TMCnet Feature
June 18, 2020

Is Hard Armor Better than Soft?

For most gear, and especially when it comes to security and military gear, it is hard to walk away from middle school type thinking where bigger is always better, and you’re just not ‘a real man’ if you can’t suffer through the downsides. The same often happens when discussing if hard armor plating better than soft, especially with people who wear neither.

From a purely ballistic point of view; yes, hard plates will stop bigger bullets than soft ballistic armor.

But, you are not a test dummy and very few people live in regions where you are under reasonable risk from rifle fire on a daily basis. In many cases, the extra weight from a hard plate will be more trouble than it’s worth.

Generally, there are three things to consider when picking between soft and hard armor:

  1. What is the threat level?
  2. Are you wearing it covertly or overtly?
  3. For how long should you wear it?

For the first issue, the logic is very plain. If there are rifles, you go with hard armor. Everything else is not important if your body armor simply won’t stop the bullet going toward you.

When it comes to concealment, you can go both ways, and there are armors in both classes that work better concealed than in an overt carrier. But generally, if you need to go overt you will be looking for thin and soft armor.

Finally, if you plan to wear your armor for the whole workday, meaning over eight hours, then a hard plate is out of the question. Even if there might be rifles, the fatigue endured when wearing 40 or more pounds on you means that it might be a better idea to go without armor altogether.

Soft Armor for Maneuverability and Covertness

Even the heaviest and thickest soft armor like the is only about a pound and a half per square foot. And, it is rarely over half an inch thick even with the carrier and padding.

This is roughly five times less than the hard plate when it comes to weight. Also, soft armor can usually bend and flex, making it easier to wrap more without lowering your reaction speed.

When you need regular protection, regardless if it is on the job or simply passing a rough area, you will always want to go with something light. It will allow you to move and react quickly, and it can be hidden under plain clothes without major issues.

Also, because we know that less than 2.5% of gun crimes domestically are committed with a rifle, it is safe to say that a soft vest will be enough.

Hard Armor for Protection

When it comes to open combat, and you know that you will be facing rifle fire and multiple attackers, there is no other option but the hard plate.

Only an NIJ Level III and above will stop a round from an assault rifle. In such cases you want to act quickly and remove any threats, meaning that more weight shouldn’t be an issue.

Finally, there are always options to keep a soft panel in your carrier, but keep a hard plate stored somewhere so that you can just slip it in when you know you need it.

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