Abstract The responses of metallic plates and sandwich panels to localized impulse are examined by using a dynamic plate test protocol supported by simulations. The fidelity of the simulation approach is assessed by comparing predictions of the deformations of a strong-honeycomb-core panel with measurements. The response is interpreted by comparing and contrasting the deformations with those experienced by the same sandwich panel (and an equivalent solid plate) subjected to a planar impulse. Comparisons based on the center point displacement reveal the following paradox. The honeycomb panel is superior to a solid plate when subjected to a planar impulse, but inferior when localized. The insights gained from an interpretation of these results are used to demonstrate that a new design with a doubly-corrugated soft core outperforms solid plates both for planar and localized impulses.