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Ballistic armor is no longer a heavy subject

American Blast Systems' Level III ICW ballistic plate is the lightest on the market

By Ron LaPedis

Anyone who has had to carry heavy gear and protection knows it is a burden on the human body over long periods and can lead to back problems among other physical issues.

What you may not realize is that the extra burden also fatigues the wearer faster – which can cause mistakes to be made in the field – leading to poor decision-making, possible casualties and even lawsuits. Any of these can negatively impact officer and agency morale and lead to financial claims against local government.

If you haven't shopped ballistic plates in a few years, you might not realize that there are much better options available.
If you haven't shopped ballistic plates in a few years, you might not realize that there are much better options available. (Photo/American Blast Systems)

Advances in soft body armor have made panels nearly weightless, but even the best cannot protect against higher-energy handgun rounds, rifle rounds, many sharp objects, or the impact of an explosion. This is where hard armor plates come into play. As everyone knows, armor only protects you if you wear it, but it's sometimes hard to convince yourself to add another 5lbs of protection to your kit.

Less weight added to the wearer boosts durability and endurance during extended situations, such as hostage negotiations, SWAT operations and prisoner transfers. Lower weight also means less heat build-up, less restriction in body movements, and improved ability for maneuvers such as running and jumping, leading to an overall enhanced performance by the end-user. This decrease in fatigue keeps the user sharp and ready to react and decreases errors caused by exhaustion or overextension.

The answer to all of the above is thin and lightweight hard armor plates. How thin and lightweight? What if I showed you an NIJ LEVEL III ICW plate that is 0.5 inches thin, only weighs 1.6 pounds, and yet can protect against 7.62x51mm, 7.62x39mm and 5.56x45mm?

American Blast Systems (ABS) Level III ICW ballistic plate is the lightest on the market. And unlike competitors that offer armor that “meets NIJ standards,” all of ABS’ products have been tested against and passed the 0101.06 NIJ Standard for the applicable Level (III, IV, or III+) at NIJ approved testing facilities. This protocol means the plate you buy will offer the same or better protection at up to half the weight of competing plates.

Not just for cops

It’s a dangerous world out there when even firefighters are being targeted. Just like the military, firefighters have more gear and equipment to carry with them than the police. Firefighters and the military also are exposed to potentially dangerous and unpredictable situations. Thus, they require protection from any threats that could be fatal, including from live fire/bullets, while still being mobile enough to do their job. Again, the answer is Level III ICW plates, which offer military and first responders a lightweight solution as the plates don’t add a lot of extra weight to their already heavy haul.

This lighter load is especially important for those required to perform their duty in extremely hot temperatures or wear their gear for prolonged periods. Using ABS plates means they have less of a burden to carry around, letting them wear plates for longer and still be comfortable and protected.

Some professionals, like personal protection, security officers and undercover or surveillance agents, require ballistic protection without alerting the public that there is a possible threat. Public environments such as shopping centers, theme parks, businesses and conventions need to be careful in how their security personnel conduct themselves.

If protection professionals come in wearing helmets, vests and other armor, they can appear hostile or even cause a panic. However, these same people need protection if anything goes down. This calls for thin lightweight plates that can be worn under clothing that offer protection in the event of a threat.

What about cost?

There still is an elephant in the room – cost. Ballistic plates are expensive and need to be replaced to keep their ballistic properties. Wearing an older plate might be like not wearing a plate at all, especially if it has seen hard use and might be delaminating. ABS offers a 15-year warranty on its Level III plates. Most plates of similar materials come with a 10-year warranty. The 50% added lifetime saves money for police departments and cities in the long run by decreasing the need to replace ballistic plates as often.


If you haven’t shopped ballistic plates in a few years, you might not realize that there are much better options available. Thin, lightweight plates are more comfortable and more convenient to wear on a regular, even daily basis and are less conspicuous for those needing discrete protection. For more information, visit

About the author
Ron LaPedis is an NRA-certified Range Safety Officer, NRA and California DOJ-certified instructor, works a pawnshop gun counter, is a uniformed first responder, and frequently writes and speaks on law enforcement, business continuity, cybersecurity, physical security and public/private partnerships.

He has been recognized as a Master Business Continuity Professional (MBCP), a Fellow of the Business Continuity Institute (FBCI), a Distinguished Fellow of the Ponemon Institute and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). 

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