first published on August 20, 2020 by Josh Brooks[mashshare]
As someone who has spent time in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I have dealt with standard issue ceramic E-SAPI plates. There are many cons to this type of body armor, outside of cost, the plates are actually very weak. They are strong in the sense that they can stop a round, but weak in the sense that the plates are incredibly brittle. Any blunt trauma to the plates whatsoever could cause your ceramic to shatter. This isn’t limited to just the impact of rounds though. It also includes simple things like dropping your plate carrier off of the top of a vehicle on accident. That’s where ShotStop and their Duritium armor plates come into play. We’re no longer in 2010, and science has once again stepped up to the plate.
After first hearing about this company, and their brand new innovation, I’d be lying if I said skepticism wasn’t on the tip of my tongue. I did however hear about them through a friend who spent a large amount of time in the Special Operations community, so I was intrigued. Then, I picked up a set of plates and decided to see first-hand if the hype was real. Honestly, I think they really may have found the solution to the problems we ran into with our ceramic plates in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even more, they’ve done so while actually making a more affordable option to conventional ceramics.
Here’s my full review of the Duritium plates from ShotStop.
Let me get this out of the way first. There is nothing wrong with either steel or ceramic body armor solutions. Companies like Hesco and AR500 have their place. They’re proven and affordable products that we already know work. AR500 makes a heavier plate with a much lower price for entry. Hesco provides a great ceramic/composite solution. This is known, and irrefutable. Again, these products are tested and proven, and there is nothing wrong with running them.
Keeping that in mind, before we go any further, you need to understand two things going into this review. First, you need to know what Duritium is. Second, you need to know who ShotStop Ballistics is. If we go too much further into this review without fully explaining these two things, it may become easy to get lost. So, please allow me to break this down shotgun style for the uninformed reader. Feel free to skip this section if you’re already tracking on the answer to both of these questions.
ShotStop is a company that has been innovating for over 30 years. Vall Iliev, PhD, PE started work in 1979 under a company called Ferriot. Over the years, his innovations and technological advances got his foot in the door at companies like Rubbermaid, 3M, and even the FBI. During that period of time, he developed a bullet-resistant, foldable shield for the Federal Bureau of Investigations as well as a new ballistic compound used in safe rooms by the Wynn Resorts’.
In 2015, the first patent for Duritium was issued, and ShotStop was born. If we flash-forward to 2017, we find that ShotStop has been innovating and improving their product designs out of their main offices in Ohio at a near cyclic rate of operations. Today, they are a full-fledged ballistics armor solution company offering something truly unique to the rest of the world. What are they offering? Well, they are offering Duritium armor solutions.
What the heck is Duritium, and why should I trust my life to it? That’s a more than fair question to ask. If you’re expecting this compound to save your life, you should know what the heck it is. Allow me to explain to the best of my ability. Keep in mind, this is my take on what ShotStop has published on the subject.
Duritium is a proprietary technology owned by ShotStop. It is a next-gen polyethylene compound with an extremely high tensile strength. This tensile strength is extremely good at kinetic energy disbursement. The primary result of this high tensile strength? It’s very good at stopping rounds.
Okay, but a ton of newspaper can stop a round. Why is Duritium better than ceramic competitors?
Ceramic compounds have been battle tested, and battle proven. This is a fact that no one can deny. Anyone who has spent a fair amount of time on the ground in places like Iraq or Afghanistan inevitably knows someone who was saved by their ceramic SAPI plates. With that said however, ceramic compounds have a few major flaws. They’re extremely brittle, and they have a very short shelf-life meaning they need replacement often. It wasn’t uncommon in Iraq or Afghanistan for a fellow Marine to need replacement plates. All it took was one fall off of the roof of an MRAP onto some hard ground to completely shatter the brittle ceramic plates inside of a vest.
This is not an issue that duritium plates suffer from. They also boast a much longer shelf-life when compared to their ceramic counter-parts.
ShotStop offers a variety of different plate ratings, in a variety of different sizes and cuts. As a result, you’ll be hard pressed to not find what you’re in need of in their store. They have plates ranging from level III protection (that float) up to level IV plates rated to stop higher caliber rifle rounds.
Each plate also comes in a variety of prices depending on the size and ballistic rating. If you need smaller side SAPI plates, they’re obviously going to cost you less than an 11×14 front/rear plate. It’s also worth noting that the plates are competitively priced. Across the industry, they live in the mid-range price category. They’re more expensive than something you would find on AR500, but less expensive than some of the big name ceramic brands who have large running military contracts.
We found this graph below over on ShotStop’s webpage. It shows the ballistics testing data of their plates at each level. On top of this, it also includes some side information, like if the plate is buoyant, and if it is capable of taking multiple hits.
I personally received one shooter cut, and one sapi cut plate direct from ShotStop. My kit stays light, that’s the way I like it. I know Gunny, pack light, cold at night. When I say I like to keep my kit light, I personally mean the kit I wear when I am out running and gunning on the range. If you’ve ever spent 12 hours under a combat load, then you know that at the end of the day you can often feel like you were a sardine packed tightly inside of a can. The duritium plates from ShotStop were a huge help in shedding some of the weight off of my gear.
I’ve run these plates in two separate plate carrier systems. The first being the Advanced Slickster from Ferro Concepts and RE Factor Tactical. The second is the First Spear Ragnar. The Ragnar is a bit heavier due to the addition of soft body armor panels, and overall I found the plates to be the most comfortable in the Slickster. I’ll have a further review of the First Spear Ragnar out in the future, so keep an eye out.
When it comes to the plates individually, there are two things I think stood out the most. I put those down below.
The first thing you’re going to notice about the ShotStop plates is the weight. You’re going to be physically surprised when you pick these up if you’re used to heavier ceramic and steel plates. With each plate coming in at around 5.1 pounds, there’s a noticeable difference that is guaranteed to surprise you. I actually had a hard time believing there were two ballistic plates in the cardboard box on my doorstep when I picked these things up.
This weight difference also translated best to the advanced Slickster. While the Ragnar was significantly lighter than with the old-school ceramic plates, the soft-armor difference just makes the weight loss when compared to the Slickster almost negligible. That’s not a fault of the plate though, that’s simply a difference in the weight of the two vests overall. Funny thing about gear and weight. The more ammunition, first-aid supplies, and mission essential gear you add to it, the heavier it gets. Who knew?
The next thing that’s worth talking about here is the durability of these plates. As stated previously, ceramic plates require a lot of extra attention. You can’t be rough on your ceramic plates, or there’s a decent chance you’ll crack them. Once cracked, the plates need to be replaced because they’re next to useless at stopping rounds when compromised. With the duritium plates, I feel like there is no way that will be an issue. It’s next to impossible to show how durable these plates feel through imagery. So you’ll have to take my word for it when I say that the plates just feel more rugged than their ceramic counter-parts. I am confident that these things can take a beating.
At the end of the day, this is a budgetary question you have to ask yourself. Are you able to afford mid-range priced plates? If the answer is yes, then I can’t recommend these enough. They’re absolutely worth every dollar. If you only have little bit of money, and don’t feel like waiting to save up more, than maybe something from AR500 is more your speed. We won’t judge you for making that decision. Just remember this, when it comes to something you’re going to trust your life to, this is a buy once, cry once situation. If you cheap out on your plates, you might not ever get a second opportunity to get it right.
That’s just the opinion of one independent reviewer though. We want to know what kind of plates you’re running down in the comments section. Are you running steel, or ceramic? Does the prospect of an all new compound interest you? Let us know down below. Together as a community we can always come together to help each other make the best purchasing decisions. An informed buyer is a smart buyer.