Rifle Plates: A Survivalist’s Perspective

Plate post pic

Once I was assigned to a regular LI unit, we had to use the PASGT armor. And yes, this was during down time. The vest was not allowed to be left open like that during operations.

When I first went into the military, the first two units I served with did not recommend or issue body armor (generally what was available was PASGT body armor, RBA (Ranger Body Armor) had not been developed for issue yet). The rule of thumb was that whatever amount of weight the body armor added it would be  better to carry it in ammo or other combat survival gear. I have used IBA ( Interceptor Body Armor) body armor on two deployments, and believe that for urban defensive scenarios, vehicle mounted “bug out” operations, and static defense situations, it is a good and smart option to utilize. Rural operations such as defensive patrols of your retreat property or the surrounding area are another matter.

Plate post pic2

Although Interceptor Body Armor has great ability to protect the individual wearing it, with the attachments and side plates (as seen here and not counting the extra weapons gear attached) it weighs 27 lbs.

This post isn’t about being an advocate of body armor or not, but I will say this. As a Survivalist, you have no resupply chopper, and what you’re carrying on your back is what you’ve got. In a rural setting, the plan is to break contact at all costs, right?  If you’re stuck, send a butt load of (semi accurate) rounds down range to extricate yourself. From my perspective as an M1A fan, that 14-15 pounds of plate carrier (with Level III ceramic or Patriot plate 2 steel) is an additional nine steel M1A mags, or twelve polymer M1A mags I could be carrying! Not to mention that if you are using something like Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) which is around 21-22 pounds with just two Ceramic or PP2 steel plates, there is even more of a utility load you could be carrying.

So steel or ceramic plates? Both have advantages, but we are talking from a Survivalist perspective. Advantages of ceramic plates? Spalling is negated, due to the ceramic plate’s ability to “absorb the bullet (not actually, but it doesn’t just bounce off like steel). Ceramic is a little lighter, but as you’ll see, not by much with more modern steels. Ceramic plates are also not magnetic, so it doesn’t throw your compass off. Disadvantages of ceramic plates? They are a lot thicker, as you’ll see in the pics. Ceramic plates are a lot less durable than steel plates. They are also more expensive than steel plates.

Not an appropriate way to "dress" during the In-between".

Condor MOPC with the ability to carry six M1A, 8 AR or 6 AK mags, two extra pistol mags, a pistol and a knife. This vest carries the steel Patriot Plate 2, and with 6 AR mags, two Beretta M9 mags ( 20 and 15), an M9 and a Glock field knife, it weighs around 26 lbs.

Advantages of steel plates? They are thinner than ceramic (in some cases, a lot thinner). They are a lot more durable than ceramic plates (from a Survivalist perspective, it’s a win in that regard). Steel plates are usually a good bit cheaper than ceramic plates. If it has the “LineX type” treatment, it doesn’t have the splatter/ricochet issues. Disadvantages of steel plates? Steel can cause magnetic issues with your compass. Depending on the type of steel plates you get, they are heavier than ceramic plates (cost savings adds to the weight usually).

Plate specs2

This is the Level III standard

Plate specs1

Maingun’s Patriot Plate 1 and 2 specs sheet

Plate specs4

Without the IBA III-A level vest to support it, this is a level III plate set, and it’s a half an inch shorter in coverage all the way around. In this case, these plates are slightly cheaper than the steel PP2.

As I said earlier, from a Survivalist’s perspective, steel is the way to go if you are wearing plates. They are more durable in every way, when compared to ceramic (there’s a reason ceramic plates need X-rayed every year). Ceramic is OK, but if there is a problem like cracks due to a bad drop, or it actually gets hit by small arms fire, you are not in the military, and can’t turn it in for replacement, right?

Are there other lighter options for level III plates? Sure there is the 4.5 lb ceramic/polyethylene that will stop 5.56 Green tip ammo (level III), but it is almost an inch thick, and regular ceramic is too thick already. Want super light, Go here. Basically a plastic 3 lb plate that is over an inch thick, and is 6X thicker than the PP2 steel plate is. Do you plan on having mags mounted on your chest? Have fun with that, especially if you are in a vehicle.

