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Everything You Should Know About Spall and Frag Mitigation

Body Armor Spall and Frag Mitigation

Disclaimer for the radical anti-steel crew: I am probably going to rag on you a little today. It’s good for you to get ragged on from time to time, especially with how much you rag on us - but please hear me out: We have something that genuinely works; something that works efficiently and consistently for making steel body armor safe for everyday use. And no, it is not Rhino liner.

“Steel Is For Targets”

Oh, where to even begin. If you’ve spent even two minutes on body armor social media pages like ours, you’ve likely been treated to some entertaining comments, arguments, and insults directed towards steel armor. The most common I see:

  • “Steel is trash”

  • “Stop using targets for protection”

  • *Dies from spalling*

The list goes on, and these are actually some of the more tame comments we see. The internet can be a ruthless place, and I might add, oftentimes an uneducated one.

What’s funny to me is that nearly every profile avidly posting these comments has an identical layout: Their profile picture is some obscure meme or (presumably) them in a black ski mask, their cover photo is also them with a black ski or gas mask and an AK-47, or an upside-down American flag, and their bio says something about getting banned from social media for the fifth time this month.

Nothing wrong with a little self-expression or distaste of authority, of course. But it sure entertains us to see how predictable the die-hard anti-steel gang and their “styles” are.

What Are Frag And Spall?

Are they the same thing?

Technically speaking, no.

To put it in simple terms:

  • Spalling refers to flakes or fragments of steel being broken off of the plate when the bullet makes contact with it.

  • Frag or fragmentation are pieces of the bullet itself being broken into smaller pieces.

When people refer to “spalling” or “frag” online, they are generally referring to the same thing - any projectile being redirected away from the plate as a result of the plate being shot, which can of course be harmful to the person wearing the armor and others around him or her. You can see this happen when you shoot steel targets at the range.

When your bullet makes contact with an object, Newton’s Laws of Motion require one of three things to happen: The bullet will pass through it, be “absorbed” per se, or deflected. When steel plates stop a bullet, most of the round is actually liquified, while pieces of its core usually break off into smaller fragments that are deflected into various directions.

Are Concerns About Frag and Spall Valid?

Looking at it objectively, we understand why someone would have concerns with steel body armor. We know that steel is in fact prone to causing bullet ricochet and/or fragmentation. You do not want any of that being redirected into a potentially hazardous direction - at a friend, at your throat, you get the idea. Doesn’t make for a good day. Though I reckon getting shot through the lungs makes for a much worse day.

Oh yeah, I forgot the “you’d be better off wearing no body armor at all” comments I see all too often. You can’t make this stuff up.

Okay, so trying to be objective warrants rational concerns here, right? Well, for most of the haters on our social media pages, that is where being “objective” ends. You see, they tend to have this view that ceramic body armor is a gift straight from God, perfected without fault. These individuals conveniently forget that both types of body armor require due diligence on behalf of the user in order to be consistently effective. If you drop ceramic armor onto a hard surface, for example, there is a very real chance you will compromise the armor’s integrity. That doesn’t sound like “perfection” to me.

Armor Type Pros And Cons

Steel Body Armor Plate
A Steel Armor Plate

Steel Armor Pros:

  • Requires next to no maintenance with an extraordinarily long lifespan (15-20 years)

  • Generally inexpensive and budget-friendly

  • Can withstand a higher number of rounds than ceramic armor before being compromised

  • Is easier to use discreetly due to its thinner profile

Steel Armor Cons:

  • Can often be heavier than ceramic (though not as much as you’d think - companies like ours have worked to bring the weight of steel armor down dramatically in recent years)

  • Energy transfer - Bullets carry a lot of energy, and most of that energy will “pass-through” steel armor, which can result in blunt force trauma to the wearer. This can be mitigated by various means, such as high-quality trauma pads and special armor coatings.

