Steel Armor & Target Systems
We keep this section up to date with recent scams or poor business practices that we find. We encourage you to periodically check back to ensure you're not being taken advantage of:
IN-HOUSE HARDENING SCAM - Using in-house hardening instead of actual AR-500 Steel
The hardening process that mills use to achieve an AR-500 rating, called Austenitizing, is very specific and is NOT the same as "case hardening" or "through hardening". Some armor companies will perform "case hardening" of mild steel. This basically just hardens the outside of the steel and is NOT the same as AR-500 in terms of strength. AR-500 Steel also has a different molecular composition than mild steel or AR-400. The mixture that is used to make AR-500 steel gives it the strength that you need for armor. You need to ask the armor company flat out: "Is your steel AR-500". If the answer is ANYTHING other than "Yes", then do not use them. Always ask for a copy of a Mill Test Report dated within the last six months to verify that the steel is AR-500. This is information that they should be happy to provide. The actual Brinell Hardness will be listed on the MTR, and if not then they haven't verified the hardness. You can also ask for an ISO Certified Lab Test Report which should really only be used in addition to an MTR, not in place of one. If you EVER have questions in regards to the legitimacy of a company's steel quality feel free to contact us. We will research it and verify it free of charge.
COATING SCAMS - Selling non-coated or base-coated armor plates
WARNING: NEVER BUY OR USE NON-COATED ARMOR PLATES!!!
This one really makes us sick. This is people's lives we're talking about here. Any company who is selling steel plates without at least 3/16" of ballistic anti-fragmentation coating should be shut down immediately. A "base coat" or an "elastomer coating" is basically just a thin, cheap, and ineffective finish that will NOT stop shrapnel any better than spray paint. Any steel armor plate should be coated on all sides, and the strike face should have a FULL 3/16" thick ballistic coating. If you own a plate that uses a 1/4" steel core it should measure at least 7/16" thick. If your steel armor only measures 1/4"-3/8" thick then you should plan on taking shrapnel to the chin and arms. The amount of debris and shrapnel that comes off of a steel plate without a minimum of 3/16" of coating is literally enough to kill you instantly. How any company can consciously sell armor plates without some degree of fragmentation protection is beyond us. A plate carrier WILL NEVER be enough to stop all bullet fragments, and even pads and "socks" do not perform well with high speed rifle rounds. A good coating that is applied right will, even if only for a few rounds. We've tested these raw or "base coated" armor plates and the debris was enough to literally cut the entire plate carrier in half within 2 shots. Think of your face and arms when that happens. Selling these types of plates is a dangerous business practice. Avoid any company that's willing to bet your life on their laziness.
1/2" or 3/4" THICK PLATE SCAM - Selling 1/2" or 3/4" plate at a lower grade to justify higher calibers
We've found companies selling 1/2" AR-400 or even 1/2" Grade 50 (which are both much softer than AR-500) and listing it as AR-500 Steel. Be very cautious when buying anything over 3/8". Although we acknowledge that 1/2" AR-500 is a great target steel, and we do use it in some custom armor projects, we have not found any reasonable purpose for selling it to your average shooter. There's just no need. Our 3/8" AR-550 is able to stop a 50 BMG at 97 yards (See video HERE). So at the normal training distance of 400-500 yards why would you need to sell 1/2"? Well if you're not really using AR-500 then you would need to use something thicker. So basically instead of selling you 3/8" AR-500 they choose to sell you 1/2" AR-400 so that the bullet wont go through, and hope that you don't notice the heavy pitting. So how can you tell if you've been scammed? Well you could bring it to us and pay us $40 and we'll happily test it through our ISO Certified Lab. However the easiest way that we've found is to shoot the plate at 100 yards with 62 grain steel core 5.56 out of a 16"-18" barrel. Just a few shots. If the pits that the rounds leave are more than about 1/64" of an inch deep, then you've been sold something softer than AR-500.
ETHICS OF NAME USE VS PRODUCT DESCRIPTION - Failure to provide accurate product descriptions and non-misleading information
Could it be that the well known Arizona based AR500 Armor Co is not using high grade AR-500 Steel or even steel thats softer than AR-500? Yes it could and you need look no further than videos of their steel "tearing" rather than punching. Don't believe us? Just call and ask them. They'll tell you that "the information is proprietary", and that "they can't disclose the specs on their steel". Well they don't own the term AR-500, and its no secret what AR-500 is or what its capable of. Hell they even call their company "AR-500 Armor Co"... So what exactly is proprietary about it? We'll tell you. They use a proprietary method to harden steel. But why harden AR500? Could it be they're not buying certified AR500 Steel? Likely they are purchasing a lower grade steel to save a few bucks and then "case hardening" it to a surface brinell hardness of 500 or more. This is NOT AR-500 Steel, and different grades of steel use different mixtures to achieve quality. We'll probably never know exactly why they chose to do this, but we do know this: Ethically any business who sells body armor should be very clear on whether their steel is "AR-500" or not. Its in their name for heaven's sake! Hey, at least the plates hold their rating right? Well sometimes until they cut an entire batch of armor that didn't meet the hardness requirement and have to do a nationwide recall. The question you have to ask yourself is why be shady? If you're going to name your company something and make people believe that what they are buying is AR-500 steel then wouldn't it be ethical to disclose whether your steel is AR-500 or not? That's up to you as the consumer. Any armor company that's not willing to disclose the steel in their armor should be questioned. This is people's lives, and its not some super secret what the steel is capable of. When asked flat out "is your steel AR-500?" they replied "we are unable to provide that answer". When asked "then why do you list your product as AR-500 steel?", they replied (and no this is no joke), "well we actually don't ever say the steel is AR-500, and if you read the description is doesn't ever state that the steel is AR-500". It seems pretty clear that you know one thing when buying from AR-500 Armor Co, you don't know what you're getting and it will take 10 weeks to find out. Meanwhile their "NIJ Certified" quality control standards result in a recall of over 10,000 plates being cut, coated, shipped, and distributed before they caught the flaw. Willing to bet your life that they won't do it again? HERE'S THE RECENT RECALL: