Body armor has evolved over the years to accommodate various needs and to protect against different types of threats. Different cuts of body armor, including shooter’s cut, SAPI cut, and swimmer’s cut, are designed to serve distinct purposes and offer specific levels of protection. This article focuses on swimmers cut body armor, well regarded for its enhanced mobility and lightweight design.

What Is Swimmer’s Cut Body Armor?

Swimmer’s Cut Body Armor is a specialized configuration of body armor plates crafted to amplify agility and comfort, specifically catering to those needing expanded arm and shoulder maneuverability.

Swimmer’s cut body armor is designed with the shooter in mind. Unlike standard plate design, the swimmer’s cut has less material in the top corners of the plate. This reduction allows for an increased range of motion, particularly in the shoulder area, which also aids the ability to shoulder a rifle. The reduced weight and streamlined design of swimmer’s cut body armor enhance the wearer’s comfort but provides less coverage at the top of the armor. 

Swimmer's Cut Plate Overlaying SAPI Body Armor Plate - Tacticon Armament
Swimmer’s Cut Plate Overlaying SAPI Body Armor Plate

What NIJ Level Is Swimmer’s Cut Body Plates?

Swimmers cut body armor is named as such for the specific cut itself. As such, any NIJ level can be made as a swimmers cut plate. The National Institute of Justice is responsible for setting armor standards, and ensuring armor meets said standards. Tacticon Armament offers swimmer cut plates in either AR500 or AR600, both are rated level III+ through testing and are certified by the NIJ. Steel AR500 and AR600 body armor plates offer protection against 7.62×51 and 5.56 Green Tip as well as several other threats. 

Swimmer’s Cut Plate Materials

Swimmer’s cut plates can be made from a variety of materials, including polyethylene, ceramic, and steel, each offering unique advantages and disadvantages.

Ceramic Swimmer’s Cut Plates

Ceramic plates are made from materials like alumina, boron carbide, or silicon carbide. They are lightweight and effective at stopping certain calibers depending on their threat rating. However, they are designed to break upon impact, which reduces the plate’s effectiveness against subsequent hits. Also, ceramic rifle plates usually have a limited shelf life of 5 to 10 years due to the material’s nature.

Polyethylene Swimmers’ Cut Plates

Polyethylene is a popular choice for swimmer’s cut plates due to its excellent ballistic properties and light weight. Made from ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), these plates are cut-resistant, water-resistant, and are positively buoyant. However, they cannot stop rounds with a steel tip, or armor piercing rounds. They are generally quite thicker as well, and have a shelf life of 5 years. 

Steel Swimmer’s Plates

Steel plates provide protection up to level III+ and are capable of withstanding multiple hits. However, they are heavier than polyethylene or ceramic plates, which could affect mobility. Their lifespan is also extensive, and they do not expire under normal conditions, making them a durable, long term choice. In a swimmers cut configuration, Tacticon Armaments AR600 steel rifle plates are only 6.6 pounds per plate. 

Swimmer’s Cut Plate Carriers

The design of swimmer’s cut plate carriers aims to provide the wearer with more mobility and a more lightweight option, making them suitable for individuals with smaller body frames. There are three main types of carriers: soft armor carriers, hard armor plate carriers, and concealed carriers. Each of these carrier options has a certain purpose and time for use. 

Lightweight Body Armor

Due to less material used in its manufacturing, swimmer’s cut body armor is inherently lighter than other plate types. This can be a significant advantage in situations requiring high mobility, rapid response, and prolonged periods of wear. For example, a SWAT team member performing a building sweep or a soldier on a long-range patrol would find the decreased weight beneficial.

Maneuvering In Body Armor

The swimmer’s cut offers a greater range of motion, which is invaluable for shooters. A soldier needing to quickly maneuver through a battlefield or a law enforcement officer requiring unencumbered movement in urban environments would find the design of the swimmer’s cut extremely advantageous.

Pros & Cons of Swimmer’s Cut Body Armor Plates

Swimmer's Cut Body Armor Plate - Tacticon Armament
Swimmer’s Cut Body Armor Plate

While swimmer’s cut is just one option among various plate cut types, it comes with its own unique set of advantages and drawbacks, tailored to meet specific user needs.

Pros of Swimmer’s Cut Body Armor Plates

The swimmer’s cut body armor is slightly narrower than a shooter’s cut. Despite its compact design, it remains fairly lightweight and still covers vital organs. Swimmer’s cut plates are beneficial in real-life situations requiring agility and speed, like urban warfare, competitive shooting, and law enforcement interventions.

Cons of Swimmer’s Cut Body Armor Plates

It’s a double-edged sword, while removing material allows for greater mobility, it also means less protection in those areas. As with everything in the armor industry, there is a trade-off, and it is up to the end user to decide if they prioritize coverage or mobility. 

SAPI Cut Vs Swimmer’s Cut Body Armor

SAPI, or Small Arms Protective Insert, is a type of body armor designed to protect the user from small arms fire. Its name derives from its original intent – to be inserted into the body armor vest of military personnel.

Generally, SAPI plates are made of boron carbide or silicon carbide ceramic with a robust backing material such as Spectra Shield or Dyneema.

Compared to swimmer’s cut armor, SAPI cut armor provides coverage similar to shooter cut plates, particularly in the upper chest and back areas. However, it doesn’t offer the same level of mobility that swimmer’s cut armor does, which is why the latter might be preferred by individuals requiring more agility and flexibility in their movements.

SAPI plate
SAPI Cut Body Armor Plate

Swimmer’s Cut Body Armor FAQs

Do armor plates expire?

Yes, armor plates do expire. The specific lifespan can vary depending on the material used. For example, ceramic and polyethylene plates typically have a lifespan of 5-10 years, while steel plates can last significantly longer if properly maintained.

Can body armor break? 

Yes, body armor, especially those made of ceramic, can break when subjected to high-impact forces or due to improper handling.

What is the lightest body armor?

Polyethylene plates are generally considered the lightest body armor on the market, they generally weigh +/- 3 pounds per plate.

Who uses swimmer cut plates? 

Swimmer cut plates are used by individuals who need enhanced mobility and lighter weight while wearing body armor, or those who are fairly slender. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, the type of body armor one chooses should be tailored to their specific needs and anticipated threat level. Swimmer’s cut body armor plates provide the wearers with improved mobility and agility due to the reduced material on the top and bottom corners of the plate, while still offering substantial protection for vital organs. However, they are just one of many body armor plate options available. It is crucial for individuals to assess their personal needs, evaluate the available options, and make informed decisions when it comes to personal safety and the use of rifle protection body armor.

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