All Steel Ops armor plates are rated for Level 3+. The "+" designation is an industry term that we use to describe any plate with a NIJ Level 3 Certification that is also capable of stopping M193 & M855 in excess of 3150fps. Many people don't realize there are a ton of NIJ certified level 3 plates on the market that cannot defeat M193/M855 at 14.5"+ barrel velocties. Some plates claim to stop them but in fine print you'll find that it is only at velocities typical of 10.5" barrels. The Armis, Pro, and XP Plates all carry a NIJ Level 3 credential under both the 0101.06 and 0108.01 standards. All three are Certifed & listed on the NIJ Compliant Product List (CPL) under the model "XP Model". The Side Plates and PD Plates feature the same NIJ 0108.01 Level 3 certfied steel but do not fall under the 0101.06 certification due to the change in bend pattern compared to the Armis, Pro, and XP. This means that all our plates are able to stop .308 at 2750fps. We have exhaustively lab proven that all our plates are also able to stop M193 and M855 in excess of 3150fps. The NIJ plans to release a new set of standards (0101.07) to address this gap in the ratings. Level 3 will be replaced with RF1 and RF2. The RF1 will allegedly be .308 at 2750 and M193 at 3250fps. RF2 will allegedly be everything in RF1 plus M855 at 3115fps. When they release these standard we plan to certify plates to the RF2 standard. Until then everything is listed as Level 3+. Click HERE for video proof.
By using harder steel in thinner form, our 5mm AR600 plates come in 25% lighter than most other steel plates on the market with better stopping power. The common misconception that steel plates are heavy comes from the use of outdated materials. Our heaviest full size plate (XP Plate) is only 7.2lbs fully coated, almost a full 1.0lb lighter than monolithic ceramic plates of the same size. We do not spoof the spec's on our plates by listing the uncoated weights. The weights you see are the fully labled, coated, and usable version. While lighter UHMWPE (or "poly") plates offer significant weight reductions, they almost universally come at a higher cost and without the ability to stop the common M855 round. Even the NIJ has recognized this disparity and the new RF1/RF2 standards are written in a way that no current 100% UHMWPE plate in existence will ever pass RF2. A rigid surface such as steel or ceramic must be used to acheive RF2. Additionally, with any decrease in weight comes higher backface deformation, see the next section...
Backface deformation is basically how much of a "dent" is left on the back of the plate after an impact. It also roughly translates into either localized or wide-spread blunt force trauma, which to be clear, can either kill you or get you killed. The amount of deformation that a plate incurs after being hit is a VERY important. This is a topic than many armor companies like to discount or down-play as if it doesn't matter in the real world. They'll generally cite military use where some guy took a hit and even though his entire rib cage was shattered he lived because his teammates pulled him behind a humvee and returned fire. Unfortunately, the military is not the only one who needs armor. Backface deformation absolutely matters when you're operating alone as a patrol officer or civilian. Unlike the military where there is usually support only moments away, an officer or civilian must be able to take an impact without it affecting their ability to perform. Help may be 10, 15, or even 60 minutes away in some cases. Steel has the lowest amount of backface deformation of any type or armor. Period. Thats not our opinion thats a proven fact. NIJ lab tests confirm that our plates only allow an average of 14mm (1/2") during Level 3 tests which is .308 (7.62x51) at 2750fps. The NIJ allows up to 44mm (1-3/4") in order to pass. What does this mean with smaller calibers like 5.56? It means it literally may not even leave a mark and more importantly you'll be able to continue to fight, move, and communicate. In a civilian or first responder setting stopping the bullet is only half the battle. If you're so incapacitated that you can't do your job then the armor was no good. Click HERE for a great video demonstration.
One topic that is sometimes over-discussed or over-valued with armor is multi hit capability, or rather, the ability of a plate to stop more than one round within a given spot on the plate. While steel plates reign supreme in this category, and while our plates have been lab proven to stop seven impacts within the same square inch, in the real world that condition is very unlikely. That said, ceramic plates do become compromised after being hit. Even the NIJ requires that hits be at least 2" apart during testing to ensure "a fair trial". How much an armor plate deteriorates upon impact depends largely on caliber, velocity, and angle of impact. Even though its important, and even though our plates have unquestionably some of the highest multi hit ratings, we strongly suggest returning fire or moving if you've been hit more than once on any type of armor plate. We'll certainly take the win though.
