What are Armor Plates Made of?

What are Armor Plates Made of?

Body armor plates are the core protective components inserted into plate carriers and bulletproof vests. They are designed to stop bullets and other projectiles, providing life-saving protection for military personnel, law enforcement officers, and civilians.

At PivotalBodyArmor, we offer a wide selection of high-quality armor plates made from various materials, each with its own unique properties and advantages. In this article, we'll explore the different materials used in the construction of armor plates and help you understand which option may be best suited for your needs.

Steel Armor Plates

Steel armor plates, such as those offered by AR500 Armor and Spartan Armor Systems, are popular choices for their affordability and durability. Made from high-strength steel alloys, these plates offer reliable protection against handgun and rifle threats.

Steel armor plates are known for their multi-hit capability, meaning they can withstand multiple bullet impacts without compromising their protective properties. They are also relatively thin and lightweight compared to other armor plate materials, making them a practical choice for everyday use.

Ceramic Armor Plates

Ceramic armor plates are another common option, providing excellent protection against high-velocity rifle rounds. These plates are constructed using advanced ceramic materials, such as alumina, boron carbide, or silicon carbide, which are incredibly hard and capable of shattering and absorbing the energy of incoming projectiles.

One of the main advantages of ceramic armor plates is their lightweight nature, which allows for increased mobility and comfort during extended wear. However, ceramic plates are typically more expensive than steel plates and have a limited multi-hit capability, as the ceramic material can crack or shatter upon impact.

Polyethylene (PE) Armor Plates

Polyethylene (PE) armor plates, such as Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE), are rapidly gaining popularity due to their exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and multi-hit capability. These plates are made from high-density polyethylene fibers that are cross-plied and laminated together to form a strong, lightweight composite material.

PE armor plates are incredibly light, making them ideal for long-duration missions or situations where mobility is a top priority. They also offer excellent protection against both handgun and rifle threats, with some models even capable of stopping armor-piercing rounds.

Hybrid Armor Plates

Hybrid armor plates combine the benefits of multiple materials, such as ceramic and polyethylene, to create a balanced solution that offers superior protection and durability. These plates typically feature a ceramic strike face bonded to a PE backing, providing a hard surface to shatter and deflect incoming projectiles while the PE layer absorbs residual energy.

Hybrid armor plates offer the best of both worlds, delivering the high-level protection of ceramic plates with the multi-hit capability and lightweight properties of PE plates. While they may be more expensive than single-material plates, hybrid plates are an excellent choice for those seeking the ultimate in personal protection.

NIJ Protection Levels

When choosing armor plates, it's essential to understand the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) protection levels, which indicate the type of threats a plate is designed to protect against. The most common NIJ levels for armor plates are:

  • Level III: Protects against 7.62x51mm NATO FMJ (M80) rounds
  • Level III+: Protects against Level III threats, plus 5.56x45mm NATO M193 and 7.62x39mm mild steel core (MSC) rounds
  • Level IV: Protects against .30-06 M2 Armor-Piercing (AP) rounds

Choosing the Right Armor Plate Material

Selecting the right armor plate material depends on several factors, including your specific threat level, weight and mobility requirements, and budget. Consider the following when making your decision:

Material Protection Level Multi-Hit Capability Weight Cost
Steel III, III+ High Moderate Low
Ceramic III, III+, IV Low Light High
PE III, III+ High Very Light Moderate
Hybrid III, III+, IV Moderate Light Very High

Caring for Your Armor Plates

To ensure your armor plates remain effective and last as long as possible, proper care and maintenance are essential. Here are some tips for caring for your armor plates:

  1. Store plates in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight
  2. Avoid exposing plates to chemicals, solvents, or excessive moisture
  3. Clean plates regularly with a mild soap and water solution
  4. Inspect plates for cracks, dents, or other damage before each use
  5. Replace plates that have been significantly damaged or have reached their expiration date

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How long do armor plates last?

The lifespan of armor plates varies depending on the material and storage conditions. Steel plates generally have the longest lifespan, with some manufacturers offering a 20-year warranty. Ceramic and PE plates typically have a 5-10 year lifespan, while hybrid plates fall somewhere in between.

Can armor plates be worn under clothing?

Some armor plates, particularly those made from lightweight materials like PE or hybrid compositions, can be worn under clothing when paired with a concealable soft body armor vest. However, steel and ceramic plates are generally too bulky and heavy for covert wear.

The legality of body armor varies by jurisdiction, so it's essential to check your local laws before purchasing armor plates. In most U.S. states, body armor is legal for law-abiding citizens to purchase and own, but some restrictions may apply.


Understanding the materials used in the construction of armor plates is crucial when selecting the best option for your needs. Whether you opt for steel, ceramic, polyethylene, or hybrid plates, you can trust PivotalBodyArmor to provide high-quality, reliable protection.

Remember to consider factors such as threat level, weight, and budget when choosing your armor plates, and always follow proper care and maintenance guidelines to ensure your plates remain effective for years to come. With the right armor plates, you can have peace of mind knowing you're prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead.

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