Review: DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor
Major Pandemic 06.06.17
Many people still believe you must to up to no good if you are a non-LEO person on US streets with body armor, but that mindset is changing. Body armor is becoming popular beyond the people we would typically identify as “the fringe.” Heck Amazon now has level III body armor inserts for kids’ backpacks. Despite so many politicians wanting us to be left defenseless, many people are now adding body armor to their home defense toolset or daily CCW packs.
There is a perception that level III and IIIa armor lines are becoming less expensive, but keep in mind that itr may only be single-round rated. Nothing comes for free and everything’s a compromise with body armor… unless you are willing to spend big money for higher tier body armor.
The DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor is what I would call mid-tech. It offers everything the super-expensive armor does in terms of weight and stopping power, but it’s thicker. DKX has other options, but the focus of this article is their more affordable NIJ Level III+ rifle rated M3 plates.
DKX is well-known and preferred by CIA, Secret Service, professional protection, and covert military operations. DKX offers a broad range of armor and has worked directly with the Secret Service. The company and owner have a long pedigree with armor dating back several decades.
DKX M3 Level Max III Lightweight Armor
DKX Level MAX III Lightweight Armor is specifically designed to stop up to 7.62×39 Mild Steel Core AK-47 and 7.62mm x 51mm 147gr M80 FMJ rifle rounds, which is quite a feat considering the hard-hitting AK47 round is a well-known defeater of most body armor.
According to DKX:
The prevalence of heavy steel hard plate armor has seen a huge growth over the last couple years, but we had a lot of professionals asking for a similar performing body armor that was significantly lighter. The result of our development is the MAX III body armor line.
Similar performance would typically come at the cost of significantly heavier weight. Most similarly-rated plates would weigh in at 8-9 pounds each, so with front and back plates you’d be carrying around 18 pounds of rifle armor. With the DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor the same protection would weigh less than 5 pounds, which is a huge weight savings.
The DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor plates are a light 20-ounce rigid armor plate which is multi-hit rated for 7.62×39. The sacrifice in this case is that the plate is about 1.5” thick, which is pretty fat. The benefit of the thicker plate is that it disperses energy over much of the plate which makes getting shot a lot less painful (and technically you do not need a trauma pad like you would with a steel plate).
DKX utilizes a proprietary polymer blend for the armor which uniquely makes it buoyant. If you manage to fall into a river while wearing DKX armor, you will float instead of drown with 20 pounds of steel strapped to you. All of the DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor models have a comfort curve so they’ll wear more comfortably.
DKX offers the Level MAX III Lightweight Armor in several sizes and configurations. I tested and carried both the shooter cut and square 10”x12” plates in my small 5.11 and Drago packs. The shooter plate fits into the extremely small sub-$50 Drago Sentry iPad pack and still provides enough room for a blow out kit and other first-responder supplies.
I am part of an armed security team and have carried this DMX M3 equipped Drago Sentry pack for almost a year and it is a delight to carry. My total pack loaded with DKX M3 armor, ammo, and med kit is just 3 pounds.
The sling-based pack design of the Drago allows a left hand pack carry which allows me to slip the pack to a center-chest position for front plate protection. I have trained with the kit and it works well. I used the square 10”x12” plate in my larger 5.11 Moab Rush Sling pack to provide the same protection and enough room for a short AR15 pistol.
I am not the guy to take out $1200 worth of body armor and shoot into it just to prove what the manufacturer has already videoed and had officially NIJ certified. I am the guy who will tell you that carrying a 10-pound steel body armor plate is a backbreaker for daily use — and carrying a 20-ounce DKX Level MAX III Lightweight Armor is far more preferable from my perspective.
Sure, a $100 steel plate will also stop an AK round but my bet is that you will stop carrying that 9-pound plate after a week. This armor weighs less than two pounds and can stop up to a 7.62×39 round, so for me it’s a doable addition to my daily CCW pack.
It’s true that these plates are not cheap; they are a higher-tier mid-tech plate which is an investment in your back and your life. The money is well spent for those who need lighter options.
In the USA, we tend to forget that according to FBI criminal mass shooting studies, most people involved in a shooting get shot and even lower-threat-rated armor would prevent many fatalities. The main concern of our church security team is that someone will come in with a rifle, and we are likely to become the first targets. At that point, everyone who thought I was nuts to carry armor plates will not think I am so nuts any more, but that lesson might be a little late for them.
The DKX M3 Series ballistic plates are NIJ 0101.06 level III certified stand-alone. The M3 also stops special, non-armor piercing threats, such as the Winchester Ranger and 7.62×39 MSC. The positive buoyancy of the M3 plates provides users in waterborne or maritime environments added support and flotation, while a rigid polycarbonate backing gives superior blunt force trauma protection. Each DKX M3 Series plate comes equipped with Radio Frequency Embedded Verification (RFEV) tracking for inventory management along with an industry first 7 year warranty. Applies only to certified plate sizes.
- PROTECTION TYPE/THREAT LEVEL: NIJ III Plus
- CONFIGURATION: Stand-Alone
- CONSTRUCTION: Polyethylene
- PROTECTIVE COVERS AVAILABLE: Polyurea
- HIT RATING: Multi
- MODEL #: DKX MAX III (NIJ Compliance Product List)
- TESTING CERTIFICATION/STANDARD:
- NIJ 0101.061
- Special Threat Tested*
- SPECIAL THREATS:
- .223 Rem 60gr Partition
- 7.62mm x 39mm 123gr Mild Steel Core
- 7.62mm x 51mm 147gr M80 FMJ
- MSRP Approximately $600 depending on size and shape
- SHAPE SIZE1 (In.)
- Full Size 5 x 6
- Full Size 5 x 7
- Full Size 6 x 8
- Full Size 10 x 12 (Reviewed)
- Full Size 11 x 14
- Shooter 10 x 12
- Shooter 11 x 14
- Swimmer 10 x 12 (Reviewed)
- Swimmer 11 x 14
- Enhanced Swimmer 10 x 12
- Enhanced Swimmer 11 x 14