From the earliest days of man’s trying to kill his fellow man, smart people have engineered contrivances that would insulate warriors from the efforts of their enemies.
Primitives fashioned armor from bone or other organic materials. The Romans standardized the Segmenta Lorica (so named after its semblance to the segmented tail of a lobster) among their legions. The Hundred Years’ War saw the apex of armored mounted knights.
During this protracted war between the French and English, professional warriors of noble birth sported custom-built suits of armor that were remarkably effective but ludicrously heavy. As a result, knights so encumbered were effective only on horseback and made for easy targets to lightly equipped infantry if unhorsed.
The advent of the English longbow and eventually gunpowder and handheld firearms meant that the state of the art in metallurgy could not keep pace with the penetrative capabilities of missile weapons. As a result, subsequent generations of soldiers went into combat protected by nothing more than wool or cotton.
In World War I, shell splinters became the biggest killers on the battlefield and machine gunners in static positions were occasionally issued heavy plate armor to give them some modicum of protection. Aircrew in WWII not requiring much mobility were issued the first serious flak suits. It was not until the Korean War that body armor became commonly available to the humble Infantryman.
A friend of mine was a decorated Infantry Officer in the Korean War. He was first issued body armor when his unit was pulled off the line early one morning and issued brand-new flak vests. Despite the requisite grumbling about extra weight and discomfort, he and his dogfaces shrugged into their bulky gear and returned to the line.
Later that very afternoon, my friend was shot squarely in the chest by a Chicom sniper armed with a British Lee-Enfield scoped rifle. The .303 jacketed round struck the Colt 1911 pistol he carried in a shoulder holster and deflected into his new flak vest. My friend owes his life to that piece of equipment and the timing of its issue.
Today, materials science and Information- Age engineering have finally caught up with firearm performance. American Soldiers and law enforcement personnel may reasonably expect to go into harm’s way sporting protective gear that is lightweight enough to allow tactical maneuvering yet still effectively resists small-arms fire. The problem for most of us private citizens—as well as LE departments on tight budgets—is that this technology is expensive.
Bullet-resistant ballistic materials fall into three broad categories these days: synthetic materials, ceramic plate, and hardened steel.
Kevlar® and similar synthetic materials are lightweight and retain enough flexibility to make regular wear practical. However, while soft armor is great against pistol rounds, even pedestrian rifle loads out of your typical deer rifle will frequently cut through them with ease. The answer to rifle fire is armor plate.
Rigid ceramic laminates have been around for decades and provide a lighter weight than steel for a given level of protection. Boron carbide protected my vulnerable anatomy when I flew tactical helicopters for Uncle Sam. But ceramic materials are bulky and expensive. And this brings us to classic hardened steel.
The effectiveness of armor against bullets is a function of a great many variables. Certain synthetic materials degrade over time, particularly when subjected to heat or sunlight. Ceramic armor is thick and hard, and as a result can be bulky and chip with rough use. Steel armor is as tough as, well, steel.
We live in a strange world that gets stranger by the day. In this environment, many law-abiding citizens choose to equip themselves with the tools and gear to keep them and their families safe come what may. This segment of the population, as well as the myriad law enforcement agencies not on a robust budget, can benefit from AR500 Armor and their reasonably priced body armor solutions.
AR500 stands for Abrasion Resistant steel with a hardness of 500 on the Brinell hardness scale. The effectiveness of metallic armor is a function of thickness, metallurgy, and hardness. The folks at AR500 produce an incredibly robust product at a remarkably reasonable price.
Plates come both flat and curved and may be ordered with two different thicknesses of spall-resistant coatings. AR500 armor is hard enough to shatter most rifle rounds. As such the coatings tend to control the inevitable spray of hot high-velocity bullet fragments and direct them safely away from the wearer. All AR500 plates are NIJ Level III certified against rounds up to and including typical .308 ball.
Though AR500 plates are steel and reasonably priced, they are not particularly heavy. A complete chest rig weighs in at around 20 pounds. While technically light enough to slip underneath street clothes on high-risk operations in a concealment carrier, this is the full battle rattle that is proof against assailants armed with ARs, AKs or worse.
Additionally, the cut and contour of the AR500 plates allow a surprising freedom of movement. After literally days spent in this rig shooting and maneuvering, I found it possible to engage targets from any reasonable firing position without undue difficulty. It is not as comfortable as a T-shirt by any means, but in the crucible of the real world, it facilitates tactical maneuvers and provides tremendous peace of mind.
Never one to do things halfway, I took an AR500 plate and unmercifully heaped abuse upon it. Shooting the plate with a cardboard cowl around it showed that the resulting spall did indeed deflect away from the wearer. Getting hit point blank would not be pleasant, but it would be survivable.
I blasted this plate with a variety of full-auto military weapons. A 9mm MP5, M4 firing M-855 5.56mm rounds with tungsten penetrators, full-auto RPK firing 7.62x39mm Combloc ball, and an FN FAL in .308 all spent themselves on a single plate.
At the end of the day, the plate was liberally scarred but intact. The reverse side didn’t even exhibit dents. If anyone ever faces a fusillade of this magnitude, they have problems body armor won’t solve. I now keep the battered plate hung in my gun room in mute testimony to the quality of these products. My challenge was determining a method of hanging it as, despite this copious abuse, it still sports no holes.
Proper body armor is a force multiplier. Its possession inspires a level of confidence that makes it easier to run toward the sounds of battle when others are running away.
Here’s the really cool part. At $275 for a set of plates with carrier, the LE purchase officer on a budget can equip his tactical team with gear that’s crazy effective and still have enough cash left over for ammo and sights.
The responsible citizen can invest half the price of a typical tactical handgun and secure peace of mind whether it be time to bug out or defend the homestead.
AR500 puts military-grade protection within the reach of private citizens.