Titanium Armor Plate? How well does it do?

This armor is NOT the one tested in the video but is an example of alloy plates available for armor systems.

I’m not sure that wearing around an inch and a quarter thick plate of titanium is an improvement over the thinner steel (based on bulkiness), but it sure does stop the rounds, even a black tip .50BMG (which almost made it through).  I imagine that the energy transfer through the plate would still be enough (on the larger calibers) to result in you having a pretty bad day.

We’ve shown some other videos that have been done at “Demolition Ranch” (like making your own steel  armor or even using ceramic tiles) and this one is just as fun.

Experimenting with different materials for use in armor is interesting, and having worn both ceramics and steel before, they both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Personally, the reduced bulk of steel along with its greater durability was the deciding factor for me–I think it is easier to get away with carrying some extra weight in a plate carrier for the types of operations that would require such equipment.

Based on some basic googling it looks like there are some solutions out there that are not horribly expensive ($130 for a 10″x12″ plate at Security Pro USA; they were just the first to come up in my search; featured image is from their page) with an unbelievable 4.5mm thickness (for stopping 7.62x39mm rounds).

So, readers, thoughts?  My understanding is that titanium is more brittle than steel, so presumably a thinner plate would be more prone to breakage than did the inch and a quarter plate that was tested in this video.  Not being a metallurgist, would anyone venture a guess as to an alloy that would generally retain the strength and weight of titanium, but reduce the brittleness (i.e. how many rounds would the above 10″x12″ plate potentially withstand)?  Would it be worth the cost?

Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


  • Tormund Giantsbane

    Man, I really thought that 50 was going to go through. Really shows what titanium is capable of.

    • Sianmink

      un-scientific opinion:
      If the block was in a rigid mount instead of being allowed to flyaway with the hit, it might have penetrated.

      • Twilight sparkle

        He used to build rigid mounts for things like this but they kept breaking when he pulled out his barret

      • JamesRPatrick

        It was leaning up against a log, and I’m sure the log weighed more than a person, so I think it’s a reasonable test for body armor.

    • Doc Rader

      I was kind of hoping for the same… 🙂

    • M.M.D.C.

      That thing was skipping all over the place. The Demo Ranch dude (dude ranch dude?) isn’t really aiming to conduct scientific tests (if that isn’t obvious), just goof around.

      • Mcameron

        if you are looking for actual scientific tests on youtube channels….you are looking in the wrong place.

        i dont think they ever claimed this was a scientific test……its clearly just for enjoyment

  • Sianmink

    Rather than titanium, I’d be looking at some of the newer steel alloys out there. High Specific Strength Steel is looking to be a game changer.

    • Doc Rader

      Is anyone doing armor with it yet (I’m too lazy to google at the moment)?

  • Marc

    Titanium alloys have a wide range of characteristics, just like steel alloys. You can’t generalize that “titanium is more brittle than steel”.

    • JamesRPatrick

      Don’t forget heat treatment.

    • Matt Frikin Bennett

      This is what I struggle to explain to people. I have had engineers explain it to me so it makes sense in my head though. 😉 Also, 1.5 inches stopping .45-70 without a dent DOES NOT mean that 3/8″ or 1/4″ would even come close to stopping it. Titanium is not the magical do-all metal people like to imagine it being.

  • Darkpr0

    Titanium alloys will be lighter than steel, with reasonable potential. Key factors are the material’s hardness (for surface resistance to penetration), ductility/malleability (ability to diffuse the bullet’s energy by deforming if the surface layer is penetrated), and the nature of any case hardened layer. AR500 shows around 500 Brinell hardness, and titanium alloys seem to revolve around 300 a bit of Brinell, the surface will penetrate more easily. Toughness will be difficult to predict because it’s heavily based on what particular alloy you use, but it looks like they share roughly similar elongation (12-15%) with Titanium at 140 ksi maximum strength, and AR500 at 200 ksi max strength, so you’d expect AR500 to do a better job of dissipating energy. The case hardening is a complicated thing to model because its depth changes how the bullet interacts with a (potentially) hard outer layer and transitions to the softer core.

    The key here is that titanium is about 60% the density of steel, so the same size plate will weigh considerably less. It will also be way, way more expensive which is a pretty severe problem. Consider, also, that ceramics can have densities half that of titanium, hardness considerably higher, and basically absorb the projectile by smashing to bits. So you’d have expendable but higher-performance tiles which is pretty much what’s in use with armies today. I think titanium would be just a novelty for the ridiculously rich. You’d be better off taking the same titanium and making rifle bits out of it.

    Keep in mind all of my numbers are pure estimation based on short google searches.

    • Doc Rader

      But still good info. My knowledge of armor is limited to “does it fit in the carrier” and “what does the label say it will stop”. I have enough topics to nerd out on at the moment–but my interest is piqued when I see a video like this.

    • Secundius

      @ Darkpr0.

      P.O. Ackley, in 1946 tried to Break a Japanese Type 99 7.7x58mmR Barrel. His Equipment BROKE at 128,000-psi. NOBODY EVER tried to break an Arisaka Barrel Since…

      • 5flytyr .

