(This review first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Forward Observer Magazine.)
When I think of body armor, I think of bullet stoppers (hopefully). I still remember being a young soldier receiving my first issue of ceramic plate body armor, thinking: ceramic… like those little white sculptures that kids can buy and paint for Mother’s Day?
Fast-forward a few months, and I’m in Ghazni, Afghanistan, hearing that a buddy of mine out on patrol took an AK round straight to the chest. He lived, thanks to his body armor, and his buddies who knew how to react to an ambush.
This just underscores the importance of having the things that will save your life when you need them the most. We don’t skimp on training and shouldn’t skimp on body armor.
Come And Take It (CATI) Armor, out of Olivet, Michigan, makes a fine set of steel plate body armor. I would tell you if they didn’t because when you need body armor, you really need it. And because they comply with National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level III standards, you don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll work when you need them.
About a year before I had heard about CATI Armor, I went through a months-long ordeal in ordering plates from one of their competitors. It took over three months from start to finish, with plenty of unanswered emails. I know I wasn’t the only one with that issue.
I don’t worry about that problem with CATI Armor, though. Have you seen their Ebay reviews? In the past 12 months, they’ve accumulated nearly 1,400 positive reviews, and a grand total of zero negatives. Dealing with a reputable company is just a bonus, though. I trust them because I spent an afternoon trying to punch holes in their products.
CATI Armor was gracious enough to send over a full set of their AR500-steel plates, which included front, back, and two side plates. The first thing I did when I received them was to see how they fit in my plate carrier and fighting rig. The plates are what’s called a “shooter’s cut”; tapered at the top so they don’t get in the way of my arms when shooting and moving around.. What’s better is that both plates were curved for maximum comfort around the torso. I’ve seen other companies selling flat plates, which are very awkward to work in.
The front and back plates are both 10×12 inches, and they’re not any bulkier than absolutely necessary, so you should have no problems having them fit into your standard plate carrier. CATI Armor also makes an 11×14” set of plates for the larger moving targets among us.
The front plate weighed in right around nine pounds, which is not an unbearable weight to carry, considering that nine pounds could end up saving your life. With each side plate weighing a little north of three pounds, a total kit comes out to just above 24 pounds.
CATI’s steel plates aren’t uncon- fortable considering what they are — pieces of steel that you hope you’ll never need. But if you do need them, my mind’s at ease knowing that they’ll stop incoming rounds.
One of my big complains with ceramic armor is that it can be fragile – drop your plate carrier at the end of a long day, and you might find that you’ve cracked a corner. There are also some questions about the durability of ceramic plates – will they stop multiple rounds?
I know that CATI Armor plates will. As far as durability is concerned, while CATI uses AR-500-grade steel, not every piece of AR-500 steel is the same. What you want to look for is a Brinnell strength rating. Anything above 500 is optimal, and CATI delivers their steel just north of there, between 505-518.
Before we let loose on them, CATI’s steel plates were tested by an independent laboratory, which found that their standard plate will stop a 7.62 NATO (M80 Ball) round at 2750 feet per second from 15 meters away.
I called up some buddies and head- ed out to see just what kind of punishment these plates could handle. After seeing how well they stood up to 5.56 NATO and 7.62 NATO rounds, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran gave me his approval.
CATI’s steel armor plates are durable. But CATI also has the capability to ship your plates with Rhino’s military-grade polyurea anti-spall material. That anti-spall material means that you’re less likely to be cut up from lead fragments as the round impacts against the steel and explodes into small pieces.