Level 3 Body Armor Guide
When it comes to pistol threats, soft body armor can do the job. Most police officers use soft armor, however, officers in the Military and Special tactical police units regularly have to deal with bigger calibers, and soft body armor doesn’t offer enough protection for them.
This is where hard body armor plates come in. Level III body armor is the first level designated by the NIJ to offer protection from Rifle threats. It is heavier than soft armor but offers a lot more protection. Moreover, it is worn on the front and the back using a plate carrier.
Level III body armor stops most commonly used calibers, it can easily stop anything that soft armor does, and it stops rifle rounds as well. According to the NIJ, level III armor systems will stop up to a standard FMJ .308 Winchester round, also known as 7.62×51 NATO.
Level III body armor plates are also rated to storm shotgun rounds, and will even stop AP shotgun slugs that might defeat soft armor.
Level III Hard armor plates can be made from different materials like steel, ceramics, or ultra-high molecular weight Polyethylene. All these materials have their benefits and drawbacks, but ceramic and polyethylene armor is always better than steel.
This is because level III steel plates can cause spalling. When a bullet hits a steel plate, it breaks into fragments, which are deflected to the sides. These fragments can hurt the person wearing body armor and the people around you. Many armor companies like AR500 steel make steel armor with a rubberized strike face, which prevents spalling, however, after a few shots, the coating doesn’t work. This takes away the only benefit that steel armor has over ceramic and polyethylene plates, which is longevity.
Ceramic plates are also used for making level three body armor, and they are the best at absorbing the shock of incoming bullets and preventing fragmentation, however, they will deteriorate after every shot. Moreover, you have to be careful with them as these plates can also get damaged by blunt force trauma, for example, if the plate falls from a height, its integrity may also be compromised.
Polyethylene armor plates offer great protection and they are also the lightest of all materials, therefore, they are an ideal option for long term usage. Ace Link armor makes high-quality Level III Polyethylene armor plates.
One of the most important things to consider when buying body armor is weight. You need your armor to be lightweight and comfortable so that you can move around without any restrictions. This is why many police officers shoe soft armor, which is light but only offers protection against pistol rounds.
However, when it comes to stopping rifle rounds, it is important to have hard armor plates, made of either steel or polyethylene. These rigid plates usually weight a lot more than soft body armor. A steel level III plate generally weighs anywhere between 9 and 11 pounds, and you need to use two plates, one for the front and one for the back. Add side plates to your armor system and you might end up carrying up to 30 pounds of armor, which can significantly decrease your movement.
To fix this issue, modern body armor plates are made from ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene or PE and ceramic composite, which are considerably lighter and quite strong as well, though they won’t take as much abuse as steel plates.
The modern polyethylene body armor plates typically wear around 3.5-5 pounds each, which makes them a lot more comfortable to wear.
One of the most commonly used 7.62 rounds is 7.62×39, which is the caliber used in most AK platform rifles. AKs are one of the most prolific firearms in the entire world, and they are commonly used in the US as well. This is why protection against them is very important.
At Ace Link we designed PE + Ceramic Level three plus armor that can easily withstand multiple rounds of 7.62x39mm AK rounds as well as powerful 5.56 M855 AP rounds. It’s very lightweight – only 4.40 lbs!
Another common 7.62 caliber round is 7.62×51 NATO, which is also known as .308 Winchester. Level III armor plates are also designed to stop simple full-metal-jacket .308s, however, armor-piercing rounds can not be stopped by standard Level III Armor Plate.
5.56x45mm is the most commonly used rifle round in the US, both by law enforcement and civilians. It is also used all over the world by NATO countries. The 5.5×45 caliber military round, or its civilian equivalent, .223 Remington is used in the M4 or AR-15 rifle.
These rounds are really good at penetrating armor as they are small and super fast, which is the best way to beat armor. However, Ace Link Armor level III+ armor plates can easily withstand multiple hits from 5.56 rounds, which is why this armor is commonly used by Military personnel and special police units like SWAT.
5.56 green tips are armor penetrating rounds, which have a steel core. These rounds are moving very fast and are a nightmare for body armor. According to the NIJ armor ratings, Level III armor isn’t rated to stop 5.56 green tips, however, some steel plates can stop them. Still, these bullets are quite dangerous, since the steel core doesn’t break sometimes and can be deflected straight into the person wearing armor.
The National Institute of Justice currently does not regulate any armor standards that stop these bullets, however, many manufacturers make plates that can, and rate them as level III+ armor plates. In the new NIJ standards, the RF2 special threat level armor will be tested to provide additional protection against green tips.
If you are looking to wear body armor that offers ballistic protection against level III threats, you will need plate carriers or a bulletproof vest with a pocket specially designed to carry hard armor panels. Plate carriers on the other hand are designed to carry your ballistic plates in the right position to cover your vital organs on your chest and on your back
These plate carriers are worn by law enforcement officers, military personnel, and special police units, and they also act as a platform to carry additional gear like extra magazines. You should always make sure that armor plates are positioned right – the upper line of the plate should align with a line connecting your right and left shoulder. On the back, the upper line of the plate should align with your shoulder blades and be more or less on the same level as the front armor plate.
Armor Plates Guide
A properly designed and manufactured armor plate can stop a bullet. In fact, modern armor resists bullets better than at any time in the distant past, due to improved design methods. Modern ceramic armor plates are capable of stopping multiple rifle threats: from 7.62×51 M80 to even rounds as powerful as .30-06 APM2.
