The Ultimate Guide to Steel Body Armor
Steel body armor has become increasingly popular among law enforcement personnel, military personnel, and safety-conscious civilians. This is because steel body armor is known for its durability, multi-hit capability, and affordability. In this article, we will take a closer look at steel body armor, with a focus on Spartan Armor Systems® – a company that is known for its American-made body armor right here in Tucson, AZ.
|Table of Contents
|Explanation of Steel Body Armor
|Advantages of Steel Body Armor
|Steel Body Armor From Spartan Armor Systems®
Explanation of Steel Body Armor
Steel body armor is a type of body armor plate that is made from high-quality tempered steel such as AR500 or AR550 steel. It is designed to be inserted in a plate carrier or tactical vest and will stop bullets and other projectiles from penetrating the wearer's body. Steel body armor is typically worn by military and law enforcement personnel, as well as civilians who are looking for added protection.
It's important to note that not all steel is a good choice for ballistic applications. The “AR” in AR500 steel is an abbreviation for "Abrasion Resistant", while the number 500 refers to its Brinell Hardness rating. This rating measures the steel's hardness and resistance, the bigger the number the more the resistance. Military, armored car companies, and body armor manufacturers like Spartan Armor Systems® have used AR500 steel for its durability and strength. Even though steel core body armor plates can be as thin as 1/4" to 5/8", they can weigh between 5 to 11 pounds, depending on the size, cut, and coating.
Advantages of Steel Body Armor
Steel body armor has several advantages over other types of body armor. Firstly, it is durable and can withstand numerous hits with little to no significant damage. Secondly, it is very affordable compared to other types of body armor. Finally, it is effective at stopping a wide range of projectiles. Usually, steel body armor comes in either a Level III or Level III+ rating. This means that steel body armor plates can stop rifle rounds from basic to advanced like M80 BALL, M193, and even M855, also commonly known as “green tip”.
Overview of Spartan Armor Systems® Steel Body Armor Options
Spartan Armor Systems® offers several types of steel body armor. These include the Level III Spartan™ Omega™ AR500 Steel Plates and the Level III+ AR550 Steel Plates. You can also get both options in different side plate sizes.
Level III Spartan™ Omega™ AR500 Steel Plates
The Spartan™ Omega™ AR500 Steel Body Armor plates are made from ¼” thick lab-certified AR500 ballistic-grade steel. These plates are available in three sizes for chest/back plates (8”x10”, 10”x12” and 11”x14”) and provide Level III protection under NIJ0101.06 standards. Spartan Armor Systems® independently tests all body armor, including the Spartan™ Omega™ AR500 body armor, to ensure they meet NIJ standards. You can also get these plates in 6”x6” or 6”x8” side plates to complete your kit.
Level III+ AR550 Steel Plates
Our single curve, full coat AR550 body armor is certified as NIJ level III-rated, but it has undergone additional testing to achieve a level III+ rating shooters and swimmers. Even though our AR550 Single Curve Full Coat body armor plates are labeled as level III on the back of the plate because the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) does not currently have a level III+ rating, they can provide a higher level of protection.
The special threat testing that we conduct accounts for high-velocity penetrator rounds such as M855 (also known as green tips), which falls between the NIJ 0101.06 level III and level IV. Spartan Armor Systems® offers the Level III+ AR550 Steel Plates in a variety of sizes, including 8”x10”, 10”x12” and 11”x14” with side plate options in 6”x6” and 6”x8”.
Comparison to Other Steel Body Armor Options
Steel body armor is an excellent choice for those who prioritize durability and affordability. Compared to ceramic body armor, steel plates are heavier but thinner, providing more comfort and mobility in certain applications. While steel is technically a more durable material than ceramic, certain types of bullets can impact steel armor more than ceramic, especially for high-velocity rounds.
Not only does Spartan Armor Systems® provide high-quality body armor, but they also provide some of the best steel targets on the market today. Perfect your aim with our long-lasting steel targets.
It's important to consider the level of threat protection required when deciding between ceramic and steel body armor. When comparing steel body armor options, it's crucial to consider factors such as weight, thickness, and price. Here are more factors to think about when deciding on steel body armor:
Shelf Life & Maintenance
When it comes to body armor, one of the most important factors to consider is its shelf life. While many types of body armor may degrade over time, steel armor is known for its durability and longevity. If built correctly with the right process in place, your steel armor should last you almost a lifetime. Spartan Armor Systems® is committed to producing high-quality steel core body armor that is built to last and prove it with a 20-year shelf life.
