Archive for the Body Armor Category
Best places to keep your gun at home
When deciding what place is safest to store a weapon in your house you quickly realize that there is no perfect hiding spot because it depends on many factors that pin us into tough choices. Like having to choose between always keeping your gun within arms reach or storing it in a safe where it is sure to be out of reach of anyone but you. Or like making the decision of having your gun always loaded and ready to go, as opposed to keeping your weapons in a room separate from your ammunition and body armor.
People who like to keep their guns in drawers, nightstands, and between mattresses argue that in the occasion of a break-in the speed in which you can be armed and ready not only gives you the advantage but decreases the chances of getting caught off guard. Yet, choosing to leave guns strewn about your house does increase the risk of you inadvertently arming your home invader which can leave you in a tougher spot. Another aspect to consider is if to leave your gun cocked; people for it tend to feel safer knowing that fine motors skills is the first thing you lose when the adrenaline starts kicking in, so loading a gun could be an issue for some when in highly stressful situations. Those against propose the argument that cocking the gun not only gives out a warning sound (which could save you the trouble of actual confrontation) but gives you more time to gather your wits before you make any final decisions. As Wyatt Earp once said, “Fast is fine but accuracy is final. Learn to shoot slow in a hurry.”
For some, keeping a loaded weapon close by at all times is not an option. People with children or those who would rather have their guns in a more secure location tend to favor safes. These can range from a small one or two weapons safe, to large ones built to house rifles and body armor as well. But with all gun strongboxes comes the same issue; in the event of a break-in, accessing and arming yourself in time could prove to be a challenge. Considering how a split second can make a world of difference, choosing to keep everything locked in a safe can be a secure yet risky option. Another potential drawback to safes is how expensive it can get to purchase and install some of them, but for people with collections or invaluable weapons this might be the most ideal way to go in terms of safekeeping. Some also reject the idea of safes since they can be specifically targeted by intruders, so a market for concealed safes has a rise in options like fake furniture, ornaments and regular household items that can conceal weapons around their home.
Technology has definitely benefited gun owners recently given the fact that we can now have access to higher grade protection for weapons than ever. Ranging from trigger locks that prevent unintentional discharges to fully customizable gun locks that feature thicker steel, resistance to fire damage, electronic locks, quality upholstery and even fingerprint recognition. With all this technology available there is little excuse for not being protected, but the most important thing to figure out is.. What s your ideal protection?
Security Personnel and Body Armor
The body armor and security industries are two closely interdependent trades. On one hand there’s the ballistic protection market which, fueled by the security industries never ending need for the latest improvements in bullet and stab resistance, continues to implement the latest technological advancement in engineering to further decrease the chances of serious injury or death. Considering those, there is the security industries constant growth; which nowadays ranges from shopping malls to high profile government institutions. All of the vastly different areas of operation entail varying levels of threat. For example, the dangers a bar security employee might find himself faced with are mostly stabs and low caliber guns; yet on the other hand an armored vehicle security guard might be more inclined to use a much higher grade of body armor that also protects against assault rifles and sub-machineguns. In some sectors of the security industry, other lesser-known types of vests are used like covert armor carriers, which provide a discrete fit, and are often times concealed completely. This concealability comes along with a lighter overall weight and the inherent flexibility of Kevlar plates. This lightweight armor is usually worn beneath layers of clothing and is mostly used for securing private parties, high-end nightclubs or VIP protection scenarios.
One of the sectors that has arguably seen the largest growth in semi-private security has university campuses. Given the unfortunate reality that school shootings have been at an all-time high, some colleges have begun to adopt higher measures of security for the protection for their staff and students. Campus security face many dangers on the job and some tasks are not necessarily recognized. Beyond the basic “speeding on campus” traffic stops and all of the drunken bar fights, public intoxication and indecent exposure that tend to be a regular part of the college party scene. Some of the basic tasks of any university officer are to conduct daily and nightly patrols of buildings for anyone of ill intent. Their job also forces them to confront and questions the presence of any stranger on campus that may seem like a risk to himself or others, knowing and spotting suspicious behavior is key to this part of the job. Most officers are even trained to detect the presence of religious extremism and the recruitment strategies commonly used on young students. While most of the day-to-day interactions for campus and local police are relatively benign, Campuses tend to attract other more serious dangers like car chases, drug dealing, armed robbery, bomb threats and even mass shootings. So while it may seem like Campus PD’s do not need a lot of protection, very serious threats can arise out of nowhere, so it is better to be prepared for the worst.
