How to Reduce Trauma While Wearing a Bulletproof Vest
One of the many disadvantages to wearing a soft bulletproof vest is the effects of trauma caused by an impact. While Kevlar and other soft ballistic vests will stop a pistol bullet from penetrating, they do not stop the bullet from moving the material with it into the torso. Because of the inherent flexible nature of soft armor, such inserts do not do a good job of transferring the kinetic energy of the bullet out across a large surface area. Having a few hundred foot-pounds of energy localized in a few inches on the body can cause a whole host of problems. In the best case, being shot results in a few fractures, in the worst, internal hemorrhaging of vital organs the vest was supposed to protect. Naturally, with the prevalence of soft ballistic vests in military and police applications around the world, there have been a few solutions raised to address this problem.
Adding a Trauma Plate
The first is to add a steel or hard polymer plate behind the soft layer of bulletproof fiber. While this seems to contradict the point of buying soft armor in the first place, it has its applications. A Kevlar vest rated at Level IIIA is capable of stopping any pistol round it might encounter, so the steel reinforcement trauma plate doesn’t need to offer any ballistic protection of its own should the user be willing to sacrifice Rifle resistance so it can be made quite light. Adding a non-ballistic steel or polymer trauma plate to the back of a Kevlar insert is the lightest weight option for those seeking trauma protection from exclusively pistol rounds.
The most obvious and cost effective solution to defeating the effects of trauma is simply to run a hard plate in the first place. AR500 rifle plates are no longer as expensive as they once were and can be had at close to, and sometimes cheaper, than Kevlar inserts. Moving up to this sturdier material brings with it the added protection against common rifle rounds, a feat impossible to Kevlar vests. The only disadvantage to running a rig with AR500 steel plates is the added weight of the plates themselves. At sometimes twice the weight of Kevlar equivalents, Steel armor is intimidating to most, but once worn; the weight is effectively distributed and contained close to the body by the carrier, reducing the felt weight on the wearer. While donning a 20lb backpack all day might wreck ones back by the end of the day, wearing 20lbs of plates in a carrier is much easier, and causes little strain on the shoulders and back. We here at the office often wear 20+lbs of our armor around for fun.
Beyond stiffening the vest you are running, there are other minor things that you can do to your body itself to make it less susceptible to the blunt trauma associated with absorbing gunfire. The first and easiest is to wear bulky clothing under your vest, while this is impractical in the summer months, it does make a difference in the amount of energy that is transferred into your body. The second and much longer term is to gain muscle, particularly in the chest and core. The additional flesh between the plate and your internal organs the better, and the denser it is the more effective it will be in protecting them. Core strength in particular because it adds structural rigidity to the torso, which offers more resistance to any incoming force.