Top 10 Questions You Should Ask Before You Buy Any Body Armor

Does the plate stop M855 and all lesser threats?

The M855, or Greentip as it is commonly known, is a common steel core 5.56 round that can defeat standard Level III plates that do not have special threat ratings. While “special threats” are not outlined in the NIJ standard, they are important provided the buyer understand the specifics ratings applied.

By what NIJ standard is the plate tested and / or certified?

There are variations in testing standards. The .05 ballistic solution is not tested to the same stringent standards as the .06 requirement. Depending on the application, this could be vital information which could mean the difference between life and death.

What specific testing standards apply to the plate?

Special threat ratings are an important aspect to any plate as NIJ standards do not cover the wide range of exotic ammunition available in the marketplace. For example, an NIJ Level III plate will stop 5.56, 7.62x39 and .308 rounds, but will not stop the steel core variants of the same ammunition.

By the same token, a Level IV plate can stop a wide variety of armor piercing ammunition, but the increase in weight often makes the use of Level IV plates somewhat disadvantageous.

However, a Level III+, or special threat plate, is designed to stop rounds that Level III plates cant, or that are not significant enough to warrant Level IV. The key is to understand the test data, ensuring that no shortcuts have been taken by the manufacturer and that no misinformation is presented in the data provided. In short, you need to trust your vendor and the manufacturers they partner with.

What materials are used in the plate and where are they sourced?

While most manufacturers will not publicly state the specific material blend used in various proprietary designs, there are some general materials that reputable manufacturers will proudly market such as Alumina Ceramic and UHMWPE. Some vendors are sourcing materials from China which is, in our opinion, highly concerning. All our materials are sourced by top providers in the United States.

How are the plates made?

Armor plates are made in one of two ways; high pressure molds and low pressure ovens. As a general rule, high pressure plates, those formed under significantly higher pressures than low pressure plates, results in a higher quality product and are typically made from higher quality materials.

Who makes the plate?

The manufacturer of a plate can be as important as what materials are used. Hoplite Armor has partnered with LTC, Leading Technology Composites, the world's largest and most respected armor manufacturer in order to ensure the highest quality standards.

Do the plates have neutral buoyancy?

High pressure plates up to Level III+ made with high end materials tend to be neutrally buoyant to some degree. This can be an easy method for determining a plates construction without being forced to dissect it.

What are the specific sizes?

Vague terms like Small or Extra Large can vary from one manufacturer to another and may have broad tolerance ranges. Sizing is important, especially when pairing plates with carriers from different suppliers. If possible, it is recommended that plates be purchased by the same manufacturer with carriers designed to fit a specific plate.

What are the specific weights of each plate?

Weight is an important factor but its true significance can only be determined by a careful analysis of your specific needs and then determining the best plate to meet those needs.

What is the cost?

Cost is an important factor, but in the world of personal protection the most important question is quality. Does the plate do its job and how well?