What Are The Lightest Armor Plates?

What Are The Lightest Armor Plates?

Top Picks from Pivotal Body Armor

When it comes to body armor, protection is paramount. But close behind is weight. Heavy, cumbersome armor can slow you down and tire you out, potentially putting you at risk. That's why more and more tactical professionals and prepared citizens are seeking out the lightest armor plates that still offer robust protection.

At Pivotal Body Armor, we specialize in high-performance, lightweight armor solutions. Our selection includes some of the most innovative and reliable brands in the industry, such as AR500 Armor, Spartan Armor Systems, and Shellback Tactical. Whether you're in law enforcement, military, security, or a responsibly armed civilian, we have options to fit your needs.

So what are the lightest armor plates available today? Let's dive into some of our top picks and explore the materials, features, and protection levels you should look for.

Polyethylene (PE) Armor Plates

When it comes to lightweight armor, polyethylene (PE) is one of the most exciting materials on the market. PE is a thermoplastic polymer that offers an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. It's used in everything from bulletproof vests to spacecraft.

Leading the pack in PE armor is AR500 Armor's Level III+ Lightweight PE Body Armor. Weighing just 2.5 lbs for the 10x12" shooter's cut, this ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) plate provides Level III+ protection against high-velocity 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm rounds. It's a top choice for those who refuse to compromise on safety or agility.

PE Armor Pros:

  • Extremely lightweight compared to steel or ceramic
  • Buoyant - won't weigh you down in water
  • Resistant to corrosion and chemicals
  • Multi-hit capable (AR500's plate can withstand 6+ hits)

PE Armor Cons:

  • More expensive than steel
  • May degrade over time with UV exposure (make sure it's well-sealed)
  • Thicker than steel or ceramic

Aluminum Oxide (Alumina) Ceramic Armor

For those seeking high-level rifle round protection in a slim, lightweight package, aluminum oxide ceramic armor is a top contender. Alumina ceramics are extremely hard and rigid, effectively shattering and dispersing kinetic energy to mitigate blunt force trauma.

Spartan Armor Systems' Hercules Level IV Lightweight Ceramic Body Armor offers some of the most advanced ceramic protection available. Rated for multi-hit defense against .30-06 M2 AP, 7.62x51mm M61 AP, 5.56x45mm M193/M855/SS109, and more, these plates weigh just 6 lbs each. With a 9-year warranty and stellar reviews, they're a solid choice for serious operators.

Alumina Ceramic Pros:

  • Very hard and rigid - effectively stops high-powered rounds
  • Slim form factor compared to PE
  • Multi-hit capable
  • Relatively lightweight for Level IV protection

Alumina Ceramic Cons:

  • More expensive than PE or steel
  • Less multi-hit endurance than PE
  • Can crack or shatter if dropped

Lightweight Special Threat Plates

For covert operations or lower-velocity threats, lightweight special threat plates offer reliable handgun protection in an ultra-discreet package. These thin, flexible soft armor inserts are perfect for concealable carriers.

Check out Shellback Tactical's 6x6" Soft Armor Plate. At just 0.45 lbs per plate and about 0.5" thick, this Level IIIA soft armor is made of 100% Kevlar. It'll stop .44 Magnum, .357 SIG, and 9mm, plus most handguns and shotguns. A non-ballistic anti-stab version is also available.

Special Threat Plate Pros:

  • Incredibly lightweight and thin
  • Flexible and concealable
  • Affordable
  • Effective against common handgun and shotgun threats

Special Threat Plate Cons:

  • Not rifle-rated
  • Limited coverage area
  • Shorter lifespan than hard armor plates

Factors to Consider in Lightweight Armor

When shopping for the lightest armor plates, there are a few key factors you should weigh:

  1. Threat Level Rating
    The NIJ rating will tell you what kinds of ballistic threats the plate is designed to stop. From Level IIA (9mm/.40 S&W) to Level IV (armor piercing rifle). Be sure to match the plate to your expected threat scenario.

  2. Material (PE/Ceramic/Steel) Each material has pros and cons in terms of weight, thickness, durability, and cost. Polyethylene is lightest, while alumina ceramics are thinnest. Steel is most economical and multi-hit capable.

  3. Single or Multi-Curve Single-curve plates may be more affordable, but multi-curve plates provide a more ergonomic fit for greater comfort during extended wear. The trade-off is a bit of added weight and bulk.

  4. Shooters or SAPI Cut
    Do you want more coverage (SAPI) or mobility (shooters)? SAPI cut plates extend further under the arms, while shooter's cut offers a better rifle stock weld and range of motion.

  5. Stand-Alone or In-Conjunction
    Some plates are designed to work with soft ballistic backers for added protection and trauma mitigation. If you'll wear plates alone, opt for standalone-rated models.

Lightest Armor Plates from Pivotal Body Armor

At the end of the day, the lightest armor plate is the one you'll actually wear when you need it. That means finding the right balance of protection, weight, and comfort for your individual needs and situation.

We've highlighted some of our lightest armor plates, but there are plenty more options to explore. By working with top brands like AR500 Armor, Spartan Armor Systems, and Shellback Tactical, we're able to offer a wide range of NIJ-rated lightweight plates to fit various budgets and scenarios.

Here are a few more innovative lightweight armor solutions to consider:

Plate Material Weight Protection Level
Spartan Omega Level IIIA+ PE 3.2 lbs Level III+
Shellback 24/7 Plate HMWPE 2.9 lbs Level III
Spartan Level IV Ceramic Alumina 6 lbs Level IV
AR500 Lightweight UHMWPE PE 2.5 lbs Level III

Remember, your armor is only as good as its fit and your ability to move in it. We highly recommend pairing your lightweight plates with a quality plate carrier, either overt or covert. Proper fitment and adjustment is key to ensuring protective coverage without impeding mobility.

No matter your role or threat environment, there's a lightweight armor system out there for you. And Pivotal Body Armor is here to help you find it. Contact our experts anytime for personalized advice and answers to all your body armor questions. Your safety is our TOP priority.

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