The Most Anticipated Armor Review & Comparison: The Target Man Spartan Omega Armor vs AR500 Armor
So given the current economic conditions, a lot of preppers and survivalists have had to cut down on their spending and prioritize accordingly. Body armor is a big part for many preppers, but most conventional body armor and armor plates are extremely expensive and cost prohibitive. To address these shortcomings in the armor industry, manufacturers like The Target Man and AR500 Armor have utilized abrasion resistant steel armor plating to create cost effective personal body armor.
The two mentioned manufacturers are by far the most popular of the AR500 armor systems. Their low cost and effectiveness is highly attractive to frugal preppers survivalists and individuals with high-risk occupations. To combat known issues with using solid steel armor plate, both manufacturers have developed and utilized certain coatings to contain spalling or fragmentation of projectiles which can cause injury.
But the question is raised: Which of the two armor systems should I get? What are the pros & cons of each system? What shortcomings or advantages does one have over the next?
With the help of my friends, we created a video to show the effectiveness and performance of each system as well as address some personal opinions regarding other aspects of each armor system. It’s a tad long, but there are many important points of discussion to address. So first, we’ll give the key comparison points in the table below. (Skip the write up and jump to the video by clicking this link.)
Each item will be given a rating of 1-5, 1 being the lowest, and 5 being the highest.
|Item||TTM Spartan Omega||AR500 Armor|
|2. Fit & Finish||5||4|
The performance of both plates were very close in comparison. As it relates to penetration, both plates exceed Level III specifications IAW NIJ 0101.06, even going as far as stopping multiple rounds of 30-06. Slight backface deformation was observed on both plates with the higher caliber rounds including 30-06 (M2 HXP), 7.5x55mm Swiss (G11) and 12ga 1oz Slug (2 3/4″ Full Power, rifled). In terms of spalling and fragmentation, both plates contained handgun calibers very well, with the exception of shots placed within approximate 3/4″ on any given edge. We observed failure on shots placed on the edges, but the failures were greater with the AR500 Armor system. In terms of spalling & fragmentation on rifle rounds, both exhibited minor fragmentation when hit with .223 Remington 55grn FMJ and 5.56x45mm 62grn M855 Penetrator (Green Tip) ammunition. We observed slightly less overall fragmentation and material loss with the Spartan Omega armor, possibly due to the composition and elastic properties of the Rhino Liner compared with the chunky crumbly Paxcon/Line-X coating used on the AR500 Armor plates. Once compromised, both plates failed to contain the high caliber rounds, which the plates were not designed to protect against anyways.
2. Fit & Finish
When it comes to fit & finish of the two armor plate systems, I really have to hand it to the Target Man Spartan Omega Armor system. The coating is very uniform and low-profile. The Spartan helmet relief is a nice aesthetic touch that reinforces the brand and just plain looks cool. We found that the coating of the AR500 Armor system was a bit rough due to the type of coating they were using (Paxcon/Line-X). We specifically ordered the extra “build up” coat which cost an additional $25 per plate. In our research, plates coated with the standard non-build up coats were not able to successfully contain spalling & fragmentation. The extra build up layer adds both thickness and weight. We found this added thickness and weight to be more or less on par with the thinner and lighter Rhino Liner on the Spartan Omega Armor in terms of performance. The two coatings are slightly different in composition as well. We found that the Spartan Omega armor was a little more dense, and a lot more rubbery with elastic properties. The AR500 Armor system was a little less compacted and chunky or flaky overall. Due to the reduced thickness and overall finish of the Spartan Omega armor, this system comes out on top in this category.
One of the shortcomings of the utilization of AR500 steel as a personal body armor is the weight. What you save in cost, you make up in weight. Other level 3 and level 4 armor alternatives weigh anywhere between 3-4 pounds per plate on average. Generally speaking, any AR500 armor plate system will run between 7-9lbs depending on the manufacturer and any coatings applied. We bought both the Target Man Spartan Omega Armor and the AR500 Armor systems in sets of 2. When weighed, the AR500 Armor plates came out to a total of 19.6lbs. The Target Man Spartan Omega Armor’s coating is more uniform and dense, which allows it to be thinner overall. Two Spartan Omega Armor plates came out to 19.2lbs total. That’s 9.8lbs for the AR500 armor and 9.6lbs for the Spartan Omega Armor. Overall you save almost a whole pound across two plates, but given that they both use 1/4″ thick AR500 steel, the weight will be very similar. Slight advantage given to the Spartan Omega Armor, but the weight of both systems just sucks due to the inherent weight of the materials used.
