Author Topic: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'  (Read 1963 times)

Offline ID_Joker

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I know we have a good number of forum members who have had recent military/le experience so hoping I can get some advice from some of you on selecting body armor.  I'm reasonably familiar with the materials used the protection level ratings and those topics are easily researched. 

What I'm hoping to get thoughts on from you are the more subjective items.  For example:

(1)  What features/characteristics did you find to be the most useful/desireable?  Were there any features that you saw as functionally detrimental?
(2)  Did you notice any significant differences between brands?
(3)  What mistakes have you seen made when buying or sizing armor?
(4)  If you were to get armor as a civilian, what would you look for and who would you buy from?

Realizing that no product can be all things to all people, I am still hoping that this purchase can cover a couple objectives for me.  First, I'd like something that can be slipped into a MOLLE carrier that will house some basic equipment... e.g. a couple extra mags, flashlight, cell phone, bear spray (weird, but it makes sense here!).  Goal will be to keep this kit near the bed so it can easily be slipped on if something goes bump in the night.  Second goal is that I'd like to have the flexibility to wear it concealed (without the Molle carrier, etc) if ever needed.

One of the best options I've seen is from BulletProofMe:  http://www.bulletproofme.com/Photos/ProMAX-Rifle-Plates-Carrier-PHOTO.shtml

Thoughts?  Shoot holes in the plan (pun intended), tell me I'm crazy, point me in the right direction, etc before I spend any money!

Thanks for your input and your service.

Joker

Offline Veritas

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2012, 12:37:54 AM »
Obviously the most useful characteristic of body armor is that it stops bullets. I don't know if this is common knowledge but most body armor can be divided into to basic food groups; those that stop handgun rounds and those that stop rifle rounds. Within each of these two groups their are subgroups depending on what level of protection the vest provides. This is of course shown in the NIJ rating system. In my experience wearing vests there are some imutable facts about body armor, mainly its hot and heavy and takes a while to get used to wearing it all the time. As far as what make or model you get its like anything else. Part of it is personal preference and part of it is you get what you pay for. Pretty much any of the well know brands will do you.
I think the biggest mistake when buying body armor is getting some yahoo who sizes you wrong. Make sure they do the sizing for both standing and sitting. Improperly sized body armor is very uncomfortable and can literally rub you the wrong way.
Whether you buy the body armor as a civilian or leo or military it all depends on what you are using it for. If the shtf well sure we all want the best armor with big badass rifle plates that will stop 7.62AP rounds. But in  reality that stuff is not only very hot and heavy (just ask our soldiers). Its also very expensive. I think you should start out by just looking around and going to places that sell it or go online and ask some questions to the company that sells it. Then, just like when you buy a gun, you get whatever you like the most and feels the most comfortable to you. My .02 Good luck.
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Offline rogersorders

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2012, 11:07:00 AM »
Definitely want to reiterate, it is heavy and will take a while to get used to.

Armor that will stop rifle calibers fall into two categories. "Plate carriers"  and full vests. Plate carriers are just that, they only hold plates. You gain breathability and less weight but you sacrifice side protection. They come in concealable (no webbing, smooth front and back) and regular with Molle attachment points.

Full vests will have "soft" kevlar armor that covers the upper body with pouches to hold the plates. This gives you the option to "drop plates" but still have small caliber protection. These also come in concealable and with Molle attachments. They are hot and uncomfortable.

If you can find a place that has different types and try some on. This will probably be hard unless you're in an area with a big military base.
Standing Order #19. Let the enemy come 'til he's almost close enough to touch. Then let him have it and jump out and finish him with you hatchet. - Maj Robert Rogers, 1759


Offline ID_Joker

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2012, 11:13:27 AM »
Unfortunately, trying on different kinds seems unlikey to happen.  I can't find anywhere even close to local that has anything.

I can definitely envision the hot and heavy.  I imagine not unlike my old firefighting gear or a full chest rig of aid climbing equipment.  Fortunately, I don't see this as everyday wear for my situation.  (Fingers crossed it's not ever needed as everyday wear!)

Any recommendations on brands that you have liked or know other guys that have liked?

For my intended purposes per original post, do you think the type of set-up I'm looking at is the right thing or am I entirely in the wrong product category? 

Offline kckndrgn

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2012, 03:12:15 PM »
When I bought my bullet proof vest 4 years ago, I went through here:
http://bulletproofme.com/

Excellent site, excellent customer service.

I've worn mine just a few times, mainly to get used to the feel of it.  I forget which brand/model I have, if I remember I will look at the vest tonight.

