top of page
Search

Apex Armor Solutions Body Armor Buyers Guide

*Note* Feel free to skip to the bottom for the list of recommendations This is a general guide meant to help you make an informed decision when purchasing body armor or plate carriers based on your individual needs, budget and threat profile. This article will cover the properties of different armor plates based on their material types and NIJ rating as well as offer guidance on what situations or use cases they are best suited for.

Please note, the information in this buyers guide is only guaranteed to be accurate for quality Ceramic and or Polyethylene standalone armor plates that we sell on our website. While some information is universal, this guide does not cover steel plates (which we do not recommend under any circumstances). The information from this article can also apply to other quality and properly made armor plates, however some of this information may not apply to certain uncertified and imported Chinese plate models. Many Chinese plates lack industry standard design features and common industry quality control features, which can greatly affect performance.


All of our guides are free and we spend a considerable amount of time providing this information and ensuring it is accurate. If you find the information in our guides useful, we humbly ask that you consider us when you are looking to purchase body armor or plate carriers.


What goes into body armor selection? What are some things to consider?

Body Armor is a personal subject, there is no one "best" plate for everyone, the best plate for you may differ from someone else. Its important to look at your individual use case, budget, threat profile and priorities. There are a plethora of different armor options, each with their own unique properties which make them better suited for different roles. Your needs (and budget) will determine what level plate will best suit you, as well as the best material type (or combination) to go with.


What are the different NIJ ratings and what are their properties?

The NIJ rating of an armor plate is incredibly important, not only in determining what threats it will stop, but it will also have a heavy influence on the weight of the product.


NIJ Level 4 Properties

Level 4 plates allow you to maximize protection and offers the most comprehensive protection against the widest range of threats. However, the general tradeoff is Level 4 plates will weigh more due to the extra material needed to stop larger caliber threats and AP projectiles. Level 4 plates will always be a Ceramic composite as steel level 4s would weigh 15-20lbs per plate and Polyethylene level 4s would be 4 inches or more thick. The official test round for Level 4 is one shot of .30-06 162gr M2 AP traveling at 2,880 feet per second.

A common misconception with our Level 4 plates is that they are not multi hit. This is far from the truth, all of our ceramic plates utilize adhesive bonded pressed polyethylene or aramid backers. This means the ceramic core is bonded to the ballistic backer with a strong heat and moisture resistant epoxy like adhesive. This keeps the ceramic core together after repeated strikes and localizes damage to the plate.

Our level 4 plates provide comprehensive multi hit protection against the .30-06 M2 AP test round as well as some larger (non AP) magnum rifle rounds such as 7mm Remington Magnum, 8mm Mauser and .300 Winchester Magnum. Our Level 4 plates also provide multi hit protection against 7.62x51mm M61 AP, 7.62x54R B-32 API (Armor Piercing Incendiary), 5.56x45mm M855A1, M855, M193, 7.62x39mm M43 Steel Core, BZ-API (Armor Piercing Incendiary), as well as 5.56x45mm M995 Tungsten Core AP and 7.62x51mm M993 Tungsten Core AP (out of 16" barrels). The way I like to put it is with level 4 plates, you will have protection against most calibers short of a .338 Lapua Magnum. Some of our plates can stop .338 Lapua Magnum, however the blunt force trauma will likely be too much to survive.


To stop such a comprehensive range of threats a thicker ceramic core is required to weaken and properly break up the projectile before the blunted and fragmented projectile is caught by the ballistic backer. This attributes to the higher weight in most Budget to mid end level 4s. For level 4 plates under around $700 per set, you will see average weights of 7-8lbs for a Size 10x12 or Medium. At this price point, your weight savings are limited due to price, higher end lighter materials are more expensive, which contributes to a higher overall price. We have one option that is between Mid/ High end, which is our Highcom 4S16s, which are 6.2lbs for a 10x12 shooters cut for $749 per set. For our higher end Level 4s however ($1,900+ per set) this opens the door to Boron Carbide/ Silicon Carbide ceramic, which is a lighter and harder ceramic material than the Aluminum Oxide Ceramic used in our Budget and Mid range plates. This allows you to maximize protection AND have a lower weight. Our Boron Carbide Level 4s are about 5.5lbs for a 10x12 or Medium plate.

Our Ceramic Composite Level 4 plate options include the following: Highcom: 4S17M, 4S17, 4SAS7, 4S16, 4SSS2 Hoplite/ LTC: 26300, 26605, 26148, 26135, 26149, 28534


NIJ Level 3/ 3+ Properties

This will be split into two sections, one on Polyethylene Level 3/ 3+ plates and Polyethylene/ Ceramic composite Level 3+ plates. This is a trickier one to discuss, as the addition of the"+" label is unofficial and a common label used in the industry to describe a plate that has been tested for additional threats outside of the NIJ's default testing rounds (usually a "greater" threat). This is why it is important to look at individual product descriptions and see what the manufacturer states the plate is capable of stopping. All level 3 plates will stop at a minimum, the official NIJ test round for Level 3 is 6 shots of 7.62x51mm 147gr M80 ball at 2780 feet per second.