Ultimately, all security jobs require specific gear, and when acquiring your ideal piece there must be a certainty of the threats and situations that protective armor will be exposed to. Ideally, managers should consider the most suitable options in order to assure their staffs safety on the job. Moreover, since there still is not a thing as a bulletproof officer, it is up to the people in the industry to strive for improvement and advancement in a field only limited by imagination and time.
Should body armor be legal?
Is there such a thing as Overprotection?
When considering how precious and delicate life can be, one is often confronted with questions like, do I feel safe? Am I being prepared? Is there such a thing as “too prepared?” The most common conclusions tends to be that no matter how protected you are, you are not bulletproof. And nowhere less is that the case than in states like Connecticut, where state laws have been passed that directly confront the second amendment. These laws severely criminalize the buying and selling of protective body armor by any means that is not a person-to-person transactions. As a direct consequence, Public Act 98-127 not only restricts civilians’ access of life-saving protection but also directly affects law enforcement and military personnel, who depend on catalog or online bulk transactions, from acquiring an indispensable part of their gear. Why does that matter in Florida, or any other of the 49 states, you may ask. With New York following Connecticut’s footsteps and queuing up a few body armor restrictions this year the picture could not be clearer since some other anti-gun states are expected to jump on the bandwagon against self-protection for all the wrong reasons. The main drive behind these attempts to forcefully restrict the American people of their constitution given right is the general disarming of America with school shootings bearing the burden of being the excuse.
“The people intent on committing these atrocities outfit themselves with the macabre tools of their trade … and the defensive gear to ensure they do the most damage,” says Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center. A D.C.-based gun control research organization.
Although Mr. Sugarmann attempts to make a solid point about how the use of protective gear can, in some situations, hinder police’s attempts at controlling a situation since the criminal can be better protected against police force. To stop the main concern, criminals being better protected from law enforcement, some states have made it illegal for a person with a criminal record ranging from a simple misdemeanor to anyone that has been incarcerated from ever attempting to own any type of body armor or weapon. While this might put a dent in most former criminals attempts at acquiring protection there are still a wide variety of known ways you can acquire bulletproof protection illegal through the internet. So are these laws really helping the public (which should be their sole intention) or are they inadvertently just making it harder for the common law-abiding citizen American to take their safety into their own hands.
Should these restrictions continue to spread across the states we could inevitably find ourselves at a point where choosing protection based on your personal needs will be a thing of the past and only an option for certain law officers and active military personnel; confining citizens to a very limited and compromising number of options for self-preservation. In a country built on the foundation of freedom, having limited options for protections seems to directly interfere with that fundamental right. So does body armor hurt people? Of course not, their invention came from the need to preserve life and minimize injuries. And taking into account that police scanners, radar detectors and night vision binoculars are still 100% legal, we can only ask ourselves; Are we focusing on the problem at hand? Or just demonizing an important life-preserving tool in order to feel a little “safer.”
Why buy a rifle Plate?
In an increasingly dangerous world, the need for body armor has become established. Yet, the question remains, what type of bulletproof plates should I be running in my carrier?
The first parameter that needs to be determined is what ballistic rating is necessary for the situations that the vest will be used for. Like everything in the tactical world, there is a compromise to be made between capability and mobility. Everyone would like to be running around in armor that will stop the 30mm depleted uranium rounds fired from an A-10, but that just is not practical. The compromise between toughness and mobility is the primary discriminating factor between bulletproof vests and the various materials that they are constructed from.
Why do the Police use Kevlar?
