Raw plates, soft armor backing or padded plate backer

@JB1 I appreciate the feedback. If I was planning on wearing it under a hoodie or some sort of button up then I would def be looking into soft armor. Although I realize that the primary threats I will face in my life are pistol, that said I'm currently not concerned so much that I'm willing to don a soft armor vest in my day to day life. My reasons for buying hard armor over soft is 1) It's legal and I figure if I'm going to spend money on offensive I should also spend money on defensive. 2) Without getting political it seems the writing is on the wall and it's only a matter of time until there is a law on the books that says civis can't own armor, I'm trying to get ahead of that before any sort of panic buy. 3) If, and I understand this is a huge if, there is ever some sort of active shooter, civil war, uprising, massive event that causes everything to go ham I want to have some level of protection. Last thing I want is to get taken down by some wood-booger with an M&P AR and a lucky shot. Again, I understand this is borderline paranoia.

@Grayman I appreciate that, and it mirrors the earlier comments by others and the PM that @HighTower sent. As I said, the main attempt here was trying to understand if having some sort of backer for plates was the de-facto standard, but from the sound of things it's not. I'll work with the new gear I'm getting and figure out what needs to change for me. That was my current plan but as I said, civi and trying to build up knowledge.

Lastly, in terms of getting into the weeds with armor, it's not something I'm super interested in. I feel confident with my choices meeting my needs based off the research I have done and understand that like everything there are trade offs with every armor level, type, etc. I'm always down to learn more but I've got no interest in reading over whitepapers or trying to deep dive into armor as it's not my primary interest.
I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. I don’t suggest that you wear soft armor regularly. I’m suggesting if you’re planning on creating an armor set up to don when you believe someone is trying to force entry into your house or something along those lines, you should consider utilizing a set up that incorporates soft armor.
Are you suggesting in replacement of hard armor or in addition to hard armor? I don't know why I would switch to a soft armor over a hard as concealment and weight are not really a concern with forced entry into my home. Also, you continue to discuss forced entry into my home, and I don't recall mentioning that as a concern. My primary concern here is to keep myself in fighting shape if everything goes bad, and while that may be a home intrusion it's not the only, or even primary concern I have.

Also, just for clarity sake. I already purchased hard plates and PC, so I'm not looking for validation on that decision as it's already been made. If you have a solid argument for incorporating soft armor in addition I'm all ears, but I'm having a hard time following the reasoning.
Soft armor in addition to hard armor. I’ll pm you a link to an example. The reason I mention a home invasion scenario, is because that has a very small but still possible chance of occurring. I already provided the facts as to why you should utilize soft armor. Do with that information what you want.
If you buy a lvl IV rifle plate (tested against a single round of completely unobtainium 30.06 armor piercing)
With all due respect, the hardened steel-core .30-06 M2AP round is actually rather easy to acquire thanks the ATF "sporting use" exemption and the large (but diminishing) amounts of surplus leftover from World War II. There are plenty of people who will reload it into 7.62x51mm and .300 Winchester Magnum for the sake of being able to challenge hard armor. Furthermore, there are only two major circumstances where a Level IV plate will lose to 5.56. The plate is either a single-hit model (as many Level IVs are) and gets hit by multiple 5.56x45mm rounds, or the 5.56 load is an exotic (actual unobtanium like M995, DM31, AP45) that significantly outperforms M2AP at 2,880ft/s against body armor. No NIJ-Certified Level IV plate should lose to a single round of street-level 5.56x45mm or 7.62x51mm. That's simple ballistics. If we're talking multiple rounds, then yes, quite a few Level IVs are going to have trouble. That's why I'm a proponent of III+ and III/IV dual-rated plates compared to straight Level IV.

I’m not sure the idea presented (that a rifle plate would stop anything soft armor backer would stop) is correct.
I'm afraid that's the case in linear armor standards like NIJ 0101.06, the German TR 2003, GOST 50774-95, and VPAM APR 2006. There are cutoff points in each one of those standards where soft armor solutions become untenable (respectively Level III, SK3, GOST-3, and VPAM-6) and hard armor must be used.
After participating in this discussion the other day, and seeing that a pretty serious topic was being discussed without any reference to any actual testing or research, I contacted several armor manufacturers to see if they could provide a nuanced explanation. The most in-depth response is below, so it can be used for future reference.