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Offline Veritas

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2012, 01:33:21 AM »
I have a friend who purchased this and seems to like it. It's basically just rifle plates in a carrier. It is level 4 protection (7.62AP) However, it has a couple of drawbacks. As previously stated it is pretty heavy. It is ceramic, which means it can be cracked if dropped which will reduce its protective properties. It also does not have the coverage of a full vest. However, the price is good at $450 compared to some other body armor. Harris Tactical is also a pretty good brand name i've heard.


http://www.harristacticalonline.com/ASP-C-AirSave-Level-4-Plates-MOLLE-Carrier-and-Armor-ASP-C.htm
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Offline rogersorders

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2012, 02:14:12 AM »
The kind we had was called a RBAV or MBAV and it came in a big bag we called a “dead hooker bag”, probably because it was big enough to fit a…never mind. Anyway the kit had enough pouches and gear to outfit three kits: a chest rig, plate carrier and full vest. It was nice not to have to change over pouches based on the mission. I don’t know if it’s available commercially but I think it cost around 2-3K.

Another setup I’ve seen is a plate carrier, with Molle attachments, that if you took out the plates the front and back areas folded down into a standard chest rig configuration.

If you can’t get to a store to try some on, make sure the company has a good return policy. It would suck to pay a bunch of money and have a piece of gear you hate to wear.
Standing Order #19. Let the enemy come 'til he's almost close enough to touch. Then let him have it and jump out and finish him with you hatchet. - Maj Robert Rogers, 1759


Offline blueyedmule

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2012, 06:42:29 AM »
Anyone else have something they'd like to add? I'm also interested in this market and all-ears.
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Offline flippydidit

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2012, 09:34:14 AM »
I've personally "taken a few for the team" and have a little insight on armor choices.

For your "home defense" concept I would go with a vest (not a plate carrier) and some sort of tactical vest/MOLLE rig over that.  This set up will allow you to "kit up or down" as your situation needs.  Just a bump in the night?  Level One- Grab your vest and the gun (set up with a light and a couple spare mags).  Bumps (plural) in the night?  Level Two- Everything from Level One, plus you slip the assault harness/vest on.  Explosions and gunfire in the night?  Level Three- First two levels, plus your INCH (I'm Never Coming Home) or BOB (Bug Out Bag) bag/ruck.

If you don't plan on bugging out, I'd still go with this approach.  I'd stay away from hanging gear off the body armor directly.

Hanging gear off the body armor MOLLE will cause the fabric to stretch and relocate.  Over time your plate could end up protecting your beer belly and not your chest.

A plate carrier, as was mentioned, is just that.  What some people don't always get is that the "soft armor" in a vest does more than just resist handgun rounds.  It also absorbs/spreads out the "punch" of a rifle round.  So if you only have a plate carrier and get shot you might still be taken out of a fight or die from blunt force trauma.  Additionally, the soft armor is good for arresting jacketing.  When FMJ rounds strike something solid (in my case vehicle armor) the copper jacketing can separate from the lead core.  This separated copper has the consistency of twisted, evil razor blades.  The soft armor in my vest stopped quite a few of those nasty little bastards.

I'm sold on the use of side plates, but not on the groin protector or those silly samurai shoulder flaps (DAPS).  Both seem to reduce your mobility enough to not make them useful to me.  I would advocate the use of steel plates over ceramic ones.  Ceramic are lighter and less expensive (generally).  Steel can take repeated hits without crumbling to dust (generally).  Be careful on where and from whom you purchase your plates.  There are dates and serial numbers on them (usually).  Just like any product, these companies institute recalls from time to time.  Ensure the one you're buying is not one of those (another reason to buy from a company and not privately).

Unfortunately, with the increase in demand of body armor, two specific and nefarious things have happened in recent years.  First, military personnel having been selling armor and plates privately (the armor was still Government Property).  Law enforcement has cracked down on this fraud, but well-meaning (naive/oblivious) buyers are usually caught up in the sting.  This can result in them losing their "armor money" and/or jail time.  Second, and outright diabolical are that some countries (we won't name names here ....cough ....China ....cough), have copied the ceramic plates to the smallest detail and manufactured identical twins with plaster instead of ceramic.  Some people have defended them stating, "These toy plates are for airsoft games."  For the sake of being "cool", the plates are designed to be perfect copies and are not marked with "Not for getting shot, it's a stupid and dangerous toy."  These toys have been found circulating in the REAL body armor market.  Though only in private sales and not from companies (that I've experienced).

In conclusion, I recommend getting a vest (not a plate carrier), wearing it in conjunction with some sort of separate chest rig/assault harness/tactical vest, and to get steel plates if you can afford them.

