounds)
that impact steel armor more than ceramic. One drawback to ceramic armor is
that it cannot handle precision rounds in the same place. There are specific
grades of ammunition that cause more damage to ceramic plates than steel
plates; for example, rounds over 7 mm can damage 3-4 square inches of surface
area on ceramic plates. Bottom line: Both types of armor are recommended for
personal protection.

Thickness {amp}amp; Weight: Ceramic offers a “wearability” advantage
over steel armor plates, simply because they’re lighter. However, the decreased
weight comes with a price – ceramic body armor is typically thicker than steel
plates, which means they may not be as comfortable for certain applications.
Any armor’s thickness and weight is critical for overall comfort. If you have
armor that’s extremely lightweight, you don’t want too much thickness limiting
movement. This part of the ceramic vs. steel armor debate comes down to personal
preference; both ceramic
and steel armor
strike a balance between optimal threat protection and exceptional comfort.

Price point: Steel armor is more affordable than ceramic armor,
which makes it a great entry-level armor type. Ceramic armor technology
continues to advance with better threat protection characteristics, which is
reflected in a more expensive configuration. Keep in mind that the higher price
of ceramic body armor offers key advantages, including a lightweight yet
durable profile. Price is just one attribute to consider when comparing ceramic
and steel body armor, and Spartan Armor Systems offers exceptional value on all
of our armor packages.

Spartan Armor
Systems: Your Source for Ceramic {amp}amp;
Steel Body Armor

Spartan Armor Systems carries an outstanding assortment of
both ceramic and steel body armor configurations and packages for a wide range
of personal protection needs.

Our steel core
body armor
includes Level III AR650 Armaply™ Spartan Armor, Level
III AR550 Spartan Armor, Spartan™ Omega™ AR500 Body Armor Level III Armor and
Steel Core Backpack Armor.

If you’re interested in our ceramic
body armor
, browse our entire selection. We offer Level IIIA Spartan
Armor, Level III Spartan Armor, Level III Spartan Armor, Level IV Spartan
Armor and Level IIIA Backpack Armor.

All of our steel body armor and ceramic body armor
selections are made for optimal protection, premium comfort and exceptional

Thanks for considering Spartan Armor Systems for your
complete personal protection requirements. If you have any questions about our
personal armor systems, give us a call at (520) 396-3335, or send
us a message on our contact page
. We look forward to hearing from

Ceramic is generally lighter than steel, but this is not always true; I have seen ceramic plates weigh over 9lb.  Ceramic is molded and is easily formed into very ergonomic shapes, but this is not always true; some are just plain flat. Most Level III Ceramic plates are designed to take 6 hits; our level III and level IV ceramics are multi-hit plates.  We’ve shot the Level IV 17 times with a .308 without a failure.  Ceramic  usually costs much more than steel, but it might be worth it depending on if you value weight savings over money.  Ceramic is designed to break.  Small tiles in some ceramic plates explode when impacted by bullets, but a second hit in the same spot is deadly.  All of the ceramic we sell are monolithic, meaning they are a single large piece of formed ceramic; these perform much better than the tile-style plates.  Be sure to ask before you buy.  Most tile-plates are made in china (BAD).

Looking for ar500 or ar550 steel for sale? Our steel AR550 plates have an instant edge over ceramic plates as far as durability goes– they are coated with a special anti-spall/shrapnel coating which results in minimum spalling and also reduces bullet fragmentation. Plus, they are more comfortable than flat plates since they are made with a 20 degree bend to fit most torsos. Take a look at the ar550 steel for sale on our website now. Click HERE

Steel vs. Ceramic : Infidel Body Armor, Bulletproof Vests and Plates Made in America, Free Shipping on Tactical Body Armor, Bullet Proof Vests, AR550 Steel and Hybrid Composite Plates

(This Chinese Level IV ceramic plate was hit with only 4 FMJ .308 rounds.  The 3rd round penetrated.)  Do not buy any plates from China regardless of what the test spec says.  We have tested a dozen chinese plates and 100% of them have failed.

Steel plates are generally heavier than ceramic, but this is not always true, ours weighs ~7.5lbs (plus 1.5lb for the coating).  Our hardened AR550 steel is cold rolled, laser cut, and then bent to a 20 degree bend that fits most torsos.  Infidel Body Armor can take more than 100 hits from common military rounds.  Our steel armor is very economical and made in the USA.  Our ceramic plates are also made in the USA. 

Steel vs. Ceramic : Infidel Body Armor, Bulletproof Vests and Plates Made in America, Free Shipping on Tactical Body Armor, Bullet Proof Vests, AR550 Steel and Hybrid Composite Plates

The downfall of most steel body armor is that when a bullet strikes it, the bullet fragments.  This causes hundreds of projectiles to explode though the air, possibly injuring the wearer and those around him.  HOWEVER, Infidel Body Armor is coated with an Anti-Spall Coating that minimizes spalling and bullet fragmentation.  Check out theslow motion video here for proof.

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