Ancient Greek for “light in weight” or “agile” the Elaphros (pronounced el-af-ros’) was debuted at the 2019 SHOT Show by Spartan Armor Systems. It represents one of several leading products by the body armor manufacturer to bring some of the most lightweight and protective systems on the market.
The Elaphros is an ultra-light weight, multi-curve, multi-hit, stand-alone body armor system developed in-house by Spartan Armor employees with over 20 years of combined industry experience. It is made from Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) hybrid fibers that not only dramatically reduces weight, but make the plates themselves buoyant. In addition, the Elaphros is also stab-resistant thanks to the UHMWPE’s puncture resistance.
The Elaphros is a 10” (L) x 12” (H) x 1.2” (W), NIJ-certified, Level-III body armor rated up to 7.62mm NATO per NIJ 0101.06 standards. It includes an ergonomic “shooters cut” design for improved range of motion and to accommodate a variety of gear. Each plate is coated with Spartan Armor Systems proprietary “Encapsaloc” Polyurea Coating to improve moisture resistance, prevent spalling, and reinforce against abrasion/impact damage. Included within the coating is Spartan Armor Systems raised 3D logo—the Spartan Helm.
While the Elaphros includes the industry standard of a 5-year warranty and a 5-year shelf life, this is standard across a majority of body armor manufactures. Engineers from Spartan Armor maintain that, shy of extreme environmental conditions (-15°F or below, or over 175°F), the composite materials have an infinite shelf life.
Video of NIJ Certification Testing for Elaphros: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vbGcAMNTXk
Link to NIJ Body Armor Compliant Manufacturers: https://nij.ojp.gov/body-armor-compliance-testing
- See “Find Compliant Armor” and select Ballistic Resistance, Standard-0101.06.
Featured in this review for the Elaphros, was the Rogue plate carrier by Tactical Tailor, but it did not play a factor in the evaluation of the ballistic plates themselves.
Product Evaluation Scores:
- Cost – Good (4/5): At $649 for a set (or basically $324 per plate) the price for the Elaphros is comparable to its closest competitors, AR500’s Level III UHMWPE plate at $320 per plate (not sold as a set) and less than the DFNDR’s Level III rifle plates at $395 per plate (not sold as a set). Likewise, what sets the Elaphros apart from other, less costly Level III UHMWPE, AR500, or ceramic alternatives is the application of its anti-spall/fragmentation coating whereas other multi-hit, or ceramic plates are enclosed in a fabric that does not completely mitigate the effects of fragmentation. A simple search on the internet reveals cheaper ballistic plate alternatives, but these are often ballistic plates that are “pending” NIJ certification, or are stated as “meeting NIJ standards” but have never been certified. When your life is on the line, having questionable protective armor is not a place in your kit you want to skimp on. Spartan Armor is proud that all its ballistic armor has been certified by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the gold standard for protective armor, and met or exceeded its standards.
- Comfort – Average (3/5): The comfort of the Elaphros was a bit of a split. It was amazingly light and thanks to its multi-angled curvature, did not stick out completely as a flat surface in its carrier. However, what curvature it did have was slightly uncomfortable at the outer edges, almost feeling as if the outer edges (when worn in the carrier) were pressing sharply into the chest rather than contouring to it. One possibility for this may be that during the forming process the Elaphros was contoured for the average height male (5’9”) and the evaluator in this instance is 6’2” and thus had a larger chest dimension. Regardless, the lightweight aspect of the Elaphros, for its protective level, was not completely detracted by its multi-angled curvature. The Elaphros was worn for an extended time (4hours+) and did not fatigue the wearer. During stressor drills (sprints/lunges) the curvature and cut of the Elaphros did not impede flexibility.
- Durability – Good (4/5): From a durability aspect, the Elaphros was still a UHMWPE ballistic plate (a very fancy type of thermoplastic)—designed to crack or shatter around the point of impact in an effort to transfer heat to the plastic layers, and “bond” the projectile in place. While that material is hardened to the extent to provide Level III ballistic and stab protection, users should exercise proper care of the UHMWPE plates to include; no exposure to direct flame, or prolonged exposure to direct UV or sun light. Failure to do so may compromise the molecular integrity of the bonded polyethylene layers, making it potentially brittle and undermining the ballistic protection. Thankfully, Spartan Armor’s Encapsaloc coating also provides preventative measures against these factors, as well as ballistic fragmentation.
- Functionality – Good (4/5): As noted above, the Elaphros has already been submitted to the NIJ, tested, and certified as a Level III, multi-hit ballistic plate. Thus, it will provide protection against some pistol and rifle calibers, at a distance of 50 feet or more (see chart), but not others. There was little in our evaluation process that could deduce anything more that hasn’t already been done to it in a formal laboratory, and under the strictest scientific methods of measurement. The Elaphros’s rating is readily found on the NIJ database (link above – model SAS-III-MCHY) and Spartan Armor has provided an additional video of Oregon Ballistic Laboratory (link above) testing the Elaphros to the same NIJ standards. While the Elaphros UHMWPE plates have the industry standard of a “5-year lifespan, 5-year shelf life” this merely covers the wearer in the event of damage. In reality, the lifespan of the UHMWPE plates to maintain their protective rating is indefinite provided they are properly maintained.
- Weight – Average (3/5): Weighing in at a mere 3.5 pounds per plate, the Elaphros is amazingly light given its Level III protective rating and in comparison to the more traditional AR500 steel plate. This directly translates to its comfort factor and was worn for an extended time without adverse effects on the body. The Elaphros’s weight is comparable to other UHMWPE plates that weighed approximately the same, and appeared in research to be the average weight for most ballistic plates in the material.
Overall Rating – Above Average (18/25)
I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.
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