Plate post2

Top plate is the PP2 with anti splatter/ricochet line-X coating. Next is the original PP1 at a 1/4 inch thick, and the bottom is a level III ceramic SAPI plate. Top and bottom have the same rating and are about 3/4 of a pound different in weight. The ceramic/poly plates and the poly plates are thicker than the bottom SAPI!

Although I own level IV body armor (IBA with Level III plates), unless I am in an extended urban situation, I don’t plan on using it much. Plate carriers are much more convenient (and breathable), and with my PP2 plates, works out very well in a vehicle. I know what it feels like to wear heavy body armor every day in stressful situations, and when given the option, I would rather take other choices.

If you decide to go with steel, remember that use of a compass needs to be practiced to figure out how far out from the body to hold it to get a good bearing ( I know testing your gear is such a BIG PITA DEAL, right?). Body Armor has come a long way, and continues to get better. As a Survivalist, you are not only looking at what is the “Best”. You are looking at economy. Equipping your group with level III plate carriers with coated steel PP2 plates (around 14 pounds) will run around $350 per person from Maingun, which is a pretty good deal. Give Doc a call, he’ll square you away.

Plate post pic3

Clint knows steel is the way to go. LOL


American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE


24 thoughts on “Rifle Plates: A Survivalist’s Perspective

  1. “use of a compass needs to be practiced to figure out how far out from the body to hold it to get a good bearing”

    I know from past experience hunting out west that even a rifle leaning against a nearby tree, a knife on your belt,or game processing knives in your pack can throw off a compass,so is it even possible to get a good bearing while wearing the steel plates?

    • What I’ve found is that at solar plexus level, even within a few inches, the compass works fine (I’m pointing it directly towards Magnetic North). The higher you raise it towards your head, the more it deviated towards South (going in a Westerly direction), till it is pointing directly South around your head. I have tested it with button, base plate, and lensatic compasses (aiming it in the typical lensatic compass method is impossible), and they all react the same. If anyone knocks steel plates, ask them if the use a chest rig for their steel AK mags, LOL. People want to use the compass issue or weight as a good reason not to get steel plates, but yet they will advocate using a chest rig for their AK mags (a personal experience I had).

      • Okay-that makes sense-the needle is reacting to the steel higher up because it’s no longer below the steel,and as you move up,it affects the needle more,and the needle is working towards reverse polarity.
        Likely still off a couple of degrees,which shouldn’t matter all that much,as long as you can find where you’re at on your topo map.

          • Right on with the plates? Wouldn’t have thought that would be the case,seems like all that steel should affect the compass.
            When I had a rifle leaning against a tree a few feet away on a Montana elk hunt-it threw off the compass enough that I said this can’t be right,then another guy said maybe it’s the rifle,and when I moved farther away,I got a correct reading.
            Since you checked it with and without the plates-you’re right about how the plates affect the compass-just wasn’t the result I expected.

  2. I loved the spaghetti westerns but really do not think Clint was facing steel core ect. ammo!Dirty Harry time or Torino,well,ya,probably a chance then if the punks had any brains(unlikely).

  3. Pingback: MDT: Rifle Plates – A Survivalist’s Perspective | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  4. I worked with an armor company and tested several of their products. IIRC for one of the tests the plate was slightly over 6mm and weighed ~7#. It stopped everything we fired at it from 50′; M193, M855, 7.62X39 steel core, 7.62X51 ball, 7.62X39 ball. These were 5 rounds into a 4″ square target, although some of the groups were smaller including the 7.62X51 ball which was a little over 3″ for all 5 rounds. I really wanted to try some of the 7.62X51 AP but the test didn’t call for it and the engineer wouldn’t let me…
    Same company had a .5″ plate that they said would stop .50cal ball at 100yds.

