Body Armor vs Ammo; What Armor Stops What Ammo

Survival Preppers Body Armor
Survival Preppers Body Armor

Safeguard Armour

Colorado -( Getting the Right Body Armor

One of the most basic parts of gun ownership is buying the correct ammunition – it seems obvious, of course. If you don’t have the right caliber, the gun is not much more than a paperweight.

This is just as true when buying a bullet proof vest. Body armor isn’t ‘one size fits all’, so what type of ammo can a vest stop?

Bullet proof vests work by displacing the energy of a bullet, slowing it down to a complete stop before it can penetrate the strong fibres of the vest. Most vests use Kevlar or Dyneema plates, both of which are much stronger than steel, and when woven together provide a web that slows the bullet and minimizes injury greatly.

These plates are inserted into carriers which form the bullet proof vest. These armors are lightweight and flexible, and are known as soft armor. There is also the option of hard armor, which is made of plates of steel, ceramic or titanium. Bullet proof vests are classified by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is the world leader in ballistics testing of body armor.

The following is a run down of what each Level of body armor can protect you against.

Soft Body Armor by Safeguard Armor
Soft Body Armor by Safeguard Armor

Soft Body Armor

This armor comes in Levels I to III, and usually protects against the type of ammunition used in handguns, the number one firearm threat faced in America today according to the FBI. It is possible to get Level I armor, the lowest available, but most manufacturers only offer Level IIa and above. With the increased threats you may face, Level IIa is the minimum recommended protection.

Bullet proof vests at Level IIa will protect against 9mm and .40 S&W calibre bullets, whereas Level II also offers protection against .357 Magnum jacketed soft points.

This extra protection comes at the expense of mobility, and is heavier and bulkier than the IIa levels. Level IIIa armor offers all this protection with the added benefit of stopping .44 Magnum jacketed hollow points, again with extra bulk and weight added.

The Level IIIa is the highest protection available in both overt and covert styles.

If you want concealable body armor as well as maximum defense, the Level IIIa is the only option.

Covert bullet proof vests offer the benefit of protection against ammunition most commonly used in crimes, whilst also being lightweight and easily covered. This allows you freedom of movement, and hides the fact you are wearing body armor.

Hard Body Armor by Safeguard Armor
Hard Body Armor by Safeguard Armor

Hard Body Armor

Of course, concealable body armor may not be for you – in some situations you may want to let the world know you have body armor and are prepared for whatever you may face. Some will certainly think twice if they see you are protected against rifle fire or even armor-piercing rounds.

So called ‘hard armors’ function in much the same way as soft armors, but due to their bulky and heavy nature can’t be worn underneath clothes like covert soft armors. The added protection afforded by the steel, titanium or ceramic plates also provides the same level of defence as Levels I-IIIa. The Level III however also protects against 7.62mm full metal jacketed bullets, or M80 bullets as the Military calls them.

Level IV armors offer the highest available protection, and are not stocked by all manufacturers or distributors.

This protects against .30 caliber armor piercing rounds (Military designation M2 AP), in addition to all other ammunition mentioned.

However, these higher level armors are often designed only with single-shot protection due to their brittle nature. They are also a great deal bigger and heavier, and so should only be used in the most extreme tactical situations. Of course, they will provide a psychological protection too, and are sure to intimidate anyone you face. Moreover, many of these hard armors also offer blast and fragmentation protection, so if you decide to choose a hard armor rest assured it will provide maximum protection.

Things to Remember

As we’ve seen, there is a wide range of bullet proof vests available, and it is important to choose the right type for you based on the threat or potential threat you will face. Many soft armors do come with the option of additional protection in the form of hard plates, so there is a great deal of flexibility in choosing the right bullet proof vest for your situation.

A good first armor, that covers a wide range of threats, is our Safeguard Armor Stealth Pro Soft Body Armor.

However, there is no such thing as complete protection in any situation, and while your bullet proof vest will greatly reduce the risks you face, it will only do so if you take care of it. Body armour should be treated like clothes, with regular cleaning and maintenance – many companies recommend having multiple carriers for your armor plates, so you will always have a clean vest available. If your armor is damaged in any way, from simple wear and tear to a bullet wound, do not wear it! Only intact vests are suitable for their purpose.

Finally, make sure you wear your vest! Only bullet proof vests that are worn can protect you from a bullet.

Leading body armor manufacturers and premium body armor designers & has been established online for about 7 years. They specialize in combining soft Kevlar armor with hard armor plates to their carrier designs.

  • 11 thoughts on “Body Armor vs Ammo; What Armor Stops What Ammo

    1. Who said a 5.56 can penetrate AR500 Steel plate? How thick and what type of bullet. I shoot .223 FMJ at AR500 3/8″ targets all day and it just basically leaves a ding on the plate. I find AR550 is MUCH better for longevity. Nearly night and day. The steel used in the Caldwell steel Gongs is awesome. Takes .300 Win mag hits easily.

