John Lovell went to the rifle range and “edge tested” his favorite poly-plate body armor to see how it holds up to repeated rounds at varying distances and contact points.
- The Rifle: U.S. Arms AR-15
- Rounds: 55 grain 5.56
- Distance: 15 meters
- The Test: Withstanding rounds within an inch of the plate's edge.
- The Test Subject: The Duritium GT2 polyethylene plates strapped to my sparring dummy Bob.
Guaranteeing a plate of body armor is a funny matter, and by "funny" I mean very serious--since we're talking about a product whose material and construction are a matter of life and death.
An NIJ (National Institute of Justice) certification is used to measure the effectiveness of body armor--assigning levels of protection from I to IV.
I strapped my favorite plates to my karate dummy named Bob. The Duritium GT2 polyethylene plates are protecting Bob's rubber torso.
I strapped the GT2s onto Bob because I wanted to see for myself what would happen when I subjected my trusted equipment to the impact of 5.56 Green Tip rounds. I thought it'd be educational and entertaining to see what happened.
Why Are Polyethylene GT2 Body Armor Plates My Favorite?
Lightweight. Unlike ceramic or other materials used to make body armor plating, polyethylene plating is pound-for-pound more effective. Steel will, of course, offer the max protection of any material, but it's also incredibly heavy–like 10 pounds. My poly plates weigh about 2.7 pounds.
Tactically Efficient. As you'll see in our test, it's very good at stopping bullets from going through to Bob's rubber torso. What you'll experience when you start wearing this plate is that it also does a good job of staying out of the way in tactical scenarios. It doesn't weigh you down. It doesn't obstruct. It's there without reminding you that it's there.
Because I've had to huff around deserts and do lots of CQB in body armor, I can tell you that it is far, far better to be as light as humanly possible.
Longer Shelf Life. Usually it's recommended that you replace most body armor after about 5 years. Poly plates, though, last more than a decade and as much as 15 years.
Why Am I Doing An Edge Test on Polyethylene Body Armor?
A downside to poly plates is the vulnerability in the outside edges. Poly plates stop bullets by bunching around the projectile, and on the outside edges that bunching ability is somewhat diminished.
Because the NIJ rating levels only guarantee any plate of armor within 2 inches of the edges, I wanted to see what would happen when a bullet went beyond that.
The benefit of the test you'll see in our video is that we can know, through first-hand experimentation, what our equipment can handle so we're not surprised when/if our body armor ever goes into live-ammo action.
Spoiler Alert: The Duritium GT2 Passed Our Edge Test
My 5.56 rounds failed to penetrate the plates even as far near the edges as 1 inch. And even when I hit within a ½ inch of the edge, the pass through that Bob experienced was only a flesh wound from a stray bullet fragment.
It's invaluable to me that I now know, from running my own test, some of the limitations of my protective equipment. Hopefully it's helpful to you as well as you consider body armor options for your kit.
There are always trade-offs–otherwise we'd all just run around in suits of armor. But pound for pound and inch for inch, the GT2 remains my favorite.
Whatever body armor you choose, make sure you know its specs and limitations. Most important though is that you develop good tactical disciplines, which is a critical piece of your gear's effectiveness.
So don't be a target. Do good tactics. Train Hard. Train Smart. Live Free.
Shop Warrior Poet Society's full Body Armor selection here.