You may be thinking to yourself that you’re not a Cop or a Soldier so you don’t need armor. Personally, I think if you are willing to carry a gun then you should also be willing to wear armor (not necessarily on a daily basis, but you should have it for emergencies). Do you really think if you have to use a gun you will be the only one doing the shooting…? Unfortunately though, I have talked to many people who see nothing wrong with carrying a gun everyday, but when you start talking to them about buying armor you suddenly become a crazy person. To a point, I get it.. I mean, when was the last time you trained with your weapon as if you were the one who got shot? For most people, a little one handed shooting is the extent of that scenario. There’s something about our mind that does not let us imagine we are the one who gets shot first, we’re always the winner in our mind.
As someone who has worn all types of body armor for the last 14 years, I have worn some really good armor that I loved, and I have worn other armor that I hated. I picked up the AR 500 Concealed Plate Carrier because I liked the idea of having rifle protection capability in a low profile platform. I think for 99% of the people this is also the most practical form of armor. I personally don’t foresee a time where the average citizen will be wearing an outer load bearing vest, walking the streets of America looking like a Soldier. The reality is most of us may find ourselves in some type of economic collapse scenario and crime suddenly skyrockets, but even in that scenario there will still be some form of Law Enforcement (most likely).
Back to the vest… I would give the AR 500 set up 4/5 stars. Let me start off by saying it appears to be made out of quality, durable fabric. It is adjustable in the shoulder straps with velcro and with an elastic band that secures the abdomen area (common on most armor). The only option available for color when I purchased was Black. The plates slide in from the bottom and once you’re adjusted you’re ready to go. If you opt to get the side armor, the side armor slides into a pouch (almost like an M4 magazine would slide into a pouch and be secured with a flap) and then slides onto the band that secures the back carrier to the front carrier.
There are many videos available on YouTube or other sites that test the effectiveness of the armor plates themselves. From all accounts they appear to be very good plates, only about 1/4″ thick (which is thin in the armor plate world), they have a protective Paxcon coating to catch bullet fragments (important so you don’t catch shrapnel in the jaw/chin as the bullet smashes against the plate), and they even offer a level III+ plate which will stop some .308 rounds. The plates are very affordable at about $80 for the III+ plates. Remember the plates are steel, so they are surprisingly heavy even though they are relatively thin.
The things I did not like about the armor: I wish they would sell a white carrier, white blends better with undershirts and doesn’t show through thin fabric like black does. I ordered the side plates as well, but the pocket for the side plate was so bulky I had to remove the side armor from the carrier for it to be effective as a “concealment” carrier. AR 500 does make a hybrid IIIA plate, which appears to be more of a soft plate overall. I would recommend the soft hybrid plates over the hard plates. You may not get the full rifle protection like you would with the hard armor, but it’s lighter, and since it’s soft it will be more comfortable, and won’t project through your clothes on tight spots (such as across the top of your back/shoulders) like hard plates will. The carrier runs about $130, which I thought was kind of high considering it’s just a sleeve to carry plates..
For the price and quality I would recommend considering AR 500 Armor for those considering a body armor purchase. I would also recommend American Body Armor (ABA) Xtreme Body Armor. I wore their level IIIA vest for about 5 years and then shot it with two shotgun slugs, and a 357 Sig, stopped them all, even after 5 years of wear.
Finally, I do not think you should purchase armor and wear it daily when you are out and about (unless you live in a REALLY bad area I guess..) Consider armor as a specific tool for a specific time, just like you would your storage food, your first aid kit, etc. It has its time and place, but you should not write it off as an unimportant or crazy purchase.