Sometimes whether a Polyethylene or Ceramic plate is labeled Level 3 or 3+ can often depend on the manufacturer, this is due to the fact that M193 is a special threat. Generally speaking, all level 3 ceramic composite plates will be labeled Level 3+.

However pure polyethelene plates can be labeled level 3 or 3+. Pure polyethelene plates cannot stop M855, but can stop M193. As a general rule of thumb, our Pure Polyethylene level 3/3+ plates can stop at a minimum 6 shots of .308 M80 ball and 5.56 M193, while our Ceramic and Polyethylene Composite Level 3/3+ plates can stop at a minimum or 6 shots of .308 M80 ball, 5.56 M193 and M855.


Polyethylene Level 3/ 3+ Plate Properties

These plates are generally among the lightest plates available on the market due to the pure Polyethylene construction. Pure polyethylene plates allow you to maximize weight savings while allowing for excellent multi hit protection against FMJ/ lead core projectiles and soft point or hollow point projectiles. The tradeoff of pure Polyethylene plates is they will never provide hardened steel core or AP protection. Pure polyethylene plates are not capable of stopping M855 at muzzle velocity out of longer rifle length barrels without a ceramic component present. Level 3/ 3+ pure polyethylene plates can sometimes stop M855 out of shorter barrels at close distances, or M855 out of longer barrels at longer distances, however this is not something that I would count on.

All of our Polyethylene 3+ plates give comprehensive multi hit protection against rounds such as .30-06 FMJ and JSP (soft point), 7.62x51mm (.308) M80 ball FMJ, 7.62x39mm M67 FMJ, 5.56x45mm FMJ, 5.45x39mm FMJ. Our Polyethylene Level 3/ 3+ plates are around 1.7-3lbs per 10x12 or Medium plate. These types of plates are excellent if weight savings are of the utmost importance and protection against steel core projectiles is not important. These plates are also always neutrally buoyant, which can make them a good option for Maritime operations. (Note neutrally buoyant plates are not positively buoyant floatation devices like life jackets).

If you are not sure whether or not a plate is a pure Polyethylene plate the following is a good rule of thumb to use. If it is a Level 3/ 3+ plate, is under 3.5lbs for a 10x12 or Medium and M855 is not listed as a round it is capable of stopping, it is more than likely a pure polyethylene plate. Our pure Polyethylene Level 3/3+ plate options include the following: Hoplite/ LTC: 23526, 23620, 3+ HASP shoulder plates Highcom: 3i10M, 3S15M, 3S11

Tencate: CR3600SA


Ceramic and Polyethylene Composite Level 3+ Plate Properties

These plates are generally an excellent balance between weight savings and protection. Ceramic and Polyethylene Composite Level 3+ plates generally will provide protection from steel core projectiles on top of what pure Polyethylene Level 3/ 3+ plates can already stop. So if you like the lightweight characteristics of pure polyethylene plates, but would like added steel core protection, a ceramic/ polyethylene composite is the way to go. The construction of these plates are often still primarily polyethylene, however the addition of the thin ceramic strike face is what gives these plates the ability to stop mild steel core projectiles such as M855. These plates are excellent if you are looking for a lightweight general purpose plate, but do not require protection from AP rounds such as .30-06 M2 AP, 7.62x54R B32 API or 7.62x51mm M61 AP. Nor from large caliber magnum cartridges such as 7mm Remington Magnum or 8mm Mauser. (The exception being the 3S9M which is rated for 7.62x54R B32 API and M61 AP, its technically a 3+ plate, but basically has a Level 4 rating).

Plates such as these provide the best balance between protection and weight savings, making them an excellent overall option for most people. Ceramic and Polyethylene Composite Level 3+ plates (such as the Highcom 3S14M and Hoplite 19513) weigh 3.6-5.2lbs per Medium/ 10x12 plate. Our Ceramic and Polyethylene Composite Level 3+ plate options include the following: Highcom: 3S9M, 3S9, RSTP, 3S14M Hoplite/ LTC: 19513, 23707, 27919 & 3++ Shoulder Plates

Tencate: CR3200SA


Special Threat Plate Properties

"Special threat" is a non standardized rating which simply means a plate that falls outside of the NIJ testing parameters. Generally speaking these plates are plates that cannot stop the Level 3 7.62x51mm M80 ball test round, or cannot stop the 6 rounds required to pass level 3 testing. There two types of special threat plates, one being pure Polyethylene and one being Polyethylene and Ceramic Composite plates.


