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The Best Steel Armor for your Bulletproof Vest

The Best Steel Armor for your Bulletproof Vest

If you have been looking for the best option for a bulletproof vest, you probably have come across the affordable option of AR500 or AR550 Steel Core Armor plates.  

Some of the nice things about steel core body armor is that it can withstand multiple hits in the same area of the plate. It is not as bulky being anywhere from .25” to .5” as traditional ceramic body armor, which typically is 1” thick. It also is in a price point that enables the modern prepared citizen, security firm or police department to outfit themselves or their employees at a fraction of the cost of other armor options.

Types of Steel Armor Plates
If you are new to the game, let’s decode some of the types of steel armor. The AR stands for Abrasion Resistant and the 500 or 550 refers to Brinell hardness of the steel. These steel products are through hardened, meaning that this plate is as hard in the center as it is on the surface. This is important as a surface hardened product would not provide the needed ballistic protection. 

AR500 steel core armor plates are readily available from many manufacturers and they provide Level III protection. We have chosen not to carry this option because for just a very small increase in price AR550 Steel Armor provides you with Level III+ protection and will protect the user from numerous .556 projectiles that the AR500 fails to stop. There are AR600 and AR650 steel options, but the additional hardness makes it prone to cracking due to the inherent stress levels found in these steels after forming. The AR550 is at the perfect hardness level to provide exceptional ballistic coverage while allowing us to apply an ergonomic single press multi curve bend to the steel.

What are the differences between the levels of protection?  

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) classifies body armor into 5 different threat levels: Level IIA, Level II, Level IIIA, Level III and Level IV based on their ability to stop specified rounds at specified velocities. The NIJ’s current standard is 0101.06 with a pending update to 0101.07 slated to be finalized in 2020. 

Caliber Armor Offers Level IIIA Armor Protection & Above  

NIJ Level IIIA is designed to stop .357 Sig FMG FN bullets traveling at a velocity of ~1470 ft/s and .44 Magnum SJHP rounds at a velocity of ~1430 ft/s. The updates for 0101.07 HG2 include testing requirements for 9mm FMJ with a velocity of ~1470 ft/s and changed the .44 MAG test to a JHP (jacketed hollow point) with the same velocity requirements. Our CaliberX Soft Armor panels have been tested to meet both the .06 IIIA and .07 HG2 requirements. 

NIJ Level III rifle plates are designed to stop six spaced hits of 7.62x51mm NATO FMJ M80 at a velocity of ~2780 ft/s. Level III+ is a designation that the industry has adopted to show the capabilities of armor beyond the NIJ Level III testing. This indicates that the plate can withstand higher velocity rounds plus additional threats such as M855 and M193. The NIJ intends to address this in establishing the RF2 category of the 0101.07 standard.  

NIJ Level IV are the highest rated armor plates under the NIJ standards. They are designed to take one hit from an Armor Piercing 30.06 traveling at a velocity of 2880 ft/s. This test will remain the same for the 01010.07 standard.  

Backface Deformation of Steel Body Armor 

Steel body armor provides almost no backface deformation. Backface deformation is the protuberance on the backside of the armor plate that happens from a bullet striking the armor. Even if the bullet does not penetrate the plate it still causes some protrusion, and this is what is measured and is important to pay attention to. The NIJ allows a maximum of 44 mm to pass the Level III hard armor testing requirements. The most that happens with the steel armor is half of that amount. Still, it is always recommended to pair your AR550 steel core body armor with either a soft body armor backer or a trauma pad. This allows you to also be protected from any kinetic energy that is transferred to the plate/vest and then into the user’s body.  

How Much Does Steel Armor Weigh? 

You may be thinking that the AR550 steel armor plates are heavier than some other level III+ armor that is available, but it weighs only slightly more than the cheapest, but more expensive composite counterparts. It’s surprising to most that the thinness of this plate gives the wearer more freedom to move during high stress situations. These plates can easily be kept in the trunk of a car, without fear of temperature related ballistic degradation, for a quick response to an active shooter, or high-risk calls. Unlike ceramic/composite plates, AR550 steel cannot be damaged as easily. They have a much longer shelf life. 

The Best Steel Armor with Spall Fragmentation Coating 

Now onto another very important factor when thinking about purchasing steel body armor. Our AR550 steel armor is strong and when the bullet does not penetrate the armor the projectile fragments generated can ricochet off the face of the armor at a zero to 20-degree angle. You will want to make sure that the armor plates have a spall/fragmentation solution to protect you against this possibility.  

