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Do you Prefer Steel Core Body Armor or Ceramic/Composite and Why?

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The large majority of law enforcement, military members, first responders and survivalists use hard body armor systems for the high level of protection they provide. But what type of hard body armor do the experts prefer: ceramic/composite or steel core?

To help our customers understand the pros and cons of composite/ceramic and steel core armor, we sat down and interviewed two experts with extensive experience to understand their preferences and why they prefer one type of hard body armor over the other.

Nick Gough – Veteran Ranger Sniper

Nick Gough served nearly eight years in the elite 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, with six of those years as a sniper. Nick graduated from the U.S. Army Sniper School and Special Operations Target Interdiction Course with top honors as a sniper section leader. Nick has 15 deployments under his belt, including duty assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hostile areas with the 75th Ranger Regiment and as a Global Response Staff (GRS) Operator. He currently instructs private and military sectors, and also advises on weapon development for a large firearms manufacturer. Nick is also an NRA Rifle and Pistol Instructor, Armorer and EMT.

Spartan Armor Systems: Do you prefer steel core or ceramic/composite body armor?

Nick Gough: In all honesty I can make an argument for either option and, at the end of the day, it boils down to the ever so common… application. Application can be broadly categorized into two camps, high visibility and low visibility, which ultimately has to first and foremost be answered before anything else becomes a relevant consideration. Ceramic plates are lighter but also thicker, which makes them more difficult to conceal under clothing.

Albeit thinner, steel core plates are heavier and make wearing them for extended durations rather cumbersome. Once you have decided which application best suits you, other factors must be considered, primarily which type of threat you are facing and what level of protection is required. Steel core body armor is widely known for its durability and capability to withstand multiple shots, whereas ceramic plates have been said to be vulnerable when shot multiple times in the same location.

An important note is that if you do have ceramic plates, you should have them checked for fractures periodically to ensure that their integrity is not compromised. The primary argument against steel is their affinity to cause spalling, which could send both steel from the plates and material from the projectile into the person they are intended to protect. The impact of the projectile not only creates spalling, but also sends a very hard transfer of energy into the body they are protecting. On the other hand, ceramic/composite plates has a tendency to transfer energy more efficiently. This a very brief overview of the two types of armor readily available to the public and with all of that said, I primarily wear ceramic because of their comfort for longer durations of wear. If your body armor plates aren’t comfortable, there is a higher chance you will not wear them – at which time they are doing NO good at all. I have a set of steel on standby, however, if the situation dictates a lower signature.

Sam Maizlech – Firearms and Survival Expert – Gunivore.com

Sam Maizlech is a firearms and survival expert for Gunivore.com. Gunivore is an expert, online weapons resource for honest, reliable, up-to-date firearm news and reviews. The staff at Gunivore stays on top of all of the latest gun developments to keep their readers as informed as possible.

Spartan Armor Systems: Do you prefer composite/ceramic body armor plates or steel core body armor plates?

Sam Maizel: Body armor preferences change with regards to the job and situation you will likely use the body armor. Both ceramic and steel body armor have benefits and drawbacks. Steel is capable of taking multiple impacts without any penetration, while ceramic may be able to take one or two impacts before the armor is no longer effective. On the other hand, steel body armor is a lot cheaper than its ceramic counterpart. Ceramic is substantially lighter in weight and thus more comfortable to wear. If your job requires you to be mobile, walk long distances, or spend a lot of time with your vest on, ceramic will likely be preferred. For this reason, the U.S. military opts for ceramic. They prefer lighter weight vests since the vast majority of their engagements are at long distances, and if someone is hit, it will likely not be by multiple projectiles. SWAT teams, on the other hand, may prefer steel, as they are not in their equipment all day, and the majority of their engagements are at close range, where the chance of multiple impacts is much higher.

The Verdict: It’s a matter of preference.

Steel Body Armor

Pros: Durable, affordable, thin, long shelf life, able to withstand multiple hits in the same area.

Cons: Heavy, rigid, certain caliber bullets can penetrate steel armor more than ceramic and may create injury due to spalling.

The Good News: To make steel core body more comfortable and ergonomic, Spartan Armor Systems has developed our patented Advanced Triple Curve™ Design. Our Encapsaloc™ fragmentation mitigation coating drastically reduces the possibility of secondary injuries.

Ceramic/Composite Body Armor

Pros: Light, comfortable, good for mobility for the wearer and also increase mobility as opposed to steel plates.

Cons: Thick, expensive, most cannot withstand multiple impacts in the same area, certain ammunition can cause more damage to ceramic/composite plates than steel core plates.

The Good News: Spartan Armor System’s level III+ and level IV ceramic/composite plates are multi-hit rated.

Both ceramic/composite body armor plates and steel body armor plates provide excellent protection properties. Your situation, mission, duty and environment will dictate which type of hard body armor plates are best for you. Spartan Armor Systems offers a wide variety of ceramic/composite and steel core body armor plates at affordable prices. If you’re looking for revolutionary lightweight ceramic/composite plates, you might want to try our Level III Elaphros body armor plates. If you think steel core is more up your alley, you’ll love our durable Spartan™ Omega™AR500 Body Armor Steel Core Ballistic Plates. No matter which type of body armor plates you choose, you’ll want to incorporate premium trauma pads to keep you mission ready in case of impact. Spartan Armor Trauma Pads drastically reduce blunt force trauma by absorbing energy and dispersing it throughout more surface area.

Questions or comments? Give us a call at 1-520-396-3335 or contact us using our online contact form to speak to one of our body armor and tactical gear experts.

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