Flak Jackets or Bulletproof Vests?
Even though now we use the terms “flak jacket” and “bulletproof vest” interchangeably, there was a time were flak jackets did not fall into the bulletproof category, and they could even be seen as two separate, different kinds of protection. It took several modifications and improvements in order to make a flak jacket light in weight and truly bulletproof, like it is now. It all started out during World War II, when new equipment and tools were being invented and tested. These advancements were necessary in order to thrive in the midst of the chaos. For a while, the main focus was the improvement of body armor, which triggered the invention of what we know as the flak jacket. The word “flak” is a derivation of the abbreviated form of the German word Flugabwehrkanone, which is a type of antiaircraft gun. The first flak jacket was nothing more than a nylon vest with steel plates sewn inside. Even though they did their job of protecting well, the main complication was that they were too heavy, what affected the mobility and velocity of the user, which are essential abilities in any gun encounter. After the war ended, the flak jackets were restructured and used for general combat use. The new design excluded the steel plates, exchanging them with more layers of dense nylon, making it “lightweight” since it weighed about 4 kg. Tested during the Korean war, it proved to prevent chest, back and abdominal wounds by up to a seventy percent. The biggest weakness then was that it was less effective at stopping riffles and other arms fire.
The great turning point, however, came with the invention of Kevlar, an ultra strong fiber. The invention was made by DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek, in the search for a way to make radial car tires lighter. Kevlar allowed the flak jackets to stop bullets as effectively as nylon, but it would also make it considerably lighter in weight, which was a desired advantage. The current flak jackets are not made out of nylon or Kevlar only. Instead, they feature pouches that allow the insertion of armor plates, which makes them even more protective and safe. The standard flak jacket now consists of both Kevlar and the insertion of plates, and it weights about 4.5 kg. There a several types of plates, made out of different of materials according to the preferences and circumstances of the user. The main purpose of this combination is to make the flak jacket strong enough to stop 9mm bullets, making it worthy of being referred to as a bulletproof vest.