The Kevlar vests utilized by police forces around the world represent the greatest such compromise in the market today. Kevlar vests are light, flexible and easy to wear all day without hindering movement all that much, though they have a fatal flaw. Even the lightest rifle rounds and even some fast moving pistol calibers easily defeat Kevlar vests. Therefore, while they may be called ‘bulletproof’ vests, in reality they are vulnerable to a large percentage of all firearms ever made. Yet, Kevlar makes sense for police departments. Most of the work that they do involves chasing down criminals and having to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond to anything. In such a scenario, having a light comfortable vest that can easily be worn all day makes more sense than a heavier more rigid rifle rated vest. Especially considering police forces are overwhelmingly faced with pistol fire and are often at the tip of a first response spear that includes medical teams that can deal with the physical trauma associated with being shot in a soft vest.
Rifle plate has its own very important niche, both for its protective ability, and some other attributes that you may not be aware of. The most obvious benefit in buying and wearing rifle plate is the advanced, acute-trauma free, protection against all varieties of handguns as well as protection against common rifle fire, including the world’s most popular assault rifles and intermediate sniper fire. Having a solid steel or ceramic plate as opposed to a soft Kevlar reduces the internal damage caused by stopping a bullet in its tracks. A hard plate distributes the force across the entire chest instead of a few inch diameter area. This makes taking hits a much less serious issue. Often times those shot while wearing soft vests still require medical attention to address their broken ribs or even internal hemorrhaging caused by the impact of even minor pistol calibers like 9mm and 380ACP. Should a person be hit with a 44 magnum or similar large-bore hunting pistol round, they still might die from the immense blunt force trauma even if the round is stopped.
The most important attribute of solid-state rifle plate for civilian use however is its longevity. Many are not aware that the Kevlar in soft vests has an expiration date of only a few years, and must be replaced every time it is shot. AR500 plates on the other hand, as long as they retain their protective coating and do not rust can last indefinitely. This makes them much more economical for a prepping solution as they do not have to be replaced, while providing the maximum ballistic protection available. Should they ever need to be used, their additional weight and in-flexibility will likely be a minor annoyance compared to whatever threats they are being brought out against.
What is Spalling and How Dangerous is it?
When it comes to shooting steel, certain precautions need to be observed in order to protect oneself and bystanders from the lead fragments that inevitably bounce off the steel plate. These fragments, collectively, regardless of size, are referred to as “spall”. Now these fragments can be dangerous, they ‘bounce’ off the steel at considerable speed and can sometimes have enough mass to cause injury. The most dangerous form of spall is not really spall, but rather a “ricochet”. Luckily, spall is relatively easy to predict and therefore can be avoided.
When shooting at a steel plate, the spall typically deflects off the plate at around a 20-degree angle. Thus, one can imagine a “cone of danger” with the point at the bullets point of impact and spreading out from the plate at a 20-degree angle. So when adhering to the safe 180 rule at the range, shooting steel poses little to no risk because no one should be at a 20 degree angle to the target. Problems arise however when targets become damaged either through pitting or bending. This can radically change the behavior of the projectile lead compared to a flat plate. There have even been reports of nearly intact projectiles coming back directly at the shooter because of old bent targets. The pitting issue is primarily caused by the plate being shot with either too fast of a caliber, or with steel core or similarly hardened core projectiles, neither of which would have been recommended for use by the manufacturer.
Because rifle rounds contain so much more energy and velocity compared to their pistol counterparts, often steel target manufacturers list specific “minimum distances” for certain rifle calibers to be used with their targets. The reasoning behind this is twofold. First, the increased distance allows the projectile to slow down through air resistance so that it hits the plate with less energy and velocity, which will impart less damage on the target. Secondly, any fragments that come off a plate from a rifle caliber will be traveling much faster and carry much more energy than one from a pistol round. The increased distance reduces the likelihood of shrapnel hitting the shooter as well as allowing air resistance to act on the fragment reducing the amount of energy it carries and thus the damage it can cause.
So how does this apply to AR500 bulletproof vests?
The number one reason why people are concerned about spalling is that they are thinking of buying an AR500 or similar steel plate and trying to decide whether the “anti-spall” coating is worth the extra money. Anti-spall coatings are typically just truck bed-liner sprayed on very heavy. The most important consideration if you are planning on going to spend the extra money is to make sure the manufacturer applies enough of it for it to actually work. Given enough thickness, anti-spall coatings absorb near 100% of lead fragments for the first few rounds.