Polyethylene Special Threat Plate Properties: These plates have the same properties as Polyethylene Level 3/ 3+ plates but are generally made of less of the same material. This results in a plate that is lighter and thinner, however you do sacrifice protection against larger caliber rounds such as .308. These plates are generally limited to 5.56x45mm M193, 7.62x39mm FMJ and 5.45x39mm FMJ (and all lesser threats/ similar round types). These plates are great if weight savings is your utmost priority. These plates also often function well as backpack plates.


Ceramic and Polyethylene Composite Special Threat Plate Properties: Ceramic composite special threat plates are traditionally meant for concealment or low visibility operations. They often utilize ceramic cores that are thicker than most Ceramic composite 3+ plates combined with a thinner backer. This creates a plate that often does not stop .308 or does not stop all 6 rounds required for certification. This is due to the thinner backer and sometimes results in a plate that is heavier than many ceramic composite 3+ plates due to the increased thickness of the ceramic core. This sacrifices (some ballistic protection and (sometimes) weight savings) in order to create a thinner profile. These types of plates are best when they are 0.5-0.6" thick and are multi curve which makes them ideal for concealment and low visibility use.

I do not recommend using plates like these as overt general purpose plates. Ceramic composite 3+ plates such as our Highcom 3S9Ms are more suited for overt general purpose use as they are both lighter and provide a higher level of ballistic protection. They are thicker, however if you are not using them for concealment, the increased thickness is inconsequential. Plates such as these in the budget to mid end range generally weigh 6lbs for a Medium or 10x12 SAPI. We have the Tencate CR2000SA and Tencate CR6450SA as ceramic special threats. We also have the Highcom RSTP 3+ ICW plates that stop M193, M855 and 7.62x39 when used standalone.


What Are The Different Plate Cuts?

There are two primary common rifle armor plate cuts and that is the SAPI/ ESAPI cut and Swimmers/ "Swimmers Style" cuts.

SAPI/ ESAPI cut plates are your standard plate shape, military issued SAPI/ ESAPI plates come in this cut. The military standardized SAPI/ ESAPI sizing is 7.25x11.5 (XS), 8.75x11.75 (S), 9.5x12.5 (M), 10.25x13.25 (L) and 11x14 (XL). There are also civilian sized plates that utilize the same style profile/ cut in 8x10 and 10x12.

Swimmers cut plates are traditionally based off of the military Socom SPEAR swimmers cut plates which were literally meant for swimming in. They feature a more generous shoulder cutout for increased range of motion and mobility, which also makes shouldering rifles easier. This more generous cutout also means marginally less material coverage around the shoulders, which can decrease weight by a slight margin.


Then, there is a third type of cut, the "Shooters cut". This is a term that is used without consistency within the armor industry. Depending on which manufacturer you ask, "Shooters Cut" could mean 10 different things, ranging from 10x12 SAPIs, Swimmers cuts, proprietary cuts and more. However, the original shooters cut (before it was adopted inconsistently as a term) is shown below (in the middle). Generally these come in 10x12 and feature the same top profile as SAPI cut plates, but with additional smaller angled cutouts at the bottom. All of our shooters cut plates are in this shape. We generally categorize our Shooters cut plates with our SAPI plates as the profile is the same, this is to avoid confusion and fitment issues.

Proper Sizing And Fitment of Armor Plates

(Remember, you buy a vest to fit your plates, not the other way around) General rule of thumb is the edges should line up with your nipples or cover them slightly. Wear your front plate so the top of the plate is two finger widths below where your sternum ends. Then the bottom of the plate should end about 1-3 inches above your belly button WHEN YOU ARE SITTING DOWN.

What I have generally seen is your plate size is 1 size below your shirt size (for men). Remember, the armor plate is meant to cover your vitals, not your entire torso.


For 85% of individuals a 10x12 or Medium SAPI (9.5x12.5) will work to cover their vitals. Even for overweight individuals its important to remember that your internal organs and ribcage do not expand as you put on weight. So while you may want a larger plate such as a Large or an XL, often times a 10x12 will provide you with sufficient protection for your vitals. Although for larger individuals I do generally recommend a large, as that provides more coverage, but does not come with as much of a weight or mobility penalty as XL plates bring.



Body Armor Plate Recommendations:


All of our guides are free and we spend a considerable amount of time providing this information and ensuring it is accurate. If you find the information in our guides useful, we humbly ask that you consider us when you are looking to purchase body armor or plate carriers.


This section covers individual examples and recommendations for plates that are sold on our website. This section will cover different types of plates from different budget ranges and different protection levels, outlining the situations they are best suited for.