        Saw an old timer fire forming cases in an Arisaka 99 boltgun using Bullseye powder and a string to the trigger, successfully I might add lost a couple to cracks but did ok.(NOT RECOMMENDED!)

        • Ken

          Was he using a bullet over the powder? The proper way is to put a few grains of pistol powder in there plus a wad of toilet paper.

  • PeterK

    Titanium may be more brittle, but it is so so strong. I could see Ti armor being awesome. It’s really really expensive to make is all.

  • Phil Hsueh

    Forget steel, titanium, or even ceramic, buckyballs or buckytubes are the way of the future I’m telling you. In all seriousness though, what I think might have potential are the non-Newtonian materials that are coming in padding and motorcyle gear these days. If someone manages to make body armor out that sort of material then it has the potential to be a real game changer.

    • Twilight sparkle

      Isn’t dkx body armour a non Newtonian fluid?

      • Phil Hsueh

        I can’t tell for certain but I don’t think it is. The stuff I’m talking about is liquid or something soft like until it receives a sharp impact to it, then it hardens almost instantaneously and shortly after reverts back to its normal state. In motorcycle gear it’s embedded into a foam so that it remains soft and flexible under normal usage but would harden instantly if the rider fell off their bike. So for body armor you’d get something that’s lightweight, or at least relatively so, and flexible but (in theory) would harden upon being hit by a bullet and then right after go back to being soft and flexible. If they manage to perfect, assuming it can be made with bullet resistant properties, you would get armor that has the weight and comfort of soft and the bullet resistance of hard armor.

        • JamesRPatrick

          Body armor companies are already using those pads, placed between the steel plate and the body. It spreads out the impact area but doesn’t stop penetration as far as I can tell.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Right, the current range of non-Newtonian substances are entirely inadequate for stopping a pistol round, much less a .50 BMG.

          • Damien

            Non Newtonian stuff is based on shear thickening fluids. Works great for impact protection, but against penetration, not so much.

            There have been some experiments soaking kevlar fabric in non Newtonian fluids, and the purpose is to interlock the fibers as the projectile penetrates – the result is that the energy is spread over more fibers. Seems to work well, but has some practical issues.

          • Secundius

            @ ostiariusalpha.

            ALON (Al2O3) or Aluminum Oxide (aka Transparent Aluminum). ~1.6-inches (41mm), will STOP a .50-caliber (12.7x99mm/BMG) at Point-Blank Range of 91.44-meters…

          • Phil Hsueh

            Didn’t know that it was already being used with body armor, but what I’m talking about is actually using it as body armor by itself. I don’t know if it’s even theoretically possible to make body armor from these types of materials but it could really change the way we make body armor. It could mean much lighter and more flexible body armor than we have now without sacrificing any protection.

          • JamesRPatrick

            Since it’s being used in motorcycle apparel, I expect it will be improved to something equivalent of Level II body armor in coming years. They’ll need to figure out how to keep it from oozing out after a puncture.

          • Phil Hsueh

            I’m not sure that oozing out would be an issue, as I understand it, it’s not liquid sandwiched in between foam but that the foam is impregnated with the foam/used in the making of the foam. The only issue that I can think of, from my limited knowledge of the material, is whether it can be made hard enough to withstand the impact of bullets and if so, how well.

  • micmac80

    ”I imagine that the energy transfer through the plate would still be
    enough (on the larger calibers) to result in you having a pretty bad
    As energy is spread on a wide surface of the plate you wouldn’t really have any worth while trauma

    • ostiariusalpha

      That only applies if the plate has absolutely zero deformation, which actually doesn’t occur in the real world. The greater the back deformation, the more focused the energy transfer is to anything behind it.

      • micmac80

        As you see in this case plate barely deformed so wouldnt cause much trauma. Also when titanium pates are used in wests mostly as trauma plates, they do not bulge much at all .

        • Mcameron

          a .50 bmg has 13.000lbs of muzzle energy…….your average body armor plate is ~100sq in ……

          that equates to roughly 130 psi being taken to the chest…..which is roughly equivalent to being punched hard in the chest…….

          it might not kill you……but its definitely putting you on your ass.

          • Matt Frikin Bennett

            Punched hard by a 10″x12″ fist, no less.

          • jonspencer

            Still would rather take a very hard blow (broken ribs even) than a half inch hole through and through.

          • Secundius

            @ Mcameron.

            Unless there’s a “Air-Space” between You and the Armor. Kinetic Energy, will Liquefy Your Organs…

    • Kyle

      7.62x54R will knock a Marine right on his ass wearing an MTV with ESAPIs. Even if the titanium plate stops the .50 the sheer amount energy being transferred is gonna be exceedingly unpleasant. Substantial bruising at a minimum. Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the impact broke bones.

  • Edeco

    Titanium alloys can be tough i.e. not brittle. Moderate hardness though so I’m surprised black tip didn’t push through. It would take a lot more testing for me to believe practical weight plates can hold back steel or even all brass bullets.

  • anon

    I’m curious how the aluminum rich steel alloy Nathan posted about back on October 13 would fare, especially if the process is further refined.

