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Eric Jones

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Just Another Useful Guide to Body Armor & HESCO Plates

Body Armor has been a growing topic for the last couple of years. Our goal is that this guide can answer some common questions and provide useful information regarding armor before your purchase. Keep in mind we will only be really discussing hard armor in this post.

 

This is a beginners guide and introduction to armor, cuts, ratings, certifications, etc. Most of the information in this article is pertaining to HESCO Armor, since that is what we sell. If you have any questions that require a more definitive answer please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

BLUF: We always highly recommend a ceramic/composite armor over a steel plates. You need to find the balance that works for you between your budget, desired protection level, weight, and thickness. 

 

Is Body Armor Legal?

Please refer to another post “Body Armor Laws to Know Before Your Big Purchase” regarding body armor laws in the United States of America. You can search state by state to get an idea of what may or may not be allowed in your state.

Ceramic Body Armor Myths

“Ceramic Body Armor is Fragile”

It is a common misconception that ceramic armor is fragile. One component of NIJ certification is a drop test. During a drop test a ballistic plate is dropped on its strike face two times from a height of 48 inches. The plate being tested also has 10 pounds of additional weight attached to the back of the plate. If ceramic plates were as fragile as most think them to be, they would not be well suited for military use. Yes… that doesn’t mean you should intentionally abuse your armor. Just like any other piece of life safety equipment you should take care and proper precautions. 

“Ceramic Body Armor Expires”

The date listed on armor is a manufacture warranty period which determine serviceability. There is no steep decline or degradation after 5 years and 1 day that inhibit ballistic protection. This goes back to… the better you treat your plates the longer they will last. Most civilian purchasers don’t have the opportunity to train as often so plates should be expected to last longer.

“Ceramic Body Armor can only be hit once”

This depends on the armor and projectile. For Level III NIJ certification a plate is shot 6 times. For Level IV certification a plate is only shot once. Being shot with Mild Steel Core (MSC) and Armor Piercing Rounds (APR) will lessen the amount of shots armor can take over lead core projectiles. It is always best to refer to the manufacturest threat performance matrix.

NIJ Testing and Certification Standards

The National Institute of Justice or NIJ, establishes minimum industry standards for armor and protective inserts. The NIJ sets standards to lab testing ballistic inserts and offers certification to plate models that meets the requirements. This is a rigorous process that the plates are put through. Once plates are certified they must also maintain that certification through compliance testing  (NIJ FIT).

We will primarily be discussing level III and Level IV plates and NIJ  0101.06 which specifies testing methods and standards. Check out a later article that will outline the tests and procedures required for NIJ certification.

Rifle Plate Manufactures

We primarily sell HESCO Armor, but there are a couple reputable U.S. Based manufactures that we recommend you to purchase from.

 

 

  1. HESCO Armor
  2. RMA
  3. Hoplite Armor (sells rebranded LTC Defense)
  4. HighCom Armor
  5. Tencate

AVOID AT ALL COSTS

  • Chinese manufactured armor from L.A. Police Gear, BoTach, VISM Armor.
 
The only thing I can add to this is research, research… and research. There is an abundance of information from manufacturers, distributors, informative articles, and the forums. Purchasing body armor is an important purchase of essential life safety equipment. ALWAYS buy from a reputable source.

Rifle Plate Ratings

Rifle Rated-Level III armor is rated to withstand 7.62×51 mm FMJ (US military M80).

Level III+ is not an official NIJ rating but commonly used by manufactures to designate additional protection. It is a level III plate (M80 Ball) and protects against additional threats specified by the manufacture.

Armor Piercing Round (APR)-Level IV Offers the highest ballistic protection. Level IV Armor is rated to stop one round of 30-06 M2 AP (7.62×63)

This is a manufacture protection designation for special threat rounds. Typically these plates offer better M193, M855, M855A1, and 7.62×39 protection but sacrifice M80 ball. 

Plate Cuts & Curve

Plates with a 45 degree cut  and rounded corners. Offer the largest strike face and diminished range of motion when used as a front plate

Has a more severe cut than a SAPI cut plate. Has a slightly smaller strike face than a SAPI cut but increases range of motion and the wearers ability to shoulder a rifle. You may also see a Swimmers Cut Plate. This is even a more severe cut than a shooters cut. This allows for more range of motion and articulation. 