1. Best Level 4 Plates Under $500 (Best Balance Between Weight/ Protection)

These are the most balanced level 4 options and offers the best value for most people.


We recommend the Highcom 4S17M 10x12 Multi Curve Shooters Cut Plates or 4SAS7 10x12 (or 8x10) Single Curve Level 4 plates if you are looking for a great balance between price, protection and weight. The 4S17M/ 4SAS7 10x12 Level 4 shooters cut plates are 7.2lbs per plate, while the 4SAS7 8x10 Level 4 shooters cut plates are 5.5lbs per plate.

The 4S17Ms are 0.9" Thick while the 4SAS7s are only 0.7" thick.


This makes these a fantastic option if you are looking for a big weight and thickness reduction compared to RMA 1155s without a big jump in price. These Highcom plates are of course NIJ Certified and US made. These are also Multi Hit Capable as well with the ability to also stop 3 shots of .30-06 M2 AP and 10+ hits of M855A1.


4S17Ms and 4SAS7's 10x12 Shooters are the best and lightest level 4 option under $500. These also conveniently come in SAPI cut if you need specific smaller or larger sizes. For most people, these are what we recommend. 4S17M and 4SAS7's provide the same ballistic protection, the 4SAS7's just have a marginal advantage in thickness reduction. Highcom is one of 6 major US manufacturers that makes everything in house and presses their own backers. They have been making armor since 1997 and have 17 certified models on the NIJ Certified Products List. Many years ago Highcom was one of the first US armor manufacturers to be willing to sell their armor to civilians, 5-8 years ago most companies would not sell to civilians. They are however a lesser known brand due to the fact that they primarily OEM and complete major contracts for the military/ government.


2. Best Level 4 Plates On A Budget (under $400): (Maximize Protection)




For those on a budget, we recommend our Highcom 4S17 and 4SAS7 plates in Single Curve Swimmers Cut.

These plates are incredibly cost effective, yet thinner and lighter than other similarly priced options like the RMA 1155.

These may cost a little bit more, but are considerably lighter, thinner and offer better multi hit protection with ceramic consolidation technology.


We recommend most to go for the Multi Curve Highcom 4SAS7 or 4S17M Shooters cuts, however these are a fantastic option for those on a budget.


3. Mid Price Level 4 Plates (High $400's to Low $600's): (Maximize Protection)


We recommend the Highcom 4S17M or 4SAS7 Multi Curve Level 4 SAPI Cut Plates if you are looking for a mid end plate in the full range of SAPI Cut Sizes (XS-XL). The Medium 4S17M Multi Curve SAPI is just $489.99 per set. These are NIJ .06 Certified and boasts excellent protection from magnum cartridges and performs great in multi hit testing. Incredibly popular option and a great plate for most people, especially those looking for a Small, Large or XL plate.


Highcom 4SAS7's are a slightly lighter and thinner (0.7" thick) version of the 4S17Ms. Excellent option for those who care about the thickness of their plates. Very slight price increase over 4S17Ms.


We recommend these for most people as they offer great performance at a balanced, middle of the road price point.


4. Higher End Mid-Weight Level 4 Plates: (Maximizing Protection at a balanced weight)

These plates offer the maximum amount of protection (Level 4) at a balanced weight and price point. These are the lightest and thinnest level 4's under $1000.

I recommend the Highcom 4S16 Mid Weight Level 4s for those who are looking for a middle of the road Level 4 option that offers a balanced weight and price point.

Priced a very tiny bit higher than Hoplite 26605s, the Highcom 4S16s are also lighter and thinner than our 26605s. These are among the best level 4s you can get at under $1,000 a set.

These are an excellent option for someone wanting plates that are slightly lighter and thinner than most other options, but are not quite as expensive as our Lightweight level 4s. Highcom 4S16s offer incredibly balanced specifications, the 10x12 Shooters Cut is just 6.2lbs per plate. The Highcom 4S16s in 10x12 Shooters Cut are the lightest level 4s you can get under $1,000. This offers the same amount of protection as more expensive RMA 1192s at half the price ($779 per set) and only 0.5lbs more weight. This is an excellent option for anyone who cannot afford lightweight level 4s.


5. High End Lightweight Level 4 Plates: (Weight Savings & Maximum Protection)

These are generally the most expensive plates on the market due to the high end materials used. However the properties of these materials allows these plates to maximize protection while maintaining a lower weight. Our lightweight Level 4s are made of harder but lighter Boron Carbide ceramic. Boron Carbide is the 3rd hardest man made material, right behind cubic boron carbide and diamond. These are on average 2-3lbs lighter than lower cost aluminum oxide ceramic level 4s.




