Several months ago, Jim over at Deliberate Dynamics sent me a pair of Velocity Systems steel side plates for testing. They are multi-hit rated for 7.62x39mm. These are lightweight, low-profile plates made for military and law enforcement use. Unfortunately, Velocity Systems neither lists them on their website nor markets them to the general public. I count myself lucky that I was able to get my hands on them. I was both excited and slightly depressed about receiving these plates. Excited over the opportunity to test a rather exclusive product, but depressed that I would, by the very nature of testing, destroy the plates.
The two plates were slightly different. One had a green coating which seemed to be an outer shell of some sort. The green coating on the first plate was designed to mitigate spall, though the newer version (tan) does not have this coating. The newer plates coating gave the impression of being a treatment of the outer steel, rather than a protective layer.
I began testing by shooting each plate with several rounds of 5.56x45mm Prvi Partizan 62-grain M855 at roughly 60 yards. This particular round has a steel tip and is designed for barrier penetration. It’s also the round most commonly carried by the US military, though they use different manufacturers. The results of these strikes were unremarkable. The green plate showed no backface deformation and very limited damage to the cover. The tan plate showed only several small dents.
I then subjected the plates to further damage, this time at roughly 35 yards. I used a SIG716 to fire .308 FMJ rounds (two apiece) into the Velocity Systems side plates. Again, the green plate showed no deformation, though a decent amount of the outer cover was blasted off the strike face. Subsequent rounds completely stripped the strike face of its protective coating.
The tan plate exhibited some backface deformation and an impressive crater on the strike face, but the round neither penetrated, nor did it deform the plate to the point of failure. The next day, I took the plates out for more abuse, this time at 25 yards. The temperature was below freezing, and it’s my guess that this increased the brittleness of the steel. The tan plate deflected 5 rounds of Chinese manufacture, mild steel core 7.62x39mm. The green plate deflected 4 rounds of the same. At this point, the mild steel core ammunition was expended, so I switched to Wolf 7.62x39mm 124gr FMJ.
The very next shot cracked the green plate. Multiple hits on the tan plate could not produce the same results. The green plate deflected 3 rounds of 5.56x45mm M855, 2 rounds of PPU 145gr 762x51mm and 4 rounds of Chinese mild steel core 7.62x39mm before it finally cracked.
With my Wolf ammunition expended, I switched to 5.45x39mm 7N6 Russian surplus ammo fired from a 16 inch barrel. The round impacted on the plate’s fault line and shattered it into three pieces. Further impacts of the 5.45 round on the tan plate failed to produce any significant effect.
In a subsequent test, I struck it repeatedly with 5.45x39mm rounds while it was against a solid backstop (concrete block). I did this to try to induce failure, and after more than a dozen rounds, it did. The 15th 5.45mm round passed cleanly through the plate in a shower of sparks. Immediately thereafter, it deflected the following 5.45 round.
The tan plate deflected 3 rounds of 5.56x45mm M855, 2 rounds of PPU 145gr 762x51mm, 5 rounds of Chinese mild steel core 7.62x39mm, 6 rounds of Wolf 7.62x39mm 124gr FMJ, 4 rounds of 7.62x25mm and 14 rounds of 5.45x39mm 7N6 before it finally failed. I consider this to be an exemplary performance.
I feel it’s necessary to note that these plates are not rated for armor piercing rounds. They’re not a replacement for Level IV side SAPI. However, if your maximum expected threat is AK fire, these plates do the trick very nicely, especially the newer tan version. They are lighter, smaller (useful when you don’t want huge, bulky side SAPIs) and thinner than ceramic side plates. I truly wish Deliberate Dynamics had sent me two pairs.
– By Allen Cosby
Special thanks to Jim of Deliberate Dynamics for the Velocity Systems plates and mild steel core AK rounds. Also, thanks to AIM Surplus for supplying testing ammunition.