The type of hard armor you choose should protect your entire body, from your nipples to your guts. Although there is no industry standard for sizing, most armor plates are approximately 10″ by 12″. While other sizes are available, most manufacturers produce rectangular or square armor plates, which provide the least mobility and are primarily used for back plates. If you’re unsure of the right size for you, consult the manufacturer’s sizing chart. Ideally, the armor should reach the sternum notch.
PE, or polyethylene, is the most popular type of hard armor material used today. The material looks like plastic grocery bags, but is highly engineered to provide reliable, multi-hit armor. PE is often constructed from Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE), which is rated as one of the strongest thermoplastics available. However, some armor materials may be more durable than others. This article outlines three types of hard armor.
Hard armor can be made of ceramic, steel, or titanium plates. These armors are similar to soft armor but tend to be thicker and heavier. This increased protection makes the armor unwieldy. Many vests have ballistic plates attached, providing Level III or IV protection, but these are still heavier than soft armor. As such, hard armor is generally reserved for those who need to protect themselves from high caliber weapons. So, if you’re considering purchasing hard armor, be sure to research the benefits of each option.
When buying a military vest, remember that the weight and mass of the body armor are the two main limiting factors. The weight of the vest also plays an important role in determining its fragment protection. An all-textile vest that’s 2.4 grams/m2 can effectively stop steel fragments, but it would have to weigh about 1 lb/ft2 or 1.1 kg/m2.