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Base Coat vs Full Coat Plates – Why Full Coat is Worth The Extra Money

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Steel core body armor is a very economical choice when it comes to body armor. Aside from being about half the cost of ceramic armor, AR500 and AR550 steel has excellent ballistic properties. For example, ballistic steel doesn’t suffer from the backface deformation (BFD) you’ll see with ceramic and UHMWPE body armor products. Additionally, steel core armor can take far more punishment than other types of armor. So if steel armor is so great, why do some people say that you should never buy steel body armor? The answer is spalling AKA “fragmentation”. While ceramic plates will eject fragments of small pieces of ceramic upon impact, uncoated steel on the other hand will send out fragments of the bullet. These sharp and fast moving fragments have the potential to injure the wearer or other people in close vicinity. However, this isn’t very likely with today’s steel core body armor as additional coating can be used to mitigate the possibility of fragmentation.Our full coat of Encapsaloc™ is only 63$, read on to find out why it's well worth the cost.

The Solution to the Problem

As we’ve discussed in a prior article “Spall and Fragmentation: Myth vs Reality”, when a bullet impacts a piece of steel armor it doesn’t just vaporize or stick into the steel plate (despite what you may have seen on TV and the movies). If the bullet can’t penetrate, then it breaks apart and those small fragments of the bullet have to go somewhere. So where do these bullet fragments go? The path of least resistance, which means the fragments will follow the surface of the plate and move outwards. This of course is assuming that there’s nothing to stop the bullet fragments. Keep in mind that when a bullet make impact, much of its kinetic energy dissipates. The fragments of the bullet are now traveling slower and are much easier to stop. While it’s true that much of this fragmentation can be stopped with a quality plate carrier, it’s not something you should be willing to bet your life on. This is where our full coat of Encapsaloc™ coating comes into play. Encapsaloc™ is not the basic truck bed liner that other body armor companies use. We developed a specially formulated fragmentation mitigation coating to limit the possibility of secondary injuries due to spall/fragmentation.

Base Coat vs Full Coat

When you buy steel core body armor from us, you are given the option of a “Base Coat” or a “Full Coat”. The base coat option is a thin layer intended solely as a means of protecting the steel armor from corrosion. Base coat DOES NOT provide any protection from fragmentation. Quite often you’ll see guys on social media espousing the dangers of steel armor, typically in a video where they are shooting base coat plates and showing evidence of fragmentation. This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you want to stop fragmentation then you need some means of stopping fragmentation.

How Fragmentation Mitigation Coating Works

The chemical makeup of our base coat is entirely different than our full coat of Encapsaloc™, which is designed to stop the bullet fragments and lock them within the armor plate. In the diagram below you can see the key difference between base coat and full coat. So if base coat has this problem, why do body armor manufacturers even sell base coat plates?

base coat vs full coat body armor

There are a few ways to deal with fragmentation. While we always recommend our full coat of Encapsaloc™ to anyone considering steel core body armor, it does add about a pound of weight per plate of armor. Some customers interested in the most lightweight setup possible opt for our Spall Containment Sleeve which is about half the weight of the a full coating of Encapsaloc™. Conversely, customers who want the most fragmentation protection possible will opt for our full coat along with a Spall Containment Sleeve.

Fragmentation is a legitimate concern for anyone looking to buy body armor, especially those interested in steel core armor. Don’t let the arm chair warriors on social media and forums scare you away with tales of fragmentation that aren’t relevant to today’s steel core body armor technology. If you have a means of fragmentation mitigation incorporated to your steel core body armor then you should feel comfortable in your purchase of our Spartan™ Omega™ AR500 or Spartan AR550 body armor products.


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