AR500 Plates – Are They Better Than Ceramic Plates?

Ceramic Armor Plate

AR500 plates are steel body armor plates that have become increasingly popular due to how readily available they are, their inexpensive price point, and the fact that they can get the job done. But are these steel body armor plates better than the more expensive ceramic plates? Let’s take a look at the key differences between AR500 steel plates and ceramic plates, and which one is the clear winner between the two!


Steel plate armor is widely accepted as the most durable form of body armor on the market today. But many people are unaware that ceramic plates can also be incredibly durable, especially with the advancement in technology in recent years. While it is true that steel armor is technically made of stronger material than ceramic, certain types of bullets can actually impact steel more so than ceramic. The biggest drawback to ceramic when it comes to durability is that it does not handle shots in the same exact place, but overall both steel and ceramic plates are incredibly durable. 

Steel armor will also last much longer, even though it is not necessarily more durable. This is due to it having a long shelf life than ceramic plates. But when it comes down to a competition between which is more durable, both steel and ceramic plates can hold their own. 

Weight and Thickness

Perhaps the biggest difference between steel body armor plates and ceramic body armor plates is found in the thickness and overall weights of the two. Ceramic plates have a clear advantage in this department over steel, as they are generally much lighter in weight. This advantage, however, does come at a small cost as the ceramic plates are also usually a little thicker than steel plates. While thickness can play a role in how comfortable the armor is, it is the weight that should be accounted for. 

A heavy steel plate will make wearing body armor much harder and more uncomfortable. So while ceramic plates are generally a little thicker, they are much lighter and much more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The lighter weight of ceramic plates will also allow you to be much more mobile, which can be a huge advantage depending on your situation. 


The price of armor is definitely important, but you must think about what saving your life is really worth before purchasing any body armor. Wouldn’t you want to spend as much as it takes to properly protect your body and life? Steel armor is much more affordable than ceramic armor and takes the win in this category, but it comes at a cost. Sure it can stop some bullets, but you will have to deal with a heavier weight and other disadvantages that you will not find with ceramic. When it comes to pricing for body armor, try to spend as much as you can in order to get the best possible gear.

Spalling and Ricochets

Perhaps the biggest difference between steel plates and ceramic plates is the potential spalling and ricochets that one will give you while the other won’t. Because steel is very hard, if a bullet impacts it on the face it will then explode into multiple fragments and pieces. This is referred to as spalling. All of this fragmentation that is generated can head up and straight into your face, chin, arms, and legs as it explodes. While many steel plates come with a coat of spall liner to help minimize this risk, it is always a risk while using these plates.

You can also get bullet ricochets while using hard steel plates as well. If a bullet hits the plate at an odd angle, it can keep going along the plate and straight into an arm, leg, or even somebody near to you. With the hardness of steel, you will have to consider the possibility of spalling or ricochets if getting hit. 

Ceramic armor, on the other hand, does not have these downsides. Instead, ceramic armor does a better job of absorbing the impact of a bullet and will not make it explode like a steel plate. This means a very reduced chance of spalling or ricochets with ceramics, making them a preferred choice amongst those who are familiar with body armor. 

Ceramic armor does a better job of absorbing the impact of a bullet and will not make it explode like a steel plate

Steel vs Ceramic, Which is Better?

So after looking through all of the pros and cons of both steel and ceramic armor, which is better? Steel has the advantages of being cheaper, thinner, and longer shelf life, but that is where the pros end. Steel is also MUCH heavier, awkward, and prone to spalling and ricochets. Ceramic plates may be a little thicker and more expensive, but they are worth every single penny. If it means properly protecting you, spend the extra money and get the best of the best. 

Not only do they significantly reduce the chances of spalling or ricochets, but they do a much better job at absorbing the impact of a bullet when hit. If you are hit while wearing a steel plate, it will directly transfer that energy into your body. A ceramic plate will help absorb much of it for you. They also do a much better job at protecting you from high-caliber rounds, whereas steel can be hit or miss when it comes to higher-rated armor. 

Comparison of Ceramic Plates

Level 3+ Ceramic Lightweight Plate 10×12″
Price $299.00
Level 3+ Multi-curve Special Threat Armor Plate
Price $288.00

Final Thoughts

Body Armor Hard Armor Plates


At only 4.90 lbs this ceramic composite plate stops multiple armor-piercing rounds and is 35% lighter then average steel plate equivalent. Body armor plates protection against the popular .223 55gr. M193; or Green Tip round like the 5.56 M855; or 7.62×39mm, has never been so light and spall-free.

The Lightweight Composite Ceramic Plate offers all the same capabilities of its steel counterpart, but with less mass. Specially designed for military and law enforcement purposes, the lightweight composite Ceramic Plate offers the same level of protection but is more mobile and less cumbersome.

AR500 steel plates have become more and more popular in recent years thanks to incredible marketing and cheap price points. But if you want to use the best body armor out on the market today, you will want to stick to ceramic plates. Not only will these offer you the best protection, but they are much lighter, more comfortable, and prevent spalling. When faced with the choice of deciding between AR500 plates or ceramic plates, the choice is clear: ceramic is a much better option!