    2. What plate may stop some mean rounds, you still do not wanna get hit with that much kinetic force. It would be disabling at the least and worst fatal internal injurys. The guy in ar500 plate who takes a 12 gauge slug at 10 feet is probably a dead man… if not from that round then from the next one because your flat on you back after that trying to breath and you are prolly sure your chest is crushed.

    3. Depends on what type of plate that was used and how thick it was, and what it was rated up to. That’s all I can tell you

    4. Some misleading or wrong info and poor grammar. Try stopping a 9mm FMJ from an Uzi or MP5 with a 2A vest.

      1. A 9mm is a 9mm! Is does not matter what type of firearm it is fired from. Yes barrel length can make a difference on velocity and that is why NIJ specifies the velocity at which it is tested at. If it is tested to the velocities that the bullet is leaving the barrel from an MP5 or Uzi (both of which have multiple different barrel options) it will stop it.

        1. Kinda true in most situations. However if you followed that rule you would run into problems chamber design will play a small role and the huge problem is lets say if you say its 9mm.. well thats not just one bullet.. aside from load specifications you have 9×18 9×19 and 9×23 off the top of my head, same with 7.62 it varies quite a bit depending which 7.62mm your talking about x39mm packs much less energy than a x51mm. As well as the issue that a soft body armor will get chewed up faster than hell from an uzi burst 2 seconds of trigger time should be in the neighborhood of 20 rounds… good luck surviving that.

    5. 5.56 FMJ a 3400 FPS 24inch rifle penetrate AR 500 plate at 30 yards. This was shown on YouTube . Is this a true.. please reply..

      1. Yes. 556 riffles are extremely fast. This was used in the 2017 Vagas shooting, but, it is such a fast bullet it will not hurt you of it hits no absolute vitals and you don’t have armor on. Ironically, with type 3A and type 3 armor, including AR500 plates, a 556 will be slowed down slightly, and will shatter and split the plate it penetrates into you which sucks. In Las Vegas those hit by it mostly didn’t die.

        However, it should be noted that this is a rarely used rifle-type. Although more common in actual war and combat, in most situations this is not a gun used. It has vehicle-penetration capabilities, up to even Humvees and boat hulls, and is fast enough to be reliably aimed at aircraft. But the long bullets are heavy, with bulky magazines and clips, and difficult to carry huge amounts.

        556 can be stopped by type 4 vests but these sometimes as said shatter after 1 or 2 hits. Difficult to find cover from, but amo limitations and close range heavy-gun accuracy problems slow this type of gun down. I recommend a type 3 or 3a vest for most people as running into a 556 is rare. I also recommend you carry a backup 556 in your vehicle of combat, if you plan on having serious situations where the over-penetration can help. 6 inch brick and cinder block, as well as all normal cars and house walls will be penetrated by a 556.

        1. The nij benchmark for testing 9mm against 3a armor is a 10” barrel mp5 firing 124gr projectiles at approximately 1450fps if I remember correctly. Yes a 2a or lvl2 vest will most likely “stop” those same rounds, but it is not rated as appropriate for protection against them. The obvious issue of penetration is not the only factor. “Back face deformation” is the more significant limitation when comparing these lower levels of armor. A lvl 2 vest may stop the bullet from piercing through, but allow enough focused energy to transfer into the wearer that catastrophic rib fractures, severe organ damage including complete ruptures occur, or even deliver enough impact to stop your heart. While you could argue that this injuries are not as common or equivalent to the guaranteed injury resulting from a bullet entering your torso, they are a very real possibility, and even if you don’t suffer those outcomes you will be suffering the effects of a hard enough impact to cause them… and you could be temporarily incapacitated, or gasping for air. However well trained and full of adrenaline you might be, you will atleast be taken out of the fight momentarily, or your effectiveness will be significantly hampered.
          A 9mm is a 9mm, but there’s definitely a difference when it comes to barrel length, and nij ratings based on the amount of back face deformation allowable to be awarded a specific rating.

        2. What?!
          That’s all just not realistic…
          5.56 is probably the most commonly owned centerfire rifle round in North/south/central America.
          It was designed specifically because it is light, and easy for a soldier to carry large quantities.
          Yes some projectile types will penetrate some lower quality level 3 armor, and even some higher quality armors have inconsist results against the tiny needle like projectiles at higher velocities when fired from 18” barrels and longer, but the bullets don’t survive high velocity impacts well either, and as a result it is far from an over penetrating caliber.
          They spall and fragment in soft tissue, drywall, dirt, and wood. Most calibers will shatter cinder blocks and it looks intense, but there’s not much left of the bullet after passing through, and “6” of brick” is just not gonna happen. You’re probably at more risk of brick chips hitting you than the bullet. A car is not adequate cover from anything faster than a .380acp, and the windshield and tires are actually far more bullet resistant than the body panels, and doors. I just can’t let myself be sucked into more ranting on the far reaching levels of misinformation on numerous topics going on here. Believe what ya want. Your probably never gonna be shot at in a scenario where it matters… unless your in law enforcement. In that case please do some more research for your own sake.

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