The biggest topic of discussion when it comes to steel plates is fragmentation control. The irony is that the discussion seems to stop with steel even though common sense suggests that bullets can ricochette off almost any hard surface. Steel, concrete, ceramic, glass, and even water have been known to induce fragmentation and ricochettes. The question is whether there is a system in place to stop it. Our Enhanced Ballistic Coating (E.B.C.) has been shown to trap over 4000 grains of ammunition on a single plate. Third party demonstrations have filmed an XP Plate handle 12 rounds of M193, 12 rounds of M855, and three rounds of 300gr .458 SOCOM from only 15ft away with no fragmentation or tears in the plate carrier. We do not offer "base coated" or "build up coated" plates. We believe every plate should receive a full reliable coating that even the NIJ lab was unable to defeat. Thats what you get when you buy from Steel Ops. This isn't strictly on steel plates either. Fragmentation control becomes incredibly important on ceramic plates particularly at angles, see the next section... Click HERE or HERE or HERE for great videos disproving the fragmentation myth.
Most armor testing online and even at NIJ labs is done straight-on or at 0° angle of incidence. Thats great for a general testing standard but real world that is mathematically unlikely. The way a plate sits on your chest, the forward lean in your shooting stance, and the fact that people don't generally shoot at you standing perfectly in line with your plate are all reasons why a 0° test is ok but not perfect. You need to test at angles too. We've proven our plates capable of stopping fragmentation at angles of up to 45° and even 60°. These are admittedly almost ambush angles, however you don't always get to pick the position of your threat. Testing a ceramic plate at these same angles will render surprising results for those concerned about fragmentation. Click HERE for a video showing this.
Due to the complexity of the manufacturing process and the types of materials being used, many armor plates on the NIJ compliant product list show a warranty or "shelf life" of only 10, 5, or sometimes only 3 years. If you aren't paying for the armor it probably doesn't matter. If you are though you'll find that our 25 year shelf life is pretty rare. In fact we're one of only a few companies listed on the NIJ C.P.L. with more than a decade of shelf life. This is particulalry important with Police and Fire Departments who run into workman's comp problems if they issue expired or out-of-date plates. Budgeting is tough and the department may not be able to afford new plates every 5 years. Our plates could easily outlast the career of the person using them, thats the way it should be.
On the back of each Steel Ops plate inside a small square or cirle you will notice a hole in the coating. This hole is drilled by our staff prior to the plate going on the shelf and a hardness test is performed on the steel below the coating to ensure that it has not been compromised during the manufacuturing process. It also helps us sleep at night knowing that when you get a plate we have done everything in our power to ensure it will perform the way its supposed to. It is quality control steps like this that have helped us maintain a perfect NIJ inspection history. There's no way for faulty materials to make their way out of our facility.
Increase survivability by allowing the user to take an impact from realistic threats on critcal areas of the body while enabling the user to continue shooting, moving, communicating, and rendering aid. Body armor plates are intended to cover the "off-switches" like heart, lungs, and spine. It must stop commonly used rounds out of commonly used platforms. It must stop those rounds in a manner that does not prevent you from doing what you are there to do. If its stops a round but allows enough blunt force trauma to incapacitate the user then it did not work. If it doesn't do all those things it is not body armor, its just an accessory.
The following are the dimensions for each full size armor plate. These are the actual protection areas. The finished dimensions of each plate are slightly larger due to the coating which adds about 3/16" in each direction or 3/8" overall. Be very cautious when comparing plates online. Companies may sell a "Lightweight 10x12 ceramic plate" but when you look at the actual ceramic protection area it is only 8x10 with a 1" foam band around the edge.
Armis: 8-3/4" x 11-1/2", Top edge is 5-7/8"
Pro: 10" x 12", Top edge is 5"
XP: 10"x12", Top edge is 7"
Steel Ops body armor is regulated by the Office of Export Enforcement and is subject to Export Commodity Control Number 1A613 d.2 referenced in Part 774 of U.S. Commerce Control List. Shipments outside the US will require additional fee's and qualifications. All International orders may be subject to denial or refund at Steel Ops' discretion. Waivers and Licensing are possible for certain shipments. Please contact our office prior to placing an international order otherwise your order may be canceled and or delayed. All refunds are subject to fees collected by credit card processors and Steel Ops is not responsible for recovering costs associated with improperly placed orders.