However, spending the extra money per plate often allows for the purchasing of a ceramic or other composite that does not have spalling issues. Moreover, the reality is that most spall will eject away from the surface of the plate at an angle such that it does not hit the user, and any few bits that do are typically trapped by the carrier itself. At the end of the day, AR500 and steel plates are the most cost effective option because they stop the highest threat rounds, repeatedly, for pennies on the dollar compared to ceramics. There is little need to worry about spall because at the end of the day, if you have to deal with spall, you just took a round center mass, you have more immediate issues that require your attention.
What is AR500 steel?
AR500 steel is the industry designation given to Abrasion Resistant steel that has a Brinell hardness rating of 500. The “AR” in AR500 steel stands for “Abrasion Resistant”. While this may seem rather odd, using abrasion resistant steel for ballistic purposes like armor and steel targets actually makes perfect sense. The same abrasive forces that would deteriorate softer steel in manufacturing and mining applications is roughly equivalent to the ballistic forces introduced by a bullet. While these two forces may not seem to be remotely comparable, the solution to both is hardening the steel. The harder the steel, the less it will deform under a specified force, in this case a bullet. The harder the steel, the faster and heavier rounds it is able to stop effectively. This trend continues in steel until around the 500 level on the Brinell scale, while it would seem reasonable to assume that AR600 or 700 would be capable of stopping even tougher rounds, field-testing has shown that past 500, the steel becomes very brittle. While these extremely hard steels may not deform when faced with large magnum class rifle rounds, they wind up shattering catastrophically, usually still letting the projectile through in the process. AR500 is the preferred middle ground between hardness and flexibility for ballistic applications because it stops the greatest number of calibers while maintaining its structural integrity.
Hardness is measured typically using the Brinell hardness scale. The Brinell scale describes the indentation hardness of various materials through the degree of penetration caused by an indenter. Basically, pressure is applied to a steel or carbide ball on the material and the indentation caused by this force is measured and then translated via an equation to a numerical score. One of several definitions used to describe the property of “hardness” in the material science community; it is the scale most commonly used in the steel industry and, by extension, in the steel ballistic plate-manufacturing sector. Typical alloys include roughly around C-.30%, Si-.70%, Mn-1.70%, Cr-1.00%, Ni-.80%, Mo-.50% and B-.004%, though each manufacturer uses their own proprietary blend, this steel makeup is a rough average. AR500 steel on the molecular level then does not seem particularly special, and it really is not as far as steel goes, but it does have a few special properties. Starting from this stock blend steel, it is then heat and quench hardened to its specified 500 Brinell rating. To put that number into perspective, ordinary mild steel only has a Brinell hardness of 120. A square inch of AR500 steel can withstand up to 110 tons of pressure. AR-500 steel is also about the hardest workable material available, everything beyond it on the Brinell scale, such as glass and ceramics, have a tendency to shatter when worked and are therefore susceptible to the catastrophic failure discussed earlier.
The advantage of using such a hard variety of steel is that very little of it is necessary to defeat even very fast rifle rounds. As a result, the overall weight of an AR500 steel bulletproof vest can be kept well below 20lbs while offering complete torso and back protection. In comparison, the ceramic bulletproof vests currently in use by the US Army weigh up to 35lbs, or roughly double the weight of an average NIJ Level III+ AR500 steel vest. Even very thin sheets of AR500 are capable of defeating pistol calibers. Even fully rifle rated plates are relatively thin compared to their Kevlar or Ceramic counterparts. This makes them easier to move around in and less cumbersome. This makes AR500 steel bulletproof vests perfect for those working inside or in tight quarters like vehicles.
Brief History of Bulletproof Vests
Bulletproof vests and ballistic armors have been in development since the 1500s, but they did not reach their true potential until the modern era. Since the introduction of firearms into warfare, the elite have always been interested in developing armor capable of stopping this firearms. In its first iterations, “bulletproof” armor was simply high quality 16th century battle armor that was sturdy enough to stop the weak firearms of the day. Eventually, bulletproof vest would become both inexpensive and capable of protecting their users against even modern high-powered rifles.
