Body armor comes in many forms, shapes, and styles, each designed to meet specific needs and use cases. Some popular types include swimmer’s cut, SAPI (Small Arms Protective Insert), and shooter’s cut. While all are designed to provide protection against ballistic threats, their designs vary based on the mobility and comfort they afford the wearer. This article will delve into the details of Shooter’s Cut body armor, known for its distinct design that enhances rifle handling and positioning without compromising vital coverage.

What Are Shooter’s Cut Body Armor Plates?

Shooter’s Cut body armor is uniquely designed to provide an improved range of motion for those who often handle rifles. The cut is at the upper corners of the plate, which allows the wearer to comfortably shoulder their rifle. This facilitates better aiming and maneuverability, without leaving vital organs exposed.

What NIJ Level Is Shooter’s Cut Body Plates?

Shooter’s Cut body armor is the style of cut and can be used in any National Institute of Justice (NIJ) rated hard armor plate. The NIJ is a U.S. government agency responsible for setting and maintaining standards for various law enforcement equipment, including body armor. The NIJ has outlined thresholds armor must meet to achieve certain threat ratings. 

Shooter’s Cut Plate Carriers

Shooter’s Cut plate carriers have become the standard for body armor, due to the optimal balance they provide between protection and mobility. These carriers come in four types, namely, soft armor carriers, hard armor carriers, concealed carriers, and full body tactical carriers. Whether they are military grade or not, these carriers ensure the wearer’s comfort while providing the necessary protection. The carrier you select should also depend on whether you choose to run soft or hard armor. 

Shooters cut plate carrier
Tactical plate carrier

SAPI vs Shooter’s Cut Body Plates

SAPI, or Small Arms Protective Insert, refers to armor issued to the U.S. Military. It has its own unique dimensions. SAPI has heavily influenced the current shooter cut, although they are somewhat different due to the dimensions of the plate itself, featuring a slightly more gradual angle of cut. 

sapi vs shooters cut



SAPI cut vs Shooters cut

Pros & Cons of SAPI Cut Body Armor Plates

Pros – SAPI cut body armor is a widely used and respected form due to its conventional design, ideal for standard personal protection. It provides comprehensive coverage, making it suitable for a variety of situations, from law enforcement to security operations. SAPI plates are lightweight and efficient at stopping rifle caliber rounds. The design of these plates ensures the blunt force of a ballistic impact is distributed across the plate, minimizing the impact felt on the body itself.

Cons – Despite its benefits, SAPI cut body armor does have some limitations. While SAPI cut style plates are a good option for the slimmer individual, they offer ½ an inch less coverage horizontally. This is a personal preference choice that should be made by the end user. 

Swimmer’s Cut Vs Shooter’s Cut Body Armor Plates

Swimmer’s Cut body armor is designed with the primary goal of maximizing mobility. It is named such because the wearer has a full range of motion with their shoulders, as a swimmer does. 

In terms of materials, Swimmer’s Cut plates are typically made of the same materials as other types of body armor plates: steel, ceramic, or polyethylene. However, the design leads to less material used, making Swimmer’s Cut plates lighter than comparable Shooter’s Cut plates.

swimmers cut vs shooters cut



Swimmers cut vs Shooters cut

Swimmers Cut plates focus more on providing improved comfort and mobility for rifle handling; whereas Shooters Cut attempts to strike a balance between mobility and coverage. 

An interesting note is that steel armor offers a unique ability to have what is called a “Hybrid plate.” This means having the non-shouldering side be a full shooter’s cut, and the rifle-shouldering side is a swimmer’s cut. 

Hybrid plates remove material from the top right corner for right-handed shooters and the top left corner for left-handed shooters, maintaining more coverage than the Swimmer’s Cut and still remaining lightweight body armor. 

Hybrid Shooter’s Cut Body Armor for Right-Handed Shooters

For right-handed shooters, particularly those who are left-eye dominant, the cut of the body armor can have significant implications for their safety and comfort. When these shooters raise their right arm to fire a handgun, their right armpit and the lower part of their right rib cage may become exposed to incoming fire or shrapnel. This contrasts with a right-handed rifle shooter, who, due to the shooting stance, keeps the chest area more covered and thus less vulnerable.

Shooter’s Cut Body Armor For Left Handed Shooters

Similarly, left-handed shooters who are right-eye dominant would benefit from a Shooter’s Cut explicitly designed for them. When raising their left arm to aim and fire a handgun, they expose their left armpit and lower left rib cage area. However, this differs for left-handed rifle shooters, as their chest area remains more covered, reducing exposure to potential threats.

