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The Pros and Cons of Steel Body Armor: What You Need to Know

The Pros and Cons of Steel Body Armor: What You Need to Know

Let’s talk about Steel Body Armor

Table of Contents

When it comes to ballistic protection, choosing the right body armor is absolutely crucial. Steel body armor has been a popular choice for many in the MIL and LE due to its durability and reliability. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of steel body armor in an effort to help you make an informed decision when shopping for armor plates.

Key Takeaway

If you prioritize maximum protection against high-velocity rounds and durability, steel body armor may be the right choice for you. However, if weight, mobility, and comfort are your primary concerns, other materials such as UHMWPE, ceramic or aramid fiber-based armor may be more suitable.

Advantages of Steel Body Armor

Let’s touch on the good points. One of the primary advantages of steel body armor is its exceptional strength. Steel plates are capable of withstanding a wide range of ballistic threats, including high-velocity rifle rounds. This makes it an ideal choice for individuals in high-risk professions such as law enforcement and military personnel.

Another advantage of steel body armor is its durability. Steel plates are designed to withstand repeated impacts without compromising their protective capabilities. This means that even after multiple hits, the armor plate will continue to provide protection, offering peace of mind in dangerous situations.

We must add, steel body armor is relatively cost-effective compared to other materials. While the initial investment may be higher, the longevity of steel plates ensures that they will last for extended periods, ultimately saving you money in the long run.

Drawbacks of Steel Body Armor

Now, the bad. Despite its many advantages, steel body armor does have some drawbacks to consider. First, steel plates tend to be heavier than other materials such as ceramic or aramid fibers. This can be a significant disadvantage for individuals who require agility and mobility in their line of work.

Also, steel body armor is susceptible to spalling. For the uninitiated, spalling occurs when the impact of a bullet causes fragments of the steel plate to break off and potentially injure the wearer, ouch!. 

To mitigate this risk, proper coating and padding are essential, and often adding additional weight and bulk to the armor. Nonetheless, here at Chase Tactical we are able to coat our HH Steel Armor and UHH Steel armor plates with military-grade Rhino Extreme 11-50 anti-spall coating to dramatically reduce spall fragments from ballistic impact but without adding significant weight to the plate, which is a big plus.

Lastly, steel armor can be less comfortable to wear for extended periods. The weight and rigidity of the plates can cause discomfort and restrict movement, making it less suitable for individuals who require flexibility and freedom of motion.

Comparing Steel Body Armor vs Other Materials

When choosing body armor, it’s important to consider the alternatives to steel. Ceramic plates, for example, are lighter and provide great protection against high-velocity rounds. They are also less susceptible to spalling. However, ceramic plates are more fragile and may not withstand multiple hits as well as steel.

Aramid fiber-based body armor (like Kevlar), on the other hand, offers excellent flexibility and comfort. It is lightweight and has a high level of resistance against certain types of ammunition. However, aramid fibers are not as effective against armor-piercing rounds compared to steel or ceramic plates.

When comparing steel body armor to other materials, another notable option is Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) based armor plates. UHMWPE plates have gained popularity due to their unique properties and advantages over traditional steel armor.

One significant advantage of UHMWPE armor plates is their exceptional lightweight nature. They are significantly lighter than steel plates, making them more comfortable for extended wear and reducing fatigue for the wearer.

Also, UHMWPE plates have the advantage of being less susceptible to spalling when compared to steel, but less effective against armor-piercing rounds when compared to steel just like Aramid fiber-based body armor.

Take a look at the chart below with a comparison of aramid fibers with other high performance fibers and hard materials just to get an idea of the chemical advantage of these fibers over steel. You’ll notice that both UHMWPE and Kevlar (Aramid) have a high strength to weight ratio compared to a standard piece of ASTM A36 steel, but are by designless dense. 

We must also note that a Steel Armor Plate is much stronger than a standard piece ASTM A36 Steel in order to meet Military Standards. This is just for reference. ASTM A36 steel and ASME SA36 steel measure between 119-159 on the Brinell Hardness (BHN) scale, while a Military grade Steel Armor Plate would measure in the 574 to 634+ BHN range.

Table: Comparison of aramid fibers with other high-performance fibers

Material

Strength to weight Ratio (KN.m/kg)

Density g/cm3

Spectra fiber (UHMWPE)

3619

.97

Kevlar (ARAMID)

2514

1.44

Carbon Fiber

2457

1.75

Carbon laminate

785

1.5

E Glass Fibre

1307

2.57

E Glass laminate

775

1.97

Polypropylene

89

.91

S Glass Fibre

1906

2.47

Spider Silk

1069

1.3

Balsa axial load

521

.16

Steel alloy ASTM A36
(NOT ARMOR GRADE)

254

7.8

Aluminum alloy

222

2.63-2.8

Oak

87

.75

Epoxy

26

1.23

Nylon

69

1.15

Force per unit area at failure / Density = is the Strength to Weight ratio of this material. Kevlar is very strong and is slightly stronger than Carbon Fiber per unit weight.