Bulletproof armor and clothing remained the plaything of the social elite for most of its history before the modern period that followed industrialization. Before the availability of synthetic alternatives, silk was woven in multiple layers, sometimes with thin sheets of steels mixed in, to catch pistol rounds. Silk was found to be effective because of its high tensile strength, meaning it can withstand a lot of stress acting toward stretching it without breaking. When individual silk fibers are woven together into silk cloth and then stacked in large bundles, the strength of the individual strands is multiplied giving the vest the ability to stop the black powder pistols of the day. The addition of thin steel plates into the layers of silk only added to this early armor’s effectiveness.
The Modern Era
With the invention of Kevlar, the bulletproof vest market exploded. Kevlar has an extremely high tensile strength for its density, meaning it is extremely strong for its weight. Kevlar when it is manufactured is actually just small individual strands of material. On their own these small fibers are very weak, but when woven together in deep interconnected layers their collective strength is enough to stop pistol fire. Because of their light weight, Soft Kevlar vests became the standard for police and military units throughout the world. Eventually Kevlar became easy enough to produce that it proliferated the market. Soft Kevlar vests are what most people think of when they hear bulletproof vest, but Kevlar is no longer the best material available. With advances in steel hardening, less steel is required to make a vest bulletproof. As a result, bulletproof vests made with steel ballistic plates are now light enough to wear while offering superior protection to Kevlar.
Steel in Ballistic Armor
Traditionally, older milder forms of steel were vulnerable to high-speed rifle cartridges when made light enough to wear. Thus, steel armor was relegated to vehicle use as a bulletproofing material. Mild steel and Kevlar offer essentially the same ballistic protection, but Kevlar is significantly lighter and more flexible. Yet, this balance has shifted. Now thin plates of extremely hard steel are able to stop the vast majority of rifle rounds, a feat impossible for a Kevlar vest to replicate. Ballistically hardened steel plates (typically rated at AR-500 or a similar hardness) are tough enough to be used as pistol range targets. Pistols have little to no effect on the integrity of these plates, and it takes a very fast rifle round to cause even minor damage and a very powerful round to ever penetrate all the way through. AR-500 steel plates will handle magazine after magazine of the most common and deadly rifles in the world like the AK-47/74 and AR15/10 variants.
The future of Bulletproof Vests more than likely lies in the development of Graphene, a newly discovered super-material that has a tensile strength to weight ratio higher than Kevlar or even Carbon Fiber. As of now though, and for the foreseeable future, graphene’s utilization is restricted due to its inability to be produced in quantities greater than a few grams. Until it becomes commercially viable and battle-tested, the time proven humble hardened steel plate will continue to be the best ballistic protection available.
Best Bulletproof Vest for Prepping
Prepping has unique and particular characteristics that make choosing tactical gear a little bit more complicated. For the typical “operator”, price is of secondary importance to performance. Take for instance the wild success of Sig Sauer and HK pistols in the U.S. The same goes for plate carriers and ballistic plates. Ceramics offer the highest performance, but are also fragile and expensive, typically 3-10 times more than an equivalent AR500 steel or Kevlar plate. Yet, for the prepper, that money could be better spent on other things and infrastructure that would be of more utility. Every dollar of a particular prepping budget needs to be appropriately and efficiently allocated to maximize utility and ensure a breadth of needs covered.
The second consideration is time. Prepping is all about having affairs settled and stored away for when they may be needed. Many people do not consider that Kevlar bulletproof vests have a very short shelf life of only a few years before the fibers start to decay, even when unworn. Exposed to UV radiation and heat, they can become ineffective in only a few months. Adding in their inherent inability to stop even lightweight rifle calibers like 5.56×45 (the cartridge utilized by the most popular rifle in the US, the AR-15) it becomes clear that a Kevlar vest is not an effective, nor long lasting solution to personal ballistic protection in a prepping situation.
Why not Ceramic then?
Ceramic Plates suffer from an equally disastrous fault in their nature. Keeping in mind the already exorbitantly high price of ceramic plates, they also have a tendency to crack and fracture when tossed around. While this may seem silly, a simple task of throwing your carrier into the bed of a truck can compromise the integrity of a ceramic plate. The worst part of this is, there is typically no visible signs that this has occurred. Ballistic Ceramic plates are typically constructed of a few different layers sandwiched together. As it has been shown in real world testing, the inner layers can crack, while the outer ones remain visibly fine. This results in a constant state of uncertainty and given that they are so expensive to replace, most choose not to as frequently as they should.
