Body Armor Test – Part 1

Every time I get around other like-minded folks the topic of firearms always comes up. What do you have? What do you recommend? What is the minimum number of magazines to have? What do you consider to be a good minimum amount of ammo to put back? Ak or AR? 9mm or 40S&W or 45ACP? It goes on and on. You know a question I have never been asked?

“Hey, what kind of armor do you have?”

Nope – never been asked. The reality is preppers spend a ton of money on guns and ammo preparing for possible defensive situations and most preppers don’t consider body armor. Maybe the reason is all the time spent at the range shooting and hitting targets that don’t shoot back. Maybe it’s denial. Maybe spending a few hundred dollars on a hunk of metal or ceramic just isn’t as “cool” as a new gun. The reality is if a firefight happens and triggers are getting pulled rounds will go in both directions. Body armor just might save a life.

I have been slowly accumulating body armor vests and plates over the past few years. A couple months ago I contacted ModernSurvivalOnline sponsor to get me a steel plate. Although not something they normally carry they we able to source a plate for me.


Levels of Protection

To summarize there are different levels of protection provided by body armor. These are generally categorized by a specific “Level”.  The chart below shows the different levels of protection and corresponding ammunition that specific level protects against. The higher the level the higher the level of protection.

The plate provided by Safeguard Armor is rated Level III.


NIJ Ballistic Chart


How Plates Are Carried

Plates are carried in plate carriers. These are vests provide a “pocket” on the front/back, and sometimes on the sides which plates are placed in. The plates ride in the carrier and cover vital areas.


Rourke’s Condor Modular Operator Plate Carrier – his current setup


Testing and Protection Demonstration

This initial testing included shooting a variety of calibers I had on hand. Part 2 will include additional calibers which should fit within the plates Level III rating.

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Level III plate ready for punishment.


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A couple shots of 115-gr FMJ 9mm had very little effect on the plate other than paint removal.


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Standard 55-gr .223 Remington  – nothing more than paint removal.


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This photo shows both the 9mm and .223 Remington hits.


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The Winchester BRI Sabot Slug fires a .50 caliber hour-glass 437 grain slug at around 1375 fps. Say you want a .50 caliber? Throw a Sabot Slug in your 12 gauge and you have one.


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The 12 gauge Sabot Slug hits with tremendous power – but still no damage to the plate.


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Here is a close up of the Winchester BRI 12 gauge sabot slug’s impact.


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After this initial testing the back of the plate shows no deformity or damage at all.


In a few weeks I will be back out on the range punishing this plate with some additional calibers – including those that should push its limit.

I want to give a “shout out” to Safeguard Armor for sourcing this plate. If you are interested in body armor they carry a huge variety and are one of the industry leaders. As a sponsor of this website they help support me so I can keep being here for you.

Stay tuned for Part 2.



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10 thoughts on “Body Armor Test – Part 1”

  1. Rourke,

    Everyone who has seen the elephant knows the value of body armor – and also the energy sapping weight of plates. I travel with a plate carrier in the truck lock box and hope I will never have to don it again. The wife and I have other plate carriers in the residence. It has been mentioned before and worth mentioning again, that a ballistic helmet is likewise very important. Anyone with body armor should have a quality helmet. We use MICH with the MSA Sordin amplified hearing protectors coupled to our H/Ts. My goal is to never show a Tango more than a brief glance of one scared eyeball, but often that is hard without exposing the brain case. I think that if I had to choose between a helmet or plate carrier, I would take the helmet. The helmet makes optimal use of the PVS-14 monocular NVG as well (never liked those complex head webs for NVG). Again like plates, there are modern composite helmets such as the MICH so no one should rattle around with a heavy metal pot. My preference order is helmet, goggle style eye protection, Sordin amplified hearing protection, NVG monocular on a flip up helmet mount, and then plate carrier in that order. A chest rig to carry magazines, IFAK and the like is a cheap intermediate to the plate carrier.

