Skip to content
Level 4 Review: The Differences Between HighCom 4s17 vs 4s16 Explained

Level 4 Review: The Differences Between HighCom 4s17 vs 4s16 Explained

When it comes to high-performance body armor, the choice of equipment can be a matter of life and death. The HighCom 4s17 and 4s16 armor plates, both potential life-savers, stand out as top contenders in this critical field.

These advanced protective solutions, known for their exceptional quality and unwavering reliability, have earned their place in the field. But what truly sets them apart?

This body armor guide is designed to help you understand the nuances that distinguish the HighCom 4s17 from the 4s16. Whether you're a law enforcement professional, military personnel, or an individual seeking top-tier protection, this understanding is crucial for making an informed decision about your safety gear.

Understanding the HighCom Legacy

HighCom Armor has been a leader in protective gear manufacturing for decades, trusted by government agencies worldwide. Their commitment to quality is evident in their multiple NIJ-certified models, showcasing their excellence in personal protection.

Known for reliable, high-performance armor plates, HighCom is the preferred choice for professionals demanding the best. The 4s17 and 4s16 models exemplify HighCom's expertise in creating cutting-edge bulletproof plates that exceed industry standards.

Key Features of HighCom 4s17 Armor Plates

Engineered to withstand armor-piercing rounds, the HighCom 4s17 is a self-sufficient protective plate that exceeds the rigorous Level IV standards. Some of its key features include:

  • NIJ 0101.06 certification and DEA compliance

  • Ceramic strike face with a composite backing

  • Available in various cuts: Full, Shooter, and Swimmer

  • Single-curve or multi-curve options (4s17m)

  • Thickness of 0.95 inches

  • 1000D CORDURA® water-resistant cover

  • 10-year warranty on ballistic material

The 4s17 is known for its robust protection and versatility. As such, it's suitable for various operational environments.

What About 4s17m?

HighCom 4s17m is simply the multi curve version of 4s17. The two plates are exactly the same when it comes to materials and threat protection. Being multi curve, 4s17m also comes in SAPI sizes XS through XL. It is also important to note that HighCom only makes Swimmer Cut plates in single curve models.

Understanding NIJ Certification and DEA Compliance

When evaluating body armor like the HighCom 4s17 and 4s16, it's vital to know the rigorous standards they must meet. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) 0101.06 certification and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) compliance are two critical benchmarks in the industry.

NIJ 0101.06 certification involves a comprehensive and meticulous testing process to ensure the armor meets specific ballistic resistance levels. For Level IV plates like the 4s17 and 4s16, this includes testing against armor-piercing rounds.

The process requires many armor samples to undergo penetration and back-face signature (BFS) testing, often after environmental conditioning, to simulate real-world use. This thorough testing instills confidence in the reliability of the body armor.

DEA compliance, while related, has some distinct requirements. For rigid armor plates, the DEA protocol includes testing against extra threats like steel core AR-15 and AK-47 ammunition.

Interestingly, unlike the NIJ standard, the DEA protocol doesn't measure back-face deformation for hard armor. Instead, it focuses on specific aspects of armor performance.

Both standards require independent laboratory testing. The NIJ's Compliance Testing Program (CTP) determines which armor models meet their requirements, while DEA compliance involves unique threat ballistic testing. This unique testing reassures the audience about the effectiveness of the body armor.

These certifications provide users with assurance that the armor has been rigorously tested against specific threats. However, it's important to remember that no armor is completely bulletproof.

Therefore, it's crucial for users to understand that their responsibility doesn't end with the purchase. Proper use and maintenance are crucial for optimal protection.

Single-Curve vs. Multi-Curve: Comfort Meets Protection

Choosing between single-curve and multi-curve armor plates can significantly impact user comfort and protection. Multi-curve plates conform to the body's natural contours, distributing weight evenly and reducing pressure points. This fit enhances comfort during extended wear and offers better protection against angled shots.

While generally less expensive, single-curve plates offer a more straightforward, flatter shape that may not fit as ergonomically. However, they can still provide adequate protection for more stationary use or for skinny individuals.

For active scenarios involving extensive movement, multi-curve plates are strongly recommended. Many users report a substantial difference in comfort, with some stating they'd never consider single-curve plates again after experiencing multi-curve options.

HighCom 4s16: Lightweight Protection

The HighCom 4s16 is also a Level IV plate, but it's marketed as a lightweight option. Key features of the 4s16 include:

  • Level IV protection

  • Multi-curve design for improved comfort

  • Available in various sizes, including side plates

  • Lighter weight compared to the 4s17

The 4s16's lightweight design makes it an attractive option for users who prioritize mobility and comfort during extended wear.

Comparative Analysis: HighCom 4s17 vs 4s16

When conducting an armor plate comparison between the HighCom 4s17 and 4s16, several factors come into play. Pay close attention to the ones below.


The 4s16 offers an enticing weight advantage over the 4s17. For example, a 10x12" Shooters cut 4s17 plate weighs about 7.2 lbs, while 4s16 10x12 Shooters cut comes in slightly under 6.5 lbs. 

