Hard armor is one of the four primary forms of body armor. It provides very high protection to the wearer from regular rounds fired at close range, and it can withstand a direct hit from a high-powered gun. In practice, this type of armor is most effective when used against rounds fired by automatic weapons (especially against those that fire at very long ranges), energy weapons, and handguns. It also provides the maximum amount of protection when the wearer is weighed down by added armor on other body areas, such as arms, legs, or helmets.
For close-quarter combats such as hand-to-hand combat, the ability to engage multiple opponents at the same time without wearing down your hard armor or soft armor is vital. A heavy plate carrier such as a quadrelease plate carrier on your shoulders or chest will give you the maximum protection level possible while still allowing you to move freely and carry more accessories or loadings. Plate carriers in general are used for heavier plate carrying on the backs of vehicles like tracked vehicles and tracked trucks, and on light armor plates on the arms and chests of soldiers.
Soft armor, which is what most people think of when they think of personal protective armor, is generally less effective against high-powered firearms than hard armor is. This is because softer plates do not have the dense structural elements necessary to stop the bullet. However, soft armor can deflect low-powered handguns as well as energy weapons. With ballistic vest materials being available in both hard and soft forms, the ability to adapt to various environments and the needs of various fighting styles have made the military a lot more effective in its fights. About ballistic helmets -> click here