We recommend our Hoplite/ LTC 26300 Lightweight Level 4s if you want the absolute best performing plates on the market available to civilians. These are made with a hot pressed boron carbide ceramic core and an HB212 polyethylene backer. The 26300s have an increased price as compared to 1192s due to its proprietary manufacturing techniques and higher end materials used.


There are typically 3 primary manufacturing processes for boron carbide, reaction bonded, sintered and hot pressed. Hot pressed boron carbide is regarded as the strongest and best material type for ballistic plates. HB212 is the strongest type of polyethylene with the highest tensile strength. HB212 is finer and has a higher ply count compared to other polyethylene types, which means the 26300s have a backer with more layers of polyethylene pressed together. This combined with an autoclave bonding process results in one of the strongest plates on the market.


The 26300s are 5.5lbs for a SAPI Medium and come in the full Small-XL SAPI size range, as well as 8x10 and 10x12 Swimmers cut. The 26300s have significantly increased multi-hit performance and significantly lower backface deformation as compared to 1192s. These plates are the closest civilian option to current Socom issued military plates.


We currently have another option, the LTC 28534 ESAPI Rev J. Which offers the same performance and weight at a lower price (On Sale).


We recommend the Highcom 4SSS2 Multi Curve Lightweight Level 4s as a lower cost alternative to the LTC 26300 and LTC 28534 Lightweight Level 4s. The Highcom 4SSS2s are made of Silicon Carbide Ceramic along with an autoclave formed compressed polyethylene backer. These are about $2,000 for a Medium set and 5.9lbs per plate.


Silicon Carbide Ceramic has a "best of both worlds" performance mix between Boron Carbide Ceramic and Aluminum Oxide Ceramic. You get a middle of the road weight and strong durability. The molecular properties of Silicon Carbide gives it the best performance against Tungsten Carbide AP projectiles. The 4SSS2 provides better tungsten core AP protection than other traditional plates.


6. Mid Price Level 3+ Ceramic and Polyethylene Composite Plates: (Prioritize Weight Savings) This is generally the price range where quality Ceramic composite 3+ plates start to appear. These plates are an excellent middle ground in terms of weight and protection and are an excellent option for individuals who do not require magnum caliber rifle protection or AP protection.

We recommend the Hoplite 19513s for a lightweight Level 3++ option that saves weight without sacrificing major protection from common rounds. These plates do not provide protection against AP rounds such as .30-06 M2 AP or Magnum hunting rifle rounds like 7mm Remington Magnum or 8mm Mauser like our Level 4 plates do. However they still do provide protection from common rounds such as 7.62x54R LPS, .30-06 FMJ, 7.62x51mm M80 Ball, 7.62x39 MSC/ API, 5.56 M193, M855 and M855A1 at full velocity. These are only 5.2lbs for a Medium so they are lightweight, while still providing great protection.


If you don't need AP/ Magnum rifle protection and are looking to save weight with a budget under $1,000, we recommend these.


7. Mid Price Special Threat Ceramic and Polyethelene Composite Plates: (Weight Savings and Concealment)



We recommend the Tencate CR2000SA special threat plates for a middle of the road special threat low profile/ concealment plate. These plates are lightweight yet provide provide good protection against common rounds like M193, M855 and 7.62x39 MSC, but this plate also gives the benefit of being able to stop M855A1 and 7.62x39 API at just 4.7lbs for a Medium and 0.55" thick. This makes this plate an excellent candidate for a concealment or low profile plate. If you don't need .308 or 7.62x54R LPS protection, this is a great alternative to the LTC 19513.

8. High End Level 3++ Ceramic/ Polyethylene Composite Plates

(Lightweight Level 4 Alternative)

Our Highcom 3S9M Multi Curve Level 3++ Ceramic plates are a unique option. These plates are NIJ Certified for Level 3(++) however they have performance that is incredibly similar to that of a lightweight level 4. The Highcom 3S9Ms are 5.3lbs for a 10x12 Shooters Cut and are rated for 7.62x54R B32 API, 7.62x51mm M61 AP, M80A1, 7.62x39 API and 5.56 M855A1. These are also capable of stopping .30-06 M2 AP at velocities that are slightly lower than what is required for Level 4.


This is an excellent option if you're wanting armor piercing and magnum caliber protection at a low weight, but our other lightweight level 4s are outside of your price range. For most people looking for lightweight plates that provide armor piercing protection, these are an excellent option for the price that exudes excellent performance. These are the highest performing level 3++ plates on the market from a ballistic protection standpoint.


If you want a lightweight plate rated for magnum cartridges and AP rounds, but cannot afford our lightweight level 4s, we recommend this. Also comes in standard Extra Small through Extra Large SAPI Sizes starting at $899.99.


