Prepping has unique and particular characteristics that make choosing tactical gear a little bit more complicated. For the typical “operator”, price is of secondary importance to performance. Take for instance the wild success of Sig Sauer and HK pistols in the U.S. The same goes for plate carriers and ballistic plates. Ceramics offer the highest performance, but are also fragile and expensive, typically 3-10 times more than an equivalent AR500 steel or Kevlar plate. Yet, for the prepper, that money could be better spent on other things and infrastructure that would be of more utility. Every dollar of a particular prepping budget needs to be appropriately and efficiently allocated to maximize utility and ensure a breadth of needs covered.
The second consideration is time. Prepping is all about having affairs settled and stored away for when they may be needed. Many people do not consider that Kevlar bulletproof vests have a very short shelf life of only a few years before the fibers start to decay, even when unworn. Exposed to UV radiation and heat, they can become ineffective in only a few months. Adding in their inherent inability to stop even lightweight rifle calibers like 5.56×45 (the cartridge utilized by the most popular rifle in the US, the AR-15) it becomes clear that a Kevlar vest is not an effective nor long lasting solution to personal ballistic protection in a prepping situation.
Why not Ceramic then?
Ceramic plates suffer from an equally disastrous fault in their nature. Keeping in mind the already exorbitantly high price of ceramic plates, they also have a tendency to crack and fracture when tossed around. While this may seem silly, a simple task of throwing your carrier into the bed of a truck can compromise the integrity of a ceramic plate. The worst part of this is, there is typically no visible signs that this has occurred. Ballistic ceramic plates are typically constructed of a few different layers sandwiched together. As it has been shown in real world testing, the inner layers can crack, while the outer ones remain visibly fine. This results in a constant state of uncertainty and given that they are so expensive to replace, most choose not to as frequently as they should.
Both ceramic and kevlar plates suffer from yet another common disadvantage, though this one is a bit more drastic. Both kevlar and steel plates need to be replaced after every hit. While a Level IV ceramic plate may stop a tiny 5.56 round equally as well as an AR500 steel plate, each hit significantly compromises the integrity and ballistic ability of the ceramic plate. In comparison, AR500 steel can take tons of hits, even in the same area depending on the loading. At intermediate ranges, even rifle rounds can be stopped near indefinitely. AR500 steel is the most common and effective target steel, and is used throughout the world in shooting ranges for both pistol and intermediate range rifle. AR500 steel is chosen because it lasts the longest of any material subjected to the kind of continuous ballistic trauma a gun range has to offer. As an added bonus, AR500 steel does not deteriorate in the sun and is relatively rust resistant, so it can be kept out in the range without having to be brought in constantly. This kind of reliability and ruggedness is what makes AR500 perfect for use in prepping bulletproof vests. It can be stored basically indefinitely and can take punishment for years without needing to be replaced, the kind of attributes that make it invaluable in a prepping scenario where it may be impossible to buy another vest later down the road.
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