Body armour plates
Body armour has been around since the dawn of combat – from the rhinoceros-leather armour of Ancient China, to the bronze cuirass worn by the Greeks, to the heavy chain-mail suits donned by medieval soldiers. As weaponry has changed over the years, body armour has evolved in its technology, requirements and the situations it is used in.
Whereas a 25 kg suit of armour used to be the gold-standard for knights facing swords in medieval battles, today’s body armour must be lightweight, comfortable, easy to move around in and able to withstand high-velocity ballistic threats. So, what exactly are body armour plates and where can you buy them?
What is a bulletproof vest plate?
Modern body armour is most familiar to us as a ‘bulletproof vest’. Each vest is fortified with armour plates – hard and soft, different shapes, offering varying levels of protection. Bear in mind that a bulletproof vest is not the only place where body armour plates are used – they are also incorporated into bulletproof backpacks, which are a great alternative for civilians who cannot wear an armoured vest in everyday life.
Who can wear ballistic plates?
Bulletproof plates are suitable for all sorts of situations – a private citizen wanting to protect themselves from civil unrest, a police officer needing tactical defence gear, or a soldier in a war zone.
What do you need to consider when buying body armour plates?
The armour cut of the bulletproof plate
The ‘armour cut’ means the shape of the plate. There are four main types available and any level of body armour can be fabricated in the following cuts. The armour cut is sometimes overlooked but is a vital consideration, as different cuts determine your freedom of movement and protection while wearing the armour.
- Full Cut: these square or rectangular plates provide the largest surface area of protection. They are typically used on the back and sides of a bulletproof vest and as inserts for bulletproof backpacks.
- Shooter’s Cut: the most common armour shape, with 45-degree corners cut from the top of the rectangle to allow the arms and shoulders to move more freely when using a weapon. They are usually worn at the front of a bulletproof vest.
- Swimmer’s Cut: with even larger cuts at the top and bottom corners than the Shooter’s Cut, this kind of plate allows the wearer the widest range of arm and leg movement, but compromises on coverage.
- Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI): these plates are specially designed by the U.S. military, who have employed the Enhanced SAPI program (E/SAPI) since 2005. They have 45-degree top corners and rounded bottom corners, which can sometimes be uncomfortable and limiting when military personnel have to regularly shoulder a weapon or crouch down.
Protection levels of ballistic plates
There are two main forms of body armour – hard and soft – which are manufactured from materials like Kevlar, polyethylene, ceramic, steel or titanium. Each has a different weight and provides varying protection levels from Level IIA – Level IV (a classification system developed by the National Institute of Justice to determine the protection armour plates provide against certain ballistic threats). You can learn about the NIJ ballistic protection classifications in our detailed guide.
The type of ballistic plates you buy should depend on your reasons for wearing them: a soldier in the warzone wears a Level III/Level IV bulletproof vest plate to defend them from high-calibre rifle ammunition; whereas bulletproof backpacks for civilians are typically fortified with Level IIIA soft armoured plates designed to withstand smaller-calibre bullets.
Where to buy body armour plates
If you’re looking for body armour plates for sale, then browse Battlesteel’s range. From lightweight and discreet Level IIIA armour for bulletproof backpacks, to Shooter’s Cut Level IV hard armoured plates in different sizes, we have been providing top-quality body armour to citizens, police officers and military personnel since 2015.