9. High End Level 3+ Ceramic/ Polyethylene Composite Plates (Maximizing Weight Savings With Steel Core Protection)



Weighing in at just 4.2lbs for a 10x12, the LTC 23707 is among one of the lightest standalone steel core rated level 3+ ceramic plates on the market with edge to edge ballistic protection. The LTC 23707 is NIJ .06 Certified is multi-hit rated for 7.62x54R Light Penetrating Steel (LPS), 7.62x51mm M80 Ball, .30-06 FMJ/ JSP, 5.56x45mm M193, M855, 5.45x39mm 7N6 and 7.62x39mm Mild Steel Core. We recommend these as having the best balance between weight, price and protection for high end 3+ plates.

Weighing just 3.6lbs for a 10x12 Shooters Cut, the Highcom 3S14M Multi Curve 10x12 Level 3+ Shooters Cut Plates are the absolute lightest weight standalone steel core rated Level 3+ ceramic plate on the market with edge to edge protection.

The 3S14M is multi-hit rated for 7.62x54R Light Penetrating Steel (LPS), 7.62x51mm M80 Ball, .30-06 FMJ/ JSP, 5.56x45mm M193, M855, 5.45x39mm 7N6 and 7.62x39mm Mild Steel Core.


The 3S14M acheives its industry leading light weight through high end polyethelene materials and innovative new manufacturing techniques (XTclave autoclave).

Some plates on the market utilize foam rings around the outer edge instead of ceramic to save weight, however we do not condone this practice and none of the plates we sell have foam borders or reduced strike faces.


If you want the absolute lightest weight plate that's rated for M855, M193 and 7.62x54R LPS, this is the plate we recommend.


10. High End Level 3+ Ceramic/ Polyethylene Composite Plates (For Concealment/ Low-Vis with Steel Core Protection).

Weighing at just 2.9lbs for a 10x12 and 0.5" thick, the Highcom RSTP 3+ ICW plates are the lightest and thinnest steel core rated ceramic plates (with edge to edge protection) that we sell.


The Highcom RSTPs are optimized for concealment use, or use in conjunction with LE soft armor duty vests for every day wear. The Highcom RSTP is multi-hit rated for .308 M80 ball, 7.62x39 MSC, 5.56x45mm M193 and M855. However it does require a IIIA soft armor backer for its full rating against .308 M80 ball (primarily for backface deformation). This is a great alternative to our CR2000SA if you do not require M855A1 protection.


If you need a thin concealment plate, or a light steel core rated plate to use with your every day duty vest, this is the plate we recommend. 11. High End Special Threat Ceramic/ Polyethelene Composite Plates (For Concealment/ Low Vis with AP protection)



The Tencate CR6450SA is one of our highest end special threat low profile, concealable armor plates. This plate blurs the line between being special threat and 3+ due to the use of Boron Carbide Ceramic tiles and a polyethylene backer. The unique blend of high end materials and a tile array give its it special properties that sets it apart from other special threat plates. The Tencate CR6450SA is also known as the Velocity Systems API BZ (a normally LE restricted plate), it is only 3.9lbs for a 10x12 Shooters Cut and 0.6" thick. However, it is capable of stopping M193, M855A1, 7.62x39 API as well as .308 M80 ball and 7.62x54R LPS. This plate is incredibly close in performance to a 3+ plate, while still remaining just over half an inch thick.


If you need a low profile/ concealable lightweight AP rated plate that can also be used for overt purposes, the CR6450SA is one of the best options we offer.


12. High End Level 3+ Pure Polyethelene Plates: (Maximize Weight Savings)

These are the plates that offer the absolute most weight savings possible, "featherweight" plates. While they are expensive, you likely will not even notice you are wearing armor.

Weighing just 1.7lbs for a 10x12, the Highcom 3S15M is the absolute lightest weight level 3+ polyethylene plate on the market with edge to edge protection.

The Highcom 3S15M is multi-hit rated for .308 M80 ball, 7.62x39 MSC and 5.56 M193.


The 3S15M acheives its industry leading light weight through high end polyethelene materials and innovative new manufacturing techniques (XTclave autoclave). The 3S15M is manufactured using the highest end and best performing HB212 polyethylene, the same type found in our 26300 Lightweight level 4s.


If weight savings is your absolute #1 priority, these are what we recommend.

Plate Carrier and Armor Bundle Guide

1. Basics Level 4 Armor Bundle:

The "Basics" Level 4 Armor Bundle features our Defense Mechanisms MEPC slick paired with your choice of various US made and NIJ Certified Level 4 armor plates. Comes with Highcom 4S17M Multi Curve 10x12 Level 4 Shooters Cut Plates, 4S17 Single Curve 10x12 Swimmers Cut Plates or 4S17 Single Curve 8x10 Shooters Cut Plates. Highcom 4S17Ms are a fantastic NIJ certified level 4 option that offer incredible protection at a reasonable weight. 4S17M 10x12 Shooters Cut plates are just 7.2lbs per plate.

