Originally Posted by locutus
First off, in non-combat situations, armor has limited value unless it's concealed. (you just shoot for the head or abdomen.)
Plate carriers are good for military and SWAT team use only.
I've worn level 3 and 3A, without plates) for an entire watch, and it's miserable. Heavy, hard to conceal, and hotter than hell.
Level 3 will stop handgun bullets including .44 magnum. Level 2 will stop 95 percent of handgun rounds, and is the choice of many older, experienced officers. These are Kevlar.
Plate vests, that will defeat .223 and .308 are Kevlar with steel or ceramic plates, in pockets . They can weigh 25 lbs of more, and are impossible to conceal.
Good "tests" of body armor. if it costs less than about $750 (or more) new, pass on it. The good stuff isn't cheap. If you can't conceal it under a loose fitting shirt, pass on it.
If you're not military or LE, stay out of areas where you might need it.
NIJ III-A stops .44 Magnum SJHP or SWC.
NIJ III stops 7.62x51MM NATO FMJ (M80, no steel core), 5.56x45MM NATO FMJ (M193, no steel core)
NIJ IV stops .30-06 APM2 (armor piercing)
Basically, any steel core or "penetrator" rifle bullet from 5.56MM NATO to 7.62MM NATO was not designed to be stopped by NIJ III. This also means that steel core Russian 5.45x39MM and 7.62x39MM ammunition was not designed to be stopped by a NIJ III plate at the test distance.
If you're really worried about stopping rifle rounds, NIJ IV plates are better than NIJ III plates. I can't recall, but I believe ESAPI plates are NIJ III or a little better but require a soft armor backing for that rating.
Standalone ceramic plates rated to NIJ IV will weigh between 5.5 and 8.5 pounds per plate, or 11 to 17 pounds for front and back protection. A lightweight plate carrier (like a Blue Force Gear LMAC) will weigh another pound or so. Side plates will add between 2 and 6 pounds per plate, so another 4 to 12 pounds. If you have all 4 plates in a carrier, a medium is going to be about 20 pounds. If you have a III-A vest underneath your plates, add another 10 pounds. 30 pounds of armor will be very heavy and very hot. Probably better hit the gym as often as possible.
You can't "stay out of areas where you might get shot". You can get shot anywhere and at any time. You can accept that simple fact or choose to ignore it, but the risk is the same irrespective of whether or not you planned ahead or not. If you don't think you'll need it, you're faster than a speeding bullet (the police can debate whether or not the bullets are "speeding", but they seem pretty speedy to me), or think your handgun will protect you from incoming bullets, good luck and I hope that works out for you. The likelihood of a threat is not in any way related to the destructive potential of the threat.
If wearing body armor was as simple and easy as wearing a T-shirt, there wouldn't be a lot of arguments against it. Body armor is toasty in the summer and most people don't like it for that reason. In years past, it was considerably heavier than the latest technology available today. Of course, the latest and greatest is also considerably more expensive.