When looking for body armor, it’s important to understand that there are many different levels of protection. All armor is designed around the concept of defeating a certain level and type(s) of threat. Armor can protect against rifle rounds, pistol rounds or shotgun shells, but no one armor protects against every single threat. For instance, the standard 5.56x45mm Level III+ Multicurve ceramic plate protects well against most .223 (5.56x45mm) threats up to M855 ball ammunition; however it does not resist the more powerful M995 APM2 projectile, nor does it stop any fragmenting 9 mm or lower ammunition round as well.
Be sure to know what your armor can protect you from by verifying its specifications.
It’s true that while wearing body armor may not be popular in every state, it is legal for citizens to own and wear them throughout the continental United States. Body armor can be worn in public anywhere the local or State laws- or law enforcement- does not prohibit it from being owned or worn. As a general rule, it is best to check with your local law enforcement or State Laws on owning and wearing soft body armor or body armor plates.
If you are a member of the armed forces, sworn law enforcement (including patrol that respond to tactical situations), or government agents, you are still subject to your branch or agency’s policies and requirements when purchasing, owning, wearing, and transporting body armor while active, reserve, on or off-duty. You can read more about that in our blog post here.
The National Institute of Justice provides guidelines, specifications, and documentation on specific threat levels that both soft body armor and ballistic plates are tested and certified under. The most common levels of edged weapon and ballistic classifications are:
- Level I- Stab, Slash, and Spike level of protection.
- Level IIA- Handguns protection up to 9mm threats.
- Level II- Handgun protection up to .357 and .41 Magnum threats
- Level IIIA- Handgun protection up to .44 Magnum and 12 Guage 1/2 oz. Slug threats
- Level III – Hard armor plates protection up to .308 M80 Ball threats.
- Level III+ Ceramic Hard Armor protection up to 5.56mm M855 Green Tip special threats.
- Level IV Ceramic Hard Armor protection up to .30-06 APM2 armor piercing threats.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) conducts tests and evaluations in their facilities for any given company or manufacturers of body armor, plates, soft body armor panels who submit their body armor or bulletproof materials to the NIJ Laboratory- they are subject not only to round after round of gunfire from controlled projectile guns with recorded velocity and measured points of impact and backface deformation but also are subject to rigorous conditioning process involved with such extensive testing, evaluation, and certification by the NIJ. More information on ballistic protection levels can be found here.
Body armor plates- designed for inserting into plate carriers or the front and back plate pockets of a body armor tactical vest, can weigh up to 10 lbs. each depending on what they are made of. Steel plates are amongst the heaviest body armor plates one can wear- and steel plates almost always come in pairs to wear inside a carrier, making the steel plates system weight twice as much when worn as a set. Alternatives to wearing heavy and bulky steel plates come in the form of more common Polyethylene or ceramic plates. These plates are considerably lower in weight inside a plate carrier and can weigh as light as 3.5 lbs. for Level 3 Stand Alone (used without a soft-armor backing), to 6.0 lbs. in weight for Level IV Stand Alone Ceramic Armor Piercing protection. Handgun-rated Level IIIA Hard Plates can be even thinner and lighter at 1 and 1/2 lbs. per 1/4″ thin plate; resulting in less fatigue and mobility, and its inherent anti-stab qualities due to its Level IIIA hard armor plate configuration.
The short answer is yes, civilians can own and possess Level IV body armor as long as it is not prohibited in their State of residence or by Law Enforcement, or Judicial decision.
Bulletproof vests and other types of body armor are essential for protection when in dangerous situations. If you want to buy one, be sure that your local regulatory authorities will allow it as they may have strict laws about what type can be worn or purchased depending on the location.
Some states have restrictions on what is considered body armor, so it’s important to be aware of the law in your area before ordering a carrier vest online or over the phone.
A Kalashnikov AK-47 typically will fire the 7.62 round bullet from its 16-inch barrel, but the 7.62mm bullet is also available in different casings, lengths, and projectile diameters- some holding more gunpowder to propel it with different velocities.
Lower rating plates like Hard Armor Plate Level IIIA won’t stop any rifle rounds. Some NIJ Level III Stand Alone Body Armor Plates are the lowest hard plate rating that can stop 7.62×39 type AK rounds, however we recommend wearing Level III+ Special Threat Armor plates to stop the higher velocity 7.62×51, but not the higher case pressure properties of the 7.62x54R. Those would take a Level IV Plate for what the 54R round yields in velocity and energy.
For those not familiar with the industry already: the body armor market has taken the online retail medium by storm. There are countless body armor dealerships, manufacturers, and distributors online- across the nation and back. Purchasing either soft armor panels, ballistic plates in several profiles including in shooters cut or swimmers cut has never been so quick nor easy.
With the advent of social media people have been able to educate themselves on which body armor package they feel works best for their need to protect themselves self. Such profound levels of information that is available to educate the masses have encouraged shoppers to buy online for the convenience of simply choosing the armor panel or plate, purchase online, then having their most premier body armor delivered with personal service- all from the low-risk comforts of the home or office.
Online websites such as acelinkarmor.com offer a wide variety of top-of-the-line body armor, level III plates and plate carriers for inserting and wearing your armor plates inside of, as well as tactical accessories and equipment.