The 4S17Ms provide multi-hit protection from .30-06 M2 AP, 7.62x54R B32 API, 7.62x51mm M61 AP, 5.56 M855A1, and more. This is a great option for someone looking for a low profile and minimalist all in one solution with an emphasis on maximizing protection. The included level 4 plates will give the most comprehensive protection from various rifle and pistol threats. The included plate carrier is slick without Molle (can be upgraded), has an elastic cummerbund with built in magazine pouches and a built in zippered admin pouch. The multi curve profile offers improved comfort for extended wear, as it helps spread the weight more evenly across your upper body. I recommend this bundle with the "Loaded Placard" (detachable front flap) option for a simple all in one magazine pouch solution. "The Slick" Plate Carrier is what is included in this armor bundle if you would prefer to purchase the plate carrier separately with a different set of armor. (Click Here to View) We also offer upgrades to upgrade the non Molle rear to a Molle rear for an additional $10, as well as other upgrades. Please see the description for upgrade options.


2. Essentials Level 4 Armor Bundle:



We currently have multiple versions of our "Essentials" Level 4 Armor Bundle. The only difference is the plates that are included with the carrier. Our Highcom 4S17M Essentials Level 4 Armor Bundle comes with Highcom 4S17M 10x12 Shooters Cut Plates (Multi Curve), Highcom 4S17 10x12 Swimmers Cut (Single Curve), Highcom 4S17M Small SAPIs (Multi Curve) or Highcom 4S17M XL SAPIs (Multi Curve). Our Highcom 4S16 Essentials Level 4 Armor Bundle comes with Highcom 4S16 Multi Curve 10x12 Level 4 Shooters Cut Plates. Our Hoplite Essentials Level 4 Armor Bundle comes with Hoplite 26605 10x12 Swimmers Cut Plates (Multi Curve) or Hoplite 26605 Medium SAPI Cut Plates (Multi Curve).


The "Essentials" Armor Bundle features our Defense Mechanisms MEPC in an overt Molle configuration and our Defense Mechanisms "Loaded Placard" which holds 3x AR-15 magazines, 2x Pistol magazines and features a small utility pouch. These are paired with your choice of various NIJ Certified and US made level 4 armor options. Highcom 4S17Ms are the gold standard solution for level 4 armor. Highcom 4S17M 10x12 Shooters Cut plates are just 7.2lbs per plate.

The 4S17Ms provide multi-hit protection from .30-06 M2 AP, 7.62x54R B32 API, 7.62x51mm M61 AP, 5.56 M855A1, and more. The Highcom 4S16's are a step up from the 4S17M, with the 10x12 Shooters being 1lb lighter (6.2lbs) than the Highcom 4S17M shooters. The 4S16s also utilize higher end materials which gives it an advantage in multi hit performance and backface deformation mitigation. This is a great option for someone looking for a low profile all in one general purpose overt solution with the emphasis on maximizing protection. The included level 4 plates will give the most comprehensive protection from various rifle and pistol threats. The included plate carrier has a low profile laser cut MOLLE cummerbund and elastic in the rear for a better fit. The platebags feature Molle on the rear with a built in drag handle. The detachable frontal "loaded" placard is included by default and accepts 3x AR-15 magazines, 2x pistol magazines and features a small utility pouch. The optional multi curve profile offers improved comfort for extended wear, as it helps spread the weight more evenly across your upper body. The primary difference between the Basics and Essentials Armor Bundles is the Essentials Armor Bundle has Molle platebags and a Molle laser cut cummerbund, with an included frontal flap by default. While the Basics Armor Bundle is slick all around by default and does not come with a front flap (unless selected).


The "Assaulters" Plate Carrier is what is included in this armor bundle if you would prefer to purchase the plate carrier separately with a different set of armor. (Click Here to View)


3. Gunfighter Level 4 Armor Bundle:



We currently have two versions of our "Gunfighter" Level 4 Armor Bundle. The only difference are the plates that are included with the carrier. Our Highcom Essentials Level 4 Armor Bundle comes with Highcom 4S17M 10x12 Shooters Cut Plates (Multi Curve), Highcom 4S17 10x12 Swimmers Cut (Single Curve), Highcom 4S17M Small SAPIs (Multi Curve) or Highcom 4S17M XL SAPIs (Multi Curve).