 What is spall? It is the fragmentation that occurs from a bullet on impact. It can cause life-threating injuries to your body. Not all steel plates are created equally. Caliber Armor offers an Anti-Spall coating for steel body armor that encapsulates the fragments. They become trapped between the steel plate and the coating. You can purchase the plates with a standard coating that will keep the plate from rust and corrosion, but it is HIGHLY recommended that you upgrade to a coating that mitigates fragmentation and spall. This is an important feature when choosing steel body armor from us or from any other armor manufacturer.  

Lastly, no body armor plate is bulletproof, only bullet resistant. It’s important to narrow your search and think about what threats you are likely to encounter. You do not want to under prepare and not have the set up that fits your situation. 

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Top 5 Ways to Show Support on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day

What is Law Enforcement Appreciation Day?

Law Enforcement Appreciation Day was founded in 2015 by multiple organizations that joined together to show appreciation for officers in the United States. Celebrated on January 9th each year, this holiday encourages that citizens thank their police officers on this day in support of their services. It is important to show law enforcement officers that we recognize the difficult careers that they have chosen as a public service to protect lives and uphold the law.

This holiday was sparked by the events of 2014 after an officer was involved in a shooting in Ferguson Missouri. The violence and negativity that brewed over that event let to the organization Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S) hoping to change that. They discourage the negative attention that police officers have been getting in recent news and hope to turn the image of police officers into a positive one. There are over 900,000 law enforcement officers in the United States. It is vital to show them support during times of difficulty. This holiday helps bring awareness to the difficult decisions police officers have to make each day in the best interest of the law and the people of our county.

  1. Wear blue clothing in support
  2. Send a card or letter of support to your local police department (having kids do this is great too)
  3. Share a story about a positive law enforcement experience on social media use the hashtag: #LawEnforcementAppreciationDay
  4. Change social media profile photo to help show your support
  5. Ask an officer to tell you a story about what their experience is on the job

You can always show support throughout the year. Another good way to support your local law enforcement is by donating and volunteering with your local Police Foundation.

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NIJ Body Armor Ballistic Levels

NIJ Body Armor Ballistic Levels

NIJ Body Armor Ballistic Levels 

The National Institute of Justice NIJ body armor ballistic levels currently classify body armor into five different threat levels: Level IIA, Level II, Level IIIA, Level III and Level IV based on their ability to stop specified rounds at specified velocities. The NIJ’s current standard is 0101.06 with a pending update to 0101.07 slated to be finalized in sometime in the next year or two. 

Level IIA & II Body Armor vs Levels IIIA, III, III+ and Level IV 

Caliber Armor offers body armor at NIJ body armor ballistic levels of IIIA and above. We will go into detail on the specifics of Level IIIA, Level III, Level III+ and Level IV. Level IIA and Level II could be considered outdated soft armor ballistic levels that are sometimes still used to achieve a lighter thinner armor panel. We can achieve this level of weight and thinness with our CaliberX™ soft armor and still provide the higher level IIIA/HG2 protection.  

NIJ Body Armor Ballistic Level IIIA 

NIJ Level IIIA is designed to stop .357 Sig FMG FN bullets traveling at a velocity of ~1470 ft/s and .44 Magnum SJHP rounds at a velocity of ~1430 ft/s. The updates for 0101.07 HG2 include testing requirements for 9mm FMJ with a velocity of ~1470 ft/s and changed the .44 MAG test to a JHP (jacketed hollow point) with the same velocity requirements. Our CaliberX™ Soft Armor panels have been tested to meet both the .06 IIIA and .07 RF2 NIJ ballistic level requirements

NIJ Ballistic Level III & Level III+ Protection 

NIJ Body Armor Ballistic Level III rifle plates are designed to stop six spaced hits of 7.62x51mm NATO FMJ M80 at a velocity of ~2780 ft/s. Level III+ is a designation that the body armor industry has adopted to show the capabilities of armor beyond the NIJ Level III testing. This indicates that the plate can withstand higher velocity rifle rounds plus additional threats such as M855 and M193. The NIJ intends to address this gap between Ballistic Level III and Level IV in establishing the RF2 category of the 0101.07 standard.  


The Highest Rated Ballistic Level of Protection 

NIJ Body Armor Ballistic Level IV are the highest rated hard armor plates under the NIJ standards. They are designed to take one hit from an Armor Piercing 30.06 traveling at a velocity of 2880 ft/s. This test will remain the same for the 01010.07 standard. We offer one level IV body armor plate.