    I suspect most wear plates for protection against main battle rifle rounds (any of the many 7.62s including the venerable .30-’06). The plate should withstand many hits from the 7.62s. Spaulding (the process of splitting off pieces of bullet and plate) is controlled by special (and usually heavy) additional coats of anti-ablative material on the plate. Anyone tolerating the additional weight of a plate should use plates coated with anti-ablative material. Does no good to protect the heart if a chunk of bullet or plate penetrates far from under the chin. I also like plates with a slightly deeper corner cut on the rifle butt side but many learn to shoot with the butt partially on a plate.

    I look forward to the second part of this valuable series and hope your readers take this topic to heart.


  2. Interesting topic. I agree that at least for myself, it’s an neglected area of preparation. Would love to see more on the subject and options.

    • Steveweiser: My son was making carriers for a company that made and sold these plates, when he was done, they let him have the plate, 3/16″ AR500. I shot it with everything I own, up to and including WW2 30-06 Black Tip. Ranges from 100 down to 25 yards, and the only effect was to “smear” the face of the plate! This stuff is tough! I used it as a hanging target for awhile, then brought it in and put it in a carrier! Good to have!

  3. I concur with PR. I purchased Mich 2000 first then plates later. I did however however already had a Level II armor for Internal House Security, In a home invasion I do anticipate the Perp slash Tango coming into my house with a 30-06. have a pair of shooting googles on the helmet, you would surprised how debris flies around during a shoot out inside IMO. My plate carrier is carried in my vehicle in a response bag. for the house I keep my response gear resting on a equipment tree in my closet floor behind the door but in front of clothes, with the helmet sitting on top.

  4. Rourke: As a retired deputy, there was a time when I had a really vested interest in body armor. My brother and I were the first cops in our area to wear soft armor back in 1977 or so. Still remember sending three post dated checks to Davis so we could get our vests. As I recall, there was only a single type of vest available, no threat level. They came with sample test panels and we put them through their paces. 22 up t and including 44 mag. There was one singular and spectacular failure: A colleague was given some 9mm “sub machine gun” ammo, Bulgarian manufacture. He said it was pretty hot and he was being courteous. I took my test sample, taped it to a catalog and loaded my model 39 and touched off. That ammo burned through the sample like a hot ice pick, through the catalog and into the stump I was using as a backer. It didn’t even pull the threads. I shot two or three times, the sample WAS NOT destroyed. I’m certain that a hard plate would have stopped the slugs, but not everyone wears a hard plate/chicken plate/trauma plate, and with the availability of surplus ammo on the market, this is something to consider, Plus, I have been told that the FN 5.7 will go through soft armor like a needle. All things to be considered when selecting armor.

    • Good info grayfox. I had not heard about the 5.7 and that may be correct. Whether soft armor or plate they won’t stop everything and certainly won’t prevent injury. In the right situation it would be good to have.

      Appreciate it.

  5. I have several P90s that shoot the FN 5.7×28. Most of the FN ammo is now only available with the blue plastic tip – no doubt downgraded to below AP levels. I have a case of older FN ammo in the white boxes with solids. Those are the rounds that supposedly penetrate Level III armor. When considering penetration, velocity (KE is a function of velocity squared) and impact area are paramount. A 2000 f/s .50 caliber round will likely have less plate penetration ability than a similar in a nonfragmentung .17 or .22 caliber bullet (the 5.7 is a .22 caliber round), similar but not exactly to the example of a 300 pound man in boat shoes and a 110 pound petite woman in high heels. Which is most likely to ruin the deck on your yacht?

    Any not familiar with the P90s, see: Mouse guns for sure but so interesting. As a lefty I like the bottom ejection and wonderful 21st century ergonometrics. The wife picked up one and shot it like as if she had been shooting one for decades. Great for close in defense. Standard 50 round magazines as well. One can also get a pistol (with 20 round magazine) in 5.7×28. The muzzle flash at night must be seen to be appreciated.



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