What is a Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plate?

sapi plate
A typical sapi plate

A SAPI plate, or Small Arms Protective is a type of body armour designed to stop high velocity rounds.

Typically SAPI plates measuring 25cm wide x 30-32cm tall and sit in the centre of the chest to protect the vital organs.

Traditionally ballistic steel was used to produce SAPI plates however advanced in technology have meant engineered plastics, boron carbide and carbide ceramic have been used. SAPI plates made from soft armour has also become readily available.

In May 2005 the US Armed Forces began replacing traditional SAPI plates for ESAPI alternatives, where the “E” standards for Enhanced. This newer armour was designed to stop a .30-06 Springfield M2 armor-piercing (AP) with a steel or tungsten penetrator in accordance with the NIJ Level IV standard.

In 2008 the US military went a step further and wanted to protect against an “X-Threat”, where X was a M993 7.62 NATO armor piercing projectile. The plates were developed in response to a perceived threat of AP projectiles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

SAPI plates are inserted into plate carriers and can be worn as standalone armour or as part of a soft & hard setup.