There was a time in the not too distant past when body armor was a very expensive and unique addition to a civilian load out. Times change and for the better in many cases. Now it is common for the average citizen to have a good set of body armor and a plate carrier at the ready. It is something I highly recommend to anyone serious about personal protection. For those that may think it is a bit excessive, I would just point you to the flood of riots and attacks the country has suffered over the last couple of years. To think it will not affect you is simply burying your head in the sand. A good set of body armor can make the difference between life and death in a bad situation.
Predator Body Armor
A major challenge in this arena has been price. The solution that has developed is the manufacturing of steel plate body armor. In most cases, AR500 plates come set in a nylon carrier. For those ballistically savvy you know that spalling or spray from the round impacting the plate is a concern. There have been attempts to limit this, but few have met the challenge. Enter Predator Body Armor and their special Level III+ plate.
Predator Armor manufactures its Level III+ plates in the U.S., using ballistic grade AR650 steel. Their plates use a unique heat-treating, quenching, and tempering process that results in extra hardened steel. Predator Armor plates are lightweight, impact-resistant steel that hold superior ballistic properties. This allows them to use thinner plates without sacrificing protection levels. The unique thing about these plates is that you have the option to add Kevlar lining to your plate. This provides anti-spall and frag characteristics. It also enhances the performance of your plate. The team at Predator was kind enough to send me a set for testing, and that is what I did.
Bring in the Minuteman
I set the plates in their Minuteman Plate Carrier. It comprises a solid minimalist plate carrier designed to carry 10″X12″ plates. There are six rows of MOLLE/PALS-style webbing with built-in matching loop material on the top three rows for the option of attaching patches or other items. It came well made and made me sad to shoot holes in it. I mounted the plates and carrier on a freshly painted Rubber Dummy target to simulate a human torso. The fresh paint would allow me to see if spalling was impacting our dummy. The shooting was done at 10 yards and consisted of two shots each.
First up was a 115-grain 9mm ball fired through a Glock 17. Two rounds were fired and struck center mass. Inspection after the shots were just as you would expect with no penetration. I was pleased to see that there was no spalling evident either. Next up I ran more 9mm ball through a Quarter Circle 10 YKMF-5 to boost the velocity of the round. Results were identical to the pistol.
5.56 to the Test
It was at this point that I decided to just skip the remaining traditional handgun rounds because the performance was going to be very predictable. The next round up would be 55-grain 5.56mm ball ammunition. I fired two rounds from the Daniel Defense MK19 DIII and struck center mass. Inspection showed the same results we saw with the 9mm. No penetration and no visible spalling. Next up I broke out my Mossberg 590A1 short barrel and fired two shots of 12-gauge 00 buck into the target. The dummy rocked but the results were the same. The only noticeable mark was from the wad skipping off the dummy. At this point, it was time to just go big. I picked up my Smith & Wesson 460 VXR, running Hornady 200-grain Hornady FTX. This would put a massive round with over 2.149-foot pounds of energy on the target at 2,200 fps.
I fired the first round, and the rear plate was shaken loose from the carrier. I obviously did not have it in securely. A second shot rocked the target but somehow it remained standing. Inspection of the plates honestly surprised me. Just as with the 9mm and following rounds, there was no penetration or spalling. Close inspection of the plate showed that debris and round particles were trapped in the Kevlar covering the plate. There was only slight deformation on the back but nothing worth concern.
As with any body armor that has been shot, I would not recommend putting this plate back into service after its abuse. While the steel may still last, the Kevlar cover was battered. The set was heavy coming in at about 15 pounds, but it absolutely stopped every round I threw its way. In the end, I was impressed with the performance and most importantly the lack of spalling. Predator Armor seems to have found the magic formula for making inexpensive steel plates a real player in the body armor market.
Predator Level III+ plates start at $115. For even more info, please visit predatorarmor.com.