Square/Rectangular plate with minimal cut corners. Typically used as a back plate or side plate.

A single contour plate. These plates are typically more afforable but limit comfort and range of motion of the wearer. We do not recommend Single Curve Plates if you wear your army for duty or an extended amount of time.

Multi Curve Plates have multiple contours to conform to the wearers body. These are typically more comfortable and offer a greater range of motion. They do also cost more.

HESCO Armor Cut
HESCO Armor.Single Curve
Single Curve Plate
HESCO Armor.Multi Curve
Multi Curve Plate

Body Armor Sizing

If you are sizing yourself for HESCO Armor you can find the sizing guide on our website by clicking Here-HESCO Armor Sizing Guide. We will also discuss the basics of plate carrier sizing below. 

Always size your ceramic plates first and then your plate carrier. My time spent in the military, I have come to see that most people are often issued plates that are too large… looking at you CIF/RFI. The plates are only intended to protect your vital organs, anything larger and you will effect mobility, range of motion, comfort, and increase unnecessary weight.

 

These vital structures include 

  • Heart
  • Majority of Lungs
  • Mediastinum (soft structure that contains the great vessels, aorta, and vena cava).
  • Diaphragm (hard to breath without)
  • Portion of the Liver (Solid Organ=Bleeder)
  • Portion of the Spleen (another solid organ)
HESCO Sizing Coverage

In my experience, most individuals will be able to wear a 9.5″x12″ or a 10″x12″ plate.  To get an idea of what will work for you, I recommend:

 

  1. Measuring From Supra Sternal Notch (Indent just below the neck, inbetween the clavicles) to the belly button (subtract 2-3″)
  2. Measure the distance in between the nipples, this will work a majority of the time. If there is anything sagging, drooping, misaligned, you can measure by drawing a straight line down from the middle of your clavicle (mid clavicular line). 

If you need any assistance in sizing, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly. 

HESCO Sizing

HESCO Armor Series

Click on a picture below to check out the different HESCO Armor Series. Double click on the image and title to view more about each series on HESCO’s website

HESCO 800 Series

High performance plates for dynamic and highly volatile situations.

HESCO 600 Series

Designed for comfort and mobility while maintaining protection

HESCO 400 Series

Cost effective, life saving protection. Ideal for intermittent and low volume use.

HESCO 200 Series

Low visibility, concealable special threat plates. Protect from popular rounds while maintaining a thin lightweight profile.

Check out the HESCO Rifle Threat Performance Matrix below to see what ballistic inserts works for you. Compare the different threat protection ratings and see what projectiles different plates have been tested against. You can also view each individual armor plates threat matrix on our product page. 

HESCO Armor Plates We Carry

HESCO 200 Series

HESCO L210 Special Threat Plate

The HESCO Armor L210 Special Threat Plate is a lightweight, thin, single curve, stand alone, multi-hit, special threat plate. This is one of the most popular plates on the market due to cost. We currently only have this plate available in shooters cut large (10″x12″). For other size options check out the new M210 plates, which are also multi-curve. These plates weight just 5.5 pounds and are 0.59″ thick. Overall, the L210 is an industry favorite.

HESCO M210 Special Threat Plate

The HESCO Armor M210 Special Threat Plate is a lightweight, thin, multi-curve, stand alone, multi-hit, special threat plate. This is a new plate from HESCO armor and improves the popular L210. This is a multicurve plate,this improves comfort and mobility.

HESCO U210 Special Threat Plate

The HESCO Armor U210 Special Threat Plate is a lightweight, thin, single curve, stand alone, multi-hit, special threat plate. The HESCO Armor U210 offers maximum concealability with optimized protection. This is a popular plate option due to weight and thickness.

HESCO 400 Series

HESCO 4400 Level IV Plate

The HESCO Armor 4400 is an affordable plate that offers Level IV protection. These are the Multi Curve version. These plates are wrapped with a water repellant polyurethane Cordura fabric finish. HESCO Armor is produced in the USA. 

HESCO 600 Series

HESCO 4601 Level IV Plate

The HESCO Armor 4601 is a great mix of protection and affordability. These plates are approximately 1.5 lbs heavier than the L210 but offer increased protection. They are a comfortable multicurve plate that won’t weight you down in the fight or in training.