  5. Good article Brother. One strongpoint of steel plates is the concealability. A low vis carrier under a shirt with a small chest rig really should be how most folks are thinking for most situations, at least in my opinion.

    Since the AK chest rig was brought up, a lot of the Vietnam era SOF used them with mags as rudimentary body armor too. In Billingsly’s “Fangs of the Lone Wolf” many of the Chechen leaders explained they instructed their men to do this as well as using AK mags in pockets to protect other areas. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s an option for those who are in the poor house but happen to have an AK and some mags.

    As far as the steel plates/ compass issue goes, which I’m glad you addressed, it becomes a training issue much more than a gear related one. Knowing how your kit works, and working within that parameter is a cornerstone of individual readiness.

    • Thanks Brother. I hadn’t actually thought about the Low Pro aspect of steel, mainly because I don’t have a thin carrier, so I can’t speak to that aspect from personal experience. We were allowed to use the chinese chest rigs in my first two units, and the old timers called it “poor man’s body armor”. On the compass issue, this is what I told Gamegetter. All compass types I’ve used (button, base plate, and lensatic) are fine at solar plexis level or lower next to the body. As you raise it towards you head it progrssively deviates 180 degrees, and at eye level, it is 180 degrees off, which negates aiming with a lensatic compass (but you can still aim a compass from abdominal level.

  6. Here is my dos centavos. I have soft armor to conceal under regular street clothes, for the time that I must go out into a very dangerous and destabilized world that is party post SHTF. I don’t have hard armor plates. Why not? If you in the military, you have made a deal. They will order you to run up the street under fire to take that building or bunker. In return, they will have a medical aide station nearby, plus helicopters to take you to a trauma unit. So if your plate stops the heart shot, and your other wounds are in extremities or are at least survivable with prompt expert modern combat medical care, wearing plates is a no-brainer.

    Post SHTF, on your own, there is no combat trauma team waiting to patch up the wounds an inch outside the hard plates. A gunshot wound in the shoulder is going to kill you just as dead as one in the heart. To the extent that hard plates make you feel bulletproof, they are going to increase your chances of choosing to go into a stand-up gunfight. I’d rather take the attitude that any gunshot wound is going to be fatal (now or later) so I’m going to concentrate on being Mr. Stealthy and never getting into a standup gunfight by choice.

    Not to mention the weight, and the advantages lost, such as not being able to just slide into a canal or creek to escape or to maneuver. Plus, walking around town post SHTF looking like Mr. Tactical Operator might just make the guy with the scoped Remington 700 (that you don’t see yet) take you out just on principle at long range. Why wait until Billy Badass is in pistol or carbine range?

    My main point is about the medical care following a gunshot wound. We won’t have it. If a hard plate makes you feel bulletproof, you are that much more likely to wind up with a wound just outside the plate, and there will be no combat surgeon on hand to patch you up.

  7. I am very unfamiliar with body armor,will the soft protect against just pistol mass shots or will it help with rifle(realise guy with Remington/Weatherby ect. going to kill me if I didn’t notice him and tis their decision)?

  8. Fire tested up to 30-06 (at 20 feet min. X 150 feet max. distance) the old abandon large railroad base plates, approx. 8″ width by 15″ length (maybe 1/2 ” thick)and not 1 round went through or even significantly dented either front and back!
    Put two together to “wear” (front and back) for a stroll and they’re heavy to haul long distances but worked just fine in a pinch…and they’re everywhere train tracks are! Have a box full of them now, and they’re just laying around any tracks rusting away!
    Clint may have had something, there!

  9. Didn’t know y’all “memory-holed” un-approved comments! interesting…WRSA does, too! Guess only certain opinions are allowed, right? 6 1/2 yrs Abn. Inf. but hey, what does that matter, right?

  10. Pingback: Poor Man’s Body Armor – brushbeater

  11. Ok, i know this is going to sound stupid, but where can i find the PP2 plates, googled it but nothing,
    Good article, and thanks,,,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s