  • Squirreltakular

    I’d be interested in a titanium uparmor kit for my Subaru…

    • Secundius

      @ Squireltakular.

      To Expensive with Ballistic Grade Titanium. Two Choices, 1) ALON (Al2O3) or Aluminium Oxynitride (aka Transparent Aluminium) 1.6-inches (~41mm) will STOP a .50-caliber BMG round a Point-Blank Range. or 2) Naval Level 1 Protection aka Kevlar-29 (2.5-inches/64mm). Kevlar is Cheaper and Lighter Overall…

  • The problem with titanium is that it is much softer than steel, typical RC hardness of 47 vs 60 for hardened steel. That will generally require a much thicker piece of Ti relative to steel. Since Ti is only 40% lighter than steel, it’s likely that there will not be any net weight savings when the thicker plate is taken into account.

    A titanium/ UHMWPE hybrid might work, but any benefit vs ceramic Hybrids is questionable.

    The last consideration is cost. Titanium is much more expensive than steel or ceramic, especially in thicknesses suitable for armor.

    Essentially you will be left with a plate that has the spalling problems of steel, the bulkiness of ceramic, and a high cost all it’s own.

  • Doc Rader

    I want that job.

  • snmp

    Russian have Titanium alloys amors plates (6B3, 6B3TM, 6B3TM-01 …) and now they move for boron carbide amor plate

  • Flackman10

    I love it when guys pull out their Barrett BMG .50 cal. rifle and blast away at metal. Good video!

  • guest

    The problem with any metal is that it is displaced when hit with bullets (or similar high-velocity projectiles) like play-dough with a finger punching trough, especially so with armor piercing ones, due to plasticity of the metal which varies from one alloy to another a great deal but still remains with all common metals. Ceramics however work in a whole different way in that they are not have much plasticity and if there is enough substrate or internal reinforcement to prevent them to just crack open they effectively offer an incoming round a harder medium to collide with, than any possible AP core in the round.

  • scaatylobo

    NOW it would be so funny to see a fool [ who has a will ] wear that plate and get hit with it on.
    FACT IS,most likely an unsurvivable amount of energy to the body.

  • scaatylobo

    btw = this was a VERY amusing video and the opener about “it floats” was a cute bit.
    Funny and well presented !.

  • LazyReader

    Commercially pure Titanium (99.99%) is brittle but heat treated it’s quite durable. Even so pure titanium is not used for anything. Alloys added aluminum, vanadium and molybdenum produce the grades found in aerospace and sports products and armor. As well as can be expected, but you’re not going to make armor out of titanium that thick. 0.25 inch disks maybe, just like dragon skin. But armor of the future does not belong to metal. Graphene and carbon nanotubes, once manufacturing steps up will produce ballistic armor of considerable durability.

    • Secundius

      @ LazyReader.

      Graphere, is rated at 150,000,000psi or the equivalent of Stopping a 1-grain Projectile traveling at 0.0003c (89,937.7374m/s) and Horribly Expensive at ~$228.00 USD/gram…

  • will

    It may stop the .50 round with no penetration, but I guarantee [that] you won’t be getting up by yourself any time soon after being hit. AND YOU WON’T BE FEELING ALL TOO WELL, EITHER.

  • Jim R

    In prep for the Mars manned mission is a shield from metallic molded glass according to a Caltech physicist I heard at week end conference. It is designed to protect Ion engine and crew. He said it is stronger than steel, aluminum or titanium. Very light weight and after molding it can be welded to fit complex configurations. Maybe in near future down scalding for military applications will transition to civilian market.

    • Secundius

      @ Jim R.

      Sapphire Glass, Expensive as HELL…

  • CavScout

    Use cermaic plates.

    • Secundius

      @ CavScout.

      ALON (Al2O3), better and cheaper choice! 41mm (1.6-inches) will stop a 12.7x99mmR/BMG round at Point-Blank Range (91.44-meters)…

  • Charles Applegate


    • Secundius

      @ Charles Applegate.

      WAY TOO EXPENSIVE, ~$122,500.00 USD/Pound…

  • throwedoff

    All of ya’ll knocking the ability of titanium as armor need to remember that the A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog) has titanium armor surrounding the pilot (titanium bathtub) to provide ballistic protection. It has worked pretty well for them.

  • Secundius

    International Armor, IS Titanium/Steel Laminate Armor. NOT TITANIUM. It’s a Composite Armor. If it was TRUE Titanium Armor, there would be No Need for a Spalling Liner…

  • Secundius

    @ John Keene.

    Metal is called “Triple Nickel” or Ti5-Al5-V5-Mo-3Cr, South Korean in origin…

    • Yeah, I machine lots of castings from it.

  • Secundius

    @ John Keene.

    Are you sure? VT-22 aka BT-22 is an Alpha/Beta based Titanium, while Triple Nickel aka Triple Five is Beta based Titanium…

  • Max Glazer

    Sorry for a bit of off-topic, but comments in the other post are now closed.

    You have info on development of AEK-971 and AL-7. If you’d like them translated, you are more then welcome to fire them off to my email, provided you have them saved on your PC