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Keep Yourself Safe From Gun Violence

Keep Yourself Safe from Gun Violence Header Image

Keep Yourself Safe From Gun Violence

Gun violence is not typically the thing you want to think about, but it’s most likely the thing that is keeping you up at night. How do you keep yourself safe from gun violence, and your loved ones wherever you go? Hardly a week goes by without hearing about another mass shooting in our community. It happens at workplaces, in the grocery store, in schools and in our places of worship. Our politicians talk of banning certain assault rifles or types of ammunition, but how does that help us? Criminals are going to get guns and it’s the criminal, not the weapon that makes the choice to do bad things. How can we protect ourselves and still go about our daily lives?  

Caliber Armor Soft Body Armor Insert Protects You Wherever You Go

This is why we, at Caliber Armor, are focused on creating a life saving product that gives you peace of mind wherever you are. CaliberX™ soft body armor panels come in 8×10, 10×12 and 11×14 options. These panels can easily be placed inside of a backpack, handbag, briefcase or worn in a low visibility carrier vest. Purchasing a body armor panel instead of a specific bulletproof backpack that has armor sewn into it allows you to protect yourself from gun violence wherever you go. You may have a backpack for school and another bag for weekend events, the gym or traveling. Simply insert the soft body armor panel into whatever bag you choose. You also have the option to purchase a carrier that you can wear under a shirt or jacket. The CaliberX™ armor panels are extremely thin and lightweight. They can be concealed easily as they are less than a quarter inch thick and less than 1lb. The last thing you want in a heavy backpack is something else to weigh you down.  

 CaliberX™ soft body armor panels can protect you from the most common gun violence threats that you will face out there. They are rated to stop handgun ammunition as powerful as a .44 Magnum. Our body armor also passes the new NIJ ballistic test for HG2.  

Can Body Armor Protect You from Rifle Shooters?

You might be thinking, what about rifle threats? Attention is often focused on high profile school and shopping center mass shootings where semi-automatic rifles have been used. Can body armor protect you from these sorts of rifles? Yes, it can, and we have options for that. However, hard body armor protection is often heavy or bulky and not very sustainable to have on your person all the time as a civilian. The truth is that handguns are the most common weapon type used in gun related murders and mass shootings. Statistics show that in 64% of all gun murders, handguns were used vs. 4% of the time when assault rifles were used. Handguns are more accessible, easily hidden and they can be almost anywhere. You can conceal handguns and they cannot be detected, making them the weapon of choice for criminals. The most confiscated guns are handguns and the ammunition is readily available with very little restriction. If you want to protect yourself, this is the threat you are the most likely to face.

Caliber Armor’s Mission to Protect You From Gun Violence

At Caliber Armor, our biggest mission is to help people. We are here to provide the very best body armor products on the market to help keep you and your family safe from gun violence. Contact us today so we can assist you in selecting the best product for your needs. 

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Who Wears Body Armor? 

Who wears body armor?

Most people think that only Law Enforcement Officers, and people in the military wear body armor. There are many more professions that use body armor on a daily basis.

The FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) statistics show that from 1987 though 2015, more than 70,000 officers were assaulted with firearms. 92% of all felonious deaths of officers in the line of duty were due to firearms. Body armor is a critical piece of safety equipment for officers’ personal protection.

Do you ever think about other responders on the scene? In most circumstances police officers’ are called to first declare a situation safe for firefighters and medics. When seconds count in a life or death situation, it is unreasonable to expect them to wait. Whenever attacks and injuries are likely to occur, body armor should be used. More and more firefighters and EMT units are equipped with body armor.

Security is considered a high-risk occupation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It has a workplace violence rate that is twice the national average. Private security personnel suffer approximately 71,000 incidents of nonfatal on duty violence and about 76 workplace homicides annually. Wearing body armor will give a better chance of survival in an incident during these challenging times.

Wearing body armor while hunting can be multi-purpose. It can protect you from an errant round, pieces of a shrapnel, punctures from animal attacks and can keep you warm in winter hunting season.

All too often we hear of accounts of the risk that our government officials, judges, attorneys, bank employees, executives, teachers, and students face on a daily basis. Having body armor protection can give you the confidence to go about your daily life.

Caliber Armor’s multitude of body armor options has something for everyone. Our CaliberX™ Soft Armor is covert and can be worn under clothing. We also offer tactical body armor protection up to a Level IV. Contact us to find out more.

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Body Armor Manufacturer Sets Up Operations in Louisville KY

Body Armor Manufacturer Sets Up Operations in Louisville KY

October 1, 2019

Recent transplants Kevin Strnatka and Michelle Pandow from Tucson, Arizona have opened up shop manufacturing body armor inserts here in Louisville. Caliber Armor started operations in January and are scheduled to launch retail and e-commerce sales later this month.

