Advanced ceramics took the materials industry by storm in the early 90’s as the wave into the future. They are often lightweight, strong, and impervious to rust or other common forms of degradation. Ceramic plates are currently used by the United States military because of their marginally higher level of protection compared to more traditional materials. Yet despite their often high-tech reputation, when it comes to applications in ballistic armors, they have a few pronounced drawbacks.
While ceramic ballistic plates can have tensile strengths and hardness levels surpassing hardened steel, they do so at a price. In order to achieve their extreme hardness ratings, ceramic plates become very brittle as a result. In this way, their hardness actually becomes their greatest weakness. In their initial condition, ceramic ballistic plates offer one cohesive strike surface to catch incoming rounds, as the round impacts, the hardness of the ceramic deforms the soft lead, typically aerodynamic bullet into a much flatter mush of semi-molten lead. This now un-fluid dynamic projectile will have a much harder time penetrating through the inner layers of the vest now, so the vest can function and stop the round. As a result of the impact however, the ceramic often cracks under the great force delivered by the projectile. For each subsequent hit, the ceramic plate has less and less strength to counter the force of the bullet and stop it from penetrating. Ceramic plates have a finite number of rounds they can stop effectively, and typically they must be replaced after each hit.
Ceramic plates are extremely hard to manufacture and often times fail quality control during the production process. Due to the exotic materials required and the failure intensive manufacturing processes, the cost of ballistic ceramic plates is the highest in the current bulletproof vest market. Per plate, ceramic plates cost at least 200% more than their steel alternatives. To put our military’s current ballistic plates in perspective in regards to cost, a NIJ Level III+ steel plate typically costs around $150, a single Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert plate used in the US Army’s IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest) can cost up to $600. To put that into perspective, a steel vest with two full AR-500 plates and carrier can be found for only $300.
The combination of their fragility and high cost makes ceramic plates impractical for civilian purposes. While advanced ceramic plates are rated half a step higher on the NIJ rating scale, the negatives associated with using ceramic as a bulletproofing material become more pronounced on the consumer level. While the US military has a vast supply network to replace damaged vests on the field, the civilian does not have this option. Should there be a WROL situation, there is no supply line to get you a new vest should you take a hit, and you would have to work with what you have. The second issue also becomes more pronounced when individually financed. Unlike the military that has the law of large numbers working on their side, an individual that takes a round to a ceramic vest must pay to replace that vest. If working in dangerous environments, the odds of being hit with a second round increases drastically. Your likelihood of getting shot increases the more times you have already been shot.
In terms of consumer-level practicality, the durability and cost of traditional steel plates wins compared to the still new ceramics. While this may change in the future, for right now, the simple AR-500 steel plate makes the most sense for bulletproof protection for the everyday civilian.
While many people mark up the cost of vests made with AR500 steel, thebestbodyarmor.com offers these vests for only $299 right now so that you can afford the protection you need. You can even get $25 off your vest by using promo code “bestvest” at checkout. Unlike a vest that uses ceramic, these vests will protect you against multiple hits and provide the maximum protection for the wearer.
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.
Thebestbodyarmor.com offers only the best solid state bulletproof vests made of AR500 steel in order to provide the best, longest lasting protection available at a cheaper cost. You can receive $25 off your vest at checkout by using promo code “bestvest.”