Protection Level

Both plates provide standard Level IV protection from .30-06 M2 AP, but 4s17 is tested to a long list of additional rounds, including multiple other AP rounds. 4s16 is only tested to .30-06 M2 AP. Here is a side by side comparison of each plate’s test rounds:



  • .30-06 M2 AP (NIJ 06)
  • .223 Remington Tactical Bonded Soft Point
  • 5.56 x 45mm M855 (Green Tip)
  • 7.62 x 39mm Mild Steel Core
  • 7.62x51mm FMJ (M80)
  • .308 Winchester PSPB Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded
  • .223 SCS Brush Hog
  • 5.56 x 45mm M193 FMJ
  • 7.62 x 39mm (BZ API)
  • 7.62 x 51mm (M61 AP)
  • 7.62 x 54R (LPS)
  • 7.62 x 54R-B-32 API
  • 7.62 x 63mm-JSP
  • Rifle AK-47, M, SKS 7.62 x 39mm Ball
  • 12-gauge, 2 ¾ -in mag., 1oz. Slug
  • 5.56 x 45mm M855A1
  • .30-06 M2 AP (NIJ 06)


4s16 (0.75") is slightly thinner than 4s17 (0.90") again due to its lightweight and low-vis design. Since 4s16 does not go through the drop tests that 4s17 does in the NIJ Certification process, it reduces a little bit of thickness around the strike face.


The 4s16 is more expensive than the 4s17 due to its lightweight construction. Weight is the primary driver of cost in high quality armor.


The 4s17 is NIJ 0101.06 certified and listed on the NIJ's Compliant Product List (CPL). 4s16 is tested to NIJ Level IV standards.

Choosing the Right Plate for Your Needs

Selecting between the HighCom 4s17 and 4s16 ultimately depends on your specific requirements and operational context. Here are some factors to consider:

Weight Sensitivity

If minimizing load is a top priority, the 4s16's lighter weight could be the deciding factor. Consider your fitness and the duration you'll be wearing the armor.


The 4s17 offers a more economical option without compromising the protection level. It provides some of the most extensive protection on the market for its price.

Wear Duration

The weight savings of the 4s16 could significantly reduce fatigue for extended operations. Think about the typical length of your missions or wear periods.

Threat Environment

Both plates offer Level IV protection for high-risk scenarios involving armor-piercing threats. Assess the specific threats you're most likely to encounter in your operational environment and if you require protection outside of .30-06 AP. If so, 4s17 may be for you with its additional testing against several various 5.56, AK, and .308 rounds.

Plate Cut

The 4s17 offers more options if you need specific plate cuts like a Swimmer cut. Consider your body type and the level of mobility you need for your activities.

Maintenance and Longevity Considerations

Regular maintenance is key to preserving the effectiveness of HighCom 4s17 and 4s16 armor plates. Despite their durable design, proper care can significantly extend their service life and maintain optimal protection.

The 4s17 comes with a 10-year warranty on ballistic material and a 1-year warranty on the exterior cover and quality. While specific maintenance instructions should be obtained from HighCom, general best practices include:

  • Regular visual inspections for signs of damage or wear

  • Proper storage in a cool, dry place when not in use

  • Avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures or prolonged sunlight

  • Following manufacturer guidelines for cleaning and care

The NIJ recommends replacing body armor every five years, regardless of visible wear. However, with proper care, these plates often maintain their effectiveness beyond this general guideline. Even more so, high quality plates can even retain their effectiveness past the manufacturer's warranty, granted they are properly taken care of.  

The Importance of Proper Fitting

Whether you choose the HighCom 4s17 or 4s16, proper fitting and training are essential for maximizing the effectiveness of your body armor. A correct fit ensures the plate covers the vital areas it's designed to protect without impeding movement or comfort.

Training with your chosen armor is equally essential. Understanding how to move, shoot, and perform other tactical maneuvers while wearing your armor can make a significant difference in real-world situations. Many agencies and training facilities offer courses specifically designed for operating in body armor, which can be invaluable for new and experienced users.

Shop With Top Armor

At Top Armor, we provide superior products like the HighCom 4s17, 4s17m, and 4s16, along with expert support to maximize your protective gear. Our team offers guidance on fitting, selection, and maintenance of your armor plates.

Whether you opt for the robust protection of the HighCom 4s17 or the lightweight design of the 4s16, you're choosing a product backed by years of expertise and a commitment to excellence. Both plates represent the pinnacle of modern body armor technology, offering unparalleled protection for those who put their lives on the line.

Our team is dedicated to ensuring you have the best protection tailored to your specific needs and backed by our commitment to service excellence. Let's work together to keep you safe and confident in any situation.

Ready to enhance your personal protection with top-tier body armor? Contact us at Top Armor today to discuss which HighCom plate is right for you.

Previous article Best Body Armor Sets Under $500: Our Top Expert Picks
Next article Agilite K19 vs K-Zero: Comparing Plate Carriers

Compare products

{"one"=>"Select 2 or 3 items to compare", "other"=>"{{ count }} of 3 items selected"}

Select first item to compare

Select second item to compare

Select third item to compare