The comfort of the plates has a lot to do with the fit & finish and weight of the products. Due to the thinner overall profile of the Spartan Omega Armor, it was a bit more low-profile when inside a plate carrier. The weight difference is negligible, but after hours of use, the few ounces may be worth the weight savings. The biggest factors in comfort would have to be the curvature of the plates. Both plates are curved nicely and contours the body well, aiding in comfort. The AR500 Armor plate we purchased has the advanced shooters cut, which has an elongated cut on the wearer’s strong side. To be completely honest, I could not really tell the cut was there, but it wasn’t horrible either way in terms of comfort. I really have to give it to the Target Man for their relief cuts on all edges which come in contact with limbs. There are strategically placed rounded relief cuts on the top and top sides of the plate. This slight curve really goes a long way for comfort. When wearing the AR500 armor, depending on your position, you may feel the hard straight edges of the plate on the inside of your arms. The Spartan Omega Armor addresses that problem by the rounded relief cuts. For the relief cuts and overall thinness of the plates, the Target Man takes this point home.
The price of a life saving device should be the last thing on your mind. But if you’re looking at these armor systems, then let’s face it, it’s a factor. People who can afford the $700+ lightweight level 4 composite systems don’t really need to be pinching pennies. If you’re looking at the AR500 based armor systems, budget is probably something pretty high on your evaluation. We got both plates at a discount during Black Friday and Cyber Monday of 2013. The Target man was offering 15% off on their armor systems, and AR500 Armor was offering a whopping 20% off. In the end, we still paid less for the Target Man armor despite the lesser discount. Retail price for the Spartan Omega Armor is $189.99 for the formed (curved) set with the Rhino Liner Coating with free shipping. Retail price for the AR500 Armor system was $220 for the curved set with the extra build up layer with a $12.00 flat rate shipping charge. Without the discount, it’s $189.99 for the Target Man armor and $232 for the AR500 Armor system. Since purchasing these plates back in late 2013, it appears that AR500 armor has reduced their prices by $5 a plate, but that’s still a $32 difference in price. You’ll essentially be paying $32 more for a plate that is heavier, thicker, not as comfortable, and performs marginally worse than the alternative product. For these reasons, the Target Man Armor definitely wins this round.
Overall (Cliff Notes)
If you’ve been paying attention up to this point, you’ll already know the key points. But reading is hard, so to sum it up, The Target Man Spartan Omega Armor is definitely the superior product compared to the AR500 Armor systems. When taking performance into account, the Spartan Omega Armor performs marginally better than the AR500 Armor. As it relates to fit & finish, the Spartan Armor system is thinner and has a more uniform and dense coating that is both functional and aesthetically and tactilely pleasing. When it comes to weight, both systems are heavy, that’s just the nature of it. But due to the condensed coating of the Spartan Omega Armor, theirs weighed in a little less. There’s no comparison when it comes to comfort. The rounded relief cuts, thinner profile and reduced weight of the Target Man Spartan Omega Armor beats the AR500 Armor by a long shot. That being said, the AR500 Armor plate isn’t terribly uncomfortable by any means, though the hard straight edges can be felt in certain ranges of movement. Cost: $189.99 for the Spartan Omega vs $232 (or $222) for the AR500 Armor. It’s a clear choice of which is the better plate to buy.
Some things to note:
Some people might ask why we’re comparing the “basic” model of the Spartan Omega to the “upgraded” build up option of the AR500 Armor. The answer is simple. The single basic coat of the AR500 Armor does not remotely provide any type of spalling or fragmentation protection. See this video by Demolition Ranch on Youtube as an example. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duxeXrz6Pvg&t=1m19s
With that being said, if you are relying on the coating of the AR500 Armor to prevent spalling and fragmentation, you MUST get the extra build up layer, which is why we purchased it with that option and compared it to the “basic” option of the Spartan Omega Armor. The fact that the build up layer is not a default option kind of worries me. The Target Man doesn’t have that issue, if you’re spending money on the plate and relying solely on the anti-spalling and fragmentation coating, the Spartan Omega Armor includes that option by default. No addons, no extra cost.