Mike from Appalachian Training has been answering a series of armor FAQs on the Appalachian Training Facebook page. The information would be very valuable for those of you who are trying to put together an armor set up. I am trying to convince Mike to start a blog to host all his pearls of wisdom, but in the mean time, I thought I should compile his armor posts here.
On Soft Armor Coverage
“Had some cross discussions elsewhere about armor coverage and the different cuts. Here is a pic (okay okay…a bad quality pic I know) but this particular one shows very well the comparison between a plate carrier with side panels and a BALCS armor carrier’s armor coverage with Velocity Systems armor panels. Each type has its own purpose so start with your requirement for protection then choose the solution. Too many times this is done the other way around and the shooter’s requirement is not met efficiently.”
On Choosing a Protection Level
“A little more Armor 101… I tell customers that armor is one of the most confusing commodities in the defensive industry. When selecting armor, start at the most likely threat that will be faced and work from there. The NIJ standard is outdated and leaves a lot to be desired, but it is the industry standard. Rifle plates are rated to stop 6 hits of 7.62 ball (Level III) or 1 hit of .30cal Armor Piercing (Level IV). Level IV does not assure the plate will withstand Level III as well (it is not a progressive rating). More to follow.”
On Plate Materials
“Armor “generalities” for those looking to assemble a protective hard armor plate solution. When it comes to plates there a few materials in common use, among these are ceramic (including blends), combos/hybrid, poly, and steel. There are others, but just wanted to lay out some general attributes for each. Again, don’t take these as absolutes, just guidelines when considering materials. Each model plate and manufacturer must be assessed based on NIJ and/or reliable independent testing. Ceramics are good at stopping bullets and tend to offer a wide range of protection. They tend to be in the middle of the pack when it comes to weight (varies by manufacturer and capability). Steel tends to be heavier and is generally more susceptible to high velocity (M193 and the like 5.56) FMJ and have more issues with where the rounds go after impact. Poly tend to be lightest Level III; very durable but sometimes have issues with M855 5.56. As always, start with the most likely threat you expect and work from there. It is always a trade-off (mobility, protection, cost, durability, visibility etc); just balance the trades to arrive at a solution for your requirement.”
On Plate Shapes
“There are choices for hard armor shapes / cuts, among these are SAPI, Shooters/Swimmers, or “square”. This graphic is for front/back plates only, side plates are typically square/ rectangular (those are OK in that cut). SAPI cut plates are not necessarily “SAPIs” (a specific rating) but just follow the cut of the SAPI type plates. These have clipped top corners and may or may not have slightly clipped bottom corners. These can be single or triple/ multi-curved (more on this later). We usually (not always) find that Shooters cut plates are ceramic and Level IV and are single curve plates. “Square” front or back plates have no business in a modern plate carrier.”
On Steel Plates
“Steel. Sometimes inexpensive, easy to find, and a lot of people sell cheap steel plates. While (good) steel does have its place when some very specific / specialized roles and conditions exist; odds are yours (and mine) are not those conditions. For civilian use, steel has no place in a plate carrier. With the surging interest in adding armor to personal rigs in the US I see a lot of message traffic about guys trying to make semi-homemade armor solutions. Essentially they are buying steel “plates” from companies and adding truck bed liner in layers…I’ll leave it up to you to determine if you would want that as your armor. Any armor material has its benefits and faults, just have to apply some educated judgment to determine a solution for yourself. And if you are still set on steel, make sure it is actually from an armor manufacturer with a good reputation (Velocity Systems, AMI, etc). Your life is worth it.”
On Side Armor
“Side armor panels. Plate carriers should always have the capability to add soft side armor panels; the addition of side armor panels is a requirement for any modular system. Having a cummerbund that allows you to add panels provides you with the ability to add it based on your requirements. Side armor panels are readily available, inexpensive, and help bridge the difference between a full armor carrier and a plate carrier when more coverage is needed.”
If you are looking for an armor solution, Appalachian Tactical should be your first stop. Mike was very patient with me while I tried to figure out if the Mayflower R&C APC was right for me and he can help you, too.
I will continue to update this post as more armor wisdom is posted.