I recently caught up with them to ask a few questions about their latest endeavor.

Kevin, how did you get into the body armor business?

In early 2012, when I was operating my industrial and protective coatings business, I was approached by a Border Patrol agent running a side business out of his garage called The Target Man/Spartan Armor Systems. He was making steel shooting targets and body armor plates. He was looking for a solution to contain fragmentation. We worked together and tried several processes landing on a coating that was extremely successful at containing fragments. When he decided to sell his business in 2015, he came to me and my wife Michelle to purchase it because at this point, we had a good understanding of the product and room to operate in our facility.

So, you purchased The Target Man/Spartan Armor Systems?

Not on my own. I brought my long-term friend, Todd Meeks and his wife Temple to help fund the business purchase. Todd was looking for a new business venture and I had the practical knowledge. I put a lot of trust into this partnership. I gave up my successful Rhino Linings franchise and industrial contracts through my other business, Wildcat Industrial to make Spartan Armor Systems a success.

Well, from my research Spartan Armor is a success. What happened?

It is a success; Michelle and I are very proud of the success that Spartan Armor has achieved. We know that it was our hard work, sacrifice and dedication that made that happen. Todd really lucked out.

What do you mean?

Well, he was lucky to be handed a business lead and then to be able to scale that business in my existing warehouse and retail space. Michelle jumped right in and helped out with almost every aspect of getting Spartan Armor up off the ground and moving it from a business run out of a garage to a reputable business. While I was busy in the back warehouse, training employees, updating target designs and coming up with the new products, Michelle was redesigning the website, developing a dealer network, managing customer service, streamlining product production and getting vendor relationships established. Like I said, we are really proud of what we accomplished.

Why did you leave then?

Partnerships are a hard thing. We had different ideas about the direction and image of the company. That created a lot of friction, unfortunately. Todd and I mutually decided to take different roads. We can’t say enough good things about the employees at Spartan, we had a family there. It’s a shame, but you live, and you learn.

Okay so enough about the past… Tell me about Caliber Armor. Why Louisville?

After Spartan, we needed a fresh start. We have family here and extended family in the Chicago area. After our first exploratory tip here, we fell in love with the city. The people are so friendly, and we were happy to find so much industry and development happening here. We are very proud to call Louisville home.

We established Caliber Armor because we really loved what we did at Spartan. We wanted to continue to do this work. So, we decided to create an armor company that aligned with our personal convictions and quality standards. We will never jeopardize our integrity or the safety of our customers in order to gain higher profit margins. We don’t need to make millions. We just want to make good products to help protect people and give them individualized attention that they might not get elsewhere.

What experience to you two bring to the table? Why do you feel that your business will be successful?

I have been working in complicated project solutions with polymers for over 25 years. I am very well respected in the industry. When I stared working with body armor applications all of the chemistry and metallurgy made sense to me. But since I have been working with polymers in a different way, I have different ideas on how they can be used. These ideas can drastically improve current body armor technologies. I have two patents in the works that I am excited to put into place.

Michelle has a multifaceted background in operations, sales, finance, marketing and education. She worked for years in the powersports industry and managed negotiating the Law Enforcement motor units contract for our local PD. She has worked in sales most of her adult life.

Michelle, Kevin has done most of the talking. Can you tell us a little something about your path and how it brought you to where you are now?

I have always wanted to serve my community and I have always been good at sales, customer service and management, but I was not fulfilled with my career. In 2007 after spending time volunteering at a youth art program, I decided to go back to school to get my teaching credentials. I received a master’s degree with honors and taught for about a year at a school in the south side of Tucson. I loved the kids, but I felt like I needed to have more flexibility to be with my young children. I started helping Kevin with his business which gave me the work/life balance I was looking for. When we were presented with the opportunity to be a part of the body armor company, I’ll admit I was nervous.

Nervous? Why?

It was all new to me. Firearms, protection products, metal, projectiles… I felt overwhelmed that there was so much to learn. I did not want to come across like a phony.

How did you overcome that?

It’s one of the many times I’ve looked to God to lead me where I should be. If this was meant to happen, I would learn all I could. I asked questions from the experts, I traveled to ballistic labs, talked with metallurgists, went to seminars, read non-stop about the industry and product developments. I purchased my first firearm and learned how to use it. I really felt like I needed to be a part of the industry in order to be authentic. I’ve always wanted to help people. This was my chance to make a difference. Talking to the first responders, helping them find what they need to stay protected, is so rewarding to me. Then when we left Spartan, I knew that I wanted that to continue.

