AR500 Body Armor Systems – They’ve Got You Covered
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 – streamlines the decision making process for the educated tactician. 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.
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 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
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 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.
The next duty-ready kit I trained in was the Arena Plate Carrier with the Advanced Lightweight Shooter Cut, 8-inch by 10-inch plates. These are rated at level III+ and can withstand hits from Black Tip 7.62×51 at 3,100 feet per second. They are made from AR500 armor and coated with Paxcon but are tapered at the bottom as well as the top, giving them an octagonal shape that allows for significantly easier movement and less weight. The lighter weight does come with less coverage area, but I think that the increased mobility makes it an intelligent trade-off.
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 $350, it’s an attractive option for shooters that are working within a budget but don’t want to sacrifice capability.
Testudo Plate Carrier
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 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.
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 ASC 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.
Like the other plate carriers that I tested from AR500, 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 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 a strong look. They’ve got a solution for just about every niche. From entry-level home defense to salty operator, AR500 has you covered.
To learn more, visit ar500armor.com.
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