Our Highcom 4S16 Essentials Level 4 Armor Bundle comes with Highcom 4S16 Multi Curve 10x12 Level 4 Shooters Cut Plates. Our Hoplite Essentials Level 4 Armor Bundle comes with Hoplite 26605 10x12 Swimmers Cut Plates (Multi Curve) or Hoplite 26605 Medium SAPI Cut Plates (Multi Curve).


The "Gunfighter" Level 4 Armor Bundle features a Shellback SF Plate Carrier. This is a Molle overt carrier with padded mesh lined platebags/ cummerbund with included shoulder pads. The front flap comes with a 3x Magazine insert (removable), cummerbund can hold 1 radio per each side, or another extra magazine. Built in side plate pouches with padding.

These are paired with your choice of various NIJ Certified and US made level 4 armor options. Highcom 4S17Ms are the gold standard solution for level 4 armor. Highcom 4S17M 10x12 Shooters Cut plates are just 7.2lbs per plate.

The 4S17Ms provide multi-hit protection from .30-06 M2 AP, 7.62x54R B32 API, 7.62x51mm M61 AP, 5.56 M855A1, and more. The Highcom 4S16's are a step up from the 4S17M, with the 10x12 Shooters being 1lb lighter (6.2lbs) than the Highcom 4S17M shooters. The 4S16s also utilize higher end materials which gives it an advantage in multi hit performance and backface deformation mitigation.


This is a great option for someone looking for a carrier that has padding all around, optimized for wearing for extended periods of time. This is a great load bearing plate carrier.


HELMETS:

We currently have 3 helmet options, the Highcom Striker High Cut IIIA Combat Helmet (Standard), Highcom Striker High Cut IIIA Combat Helmet (Lightweight) and our Highcom Arditi High Cut Level 3+ Rifle Threat Combat Helmet.

Each provide distinct advantages at different price points.

This is our standard Highcom Striker Level IIIA High Cut Combat Helmet. This is made with Aramid fibers, comes with ARC rails, D3O padding and a Wilcox 3 Hole Shroud. This is an excellent option for anyone looking for a reliable high quality helmet without spending the price of an Ops Core helmet. These are rated NIJ Level IIIA, which is higher than the Ops Core Maritime/ FAST SF which are rated for 9mm and fragmentation and therefore will have better ballistic and blunt force trauma performance. This is however like comparing a Level 4 plate to a lighter weight 3+ plate. This helmet meets NIJ 0106.01 Level IIIA and MIL-STF-622F ballistics and impact standards.

The Highcom Striker High Cut Level IIIA Lightweight variant is a great option if you would like a lighter weight helmet than our standard version, but still without breaking the bank and spending as much as a standard Ops Core or Team Wendy. These offer the same protection but are 30% lighter. This helmet also meets NIJ 0106.01 Level IIIA and MIL-STF-622F ballistics and impact standards.

This is our flagship Highcom Arditi Level 3+ Rifle Rated High Cut Combat Helmet. This is made of high end HB210 Dyneema Polyethylene formed in an XTClave High Pressure consolidation chamber. This is rated for .308 M80 Ball, 7.62x39mm FMJ and 5.56 M193. This is newer technology that has recently reached maturity. While expensive, the Highcom Arditi will provide rifle threat protection which 99% of helmets on the market cannot achieve. While it may be hard to believe, the Highcom Arditi Rifle Threat Helmet is designed to give you survivable non life threatening injuries after being struck in the head with a rifle round. This is not designed to leave you in a vegetative state. US Army Trials (which led to the research of this helmet) has proven that this helmet does not leave the user with any more injuries than if they were to be hit by pistol rounds wearing an NIJ IIIA helmet. This is due to the presence of higher tensile strength polyethylene used in this helmet.


Closing Remarks


Hopefully this guide offers some valuable insight into the different properties and characteristics of various armor types and armor rating levels and will make choosing the right armor for you easier. If you like our articles, we would greatly appreciate if you would consider us for your next armor purchase. If you have any questions or would like a second opinion please feel free to reach out via email at Sales@Apexarmorsolutions.com or through our live chat.


All of our guides are free and we spend a considerable amount of time providing this information and ensuring it is accurate. If you find the information in our guides useful, we humbly ask that you consider us when you are looking to purchase body armor or plate carriers.





50,972 views1 comment

1 Comment


Very nice article. I have been in the business for almost two decades... and there are a couple of points I walk away with. First, it's great that the author takes the time to explain many of the issues. Too many times, people don't know what they are getting when they buy body armor... especially armor plates.


Regarding Chinese armor - I do not generally agree with the conclusion that Chinese manufactured armor is substandard. It is amusing to read various authors who seem to think that poor quality cannot emanate from a domestic source. Like the USA, your choice and relationship with quality providers... followed up with appropriate testing is key. Even with companies like RMA that claim…


Like
bottom of page