What Is a Soft Armor Insert? What Is a Plate?

Wearing a tactical vest is one thing. But it’s important to understand not only that your body armor is protecting you, but just how it is protecting you. This will ensure that you are purchasing the right armor for your unique circumstances.

In order to fully understand how your life safety equipment is doing its job, you need to know the difference between the protective components in both hard and soft armor. Today, we’re focusing on the differences between soft armor inserts and hard armor plates.

Plates vs. Inserts

Whether or not your armor utilizes a plate or an insert depends on the type of armor you have purchased. As the name suggests, soft armor inserts are materials inside of your soft armor vest, while armor plates fit in plate pockets. Read a little more about each protective component below.

What are Hard Armor Plates?

Hard body armor uses layers of firm, durable materials, such as steel, ceramics, ceramic composites, polyethylene,  bullet-resistant fibers, and occasionally, materials like Kevlar. The vest carriers themselves are typically made from fabrics such as nylon.

Although manufacturers have put a lot of effort into making hard armor plates as lightweight as possible, the amount of protection they offer requires that they weigh more than soft armor inserts. In short, the plates resist high-powered rifle ammunition, which necessitates using heavier, sturdier materials.

What are Soft Armor Inserts?

Soft body armor inserts are made of incredibly strong Kevlar and Para-aramid materials. These inserts are placed in the front and back of vests and are made of protective ballistic material, which is held inside of a carrier. 

These vests (as well as their inserts) are usually manufactured with the end user’s size in mind, which ensures maximum comfort and body coverage. This means the end user has greater mobility. The materials for these inserts are woven together and work to spread the impact energy of bullets and other projectiles.

Benefits of Each Type of Body Armor

As we mentioned, both hard and soft armor exists to accomplish the same task (i.e., to protect you), but the ways in which it does so, as well as the effectiveness of each type, may vary depending on the situation.

Benefits of Hard Armor Plates

Hard armor plates offer a high level of protection from rifle threats. Because of their sturdiness, they may be constructed to protect specific parts of your anatomy, rather than molding to your body shape.

Benefits of Soft Armor Inserts

Soft armor inserts are lightweight, and easy to conceal under your clothing. This makes them ideal in professions like airport security and law enforcement, which may require a large range of motion. Of course, the relative ease of movement and the way in which these inserts mold to the body means that they may cover lower threat levels than hard armor plates. Be sure to check on the product specifications with the manufacturer.

Other Factors to Consider Before Choosing Body Armor

Although your armor’s level of protection is perhaps the most significant thing to consider during your decision-making process, it’s not the only factor that will influence your choice. Variables such as cost and product quality play a huge role in your purchase, as well.


Unsurprisingly, soft armor inserts and hard armor plates both come at different costs. What might come as a surprise is that, while more lightweight, soft armor inserts can run more in price than hard armor plates. This is because soft armor vests are often sold as one piece, while hard armor plates are usually sold separately.

For example, soft inserts may run from anywhere from $400-$1,200, but this would only require the one purchase. A hard armor plate may be around $150-$300 and you will most likely need two.


Are you looking for lightweight, breathable soft armor? Or perhaps hard steel armor plates to protect a specific body part? Are you shopping for products certified by the National Institute of Justice, or are you willing to settle for merely compliant plates and inserts? Be sure that you have a full understanding of your ballistic safety product needs before making your purchase.

How Body Armor Direct Can Help

Body Armor Direct manufactures and ships both plates for hard armor and soft armor inserts for soft armor. Our vests have passed rigorous NIJ testing and are stamped with a certification, which ensures that buyers are getting the protection they need and have come to expect.

We do what we can to keep costs low, and we’re pleased to offer both a lump sum and a number of partial payment plans. After all, a high level of protection shouldn’t necessarily mean a high price tag!

If you have any questions for us, we’re happy to help. Until then, we encourage you to take a look at our variety of safety products. You’ll find a variety of hard armor, soft armor, soft inserts, hard plates, and more.