Body Armor Guide – Armor Plates

While a bulletproof vest rated IIIA can stop pistol ammunition (see NIJ standard), adding external hard armor plates will increase ballistic protection rating of bulletproof vest from IIIA to level III and level IV (in their protection area), and this additional ballistic protection can stop rifle rounds (see NIJ standard).

To use these plates you need an external bulletproof vest that has external pockets for these plates. This way you can insert these armor plates into the bulletproof vest, so the soft armor protection will be between the armor plates and the body of the wearer.

There 2 Main Plate Types

  • Ceramic Plates
  • Polyethylene Plates

Ceramic Plates

  • Cheaper
  • Weigh more
  • More fragile

Polyethylene Plates

  • Cost more
  • Weigh less
  • Do not come in level IV protection (for fair price)
  • Can come as standalone (do not require a bulletproof vest)


Make sure the shape and size of the armor plates fit the bulletproof vest pockets. Because if the armor plate too small it will not be tight in the bulletproof vest, and if the armor plate too big part of it could be sticking out, and this way it will not properly cover the bulletproof vest and aid in maximum protection. When the armor plate is sticking out, the user could be exposed to injury as result of being hit by sides and edges of the armor plate.

Most of the hard armor plates need to be used with combination of soft armor bulletproof vests that rated IIIA. When you use armor plates, make sure to read its instructions, if the plate is stand-alone or it needs to be used with a certain model of bulletproof vests.

Usually stand-alone plates used in plate carriers and not in bulletproof vests. Although a plate carrier will not provide wider area of ballistic protection as bulletproof vest does with its soft armor. Because of this a plate carrier will have much less weight. A plate carriers will only contain the hard armor plates and allow bigger movement area and be more effective especially in hot climate.

Care and Maintenance

Ceramic armor plates as result of their material can brake more easily, if you drop them they can actually break.

Armor plates same as soft armor need to be kept as dry as possible, even when they are inside the vest, make sure they stay dry all the time.

Ground Storage

Hard armor plates can be very heavy, especially the ceramic models, make sure do not store them on a high shelf or where they can fall and injure someone.

Cleaning Instructions

Best to use with damp cloth to wipe them down, most of the time they will not require to be cleaned as they are located inside the bulletproof vest.

Handle with care and make sure to read their instructions and requirements before use.