A relevant topic about the aspects of the correct choice of body armor: what to look for when choosing a body armor, how to understand the materials, what you need to know about standards, classification and certification. 

Nowadays, the number of people who are versed in weapons has increased, they actively discuss armored vehicles on the Internet, compare characteristics and buy uniforms for themselves and the army. Today, Personal ArmorProtection Means  are becoming not only an object of hobby, hobby or the prerogative of bodyguards, but a real, sometimes the only, means that can save life. Bullet-proof vests are bought and chosen, sometimes, completely without delving into the essence, without understanding the terms. And this can lead to sad consequences as a result of their use in specific conditions - a mistake when buying an SIBZ can be fatal. You can find out more about body armor on the http://platecarrierguide.com.

To make the right choice, you need to know and take into account some parameters:

  • The type of weapon, protection from which the body armor must provide
  • The required area of ​​protection of body armor
  • Wearing type of body armor: hidden or external
  • Maximum allowable body armor weight
  • Continuous wearing time
  • Body armor size

Under the generally accepted term "body armor" fall completely different types of SIBZ.

Bulletproof vests can be:

  • in the form of ready-made sets with plates or individual covers,
  • for concealed wear or outdoor,
  • modular or with a sewn-on set of pouches.

For each case, you can choose the most suitable option.

Plate materials can be:

  • metal (titanium, steel - originally used),
  • kevlar,
  • ultra high molecular weight high density polyethylene (UHMWPE),
  • ceramics,
  • cermets.

Protection standards

Protection standards are regulated differently in each country. In the United States, the classification created by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is used, in Russia there is GOST.

Certification tests are carried out from 10 meters at an angle of 90 degrees with at least 3 shots of each type of bullet. At the same time, the speed of the bullet is necessarily measured, since bullets, like everything else, always have small deviations due to the quality of production.

For example, some bullets can fly at a lower speed than the intended speed, in which case their result is not counted, while others, on the contrary, give a higher speed, which can lead to armor breakdown. Such results do not count as well. Only those bullets are counted, the speed of which was within the permissible standard of the norm.

As a rule, the standards do not define: the number of shots in the protective structure, the test procedure for determining the contusion injury.

Reservation contusion injury

Usually people, when they see the test results, evaluate the bulletproof vest in the key "pierced / not pierced". But even if the bulletproof vest is not pierced, the kinetic energy of the bullet must go somewhere. In the case of a metal plate, this energy will be transferred to the person on whom this plate is worn, as a result of which the so-called zabronevaya (over-barrier) injury will be inflicted.

Armor contusion injury  - damage to the skin and (or) internal organs of a person from dynamic loads arising from the interaction of means of destruction with the protective structure of armor when receiving conditioned lesions. In its turn, the  conditioned defeat of the protective structure of the armor  is the lack of penetration of the bullet and the products of the interaction of the bullet with the protective element, as well as the depth of penetration (exit length) of more than 5 mm of the blade of the cold weapon behind the back side of the protective structure of the armor.

For example, a shot from a conventional PM pistol with a bullet speed of 315 m / s can be compared to the blow of a 2-kg sledgehammer. And the consequences can be very different, depending on the type of ammunition, range, angle of impact and place of impact. Everything can end up as light abrasions, bruises and hematomas, but in severe cases there may be broken ribs, ruptured blood vessels and damage to internal organs.

When testing for over-the-counter injury, the bulletproof vest is placed on ballistic plasticine, and after shooting, the recesses left on it are examined. In the United States, for example, a dent of up to 44 mm is allowed, with a 10% chance of death. It should be understood that an unbroken vest in one out of ten cases can still mean death.

Naturally, the developers themselves are not limited to the armor plates, supplying the finished product with additional layers for the safety of the owner. This is, first of all, the amortization and climatic backing, which minimizes the damage to the armor, and also provides sufficient ventilation.

