Don’t Cheap Out on Level IV Body Armor

In one of his characteristic bonkers yet highly informative videos, Demolition Ranch tackles the question most never thought to ask: “Can you turn Level III body armory into Level IV using your own ceramic tiles?” Its a clever premise that can only be proven through time-tested redneck engineering.

Turns our the answer (at least using this particular brand of glass counter splash) is a likely no, with one potential stop of a .308 AP round (not even the .30-06 AP that the standard is rated to). Given this, I would not push my luck. Considering Level IV plates are a scant $100 more, if you want that level of protection, buy the right level from the factory.

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • MatSci

    It seems to be a pretty common misconception with all these YouTube guys that ceramic armor and ceramic tile are the same thing just because they both are called ceramic. In reality they are two different classes of material, structural ceramics and technical ceramics.

    • Bill

      But but but the space shuttle was covered with tiles…….never mind.

  • nova3930

    File this away under “Fallout Style Post Apocalyptic Contingencies”

    • iksnilol

      Yeah, while everybody is raiding gun shops, I will be raiding Home Bath and Beyond.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    I bet it would stop a knife in the prison yard.
    If thats something you have to worry about.

    • iksnilol

      Where are you gonna get tiles in prison? Or the epoxy to glue them together?

      It’s easier to make a shotgun in prison than making this armor.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        I was talking about an American prison. You can get anything with enough cigarettes.
        Anything except released that is.

        • iksnilol

          Still, it’s easier to make something shiv proof out of something else. metal scraps from chair and table legs or something.

          Though I will admit, that would be a funny exchange. “You got the goods? -Yeah, the finest Italian tiles you can get… They are not really Italian, y’know that, right?”. And an even funnier request in regards to smuggling.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Actually ive heard that wrapping newspaper around your arms and taping a phone book around your chest is the preferred method.

          • iksnilol

            See? Way easier than smuggling or stealing tiles.

  • Nebelwerfer

    Looks a bit like the ERA bricks they stick on various armored vehicles. Maybe that’s the future of body armor; AR500 plates covered with tannerite-filled matchboxes.

    • wetcorps

      What could possibly go wrong 😀

    • mosinman

      reactive armor done wrong

      • iksnilol

        You mean reactive armor done right?

        • mosinman

          i certainly wouldn’t want tannerite exploding on me , especially not a chain reaction tannerite explosion

          • iksnilol

            Typical weakling capitalist. You bring disgrace to Mosin.


          • mosinman

            ERA is for Tank tovarish

          • iksnilol

            Tovarish *is* tank, comrade.

          • mosinman

            nyet. Tovarish is ERA for tank

          • iksnilol

            Nyet. ERA is for tovarish, tank.

          • Zebra Dun

            In Australian Tovarish is for Donk as in, who needs a gun when you have a Donk, which leads to the question, “What’s a Donk?”
            >Crocodile Dundee 2<

          • iksnilol

            You and your crazy Aussie ways. Luckily I got wiktionary.


            donk ‎(plural donks)

            (Australia, slang) A car’s engine.

            (Australia, slang) A fool.

            (Britain, uncountable) A sub-genre of scouse house music (from a common percussive sound used in it).

            (poker, derogatory) A poor player who makes mistakes.


            donk ‎(third-person singular simple present donks, present participle donking, simple past and past participle donked)

            (Australia, colloquial, slang) To provide a second person with a lift on a bicycle (formerly, on a horse), seating the passenger either in front (on the handlebar) or behind (sharing the seat); to travel as a passenger in such manner.  [quotations ▼]

            (slang, transitive) To hit.  [quotations ▼]

            He donked me on the head!

          • Zebra Dun

            LOL same translation I got, then again I’m not Australian!
            In Crocodle Dundee 2 a Donk is an actor/ wrestler named Steve Rackman known as “Donk” in the movie.

            I’d assume it was comrade or Buddy in a time of dire need.

    • TJbrena

      Infantry ERA has already been done.

      • Zebra Dun

        In Russia Ammo Humps you.

