What are SAPI and ESAPI plates?
SAPI and ESAPI plates are body protection, life-saving devices used typically by police and military personnel. Made of ceramic, these plates are inserted into bullet-proof vests and other body armor in order to prevent the fatal impact of bullets and shrapnel. The plates absorb the impact so your body doesn’t have to.
What is the difference between them?
SAPI plates are an older model of body armor meant primarily to stop bullets from a standard rifle or pistol. The more modern ESAPI plates are designed to stop armor-piercing bullets fired from rifles. They are meant to stop the bullets that SAPI plates cannot.
SAPI stands for Small Arms Protective Insert. The ceramic material these plates are made from is strong and tough enough to withstand a high velocity bullet from a rifle. The bullet is absorbed, shattered or otherwise damaged before it has a chance to penetrate through the armor and deal a potentially fatal blow. SAPI plates were initially made and used by the United States military as part of the Interceptor Body Armor, which is a type of ballistic vest. One variation of the Interceptor Body Armor is the Outer Tactical Vest, which is where the SAPI plates are used. A vest with SAPI plates is far more effective than a Kevlar vest, which can protect you from bullets from a handgun but does little to defend against the larger, high velocity bullets that are commonly used by the military.
SAPI places also have an effective backing that further serve to prevent high velocity bullets from impacting the body. The backing is made of Spectra, a material that is up to 40% more effective than Kevlar. Spectra helps spread the energy of a bullet traveling at high rate of speed to a broader area. By preventing a localized hit, it minimizes the effectiveness of the bullet. If you are struck with a high velocity bullet while wearing a SAPI vest, the hit might still cause some bruising but you will not suffer a fatal injury.
ESAPI plates were developed in 2005 to replace SAPI plates. ESAPI is an acronym for Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts. The enhancement was that ESAPI plates specifically protect against armor piercing bullets fired from rifles. These armor piercing bullets, which were increasingly being used by the military, were able to penetrate SAPI plates. Due to the added layer of protection, ESAPI plates are thicker and heavier than SAPI plates. They also cover a larger area of the body. Whereas SAPI vests covered mostly the upper torso, protecting the heart and lungs, the ESAPI vests cover the lower and side torso, as well.
As would be expected, the higher level or protection comes at a price. At roughly $600.00 per plate, ESAPI plates are double the cost of SAPI plates.
The main difference between SAPI plates and ESAPI plates is that ESAPI plates are newer and protect against armor-piercing bullets, which SAPI plates cannot withstand. ESAPI plates are also bigger, heavier, and cover more of the torso than SAPI plates. Finally, ESAPI plates, with their added protection, are twice as expensive as SAPI plates.