Source: https://textilelearner.net/aramid-fibers-types-properties-manufacturing-process-and-applications/ 

Ultimately, the choice between steel body armor and other materials depends on your specific needs and circumstances.

The Pros and Cons of Steel Body Armor: What You Need to Know
The Pros and Cons of Steel Body Armor: What You Need to Know

Common Misconceptions about Steel Body Armor

There are several misconceptions surrounding steel body armor that need to be addressed. One common misconception is that steel plates are impenetrable. While steel is highly resistant to many types of ammunition, Steel Plates are not completely bulletproof. Nothing really is.  We must understand the limitations of steel body armor and choose appropriate protection for the specific threats you may face.

Another misconception is that steel armor is outdated and ineffective. That is simply not true. With advancements in technology and manufacturing processes, modern steel body armor has evolved to provide enhanced protection and durability, and it is still a viable option for many individuals seeking reliable ballistic protection.

Maintenance and Care for Steel Body Armor

To ensure the longevity and effectiveness of your steel body armor, proper maintenance and care are crucial. 

  • Regularly inspect your plates for any signs of damage or wear. 
  • Clean the armor using a mild detergent and water, avoiding harsh chemicals that could degrade the protective coating. 
  • Store your armor in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent deterioration.

Additionally, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for replacing your steel plates. Over time, wear and tear can compromise the integrity of the armor, reducing its effectiveness. Regularly check for any signs of degradation and replace the plates as recommended. If you have questions about Chase Tactical plates, please contact us here.

Legal Considerations for Owning Steel Body Armor

Before purchasing steel body armor, it is essential to understand the legal considerations associated with its ownership. While it is legal for most individuals to own and use body armor, there may be restrictions depending on your jurisdiction

In some cases, certain types of steel body armor may be classified as “restricted” or “prohibited” due to their level of protection. It is important to consult local laws and regulations to determine the legality of specific armor types before making a purchase.

Research and familiarize yourself with the laws in your area to ensure compliance. We wrote this article in our blog that outlines the Body Armor Law Restrictions by State in the United States of America. Check it out and look up your state.

Recommendations for Purchasing Steel Body Armor

When purchasing steel body armor, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, ensure that the armor meets the necessary ballistic protection standards. Look for armor that has been tested and certified by organizations like the NIJ.

Consider the intended use of the armor and choose the appropriate level of protection. Different threat levels require different armor specifications. Consult with experts (like us) or professionals in the field to determine the most suitable armor for your needs.

Additionally, consider the comfort and fit of the armor. Properly fitted armor is essential for optimal protection and wearability. Look for adjustable straps and padding to ensure a secure and comfortable fit.

Testing and Certification Standards for Steel Body Armor

When purchasing steel body armor, it is important to look for armor that meets rigorous testing and certification standards. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in the United States provides a comprehensive set of standards for body armor testing. Look for armor that has been certified to meet or exceed these standards to ensure its effectiveness and reliability.

In addition to NIJ standards, other international standards organizations such as the European Union’s CEN and the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) also provide testing and certification guidelines for body armor. Consider armor that meets these standards for added assurance of quality and performance.

Is Steel Body Armor Right for You?

Steel body armor offers exceptional strength and durability, making it a popular choice for many individuals seeking reliable ballistic protection. However, it is important to weigh (no pun intended) the advantages and disadvantages of steel body armor against other materials and consider your specific needs and circumstances.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and the level of protection required for your specific situation. Take the time to research, consult with professionals, and make an informed decision to ensure your personal safety.

Shop Chase Tactical Steel Armor in Stock

Chase Tactical AR1000 Rhino eXtreme Level III+ Armor Plate | AR500 Rifle Armor Plate Level III+ NIJ 0101.06 Certified

Chase Tactical AR500 Steel Armor Plate

Chase Tactical AR500 Rifle Armor Plate Level III+ Stand Alone NIJ 0101.06 Certified + RHINO EXTREME COATING

High Hardness Steel Armor
Chase Tactical AR1000 Rhino eXtreme Level III+ Armor Plate | AR500 Rifle Armor Plate Level III+ NIJ 0101.06 Certified

Chase Tactical AR1000 Steel Armor Plate

Chase Tactical AR1000 Level III+ Stand Alone Rifle Armor Plate NIJ 0101.06 Certified + RHINO EXTREME COATING

Ultra High Hardness Armor steel (UHH)

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