Okay. Thank you for getting so personal with me. I think it makes a difference to know who the people are behind the business. Especially when you are selling such an important, lifesaving product.

Who is your target audience?

Caliber Armor exists to provide quality body armor to Law Enforcement and First Responders. In our country it is perfectly legal for law abiding citizens to purchase and own body armor. With proper vetting we will also sell to the public. Our world has dangers that ordinary citizens are worried about. We want them to have the ability to protect themselves.

What are you bringing to the Kentucky community?

We are using Kentuckiana small businesses whenever we can in our manufacturing process. We partner with metal workers, textile factories, box manufacturers and marketing firms all in our area. We want to make sure we are utilizing our talented community whenever possible. We also will be creating up to 10 new jobs next year.

Thank you for meeting with me today. I look forward to following up after you have fully launched with more updates on product development.

Steven Rockwell, Publisher

Kentucky Entrepreneur

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7 Ways To Use Body Armor Everyday

Body Armor is meant to be a tool to save lives, especially to law enforcement officers who are answering the call of duty every day. Body armor has been a popular topic, and its perception is shifting as time goes by, especially to civilians. It may be a complicated subject for the inexperienced, and its once-considered-rarity has become an essential asset to the public, especially with the rise of crime and violence. If you are to get body armor for everyday use together with the best tactical defense pen, here are some tips for daily use.

Can Civilians Buy Body Armor?

Yes, body armors are legal in all 50 states, and law-abiding civilians can purchase them. As they are safety products, you have the right to protect yourself or your family from danger. Every citizen in the US has the legal right to acquire and wear it for personal or professional use.

Federal Law regulates body Armors, so it is common for the law enforcers to sport one, but you also have the option to get one for security reasons. Each state has regulations, and it is your responsibility to check them. Also, convicted felons are not eligible to own body armor.

Why is Body Armor Important?

Reliable and compact body armor might restrict your movements, but they could also potentially save your life when things go south.

Body armor from Caliber Armor is designed to be lightweight and have the ideal balance of comfort and protection. It’s comfortable without compromising security. Models like the Caliber X Ultra-Light Weight Soft Armor and the Caliber X Covert Body Armor Vest can easily fit underneath your clothing and look inconspicuous while providing you with the highest level of ballistic protection against hand gun threats. It’s not unusual that body armor is growing popular in various fields.

Tips in Using a Body Armor Daily

  • Keep your armor dry.  

Body armor tends to lose its ballistic performance as the water acts as a lubricant. If this happens, the armor is much more susceptible to penetration. Thus, unless your body armor has some water-resistant materials, keeping it dry is a must.

  • Insert panels the right way.

Ballistic panels are designed, so the strike side faces outward when you insert it into the carrier. It’s specially built to slow down or stop the bullet while scattering the force, thereby lessening the trauma or impact when shot. Never flip it back to front. This may lead to a worst-case scenario if, in any case, things go wrong.

  • Keep it from sagging.

Sagging panels might make you feel uncomfortable, and worse is, they lose their ability to protect you. To avoid such a scenario, you have to switch out your carriers regularly. By periodically switching out your panels, you will be able to minimize the wear and tear of the fabric and the Velcro and keeping your panels from sagging.

  • Keep your body fit while wearing one.

Body armor does not stretch out to fit you if you gain or lose weight. It is designed to protect you, so it needs to fit perfectly. If you gained or lost weight after, you need a larger or small panel or plate.

  • Do not wear it too tightly.

You shouldn’t wear your body armor too tightly. There should be some space between the panels and your torso. As you fit your vest, inhale deeply and try to hold your breath to get the perfect fit. This will give enough space to lessen physical trauma or damage in case of a bullet strike. This will also give you the comfort and freedom to move around and do your activities. Body armors work the best when it has ample room to move around.

  • Wear a shirt under your vest.

Body armors or your bulletproof vests are made to protect you, but they are not fundamentally the most comfortable. It’s best to wear moisture-wicking shirts or undergarments to minimize odors and to prevent chafing.

  • Do not use duct tapes as strap replacements.

Using duct tapes as strap replacements is never a good idea for some reasons. Duct tapes will tape down your vest so it won’t move with your body correctly. This might lead to coverage problems in case of a ballistic situation. Plus, it does not give any ballistic protection at all.


Protective gear, like body armor is meant to protect and save lives. Thus, it is not something that you can easily trust to just any maker.  Body armor manufacturers should offer a wide range of designs with more ergonomic options and a higher protection level. Keeping yourself and your family safe is more essential than anything, and Caliber Armor is a great place to check out excellent options.


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