Kevlar (aromatic polyamide aka Kevlar)

Kevlar thread was developed by DuPont back in the 70s of the last century. With the same mass, the Kevlar thread turned out to be 10 times stronger than steel. Initially, aramid fiber was planned to be used for reinforcing automobile tires, but later it began to be used in a wide variety of fields.

Kevlar has excellent ballistic characteristics, however, the cost of producing aramid fibers is quite high, and such ballistic fabric will not resist against serious ammunition, therefore, the boundary use of Kevlar is 1-2 protection class, where pistol bullets are mainly a threat. And for this, of course, a multilayer fabric is used.

Subsequently, alternative developments of synthetic fibers with high mechanical and thermal strength appeared. In fact, it is the same aromatic polyamide as Kevlar, just developed by other companies and have slightly different characteristics.

Unfortunately, aramid fiber doesn't help much if you use a knife or awl against it. Cutting it is difficult, but piercing it is easy. The threads simply diverge, so you will have to use something more serious to protect against the knife. In addition, Kevlar does not tolerate moisture, wet fiber loses up to 40% of its strength, although after drying it restores its properties.

But where stealth and mobility are needed, soft armor will come in handy. A vest made of aramid fiber is easy to hide under a suit, and it does not hinder movement, since it bends well.

Metal

In army body armor, which should protect against more serious rifle cartridges, metal plates are used, which are made of titanium and special types of steel. The main attractive qualities of metals are their relatively low cost, increased strength and the ability to withstand multiple hits. But they also have disadvantages, among which the main one is weight. You can wear a bulletproof vest that weighs about 8-10 kilograms only for a short time, and if you add other equipment here, then the weight will be much greater.

One of the drawbacks is that steel plates are dangerous due to debris scattering after being hit by a bullet, which can touch limbs or the head. Here you can remember about light alloys of aluminum or titanium, which help to avoid fragments and protect against serious damage to the armor, but such materials are much more expensive, and the lightness also has a downside - it is impossible to make a high-class armor plate based on such alloys. But it is possible to solve the issue of fragments and armor steel - it is enough to provide the plate with an anti-splinter coating, which is the same aramid fiber. 

Ceramics

Combating the weight of steel-plate body armor has led to the development of ceramic plates capable of withstanding armor-piercing bullets. Actually, the main task of a light, but extremely durable ceramic plate is reduced to the destruction of the bullet and the absorption of its energy.

Unfortunately, ceramics, stopping the projectile, cracks themselves, so the reuse of the plate, which has already been hit, is very undesirable, since the next time it will not be able to perform its functions, but will simply pass the bullet further. And further behind the ceramics, a traditional metal plate is usually installed, which makes it much easier to stop the remnants of a bullet that has lost energy.

At the moment, three types of ceramic panels are widely used, which use aluminum oxide, boron carbide and silicon carbide. Alas, carbide panels are not cheap and their mass production (for arming the army, for example) is therefore difficult.

Ultra high molecular weight high density polyethylene

The most promising and modern material for armor plates is polyethylene. It possesses both good strength and lightness at the same time.

Extruded polyethylene is suitable for use in class 3 body armor, but it costs much more than conventional armor steel, and has some flammability problems. In addition, while providing the same protection, the polyethylene plate will be significantly thicker than steel. Considering that the first three classes of protection can provide vests for concealed wearing, replacing their armor plates with polyethylene is quite problematic, since its thickness in this case grows to an unacceptable 20 mm, where it is already difficult to hide something.

Currently, armor plate and vest manufacturers are combining available materials to get the best results. The best is taken from each type of armor to compensate for the disadvantages of the other type. You can't walk around so much in hidden-wearing bulletproof vests, therefore, combined plates with ceramics and metal can most often be found in army large bulletproof vests that are worn over uniforms.

How to avoid counterfeiting

A high-quality body armor must have a passport for the vest and markings on the body armor itself. Currently, there is a huge offer of body armor on the market, the overwhelming majority of which is not what the seller gives them out for. The fact that the manufacturer thinks that he has made a reliable body armor without proper testing does not mean anything. So take a close look at what you are buying.