I agree with the other posts that stated to get the armor fit correctly, buy from known and named companies, and to look at and try on different styles if possible.  Good luck with your search and I hope you never have to use it!

Hope this helps!
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Offline ncjeeper

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2012, 01:16:53 PM »
I have been wearing a soft kevlar vest with a front trauma plate to work everyday for the past 21 years. I have had different brands on and they all wear alittle differently. Some have been real comfortable and some have been annoying. You really need to be measured and sized correctly to get the correct one. The vest I wear will stop all hand gun rounds except the FN 5-7 round. I have worn point blank, safariland, second chance, and one other I cant think of. They all are about the same. The vest weights varied from 4-6 lbs.
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Offline excaliber

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2012, 04:15:57 PM »
I was issued plates and vest in Iraq in 2004 and 2008, here is what I know

it is heavy with the plates in it, and hot,  but being sized properly and wearing the vest tight helps disseminate the weight better.
I Liked the vest I had in 2004 better, it opened down the front like a coat, and had duel velcro closures, this made it easier to put on and take off.

the vest I had in 2008 also had the kidney plates on the side (more weight) and you had to pick the hole thing up and drop it onto you over your head, then close up the sides, to include trying to reach behind you to find the low hanging waist strap with the kidney plate in it, make sure it wasnt twisted etc,  this was a real PITA to put on and take off but it also had a quick take off wire, just pull the long wire out and the vest would fall into pieces and come off (this was for quickly retrieving a wounded Soldier allowing you to get his vest off quick to carry him or perform first aid.)

the military stuff is great and will stop a 7.62 round, but big and bulky, If money was no object thought I would look around for some more comfortable civilian stuff with good protection, I personaly would feel OK doing without the side plates, just remember to keep front toward enemy, of course the situation may make this impossible (sniper and such). but that sure is a lot of weight to lug around.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2012, 04:25:36 PM by excaliber »

Offline endurance

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2012, 04:44:58 PM »
I haven't worn one in 19 years, but I had both a level IIa and a level IIIa.  While the primary reason I had both was because I bought my IIa while I was still with the Forest Service and needed something light and comfortable since it was still a physical job, once I got on the SWAT team with the SO I wanted the heavier protection for those situations and it sure was a lot warmer during the winter.  That was the key though, during the summer I wore my IIa and the IIIa sat in my trunk except for call outs.  During the winter I wore the IIIa exclusively. 

The IIa was definitely concealable, but you couldn't get away with wearing a dress shirt without it being obvious you had it on underneath (obvious to me, maybe not so obvious to others not on the job, I don't know).  You could wear a sweater or mid-weight jacket and nobody would know you had it on.  The IIIa was definitely bulkier and without a coat on, you could always see the shoulders from the back.

Both of mine were Point Blank.  They just fit me well, but I probably only tried on 2-3 different kinds before buying.

Back in those days rifle plates weren't readily available, so I can't say anything intelligent on the topic.  The vests I had came with a trauma plate and I never took it out.  It never bothered me, but I know guys who just couldn't wear them because they bothered them so badly.  I think a lot depends on your abdominal bulk and that's where you're going to get different fits between brands.  Some build their vests on the average beat-cop with 20 years of donuts collected around their waistline, some build them on the "model" cop who's fresh out of the academy, lean and mean.  I was more the latter at the time and Point Blank fit me best, but I'm 4-5" larger in the waistline now and couldn't tell you what I'd fit into. 

The only armor I have now is two military-surplus flak jackets I picked up right after Y2K for $100.  I have no idea what they'll stop, but if there's a chance bullets will be flying my way I'll toss one on just in case. 
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Offline ID_Joker

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2012, 10:44:58 PM »
I would advocate the use of steel plates over ceramic ones.  Ceramic are lighter and less expensive (generally).  Steel can take repeated hits without crumbling to dust (generally).  Be careful on where and from whom you purchase your plates. 

Doesn't steel have a problem with spall?  Is that overplayed or just outweighed by the ability to take multiple hits?

Thanks!

Offline flippydidit

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Re: Requesting info on body armor from those who have 'been there/done that'
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2012, 12:48:51 AM »
IF (we're talking big if, like 7.62 rifle) the plate is penetrated the spall SHOULD be arrested by the soft armor Kevlar behind it.  That usually won't happen in a plate carrier, as most of them are devoid of soft armor.  By the way, I've used 4 different Point Blank armor sets (issued by military) and a Diamondback Tactical Praetorian with steel plates (my current civilian kit).
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— Ragnar Danneskjöld, from Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)