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Photo by Jody Lewis for Guns & Tactics Magazine

Spartan Armor Systems Level III Composite Plates

Building a lightweight, grab-and-go armor package for home defense and SHTF scenarios with Steve Coulston and Spartan Armor Systems.

Body armor systems can be found serving in military combat zones, with law enforcement agencies on the daily beat and even protecting the discerning citizen in a home defense situation. The above mentioned groups may have different reasons and missions for wearing body armor, but the primary objective remains the same. That is to protect vital organs from trauma caused by fast moving projectiles, such as a bullet or piece of shrapnel.

I wanted to put together an armor system that would work as a lightweight, grab-and-go package suitable for home defense and SHTF scenarios. The plate carrier I would be using is the Grey Ghost Gear Minimalist. I like this plate carrier because of its low profile simplistic design. It is slender enough to throw in a medium sized back pack, yet covers the vital organs in the upper torso area. It can be configured to hold a few mags, a small med kit and water all the while providing front and rear ballistic protection. Finances were a concern and I didn’t want to break the bank so I called up my buddy Jeremy at Tucson, Arizona based, Target Man for assistance.

Jeremy has 15 years of military, customs and border patrol experience however, a few years back he started a side business building spare tire swing arm rigs for off road vehicles. This was a very successful venture for him. One day he had a friend ask if he could use his tooling to make a few steel targets. He made the targets and thought it was such a good idea, he started selling them under the name The Target Man. Six months later he became the biggest target seller on Ebay. Things eventually evolved into Jeremy making and selling body armor. The arm of the company that handles the armor is called Spartan Armor Systems. The Target Man and Spartan Armor Systems continue to thrive while developing new target systems and armor plates to meet their customers’ needs.

Photo by Jody Lewis for Guns & Tactics Magazine

The Target Man | Spartan Armor Systems offers a wide variety of steel targets and cost effective armor ranging from AR500 steel plates to composite panels. Jeremy recommended I go with a set of his Level III UHMWPE Spartan composite armor plates. UHMWPE stands for Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. While that is a mouthful to say, it makes for a very nice, advanced armor plate. These 10”x12” plates are multi hit rated with the 7.62 NATO cartridge at 50 feet. While they are only required to take (6) equally spaced hits, Jeremy tells me he has plates that have taken (15) plus impacts before failing. The plates are also noted to have excellent frag mitigation properties. Spartan Armor Systems also states the composite plates are stab resistant which is a nice bonus feature.

While the impact protection is impressive, the biggest advantage of the composite construction over the AR500 steel is the weight savings. The composite plates are significantly lighter than their steel counterparts and weigh in at a mere 3.2 lbs per plate. While they are a little thicker than the steel plates they only have about 1 inch overall profile. The construction and weight also make the plates neutrally buoyant. This would have been nice to have back in my Navy days with all the open water operations we did. I never did fancy the thought of sinking because my gear was too heavy...

Upon receiving the plates the first thing I noticed was the finish. The plates were covered with 1000 Denier Cordura® fabric finish and have the red Spartan Armor Systems logo handsomely displayed on the front. The back side of the plate has the specifications of the plate which also includes the rating.

The composite plates are actually contoured to have a 19-degree single bend radius to match the body and features a thin pad on the inside face for additional comfort. I found that the ergonomics and the plate construction make for an extremely comfortable armor system that fit perfectly into the Grey Ghost Minimalist plate carrier. My configured plate carrier with composite plates, three loaded 5.56 (30) round mags and three 9mm (17) round mags is 15 lbs. The 1000 Denier Cordura® gives the plates a very nice finished feel and makes it extremely easy to slip into the plate carrier.

Photo by Jody Lewis for Guns & Tactics Magazine

I found the set up very comfortable to wear. The first day I actually wore the set up was for an all day shoot in the mountains of Western Washington. The temperature was in the high 70s and low 80s. During the entire day, I didn’t experience any fatigue or low back problems due to a heavy load. I also stayed surprisingly cool. The size and weight made manipulating firearms and movement pleasant. The plate was cut at an angle in the upper corners to allow for shouldering a rifle more easily. The contoured fit allowed me to really cinch the plate carrier tight to my body without discomfort. Even when prone, the plate didn’t cut into my chest; rather it provided a comfortable pad to rest on.

At this point I have not shot the plates and no, I wasn’t going to volunteer to be the dummy. I have seen the ballistic video tests and that was enough to convince me they will live up to their rating. You can find some of those tests featured on their website. Thus far, I am pleased with these plates and am impressed with their quality. I plan to pick up another set in the future for another plate carrier. They can be bought as a set on the Target Man | Spartan Armor Systems website for $499.00.

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