 

One of the problems with body armor  is confusion with standards. Pay attention to the classes of body armor, as mentioned above -  they differ from the classes of body armor in foreign countries. Carefully consider the choice of the brand, ask for a documentary description of the bulletproof vest and confirmation of its properties when buying a bulletproof vest. Be sure to ask for a certificate, shot samples and test reports of body armor.

 

How to wear

As already mentioned, there are models of hidden  and  outdoor body armor. ... The former have many more limitations as they need to be thin, well-ventilated and small in size to be effectively hidden under clothing. There are models that themselves look like elements of clothing - vests, jackets, etc. These models are used by guards and bodyguards, they can come in handy in an ordinary environment, when you do not need to show the presence of a bulletproof vest. And you are calmer, and you don't scare people around. But hidden wearing body armor also has a main drawback, which is low protection classes - the requirement for thickness leads to the fact that the plates installed in them can protect against a knife or small-caliber bullet. For more serious tasks, outdoor body armor is used.

On sale you can find both ready-made bulletproof vests with plates, as well as separate covers, into which you can insert plates yourself, having chosen the protection class and format. To unify the system of covers and plates in the United States, SAPI plates were developed, which were intended for use in army body armor OTV (Outer Tactical Vest). However, later, such plates became a kind of standard for all body armor, both army and commercial. In 2000, they were replaced by the more modern ESAPI boards made of boron carbide. Protection has improved, but the format has remained the same, which allows you to calmly engage in the selection of components for the body armor yourself, adjusting the weight, protection class and wearing comfort. 

The covers themselves do not have any protection, they are made of nylon of various densities. The highest quality can be considered made of a special material called "Cordura". In fact, this is the same nylon, only very thick, with a special thread structure, a special water-repellent impregnation and a polyurethane coating. Heavy and durable Cordura is used in the manufacture of army equipment, which includes not only covers for armor plates, but also pouches, belts, backpacks, and more.

Real army covers for armor plates made in Europe or the United States can be purchased in our country, but their cost will be quite high. Replicas produced by commercial companies will be much more accessible. True, very cheap Chinese copies are made of less dense nylon, so they will last much less. It is worth taking a closer look at the products of the American company Flyye Industries, which makes excellent replicas of army covers for armor plates.

By type, outdoor body armor can be divided into three classes:

  • just covers,
  • systems with a set of pouches
  • modular systems.

If everything is clear with the first type, then the second is a ready-made version of an army cover for armor plates, into which you just need to insert standard plates. A set of pouches for various equipment is already attached to it, which can save time for those who do not want to pick and purchase them on their own. On the other hand, this option will most likely cost more than a cover without pouches. In this case, you purchase a cover, ready for installation of additional pouches, equipped with the molle system - these are stitched strips of fabric that serve as fasteners. Most of the existing equipment has a molle mount, so this case provides absolute freedom in choosing the number of pouches and where to place them.

Heavy army body armor is often supplied with additional elements, or they can be purchased and installed separately. Typically, this is neck, arm and groin protection, sewn to the vest and has pockets for installing custom-sized soft armor.

Drawing conclusions

It is worth choosing a specific model of body armor after you decide on the type of wearing, imagine the type of weapon from which it should protect, allocate an amount for its purchase.

For serious protection, you will have to wear an external body armor, where the main material of the plates can be metal (heavier, but cheaper) or cermets (more expensive, but lighter).

Also, the question may arise regarding the number of plates and protective panels. Initially, a set of armor plates - two pieces (front and rear), side plates - are already an additional option. When using all possible additional places for installing armor plates, the cost of the kit will significantly increase, but you will get a much larger protection area. However, in this case, maneuverability will be seriously affected, and the wearing comfort will decrease. In addition, the likelihood of injury in places protected by additional plates is much less, therefore, the appropriateness of their installation depends on the conditions in each case.