Sunday, April 4, 2010

Some thoughts about body armor

During the class I took a couple weeks ago some considerations regarding body armor became clear.

The second day we had heavy rain and of course we ended up soaking wet. Even if you had rain gear on doing pushups in a few inches of water meant that your armor got wet.
Soft body armor, usually made of Kevlar or other synthetic fabric loses up to 40% of its ballistic resistance when wet. Constant exposure to water and UV will deteriorate the material as well, so you want to avoid storing them wet, and sun drying. 

Expensive gear that ruins because of water and sunlight? Who wants that?  Well... you probably own guns, correct? Maybe its worth considering then that 80% of the people that died in gunfights would have survived if they had body armor on. Puts things into perspecitve, doesn't it? In my bedroom witihn fast reach, there's my gun, flashlight and body armor. 

The panels come with a waterproof protection but still the stitches and small cracks in the material means water can still get inside. I had to cut up the plastic in mine so that they would dry up, used a hair dryer in slow mode to patiently remove the humidity.
This is not much of a problem if you replace your panels periodically but its still important to check and make sure they are not wet after rain of heavy sweating. Again, wet fabric reduces the level of protection and eventually ruins the material, so check often.

Now, during high crime yet "normal" times, you’d use you BA in specific circumstances. Going to pick up large amounts of cash from the bank, visiting or traveling through bad parts of town for some reason, meeting up with strangers and sure, attending medium or advanced shooting classes where the risk factor is considered high due to people shooting in group, sometimes finding yourself in a situation where you have to trust a stranger with a loaded gun at your back.

Another example where you may not avoid having your armor soaking wet may be when organizing a neighborhood watch or standing guard on your own after some disaster like a huricane or earthquake, Chile comes to mind. Wet armor panels ? Imagine Katrina and worrying about keeping your armor dry when everything around you is covered by 6 to 12 feet of water. 

One of our sponsors,, has Ceramic Rifle plates starting at $200, remember to mention "FerFAL".

During that day I found myself wishing I had stand alone rifle plates instead. Plates aren’t that sensitive to water ( but they do break so be careful not to abuse them much). You don’t want to leave them or their carrier wet but they are much easier to dry up and don’t deteriorate because of humidity.
Its true that its best to combine both, soft body armor and plates, so as to have side protection as well, but its good to know you have plates that resist humanity and UV better.
Those of us that buy our own armor wont have replacement for it any time soon. Decades will go buy and you’ll have the same gear, and while soft body armor may still be effective if you took good are of it, plates aren’t that delicate. 

Get both. Sometimes you’ll want to be discrete and use soft BA, maybe decades from now you wont be able to replace those panels for one reason or another, but the plates will still be serviceable.
Maybe you want to keep a kit in your car/weekend cabin that includes body armor, but you just want something you can lave there and forget about it until you need it, 5 or 20 years from now. For that, stand alone rifle plates are a good idea. 



Pete said...

Here's another example when body armor could be warranted: Hunting! No SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation needed. Most hunting fatalities could be avoided with armor. Went hunting with a friend of mine once that was blind as a bat. We were suppose to be squirrel hunting but he took a couple deer slugs with him 'just in case' (quite the redneck). He saw me coming from a distance and started to squint his eyes as he was trying to size up 'what I was!!!'. He never shot...I gave him ample warning it was me (ruined the rest of the trip). I don't hunt anymore but couldn't think of going out in the woods without thinking someone has a beed on me!

FerFAL said...

Excellent example thanks!

Hunting accidents are all too common, BA (with rifle plates) is a smart idea in that case when you know there's the possibility of an accident.


Anonymous said...

Helpful tip. Consider spending the extra cash (if you can spare it) on getting a 100% goldflex vest. Here's why.
1. It does not lose its protective ability when wet.
2. It actively floats (almost life vest like)
3. It's much thinner than regular vest adding to concealment.
4. It has been reported to have additional blunt trauma protection than Kevlar!
Even if you already have one vest it wouldn't hurt to upgrade to higher quality in anticipation of your current one being worn out.
There is only one draw back to getting one of these fine vests. They are pricey. Usually adding about 30% to 40% the cost depending on where you order from and what you want. But seriously, I don't start gambling with my life on things like that.

Don Williams said...

1) I have a question: Isn't level IIIA worth having -- even though it is about twice as bulky as level II?

Level IIIA provides additional insurance against deterioration and also protects against some handgun bullets that level II doesn't stop.

Level IIIA is harder to conceal -- and if someone knows you have it then they know to go for a head shot immediately. So concealment is important.

Also, aren't you likely to snag your pistol on Level IIIA if you are wearing an inside-the-waistband holster? But outside the waistband holsters are also hard to conceal.

This may not be a problem in winter -- but in hot, humid summer you don't want to wear much other than a shirt, especially with body armor on as well.

PS One way of keeping cooler with bodyarmor is to leave the sides unarmored --but is the lesser protection worth the lesser heat load?

Don Williams said...

PS Don't police have to periodically replace their body armor because of the deterioration from sweat, rain, etc?

One reason why buying used armor on ebay might not be a good idea -- a customer who gets a bullet through the sternum ain't likely to leave negative feedback.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be off topic but..

Are you Don Williams the famous country/western singer?

Don Williams said...

Sorry, no.

But if you want to give me $20,000 I will sing several country and western songs for you.

My early foray into a singing career ended in the first grade of elementary school --when my class collapsed into helpless laughter at my attempt to sing "Home on the Range".

Scarred me for life. I don't even sing in the shower.

I also tried playing a fiddle when in high school --but abandoned the project when my dog started howling and barking in protest.

Canis Lupus said...

Would any of you wear steel rifle plates ?

There's a risk bullets can be deflected and end up in your brain. But they are cheap, so I'm wondering, should I bet on this horse ?

Anonymous said...

To Canibus Lupis.

About ballistic steel plates.
The thing about steel plates is that they are much cheaper. But that comes at its own price. Right off the bat when you hold these plates in your hand you are amazed at how very heavy these suckers are! This will keep you from even wanting to wear them, much less FIGHT in them. Not that I am accusing you of being out of shape, but I have loads of time logged into heavy armor and I can tell you I do believe that steel is better than nothing. But only if you simply can't afford better alternatives.
also I have seen Iraqis wearing these plates in Iraq and from what I heard from them, they don't protect nearly as well either.
Ultimately I have come to understand that many people "cheap themselves to death" when it comes to survival. But as always, something is better than nothing. Don't forget what your parents used to say "you get what you pay for".
Hope that helps.