“Thanks for reaching out to Hesco Armor. I’m appreciate you asking questions from an actual manufacturer and not looking for ‘internet knowledge’. I get annoyed at a lot of the questions that come through based on what someone said in a chat room that is now considered ‘fact’, but not based on any facts…

From a ballistic standpoint, rifle bullets typically have more kinetic energy than do pistol bullets. Ballistic plate design begins with the basic need of stopping a certain level of kinetic energy. The design of the ballistic insert can differ when the type of bullet is taken into consideration. Meaning that the way that the bullet is designed and what it does determines what technology is used to defeat it. Currently, plate technology is at a level where there are basically two types of rifle plates: those with ceramic and those without ceramic. Most manufacturers refer to plates without ceramic as a ‘poly’ plate or a ‘pure poly’ plate. This is referencing the Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHWMPE) that is commonly used today. Poly plates are much lighter than plates that contain ceramic, but typically won’t defeat the same types of bullets. Rule of thumb is that poly plates will defeat FMJ and ‘ballistic tip’ bullets, but won’t defeat bullets with hardened cores or bullets that are designed to be armor piercing. The most common example is the M855 or green tip 5.56. Where technology stands today, you need to have an element of ceramic to defeat the SS109 bullet that is used in the M855, at the velocity specified.

Most rifle plates can stop most pistol rounds. There are some specialized cases where a very small bullet with a specifically designed core that travels very fast can penetrate rifle armor. You can consider the FN 5.7x28 or the HK 4.6x30 with their penetrator rounds. There could be an argument about those rounds being pistol rounds or not. For typical off-the-shelf, common pistol rounds (9mm Luger, .40 S&W, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum) being shot out of a standard length pistol barrel, with standard FMJ, JHP or JSP bullets, you can be reasonable certain that plates designed to defeat rifle rounds will defeat them. It will really come down to the quality of the materials used in the plate and the design of the plate if specialized rounds or uncommon bullets will be defeated. But, like anything else, I’m sure that someone, somewhere could design a pistol bullet that could defeat poorly designed rifle armor. But in most cases, rifle armor will defeat pistol rounds.

Needing soft armor behind rifle plates for ballistic protection is a completely different question. Rifle plates are either a stand alone design or an ICW (In Conjunction With) design. Stand alone plates do not need soft armor behind them to defeat the threat they are designed and tested for, where ICW plates are designed to be used with soft armor to defeat the threat or threats. So, it depends what kind of plate you are discussing. If you are talking about US military issue SAPI, ESAPI or XSAPI plates, those are all designed to work with soft armor. Those are all ICW plates and that is specified in the construction and testing protocols that all military plates go through. There is discussion in the military about testing the efficacy of military issue plates without soft armor to determine what they can and cannot defeat, but that’s for program managers to determine and would take years to get through to ground troops anyway.

With ICW plates, some are designed to defeat the round in the plate itself and the soft armor is just for blunt trauma mitigation and some are designed to stop the round in the soft armor. It really depends on what criteria the engineer is designing the plate to. From the military point of view, soft armor is mostly used for shrapnel protection from explosions. From the LE point of view, if they are looking for an ICW solution, they have to wear soft armor for duty and want to have a plate that offers the rifle protection they need, but in a thinner profile. To that point, ICW plates are typically thinner than stand alone plates.

Most of the plates that Hesco Armor typically offers are stand alone plates. We do have some ICW designs that we build specifically for some customers. Most of our end users are LE, and therefore the plates they purchase need to be in line with NIJ standards. For an ICW plate to be NIJ certified, it must be certified with a specific soft armor package, and there are literally hundreds of soft armor packages out on the market. From an economic standpoint, being certified with every soft armor package on the market is too expensive.

Regardless of whose plate you are looking at, the manufacturer should be able to produce testing data for the rounds that they say their plate can defeat. We reference this on our spec sheets and have the test data to back that up.”

My read from this is that Hightower’s statement is factual (outside of circumstances that are unlikely to be encountered in the US).
Firstly, thank you for reaching out and gathering the data. That's much better than us all talking about it in the dark. What I'm gathering from reading through that is for the most part you're either in ICW or stand alone territory. The response from Hesco doesn't seem to mention if you will get additional protection from soft armor behind a stand alone plate.

For example, I'm not talking about having it defeat a round that completely zipped through the hard armor, but I'd imagine it may give a bit of added protection against a round that barely makes it through, or perhaps after the plate has taken multiple hits it's that little extra. That said, I'd argue that if you're buying soft armor to put behind your hard armor as additional protection in the event you're hit by enough rounds to make the plate fail you're already screwed.

I think at least for the direction I'm headed, I'll run the plates raw for some time until I figure out what I want to do. From there I'll either add a padded backer or trauma pad if needed. Gonna give the credit card a minute to breathe until then.