Tactical Plate Carrier Buildout: Understanding Bulletproof Plates

Tactical Plate Carrier Buildout: Understanding Bulletproof Plates

The tragedies happening throughout our county due to mass shootings are hard to ignore. The reality of it is, we face a real threat to the pure evil out there that cause these mass shootings. Due to these threats, it is important to understand ballistic gear better. In a previous blog post, we took a deep dive into what to consider when buying a plate carrier vest. In this post, we will discuss the different ballistic plate options out there and their uses as well as ratings. 


Understanding NIJ Levels of Protection

The first thing one should do when considering a ballistic plate or vest is understand the rating given to it. The national standard to understanding what a piece of body armor can protect against is rated by the NIJ. The five primary ratings are Level II, Level IIIA, Level III, Level III+ and Level IV. Note, that the higher the rating typically means the heavier the plate, although ceramic plates tend to be lighter than a similarly rated steel plate, weight is still a factor. 

Level II rated plates give basic protection will stopping basic handgun bullets (9mm FMJ & 40 S&W). Level II body armor is very light and typically flexible an doffers blunt force protection up to a .357 Magnum JSP. Most plates and vests are typically Level IIIA, which in addition to the 9mm & 40 S&W rounds it also offers protection against .44 MAG and .357 MAG. IIIA rated armor is still concealable but also tends to weight more depending on the vest or plates. 

As we get to level III armor, users can expect protection from all handguns, as well shotgun rounds and  5.56 and 7.62 rifle rounds. This kind of armor is typically a hard plate and not a concealable option. Just above Level III is Level III+ Body armor. These plates protect against everything the other armored plates protect from, in addition to extra threats of "green tip" ammo. Lastly, Level IV Ceramic plates is the highest basic level. It can stop all armor piercing rifle rounds in addition to others. 



Another factor to consider is the shape of your body armor. Most level III and up body armor is made with a curvature to prevent fracturing and offer a more focused protection of vitals. Typical plate size is 10" x 12" allowing them to slide easily in plate carriers or inside slots of ready to go level IIIA Vests. There are manufacturers out there that also make side plates for plate carriers. In addition, there a Level IIIA Bulletproof Plates that go against the grain with sizing of 8" x 10", 10" x 13" and 11" x 14". These plates are typically known as backpack inserts or concealable plates. They are soft and flexible for both vests or backpack use. These are a great option for basic protection and can fit in concealed carry shirts or in the computer pocket of backpacks. Lastly, 6" x 8" side armor plates are ideal for plate carrier vests that allow for side inserts. 


When it comes to your protection and safety it is always best to have it and not need it, rather than need it and not have it. Before purchasing ballistic plates though, one should have a plan of use in mind. Whether it's for a plate carrier vest, a concealable vest or as a backpack insert. Owning a ballistic plate can be the difference between life and death and is especially wise in today's day in age to have amongst your possessions. 






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