Hillbilly Body Armor

This is a guest post by Andrew Bettsbody armor

We recently wrote about how high velocity .223 Rem and 5.56x45mm can defeat body armor designed and rated to stop 7.62x51mm NATO. If you missed that article, you can find it here.

We have also recently covered some innovative homemade armor projects and that got us thinking about whether there might be a field expedient way to strengthen an AR500 level III armor plate so that it can stop high velocity .223 and 5.56mm. Floor tiles were effective in stopping bullets on their own so we tested to see whether a single floor tile can “uparmor” a level III plate so that it can stop this sort of threat.

Bear in mind, this is simply a proof of concept, and the sample sizes are not significant. Still, the tile appears to have slowed the bullet enough to protect the plate. So, what does that mean? First, let us take a look at what the tile did. The porcelain floor tile is hard and has excellent comprehensive strength.

That means that as the bullet impacts, the tile resists crushing, slows the bullet, and fragments the bullet, leaving less work for the plate to do. The tile was shattered, but as we have seen in earlier testing, a coating of bed liner or other adhesive can keep the pieces in place for additional impacts.

The other really notable thing that the tile did was to slowdown and absorb most of the fragments moving laterally along the surface of the plate. When a bullet strikes a plate like this one with no buildup coating, the fragments travel outward roughly parallel to the plate and can cause a nasty wound. The tile prevented those fragments from reaching the water jug. The importance of this particular feature is difficult to understate. While the fragments that can come off a bare plate are unlikely to cause life threatening injury, they will cause an extremely painful injury. Now, what does this mean about the practicality of attaching a tile to a plate for increased ballistic protection?

Is it viable? Possibly. Ideal?

Of course not. If you do not currently own armor and are interested in purchasing a set, you should consider which threats you find likely. If rifle threats in general and high velocity .223/5.56mmin particular are low probability, then you really have little need to worry and you should consider other factors in your purchase. If you do consider those threats likely or if you just want the warm fuzzy feeling of having better armor, you should purchase a level III+ plate that is special threat rated for M193 or a level IV plate.

If you already have a level III plate and are concerned about these very specific threats and also are unable to buy a new set of plates then, maybe, cutting a tile to fit and adhering it to your plate might be a workable interim solution.

Of course, if you have a curved plate, it will be hard to affix a flat tile to it. Ultimately, this is not presented as a practical strategy for a DIY home project, but just as interesting information. It may someday spur further innovation in armor design, possibly allowing for production of an hybrid plate that offers protection similar to a level IV at a price consistent with Level III or III+.

For your part, dear reader, if you choose to purchase body armor do your research and choose quality armor that fits your projected needs. Oh, and as Sterling Archer said, “It is, you know, a vest.”


Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.

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