Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
When it comes to ballistic protection, there are many different kinds of armor solutions available in the market. Some people opt for Kevlar bulletproof vests, whereas some, who also need protection from rifle rounds need hard armor plates with plate carriers.
When it comes to rifle-level hard armor plates, materials like ceramics, polyethylene, and steel are used. Today, we are going to talk in detail about ceramic armor panels, so read on to learn more.
Table of contents
What types of ceramic are used in ceramic body armor plates?
Over the recent decades, ceramic armor has become quite popular. It is lighter than steel plates and has significantly better impact absorption properties. For the most part, ceramic armor is constructed from materials like alumina, or Aluminum Oxide, Silicon Carbide, Boron Carbide, and Titanium Diboride . Primarily, Boron carbide composites are used to make ceramic plates that protect against smaller projectiles like most bullets, whereas Silicon carbide is used to protect against larger projectiles, and therefore is sometimes used to armor helicopters.
As far as ceramic body armor plates are concerned, there are many sintered, reaction-bonded, and hot-pressed ceramic materials, like Hexoloy® Silicon Carbide commercially available that can be used for making ceramic body armor. CeraSeild is one of the most popular commercial producers of ceramic materials, and composites like CeraShield™ High-Density Aluminum Oxides or CeraShield Boron Carbides are commonly used to make Ceramic Body Armor.
How many hard armor plates do tactical plate carriers accept?
Typically, the tactical plate carriers worn by most military personnel and law enforcement officials carry two hard armor plates, one in the front and one in the back, however, in some cases, for extra ballistic protection, people might use multiple plates, two in the front and two in the back. Some people might also add Kevlar Trauma pads to their plate carriers along with the hard armor panels for some added protection.
Depending on the thickness and armor level of the plates it may be a difficult fit, especially if you have a a thin and minimalistic tactical plate carrier. However, in most cases, you can accommodate a Level III and a Level IV hard body armor plate in the front and back of your tactical plate carrier.
Do ceramic body armor plates expire?
Believe it or not, your body armor also has a shelf life, and can eventually expire. In the case of ceramic armor, the shelf is around 5-7 years, depending on the quality of the ceramics used, and more importantly how you store them. Moisture and humidity are bad for ceramic plates, and they can contribute to their degradation. Moreover, the more ceramic armor is used the quicker it starts to degrade, even if it is not shot, after five years, it should be replaced.
You might be wondering, what will happen if you use expired armor panels, well, it might still take a hit or more from small rounds, however probably not as much as a fresh plate would. More importantly, it might lose the ability to stop the larger bullet it is rated for, and that is a risk you don’t want to take.
What size armor plates do I need?
Sizing a plate carrier vest is quite different from a simple bulletproof vest. You see, a bulletproof vest uses level II or Level IIIa soft armor, which can be sized like normal clothes, however for ideally sized hard ballistic panels, you need to consider the coverage they provide on your chest.
Typically, armor plates come in four sizes, that is, small, medium, large, and extra-large. There are some sizes in between as well, but they usually have a very minor difference in size.
Small ballistic panels are 8×10 inches in size and are ideal for women or men with smaller frames. Medium plates are usually 10×12 inches and are suitable for most males with an average height and stature. Large plates are 10×13 inches, and the XL plates are 11×14 inches.
The width of your body armor plate should be just inside your nipples side to side. Vertically, it should cover your torso from the top of the breastbone down to a couple of inches above the belly button. This ensures that all of your vital organs are covered by body armor.
Keep in mind that tactical plate carriers are also sized according to the size of the plates they carry, rather than the size of the person.
How much does ceramic body armor plate weigh?
One of the biggest advantages ceramic body armor plates have over steel plates is their weight. However, the exact weight of the plate depends upon the quality of the ceramics, the size you choose, and the NIJ armor protection levels as well.
Level III ceramic plates usually weigh around 4 to 6 lbs, however, for the most part, level IV body armor plates are made with a ceramic strike face, and steel or high-density polyethylene base, so it is a lot heavier. Generally, level IV plates weigh about 7 or 8 lbs. Some high-quality full ceramic and polyethylene blend plates can be lighter.
So, make sure to get some high-quality tactical plate carriers if you want to carry heavy body armor panels along with all your tactical gear.
Which ceramic armor plate is the best?
If you are looking for high-quality plates that have a SAPI cut, the level III, ultralight armor plates from Ace Link are exactly what you are looking for. Generally, SAPI plates are made of ceramics, however, the PE plates have a SAPI cut, and similar ergonomics, while being lighter, more durable, and having a longer shelf life.
Weighing only 3.5 lbs, these armor panels can stop threats up to .308 Winchester. They are available in multiple sizes, including the popularly used dimensions of 11×14″ and 10×12″.