Steel Plates – An Opinion

I have seen a lot out there about steel ballistic rifle plates. I’m not happy about it.

I get the gist of it – cheap plates so you can afford to have body armor. ‘Patriot Plates’ as they are called. However, the problem I am seeing is that these plates are now being touted as actually being better than ceramic plates. Without doing a whole lot of nerdish research, here are my thoughts on this:

1) You can probably afford ceramic plates. Sell one of those many guns in your safe, or whatever.

2) Ceramic plates are a hell of a lot lighter than steel, whatever you read. Yes, there are many variable products, but I’m talking a set of decent ceramic plates.

  • If you are touting rifle and riflemen load-out, you should be wearing ballistic plates, at least front and rear even if you don’t do side plates. One goes with the other, in most circumstances.
  • Given that most people’s major malfunction is lack of PT, and steel weighs a ton, how do you expect to carry that load-out plus your steel plates? Come on, stop BS’ing me. If you think you want to do it, get out and do more PT.
  • That means that your steel will be left behind, so now you are back to square 1, with no armor at all.

3) There is a whole lot of BS about ceramic plates. You would think they are made of glass and will shatter as soon as you go prone. Drop them from the back of your truck? Ahhhh, new plates please! BS. Yes, the military gets a little crazy with x-raying them, but even if there is a hairline crack, that is only weakness along that specific hairline. You can abuse these plates a lot more than you think.

4) Perhaps compared to a full IOTV with soft armor, weights may start to get close, but if you are wearing ceramic you are wearing them just like the steel, with no soft armor. I’m talking about a plate carrier, not a soft armor carrier with ballistic plates as well. Compare apples with apples.

5) Steel will cause ricochet and spall. I don’t care what type of truck liner you want to paint it with. Even the curved ones will send ricochets into your brachial arteries in your upper arms, for example. Put up a steel target with some cardboard around it and shoot at it. Check out the cardboard, Think about your throat and face.  Not to mention the sound of SHTF, with ‘Patriots’ being knocked down to the sound of piiiiing on their steel plates LOL.

6) Ceramic will absorb the strike. Yes, it will only take so many rounds., Depending on the plate and the round that strikes it, that can be up to 5 rounds. So it is done after that. But steel is still in the game, right? Let’s get a little perspective: Let me ask you: how many times do you plan on getting lit up in the chest by multiple rounds? It’s a lottery moment, where you actually get hit, and not only that, he hits you in the plate and not, let’s say, the femoral or head. If it happens, when you get a chance, swap your front and rear plates. Pick up some plates off a dead guy. Have some spare ceramics. Because I know you won’t be lugging those steel ones around with you, because they are too heavy, and you got fed up with it.

7) Ballistic plates do not make you bullet proof (OK, maybe a little). They are your cover of last resort. Don’t forget your basics, of actually taking cover. In a firefight, you need to be able to keep low and move fast. PT and training will play a large part in that. Being adequately equipped but able to truck about with that fighting load will play another part. You can be an immobile tank in your full set of steel plates, or you can be lighter and faster with your front and rear ceramics. It’s important to get the right perspective on this. The old dilemma, balancing:

  • Firepower
  • Mobility
  • Protection

Firepower: use an AR/5.56 rifle which will allow you a combat effective rifle for which you can carry a serious combat load of 8-12 magazines without overloading yourself. This will give you benefits in the mobility area, while allowing you serious firepower.

Mobility: do some serious PT. Get used to being able to carry your required combat load. Balance the desire to boy-scout it with every piece of gear available, with  a healthy disregard for what you don’t need. Pare your gear down ruthlessly to what you actually need. Ammo, water, IFAK, energy, night vision on the person. Lightweight patrol pack with the minimum necessary to survive and complete the mission. No effing camping!

Protection: “He who defends everywhere, defends nowhere.” If your PT, training, fieldcraft and battle drills are crap, you will get shot anyway however much steel or ceramic plate you wear. Balance reasonable lightweight plates with the ability to keep mobility.

The three are a balance and a trade-off.

Have at it, just don’t try and justify your mistaken steel plate purchase here.