For a long time “ceramic” meant “expensive” when it comes to body armor. Either pay at least $500 at a minimum for a ceramic level IV plate or settle for a less expensive and less effective steel plate. As more regular folks buy armor for just in case, market pressure has forced manufacturers to adapt. Some manufacturers are producing tougher, “level III+” steel plates that can stop some of the high velocity .223/5.56mm threats that regular level III steel plates cannot. At the same time, ceramic plates have also become more affordable. Highcom Security actually offers a level IV ceramic plate at a price lower than some steel plates. It is available in a variety of sizes, curve options, and cuts, but in the 10″ x 12″ shooter’s cut, single curve style that is so popular, the price is $159.
At that price, one might reasonably suspect how effective the plate is. As the sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein was fond of saying “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” It is quite reasonable to be suspicious of the quality at such an attractive price, but the plate has far exceeded any reasonable expectations.
Everything done in the test above shatters expectations, if you’ll pardon the pun. The hammer impact far exceeds anything you could reasonably expect to encounter in field use and the .358 Win is also something the plate was not designed to stop. Bear in mind that when this test was conducted, the plate had already stopped a 405 gr .450 Marlin at almost 2,000 fps. The plate then went on to stop a round of 7.62x51mm M61 AP.
Again, it is important to bear in mind that the plate had already sustained some ridiculous abuse before stopping the armor piercing round.
As tough as the plate is, it is also a little heavier than other plates with the same NIJ rating, but at 7.2 lbs for the 10″ x 12″ shooter’s cut, the difference is not huge and still lighter than steel plates of similar dimensions, while providing a great deal more protection than steel plates.
As always, the burden is upon you to do comprehensive research and determine your own priorities before purchasing any personal protective equipment. It is likewise important to stress that training matters a great deal more than equipment. No amount of gear, no matter how cool can make up for poor training. The more you sweat in training, the less you will bleed in a fight.