Both Ceramic and Kevlar plates suffer from yet another common disadvantage, though this one is a bit more drastic. Both Kevlar and Steel plates need to be replaced after every hit. While a Level IV ceramic plate may stop a tiny 5.56 round equally as well as an AR500 steel plate, each hit significantly compromises the integrity and ballistic ability of the ceramic plate. In comparison, AR500 steel can take tons of hits, even in the same area depending on the loading. At intermediate ranges, even rifle rounds can be stopped near indefinitely. AR500 steel is the most common and effective target steel, and is used throughout the world in shooting ranges for both pistol and intermediate range rifle. AR500 steel is chosen because it lasts the longest of any material subjected to the kind of continuous ballistic trauma a gun range has to offer. As an added bonus, AR500 steel does not deteriorate in the sun and is relatively rust resistant, so it can be kept out in the range without having to be brought in constantly. This kind of reliability and ruggedness is what makes AR500 perfect for use in prepping bulletproof vests. It can be stored basically indefinitely and can take punishment for years without needing to be replaced, the kind of attributes that make it invaluable in a prepping scenario where it may be impossible to buy another vest later down the road.
Advantages of Ballistic Steel over Kevlar
When it comes to bulletproof vests, Kevlar is the most widely used material in the US. However, Kevlar isn’t the most effective material on the market anymore. Soft Kevlar vests are only effective against pistol rounds. No Kevlar vest on the market today reliably passes NIJ Level III certification and therefore are not effective against rifle calibers. Kevlar is susceptible to the high speed, small diameter projectiles used in modern rifle calibers. The small, fast rounds slip right in between the fibers and pass through the vest barely slowed down. Steel on the other hand is a homogeneous material; it is one solid piece of material of constant composition. With advances in steel hardening, less steel is required to make a vest bulletproof. As a result, bulletproof vests made with steel ballistic plates are now light enough to wear while offering superior protection to Kevlar.
The AR-500 steel used in hard bulletproof vests is also used at gun ranges for steel targets. AR-500 armor is capable of withstanding thousands upon thousands of pistol rounds even at short range. The soft lead and low energy of pistol rounds does not cause the steel to deform or deteriorate. Kevlar vests are not capable of withstanding a lot of rounds, especially in the same areas. With each shot, the fibers around the area of impact are stretched and oftentimes break. As this occurs, the effectiveness of the vest overall is reduced. This is why Kevlar vests must be replaced every time they are shot.
A Kevlar vest will never last a lifetime. The ballistic Kevlar used in soft vests only has a shelf life of about five years, and that decreases dramatically when actually worn,exposed to heat, or UV radiation. While this is not an issue for large police departments or military units, for the individual, replacing an overt vest that is likely sitting in a closet as insurance every five years is not only tedious but also expensive. Coated AR-500 ballistic steel will last indefinitely and retain its effectiveness.
Soft Kevlar vests have a major disadvantage compared to hard vests in preventing trauma. While a Soft Kevlar vest will stop some bullets, it still transfers most of the energy of the projectile into the wearer’s body in a localized area around the point of impact. This energy causes the Kevlar to deform and push into the wearer, affecting his or her internal organs. In the best-case scenario, this energy transfer does not do any harm. At the worst case, being shot results in broken ribs, internal organ damage, and possibly even internal bleeding and trauma that can still result in death or hospitalization. Steel vests due to their rigid nature spread out the force of bullet impact over the entire surface area of the plate and is therefore much less likely to cause serious internal damage to the user.
Rifle-rated Level III+ Steel vests are no longer much more expensive than their Kevlar counterparts. Adding in their longer shelf life and repeated hit abilities reducing their need to be replaced, a one-time purchase of an AR500 steel vest can offer decades of rifle protection whereas a Kevlar vest will only last 5 years even unused while offering minimal protection. While steel vests are still slightly heavier than Kevlar vests, their enhanced protective capabilities and rugged durability more than make up for their slight weight disadvantage.