Left Or Right? Which Is Your Dominant Shooting Hand?

One’s dominant hand does not necessarily dictate their dominant shooting hand. In fact, it is common for people to be cross-dominant, meaning they could be left-handed but right-eye dominant or vice versa. There are simple tests to help identify your dominant shooting hand and eye.

Dominant Eye Triangle Test

This test helps determine your dominant eye, a key factor in shooting accuracy. Here’s how to conduct it:

  • Extend your hands in front of you and create a small triangle using your thumbs and index fingers.
  • With both eyes open, center an object in the room within the triangle.
  • Close your left eye.
  • If the object remains centered, you are right-eye dominant. If the object moves out of the frame, you are left-eye dominant.

Dominant Eye Pointing Test

This is another simple test to identify your dominant eye:

  • With both eyes open, point at an object in the room.
  • Maintain your focus on the object while pointing.
  • Cover your left eye with your free hand. If your finger remains pointed directly at the object, you are right-eye dominant. If your finger seems to shift off the target, you are likely left-eye dominant.
  • Repeat this process with your right eye to confirm the results.

These tests are invaluable when selecting Shooter’s Cut body armor, as they help determine the plate cut that will provide optimal protection and comfort.

Shooter’s Cut Body Armor FAQs

What is shooters cut body armor? 

Shooter’s Cut body armor is designed to allow better shoulder movement and positioning when aiming and firing a rifle. It is characterized by a moderate cut-out portion at the top of the armor on both sides.

What is a shooter’s cut plate? 

A shooter’s cut plate is a type of body armor plate that has been specially designed to allow better comfort and mobility for rifle shooters. The plate’s shape enables easier shouldering of the rifle with minimal loss of protection.

Who should wear a shooter’s cut plate? 

A shooter’s cut plate is ideal for anyone who uses a rifle extensively, including law enforcement, military personnel, and sports shooters, as it allows for better weapon handling and comfort.

What is the difference between SAPI and shooters cut? 

SAPI (Small Arms Protective Insert) is a more conventional shape of body armor, while Shooter’s Cut is designed with a specific cut-out portion to allow better comfort and mobility for rifle handling. Both offer protection against ballistics, but the SAPI cut provides broader coverage while the Shooter’s Cut allows for easier movement.

What is swimmers cut armor? 

Swimmer’s Cut armor is body armor designed to maximize mobility. It has rounded tops that minimize coverage on the shoulder area, allowing greater arm movement. It’s especially beneficial for slender individuals and situations where maximum mobility is essential.

Can body armor stop a bullet? 

Yes, body armor is designed to stop bullets. However, the level of protection varies. While some armor can stop small caliber rounds, others can stop larger caliber rounds, including those from rifles.

Can body armor stop a shotgun? 

Yes, certain types of body armor can stop shotgun blasts. However, the specific level of protection will depend on the armor’s rating and the type of ammunition used in the shotgun. Because of the energy from a shotgun blast it would be wise to invest in non-ballistic trauma pads to reduce the force of the impact. 

Do armor plates expire?

Yes, but not in the way you might think. Most plates are sold with a “Warranty period” which is usually somewhere between 5-10 years for ceramic and UHMWPE plates, and 20 years for steel plates is just that, a warranty period. These materials do break down overtime and with rough treatment, however the warranty period is not a hard and fast expiration.

Final Thoughts

Shooter’s cut body armor plates offer unique advantages, especially for those who primarily handle rifles in their operations or recreational activities. With their distinct cut, these plates allow for more comfortable and efficient shouldering of a rifle, improving both performance and protection in potential conflict situations. They typically fall under NIJ Level IV protection, offering a robust defense against various ballistic threats.

But it’s essential to remember that shooter’s cut plates are just one of many options available in the market today. SAPI, Swimmer’s Cut, and other designs each offer their own unique benefits, and the best choice largely depends on an individual’s specific needs, circumstances, and preferences. Consideration must also be given to the dominant hand and eye for the best possible protection and performance.

When selecting body armor, it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Personal safety and protection are paramount, and understanding the different types of body armor plates, their capabilities, and what they offer can make a significant difference in the field. Therefore, whether you’re a law enforcement officer, a military serviceman, or a civilian who values personal safety, you should take the time to evaluate the available options, consult with professionals, and make an informed decision that best serves your needs. Remember, the best body armor for you is the one that effectively balances comfort, mobility, and protection

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.