Unlike ceramic armor, which can be fragile and susceptible to damage, steel armor is a reliable option for those seeking long-lasting protection. With Spartan Armor Systems®, you can trust that your steel armor is not only durable but also affordable, comfortable, and functional for years to come.
Care and maintenance is another great benefit of steel armor as it is essentially drop proof, durable under weather conditions, and especially with a full coat of Encapsoloc™, it resists corrosion.
Cut – Swimmers vs. Shooters
Spartan Armor Systems® offers swimmer's cut armor plates for those looking for a lighter and more agile armor solution. The swimmer's cut plates have reduced material and mass in the shoulder area, allowing for better overall movement, easier pistol draw, and more natural shoulder placement of a rifle. Not only are these plates a great option for people with smaller frames, but they are also ideal for physical training such as CrossFit, weight lifting and other such activities where a high amount of range in motion in the shoulders is required. Additionally, swimmers cut plates typically weight about 1lb less per plate compared to shooters cut plates.
It's important to note that due to the unique shape of swimmers' cut plates, a plate carrier designed to accommodate them is recommended. Spartan Armor Systems® offers two plate carriers, the entry-level Spartan Swimmers Cut, and the more advanced and rugged Sentinel Swimmers plate carrier. Each of these two plate carriers is available in multiple color options. It's crucial to select the right armor based on the scenario you are training for or preparing for. If you have any questions or need assistance, you can contact Spartan Armor Systems for help.
Blunt Force Trauma & Back Face Deformation
Blunt force trauma is what happens when something blunt (like a bat or a bullet) hits something soft (like skin or organs). This can cause anything from a bruise to broken bones and even internal bleeding. When it comes to body armor, blunt force trauma happens when a bullet hits the armor plate, and the energy from the bullet spreads out and hits the body behind the plate.
The National Institute of Justice has set a limit on how much the armor plate can deform, called the back face signature. The most deformation allowed is 44 millimeters or 1.73 inches. This is measured by shooting the plate and measuring how deep the depression in the clay is behind it. Different types of armor plates will handle the impact differently.
Steel core armor is the most rigid and will cause the least amount of deformation, while softer armor will cause more. Soft armor and ceramic body armor, are more pliable, and thus result in greater chance for blunt force trauma related injuries.
Spartan Armor Systems® offers trauma pads to help absorb some of the energy and reduce the effect of blunt force trauma. It's important to consider how much mobility you need when choosing armor, as well as the intended use. No armor is perfect, so it's important to weigh all the factors before making a purchase.
Spall & Fragmentation
When a bullet hits a steel plate armor, it can cause small pieces of metal, called spall, to break off and fly toward the wearer. This can be very dangerous because the spall can cause serious injuries.
To prevent spall, you can add a layer of material called fragmentation mitigation coating. Spartan Armor Systems® offers a full coat of our spall mitigation called Encapsoloc™. It covers the steel plate with a protective coating that can stop the spall from flying toward the wearer, reducing the risk of injury.
Note that there isn’t a great way to stop 100% of spall. Even with other types of body armor materials like ceramic, the material can shatter and spread out to injure the wearer and anyone nearby as well.
A way to improve the spall mitigation, even with a full coat of Encapsoloc™ is to utilize the Spall Containment Sleeve, from Spartan Armor Systems®. Made from aramid fibers and a rugged 1000D Cordura Ballistic Nylon Casing, it helps to mitigate the fragmentation and prevent further injuries from spall.
Spartan Armor Systems® offers different types of steel plates to choose from. You can either get single curve or ATC (Advanced Triple Curve) plates. Single curve plates have a rounded shape and are their entry-level option. Other companies advertise their single curve plates as “multi-curve” for an upsell, and even sell flat plates without any curve is their entry-level option.
The ATC advanced triple curved plate is a patented, true multi-curved design. It conforms nicely to your body, which makes it more comfortable to wear. Additionally, the curvature of the ATC armor allows for a greater range of movement when shouldering a weapon. Spartan Armor Systems® was the first to commercially offer triple curved Spartan™ Omega™ AR500 and AR550 body armor.
If you're in the market for steel body armor, Spartan Armor Systems® is a reliable and reputable option. Their range of steel plates offers multi-hit capability, less blunt force trauma, energy dispersal, and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, their custom-made manufacturing process, durability testing, and care and maintenance tips ensure that their steel body armor is reliable, effective, and long-lasting.