Many of us are sure that cost determines quality. The more expensive a thing is the longer and better it will be in use. Let us see whether this logic is true about body armor worn by civilians. We are to speak about what determines the price of bulletproof vests and plates and if expensive armor gives the best protection from ballistic threats.
Can civilians buy and own body armor?
Body armor is legal in all states and DC for law-abiding people. Civilians can buy and own such body armor as bulletproof vests and plates.
What Determines the Cost?
The main factor that determines the price of a thing is the cost of the material it is made of. That is true for civilian body armor – bulletproof vests and plates either. Of course, the final price depends on the ways of product marketing. Some brands set higher prices. Some shops have higher margins. We collect the best brands and ensure lower prices. That is why the main question is about the materials. Let us move on to them.
Plates made of steel are the cheapest ones and the vests with steel plates are the most common till nowadays. Many people prefer them and we are proud to present steel plates by many brands. This material is known as the most durable and less deformed.
«Carbide» means the compound of carbon with another substance. In our case with boron. People often call these plates «ceramic» as carbides are used in ceramic production though speaking about body armor this denomination is not quite right. Carbide compounds, including boron, are extremely strong and lightweight. The combination of these qualities has made them in demand. They are widely used in different industries from semiconductor manufacturing to tank armoring.
Production of plates from boron carbide is far more expensive than making steel ones. Thus, the final prices for consumers differ: steel plates are rather cheaper. At the same time boron carbide plates, despite extremely durability, are less effective when more than one bullet hit the plate nearby. A bullet and its fragments make a cavern sized up to three inches. The protection of the vest in the damaged section decreases.
Polymer vests have come into our lives recently. Unlike made of steel and boron carbide they are called «soft armor» as made from flexible syntactic fiber. The main polymer materials used in vests production are Kevlar® (DuPont) and Twaron® (Akzo/Acordis).
Both materials belong to a polymer group named «para-amides» and consist of fibers tightly woven in a perpendicular weave that makes them strong. In addition to strength, they are heat-resistant, elastic, and lightweight. They are suitable to be worn underneath and considered the best civilian body armor.
Polymer vests do not demand to be reinforced by plates as the material protects from ballistic treats by itself. Thus, if we need to be protected from the threat level IV we should use additional steel or boron carbide plates to stop rifle bullets.
As for the price of the vests made from Kevlar® and Twaron®, it is equal or even lower than the price of body armor plate carriers with metal or boron carbide panels.
Polyethylene and Hybrid
The most modern material used in plate manufacturing is ultra-high-molecular-weight-polyethylene. It is the lightest and the most expensive substance today.
Very often manufacturers make plates using a combination of polyethylene and polymer. An example of such a hybrid is Duritium®. It is lightweight, elastic, and has an extremely high tensile strength. Plates made of this new material is rather expensive but it provides the best ballistic protection. There is a view that Duritium® technology is the next step in the evolution of body armor.
Some expensive bulletproof vests worth the cost, someone none. It all depends on the level of the perceived threats and other requirements. For example, soft body armor made of Kevlar or Twaron are likely the best choice for most civilians as they are comfortable in use and protect from common ballistic threats. At the same time, they are not very expensive.
On the other hand, we have new plates made of hybrid materials that are good for reinforcing plate carriers. They are expensive, but plate carriers are bulky and not very suitable to use in everyday life.