  • Zapp Brannigan

    Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW) would probably add more bullet resistance than any Home Depot ceramic tiles (though UHMW is more expensive). As has already been said, not all ceramics are created equal.

    One way to make something more bullet resistant is to make it deflect a bullet rather than try to stop it straight on. Stacked plates with holes in them in different patterns will stop bullets better than a solid plate of the same thickness.

    An idea I’ve had that combines the two above ideas is plastic with ball bearings melted into them. The ball bearings deflect a bullet while the plastic holds things in place. I wouldn’t bet my life on that idea though.

    • Cymond

      Interesting concept. I’d worry that the bullet could slip between the bearings, or the bearings could become secondary projectiles.
      Did you see the bullet resistant wall developed by Saub?

    • The Brigadier

      Or you can buy a Blue Stone plate for about $180 that is curved and should fit your Saapi carrier. Buy a 12″ x 12″ x 1/4″ sheet of sorbethane from Edmund scientific and put it behind your Blue Stone. If someone should shoot you in the chest with a 12 gauge you will appreciate the shock protection. It won’t prevent all of it, but it will soften it a bit for you to shoot back.

  • Don Ward

    Why is this even a question amongst gun hobbyists? Are there that many morons out there doing this? And if so can they cull themselves from the herd before the gun grabbers get wind of their activity and try to legislate background checks for caulk and grout guns?

    • john huscio

      They can’t regulate everything

      • Don Ward

        Out of my cold, dead hands!

        No seriously. I was tarring the asphalt shingles and now I can’t get this caulk gun off my hand!

  • n0truscotsman

    Wanna know a secret? your AR500 plates are just fine for most threats…

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yet standard M193 Ball ammo will make it through.

      • n0truscotsman

        Why does this myth get continuously thrown around? Under range perfect conditions, yes, it can, depending on a variety of variables to include the rifle, rifling, barrel length etc. Under similar conditions with different cartridges, ceramic plates can be defeated also.

        Under combat conditions, with variable ranges, AR500 is an excellent option for ballistic body armor, especially on the cheap. Certainly comparable with more expensive ballistic plates.

  • GaryOlson

    Someone didn’t read the directions. You have to grout and seal between the tiles to create an effective barrier. At least against water.

  • Uniform223

    I don’t want to dig up some old graves and resurrect some dead BS but those ceramic bathroom tiles on the AR-500 plate reminded me of Dragon Skin…

    • Secundius

      @ Uniform223.

      If your referring to the Test performed by Pinnacle Armor, that was a Staged Shot. Dragon Skin and Pinnacle were competing for a ~$250-Million USD Contract. Pinnacle “Fudged” to Test Results by Using Level II Armor, instead of Level IV Armor. I Read the Law Suit Report between Dragon Skin and Pinnacle. As I recall the Final Verdict was over 47-Pages Long. Pinnacle LOST…

  • Jonathan Ferguson

    It’s like Andy from Parks & Recreation got into firearms. I mean that as a compliment.

  • anomad101

    I do not go to those neighborhoods.

  • Zebra Dun

    Rule number three in gunfighting 101, Do Not Get Shot.

    • Zebra Dun

      Rule number two? “Always bring a gun, preferably a large one.”
      Rule Number One?
      “You can shoot your way into trouble faster than you can shoot your way out of trouble”
      I guess four is always arrange your shoot out in a China shop.

  • onederer

    Since they make bullet resistant clothing with aramid weavings, perhaps that method would be much lighter and just as effective to convert a level III plate to level IV?

    • The Brigadier

      Perhaps gluing sheets of Goldweave to the armor. You might have to add a lot of them and the weight is always a factor. Slow soldiers are usually the ones hit. You should have heard the Marines cry when their commanders made them wear 36 pounds of armor plus their weapon, load, and full battle pack. A single Blue Stone plate is level 4 and weighs only 7 pounds. In steel the same plate weighs 10 pounds or more. Front and back is 14 lbs versus 20-22 lbs in steel.