As you start out looking into what options there are to fit your personal protection needs, you’ll run into two types of body armor, hard and soft.
Yes, the names simply refer to their state of being as one is soft and flexible while the other is hard and rigid.
The differences between these two products goes beyond that and into what they can be used for and how they should be worn. These two types of body armor can even complement each other very well when used in the proper set up.
Let's go over some of the differences between the two.
Soft Armor Plates
Soft Armor is made out of Kevlar or a Kevlar hybrid product. This material allows for it to remain relatively lightweight while still offering protection from pistols and pistol caliber carbines.
Our Predator Armor soft armor plates are a Kevlar hybrid that has been tested to the NIJ standards for IIIA. This means that it is rated to stop from 9mm up to 357 sig and 44 magnum pistol cartridges. Considering this is a thin flexible plate, that is a lot of protection.
Benefits to Soft Armor
The benefits to soft armor plates are more than just its weight and size savings. Soft armor is much easier to maneuver in and allows for a much lower profile. You can even get shirts and jackets that have hidden soft armor pockets, allowing you to be protected without sky lining your equipment.
Soft Armor can also be considerably more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time when compared to a typical plate carrier with steel plates. In the event that your soft armor needs to be used for its intended purpose, you don’t need to worry about sprawling or fragmentation from the rounds, as they get caught in the Kevlar material.
Disadvantages to Consider in Soft Armor
While soft armor offers several advantages compared to hard armor, it is not without its disadvantages. One of the main disadvantages is a significant reduction in ballistic protection and protection from minor injuries. Even though the plates can stop a projectile, a large amount of energy still gets passed through the material and onto the individual wearing the armor. Bruising and some internal trauma can still occur.
While these will not be life threatening injuries, they are still important to consider when choosing your armor setup.
Rifle cartridges pose a significant threat to soft armor as they are still able to penetrate most soft armor products, especially smaller faster projectiles like the 5.56/.223. If these disadvantages to soft armor are a concern for your desired application, then you should consider taking a look at hard armor.
Hard Armor Plates
Hard armor is a hard rigid plate that can be made out of steel (typically AR500), ceramic, or some other composite material. These materials do a fantastic job of offering protection from projectiles.
Many companies offer hard armor products that are capable of stopping all common rifle calibers and even some armor piercing projectiles as well.
Hard armor is very effective at defeating multiple projectiles in rapid succession, and for this reason, is used by almost every major military in the world.
Multi hit ratings are an important factor when considering which armor you want to purchase for yourself and should be compared to your intended application for your kit.
Disadvantages to Hard Armor Plates
As with soft armor, hard armor has its drawbacks. It is considerably heavier and bulkier than soft armor, can constrict movement significantly, and can cause projectiles to fragment.
The weight and bulk of hard armor makes it difficult to conceal effectively and it is almost always an overt protection system when used.
Hard Armor plates can also be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time due to the excess weight of the system. Moving around with a hard armor kit can potentially hinder your movement, especially in a dynamic scenario that might require you to get in and out of vehicles, over walls, and through tight spaces.
Additionally, when used as a standalone system hard armor plates can create sprawling or fragmentation from the projectiles. This fragmentation has the ability to cause injuries to the wearer. These injuries may not be life threatening but they can be fairly serious.
Anti-fragmentation measures should always be considered when setting up a hard armor system. One of the most effective anti-fragmentation systems is soft armor.
Hard Armor & Soft Armor Duo
A dual hard armor and soft armor system offers the most protection and the advantages of both systems. This type of set up can protect the user from most rifle and pistol calibers without the fear of sprawling or other secondary injuries.
This system would also be rated for multiple impacts from multiple calibers.
The main downside to a dual system is the increased weight and bulk. While a dual plate system offers the most protection, it could also slow the user down and make maneuvering difficult.
No matter what your needs are, whether it's soft armor, hard armor, or both, here at Predator Armor we have something that should meet exactly what you need. All you need to do is define your application and figure out what those needs are.