Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Improvised Body Armor?

Greetings from Malaysia.
I have read your advice on body armor being useful in various situations. However, in this part of the world, the law prohibits body armor (ballistic vest) from being imported by civilians. Though there is no law against the possesion of body armor, it is impossible to deal with a local supplier as they only provide to defence, law enforcement and security entities.
The possesion of firearms is severely restricted in civilians. Normally, only those who hunt for a livelihood or require self-protection in remote plantations are issued with a licence.
Unfortunately, there were enough cases of criminal use of firearms e.g. robberies, though the majority of criminals use knives and parangs (the local version of a machete).
Would you have any suggestion for body armor besides a ballistic vest? Something that can be useful against blades. Of course, I would not want to wear it the whole time so it is only for those special situations which carry risk of bodily harm e.g. transactions involving large sums of cash.
Thank you
Hi Ken,
High levels of crime and restrictions to owning guns and armor sure is a bad combination!
I would suggest looking into the surplus market or second hand sales. Sometimes police officers or security guards sell their armor when quitting their jobs or going for another line of work.
Unfortunately armor isn’t that easy to improvise. Kevlar and other BP fabrics are very specific and you need a number of layers to provide ballistic and stab protection.

If you cant get body armor, you may be able to buy armor plate carriers and then have steel plates made to fit it. You need thick steel (+1/4 inch) and you should test it before trusting your life to it. Some synthetic resins are very hard and I believe 1 inch thick plates made of harder resins will stop most handgun calibers if not rifle rounds. Again, it’s a matter of experimenting. 

There’s not much you can do against attacks with machetes. Arms and head will be pretty vulnerable. While not as good as an actual stab proof vest you might want to look into getting a reinforced biker jacket. Some of the better ones are made for real protective materials, thick leather, Kevlar and hard plastic inserts. Again, this isn’t made for protection from knife attacks but it is tough material intended for skipping along the road at high speed after you fall. A good motorcycle jacket and a pair of cut resistant gloves might be a good combination. 

Remember people, the second amendment does NOT cover body armor. Its getting more and more restricted around the globe. Buy new if you can afford it, or look around on ebay for used one but do get it while you can.


ConcernedCitizen said...

eBay might be a good lead. There are several sellers offering different types of Kevlar fabric meant for different types of spalling/ballistic protection. It comes as any other untailored fabric to cut and shape as you wish. There are also a couple sellers that cut panels of UL ballistic fiberglass in the shape of armor plates too. I imagine duct tape and spray-on truckbed liner would be a good layer of protection over this.

Anonymous said...

Drywall workers' armor: forearm guards made from loosely woven Kevlar, with Velcro closures. You can wear these over or under a shirt. They are mostly to protect you from slashing yourself. There is also US Army underwear made with Kevlar (I am not kidding. It looks like tan bicycle shorts). You could get an extra one of these forearm guards and alter it to fit around your neck as well, if you were nervous about someone trying to cut your neck.

You could take a 5 gallon bucket and saw pieces from it to use as shin and arm guards, if it was only stabby little knives you were worried about. Pad the inside of the guards with pieces of rug pad. Moderate heat will help you bend the plastic.

Steel shooting targets are made with 500 or 550 steel which is the same steel in rifle plates. You could get a pair of steel targets and sew yourself a plate carrier around their dimensions. Since you are not trying to be all tactical with loads of webbing it wouldn't be that hard.

Don Williams said...

1) For low velocity rounds ( 45 ACP, 380 ACP, 38 Special,etc) Layers of SILK might be worth investigating as body armor --
according to wiki, it was used by gangsters in the USA circa 1900, although high cost of silk in the USA at that time deterred widespread use. See

2) I haven't done any tests but I would guess silk armor would be less effective against high velocity rounds (9mm, 357 Magnum,etc.)

Also, a bullet impact can cause a temporary spike that can break bone even if it does not penetrate the armor, so body armor usually has an additional thickness over the sternum area. In testing the vest, wrap it around a column of clay and verify that the bullet not only does not penetrate the silk vest but that it also does not indent the clay too much.

3) Note that some criminals have learned to shoot to the brain or pelvic basin at close range, as a way to circumvent police officers' body armor.

4) For knives and machetes, one weapon to consider is the jo -- a short hardwood staff about 5 feet long.

I am not expert in its use but
You can obviously use it's longer reach to swing it like a baseball bat at wrists, elbows, knee joints or head while being out of range of the attacker.

If you hold one end in your right hand and the middle in your left, you can stab in the solar plexus
in the manner of the military bayonet. Then rotate the ends and
hit upward with the opposite end (held by the right hand) in the manner of an uppercut strike to the jaw. Then punch forward with that same butt into the face in the manner of the rifle buttstroke done by the military.

If you hold it like a spear ( I,e.
right arm holds one end near your waist and your left hand Loosely holds the middle of the staff about 18 inches in front of your then you can use the right hand to shove the front end of the staff into an attacker's throat in the manner of striking a ball in a game of billiards.

Obviously, training and practice would be needed. But there should be plenty of martial arts instructors in Malaysia far more knowledgable than I re how to use sticks to defeat knives or machetes.

Also, some of those strikes can be lethal and you need to ensure you know what the law is in your area re use of such force in self defense.

Don Williams said...

1) Re use of silk in body armor, see


2) World War I (and WW2 ) might have been averted if Archduke Ferdinand had been shot in the chest instead of the throat:

Joseph said...

Chain Mail?

Try researching Medieval era armor for some was specifically made for combat with bladed weapons.

Don Williams said...

1) I forgot to mention about the jo -- the right length supposedly is one which reaches to your armpit when held upright at your side and standing on the floor.

2) It needs to be of hardwood and thick enough to withstand a chop by an attacker with a machete --although the power of such chops is obviously less than that of the Japanese katana swords the jo was designed to fight.

3) Some industrial mops and brooms have the right hardwood thickness and could be trimmed to the right length. If you get the kind that unscrew from the mop head, you could even use it for cleaning the floor during times of peace. : )

4) You should test a potential jo by hitting a padded surface hard several times. A lot of walking sticks/canes sold in America appear strong but will break easily if they are used to strike something. Which is Embarrassing if the "something" is a mugger's head.

Anonymous said...

More on that Kevlar fabric: Get a cheap pair of paper scissors to cut it. It is hard to cut, don't waste your Fiskars on it.

GreenEyedJinn said...

I recently saw an ad for the "Bullet Proof Backpack" in Guns Magazine. Currently priced at $179, features a large 11.5x23 inch ballistic panel in the back of the pack. I believe it's NIJ IIIa rated.
You can email them directly at They responded quickly to me.

Also, Ebay has a number of ballistic panels and SAPI plate listings. Some for as cheap as $40, delivered (in the USA).
Most "computer backpacks" have a zipped panel in the very back that will hold a 10x12 inch ballistic plate/panel very well. I would assume the kevlar and spectra fiber laminate panels would not set off a metal detector. A backpack used this way could be a great sheild to crouch behind and protect your vitals in an active shooter situation.