World-renowned body armor maker Hesco introduced three new ceramic plates at SHOT this year. The draw? They’re unbelievably light and thin.
Hesco Unveils New Body-Armor Line
Body armor is always a trade-off between weight/bulk and protection. The holy grail in body armor is a t-shirt that can stop a rifle round. We’re not there yet, but Hesco is starting to inch their way closer. They’ve introduced new Level III, III+, and IV plates. Using a tile-array pattern in the plate, they’ve been able to achieve lighter, thinner, and stronger plates than any of their previous offerings.
For those who are new to body armor, these levels are defined by the National Institute of Justice, the NIJ. So if you look on the back of an armor plate, you should see a spec sheet that includes something like “Certified NIJ 0101.06 III” or “NIJ 0101.06 IV”. Those can be read as “certified to the NIJ’s standards for Level III armor”.
The standard for Level III armor is stopping 6 shots of M80 ball with a minimal amount of backface (the part touching your torso) deformation. The standard for Level IV armor is stopping one round of M2 Armor Piercing ammo. Armor manufacturers have come up with an “in-between” category called III+ that is supposed to stop M855 ammo. This addresses the gap between Level III armor, which can stop lead-core ammo, and Level IV, which can stop armor penetrating ammo. The NIJ 0101.06 standard does not have a category for something that can stop “mild steel” ammo, such as 5.56 M855 or 7.62×39 M43. Hence, Level III+.All of these new offerings are multi-curve, and according to the Hesco booth rep that’s the only kind of plate Hesco will be offering in the years to come.
The New Stuff
Hesco’s new Level III armor, the 3801 model, is just 1.6lbs in its 10×12″ configuration. One point six pounds. That’s it. A pair of these plates sets you back a hair over 3lbs. Compare that to Hesco’s current production of 3800 plates, where a 10×12 weighs 2.2lbs. Hesco’s new tile array is shaving off almost a full 30% of the weight.
It’s also incredibly, impossibly thin. The booth representative didn’t have the exact plate width on hand, but eyeballing it, the plate appears less than 2cm thick. That’s absolutely insane compared to the current 3800, which is over an inch thick.Similarly, their new Level III+ plate, the 3811, weighs in at a mere 2.9lbs, also in a 10×12. The plate it’s replacing, the 3810, in a 10×12 weighs 3.9lbs per plate. With Hesco’s new III+ plates, users will be experiencing “only” a 25% weight reduction compared to the previous generation. Finally, Hesco is also putting out a new Level IV plate, the 4801. This plate can stop armor-piercing 7.62 NATO, and weighs just 4.8lbs in a 10×12. Unfortunately, that’s not as huge of a leap as the Level III and III+ plates were. Hesco’s current multi-curve Level IV plate, the 4800, only weighs 4.9lbs. Still, ounces are pounds, and if you’re wearing two plates and a full set of gear, those 0.2lbs you saved might mean a lot.
You may have noticed all three of these plates were 10x12s. That’s not an accident. The Hesco booth representative informed me that going forward Hesco would be discontinuing their 8×10 plates, and instead only offering plates in the SOCOM 9×11 and 10×12 sizes, in addition to the SAPI Small through Extra-Large sizes.
Fast Facts for Hesco’s New Plates
- Plate Levels: III, III+, IV
- Plate Sizes: SOCOM 9×11 & 10×12, SAPI Small through XL
- MSRP: TBD, expected to be $100-200 more per plate than current models
- Release Date: NIJ certification is expected within 60 days, full release Q2 or Q3 2022