  • Can cause bullets to fragment, endangering the wearer and those nearby if not properly mitigated - Valid, but preventable concern

Ceramic Armor Pros:

  • Generally lightweight (though again, not as much as you may believe)

  • Energy transfer - Ceramic armor handles bullet energy much more efficiently on behalf of the wearer, meaning a bullet will be stopped and will not cause significant blunt force trauma - depending on the round, of course. Stopping a 30-06 is not going to feel good no matter how much armor you’re wearing

  • Tends to perform better against supersonic armor-piercing bullets

Ceramic Armor Cons:

  • Usually quite thick and can impede mobility

  • Is compromised much more easily - Cannot handle multiple rounds in the same area

  • Generally much more expensive for quality armor

  • Requires more care and maintenance than steel (don’t want to be throwing it around)

  • Shorter shelf life, about 25% of steel’s (5-7 years at the most, usually)

As I have said, I hope any objective individual can understand and appreciate both armor types and their pros and cons. I personally own and regularly use both. But with all these pros and cons, we at Predator asked ourselves a very important question.

Can any of Steel Armor’s issues be fixed?

YES! The answer is a resounding and absolute YES. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

I was excited to write this part. I cannot understand how people believe purchasing steel armor is a guaranteed death sentence and that if you’re concerned about any of its potential risks, there are no ways to fix them whatsoever - A surprisingly helpless and non-adaptive mindset for someone purchasing body armor out of a desire to be prepared for the worst situations.

But I digress. How can steel be made safe, while remaining affordable? There are several ways to do it. First and foremost, your plate carrier and equipment WILL provide real protection from fragmentation and spalling. This is done by retaining pieces of said fragmentation and spall within the carrier itself - just another reason to invest in a well-made plate carrier. It is not a full-proof method and is not recommended to be used exclusively, but it does aid significantly in protection. Think of it like the pull-out method, but for spalling and fragmentation.

At Predator Armor, we utilize a unique multi-layer Kevlar lining that mitigates frag/spall, alleviating the concerns that many bring up. Having designed our products in-hand with former/active-duty service members, we have a thorough understanding of the usefulness of Kevlar in personal protection. Kevlar has a proven track record in the personal protection space. It is a product you can trust. This special lining adds minimal thickness and weight to your plates (I have never noticed the difference in thickness or weight when using them in the field), and it actually enhances the overall performance of the armor.

The greatest part? It works just as well as you would expect.

It is a common-sense solution to a common-sense problem. We have found that our Kevlar lining is able to consistently mitigate the risk of bullet fragmentation launching into dangerous directions at dangerous speeds.

Our extensive tests found that the carrier was rarely (if ever) needed to aid in this mitigation - though realistically, you probably will not be using body armor without a carrier anyway, so it is always an added level of insurance (and personal assurance). Nevertheless, we performed extensive and thorough testing with and without carriers in order to ensure that the plate was capable of holding its own in terms of retaining bullet fragments. Needless to say, we were more than pleased with the results. We have solved the most commonly-cited concern by using steel body armor.

Not to mention, that green cover sure looks badass.

Exceptional Protection for Real Concerns

We have said it before and we will say it again - We are in this business to save lives. We recognize the seriousness of the industry we have chosen to take part in, and the trust our customers place in us. We readily acknowledge that these are life-or-death purchases and that you want to ensure your life will be saved by the armor you’re entrusting us to provide you.

We fully stand behind our Kevlar-lining as an appropriate means of making steel body armor safe for use as personal protective equipment in any and all conditions. We would not hesitate to use this armor in a live-combat situation, though we pray we never have to. What matters is that it is there; that it is available for the everyday patriot with a desire to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their God-given freedoms from any individual or group seeking to cause them harm.

It is not your privilege to do so - it is your right

1 comment

1 Comment

Jayden Nun
Jayden Nun
Jul 18, 2023

Everything about this article about spalling and fragmentation is perfect for those debating whether they should get steel plates or ceramic plates. I've read so many online sources where people just straight trash talk about steel armor when I was debating whether I should get steel or ceramic. And before I even read this article, I thought to myself, 'Well, with a good quality plate carrier and frag metigation coating ... wouldn't that significantly reduce the chances of injury due to the fragments being retained within the plate carrier?' Which was talked about in 'Can any of Steel Armor’s issues be fixed?' part of this article. It's something that 'team ceramic' people need to understand because when shooting at steel…

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