AR500 offers several armor packages in conjunction with different plate carriers allowing consumers at every level to have an opportunity to purchase and be protected by quality body armor.

AR500 Armor offers several armor packages in conjunction with different plate carriers, allowing consumers at every level to have an opportunity to purchase and be protected by quality body armor.

AR500 Armor offers several armor packages in conjunction with different plate carriers, allowing consumers at every level to have an opportunity to purchase and be protected by quality body armor.

In the world of body armor, you really have two options: good and light or good and inexpensive. There is no escaping the fact that inexpensive, light and good don’t exist in the same universe. Good and light is not inexpensive, and good and inexpensive is not light.

I’ve worn body armor professionally for nearly 30 years, and while it has come a very long way, wearing rifle-resistant armor can still be a chore. One company – AR500 Armor – streamlines the decision making process for the educated tactician. AR500 Armor offers several armor packages in conjunction with different plate carriers allowing consumers at every level to have an opportunity to purchase and be protected by quality body armor.

When it comes to body armor, I hesitate to use the word “cheap” since that usually denotes flimsy and poorly made. Even the inexpensive offerings that I recently had the chance to use from AR500 Armor were very well made, and I was exceedingly impressed with the workmanship in not only the armor, but also the armor carrying systems.

For the purposes of this article, I utilized several different armor and carrier packages, so I paired them up in a way that made sense to me. The company also has pre-assembled packages available on their website to take the guesswork out for you. They provide you with everything from a quality entry level package to a very technologically advanced lightweight packages.

Concealment Plate Carrier

The Concealment Plate Carrier

The Concealment Plate Carrier

To cover everything from a bump in the night to discreet protection, the first package I put together was the Gen II Concealment Plate Carrier with the AR500 Level III 11-inch by 14-inch hard plates with the Advanced Shooter Cuts (ASC). This is the standard AR500 plate but with a slightly larger size to allow for more coverage.

The ASC provides a higher degree of upper body mobility by tapering the plate at the shooters upper torso, with a steeper angle on their specified dominant side. Not only does this cut provide more mobility, but it also allows for more consistent shouldering of a long gun.

The slick Concealment Carrier does a good job of weight distribution

The slick Concealment Carrier does a good job of weight distribution

The plates are only .26-inch thick, so they fit right into the concealment role. The plates are coated in Paxcon to reduce spalling (plate fragments) and bullet fragmentation. If I were going to buy the plates for duty use, I would definitely invest in the optional double Paxcon coating to really mitigate spall and frag concerns.

This package retails at $300 and is rated for up to M80 7.62×51. That’s a lot of protection for not a lot of cash. The downside of course, is the 20-plus pounds of weight. Even though the slick Concealment Carrier does a good job of weight distribution, it’s still an additional 20 pounds to your torso.

Lightweight Shooter

The Arena Plate Carrier

The Veritas Plate Carrier

The next duty-ready kit I trained in was the Veritas Plate Carrier with the Ultra Lightweight 10-inch by 12-inch Level III plates. These are rated at NIJ certified level III and can withstand up to 6 rounds of 7.62 x 51 M80 NATO ball at 2,780 feet per second. They are made from ultra lightweight PE material designed to minimize weight. The lighter weight plates do come with a slightly higher price tag but the tradeoff for increased mobility is worth it.

The stitching was straight, the edges were correct and the carrier itself was very well thought out.

The stitching was straight, the edges were correct and the carrier itself was very well thought out.

The plates themselves are pretty straightforward but what really impressed me most was with the quality of the plate carrier at a price point that many would consider “budget”. The stitching was straight, the edges were correct and the carrier itself was very well thought out. The MOLLE/PALS webbing was all stitched and cut evenly and the consistency throughout the entire model was very reassuring. I found this combination very easy to work in and at a combined price of $485, it’s an attractive option for shooters that are working within a budget but don’t want to sacrifice capability.

Testudo Plate Carrier

The Testudo Plate Carrier

The Testudo Plate Carrier. Disclaimer: The Testudo Plate Carrier photographed with lightweight PE plates and tested with Level IV armor

Up next was the potent combination of the Level IV Armor with the Testudo plate carrier. Of all the combinations tested, this package really provided a lot of protection for the money.

The Level IV plates are of monolithic ceramic and polyethylene construction and at a weight of just over 8 pounds each. They provide protection against everything up to dedicated armor piercing (AP) .30-caliber projectiles. The plates are National Institute of Justice (NIJ) .06 certified, which is important for duty armor for the professional.

The Testudo plate carrier is an impressive piece of kit due to how it distributes the weight across the shoulders.

The Testudo plate carrier is an impressive piece of kit due to how it distributes the weight across the shoulders.

The 16 pounds of armor is not exactly lightweight, but the Testudo plate carrier is an impressive piece of kit due to how it distributes the weight across the shoulders. I didn’t feel like my mobility was severely hampered and my problematic lower back did just fine with the weight, even during rigorous shooting drills. The closed cell foam in the carrier stayed comfortable all day and the low shoulder mounts kept the rear plate where it needed to be.

I wore it in Arizona in late June and the 3D mesh was very helpful in streamlining airflow. I know comfortable is relative in describing body armor, but this combination of armor and carrier really hit the sweet spot. At roughly $450, the combo is not inexpensive, but it’s value compared to the competitors is tremendous. Level IV protection in something that is comfortable enough to fight all day in and is a win for fighting men and women everywhere.

UHMWPE Armor

UHMWPE Armor with the Valkyrie Plate Carrier

UHMWPE Armor with the Valkyrie Plate Carrier

Last up is my favorite combo, the Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) armor with the Valkyrie Plate Carrier. UHMWPE is a long-chain polymer that is used in everything from fishing line to armor. The long molecular chains are better at transferring load than shorter chains, so they make for a very lightweight, very tough armor plate.

The AR500 UHMWPE plate is 10 inches by 12 inches with the shooters cut profile and is snugly wrapped, to include neoprene edges. The quality of the plate is undeniable, and at 3.3 pounds, it not only has positive buoyancy (it floats), it has NIJ certified level III protection, meaning that it will stop all of the common rifle threats from AR and AK platforms. It’s a tad thick at 1.3 inches but at that weight who really cares. I can wear this rig all day long to include running and jumping and have no lower back discomfort at all.

It is a complete Berry Compliant carrier that includes 3D mesh, intelligent design and impeccable quality for just over $200.

It is a complete Berry Compliant carrier that includes 3D mesh, intelligent design and impeccable quality for just over $200.

Like the other plate carriers that I tested from AR500 Armor, the Valkyrie was very well built. What the Valkyrie brings to the table is 100-percent, American sourcing and manufacture. It is a complete Berry Compliant carrier that includes 3D mesh, intelligent design and impeccable quality for just over $200. The stitching is bar-tacked, doubled where necessary, double backed and straight throughout. They even use bonded thread, which is a very nice touch. At this price point it represents a tremendous value.

A lightweight set-up capable of stopping rifle threats for under $750 bucks would have been unthinkable only several years ago. While I have to return the samples loaned to Guns & Ammo for test and evaluation, AR500 Armor isn’t getting its Valkyrie back until I get a strongly worded letter. It’s really that good.

If you’re in the market for rifle-rated armor, give AR500 Armor a strong look. They’ve got a solution for just about every niche. From entry-level home defense to salty operator, AR500 Armor has you covered.

AR500 Sweeps

 To learn more, visit ar500armor.com.

 

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