Ceramic plates have been used for a long time. They possess a backing material which increases absorption in addition to helping to reduce the risk of the ceramic plate accidentally breaking – they are somewhat brittle after all. A projectile fired at a ceramic plate is broken by the plate and should the plate break which is more than likely, the backing materials such as Aramid, ensure the projectile progresses no further.
The theory is that a projectile that is smashed into many pieces and is travelling at a far slower rate is much easier to halt in its tracks than a projectile that is fully concentrated and is travelling at a far greater velocity.
These days, ceramic plates or tiles are far lighter and stronger than previously manufactured. Generally, lumina oxide is used to create ceramic plates, though silicon carbide is also used since it is a little lighter in weight and, at the same time, it is three times more expensive.
The top layer is composed of boron carbide a very high-density substance which is capable of creating type IV / 4 protection plates with the capacity to stop armor-piercing rounds. Again, however, owing to the cost it is more commonly used by the military than it is by law enforcement forces.
The Downside of Ceramic Plates
There are a few downsides to ceramic plates.
- The plate breaks when a projectile hits it and as such, it has a limited life span from that viewpoint alone.
- A further drawback already alluded to is that ceramic plates are particularly fragile. If a bulletproof vest holding ceramic plating is dropped or if it is hit by something hard, and not necessarily a bullet from a firearm, some of the plates may crack.
Moreover, the cracks are not always visible. Thus, if you are aware that a vest has been dropped or something similar, it is advisable to check the ceramic plates very closely and replace any damaged ones without question.
Besides ceramic plating, the only other option when it comes to bulletproof vests for sale is, at least for now, and in terms of being affordable, is polyethylene. With polyethylene plating in some cases when they stand-alone there is no requirement for any backing material such as Aramid. What’s more, they are a whole lot lighter in weight than ceramic plates.
Though polyethylene has been around since late 1980, until recently, the technology was lacking in terms of making plates thin enough for practical use. With high-pressure treatment, the weight has decreased while the performance is enhanced.
Polyethylene plates utilize the advantage of a projectile’s friction. The friction causes the polyethylene to partially melt which in turn ‘sticks’ the projectile. Once stopped, the polyethylene cools down and re-hardens.
Furthermore, polyethylene is far more resilient than ceramic plating and will not be damaged if dropped, for example. And, they are relatively light, which provides a fur-ther benefit over ceramic.
The Downside of Polyethylene Plates
There are only two downsides in comparison to ceramic plates but they are very important.
- It’s currently not possible to create a type IV level plate on a commercial basis.
- Ceramic plates are cheaper. Polyethylene plates are around 25%-50% more costly than their counterparts.
How to Decide?
When opting for a plate or when considering a bullet proof vest on sale, you ought to think about the usage.
- Level of threat you’re subjected to
- Cost and operational considerations
Many officers who are considering making an investment in a bullet proof vest think that it must stop armor piercing rounds (AP). It’s extremely rare if ever that you as a police officer will be under fire from someone who’s propelling APs at you.
As such, why would you consider making a hefty investment in a level IV plates when it’s highly unlikely you’ll never ever need it?
And then, there’s the price comparison too. Keep in mind that polyethylene plates cost around 25%-50% more than ceramic plates. But, ceramic plates will need to be replaced should they be bashed around a bit.
Thus, while choosing a plate the trade-off must be taken into account, There’s no perfect fit for all situations.