Heavy body armor is a thing of the past, at least it should be, yet people are still wearing it. Despite there being lightweight body armor on the market, like what we sell here at ShotStop® there are still units investing in heavy body armor. And in turn, not allowing their operators optimal maneuverability, confidence, and ultimately improved odds of mission success. In this blog, we will cover the importance of lightweight body armor and how heavy and lightweight body armor plates can affect maneuverability for our warfighters.
Heavy Body Armor
Heavy body armor, such as steel, will take its toll on the body. There’s no avoiding the back, hip, and knee pain that comes with wearing heavy plates.
Before discovering lightweight body armor, about 13 years into my military career, I had significant lower back and hip issues. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do to reverse the damage done to my body in those years of carrying around heavy armor when I didn’t need to.
I was carrying heavy armor for 12-14 hours a day. And even on days where I got to spend a majority of my shift sitting, I was still uncomfortable, and my body felt sore and ached. By the end of my shifts, I was always tired from a long day of work, but my body was fatigued as well. As the years went on, I found it was harder to get in and out of a vehicle, run, walk, ruck, or anything physical while wearing my armor.
The average amount of body armor soldiers carry daily in a war zone could be well above 40 lbs. Law Enforcement is expected to run toward the sound of gunfire in typically no more than Level IIIA body armor. Level IIIA body armor is not rated for any type of rifle caliber round. The chances are that, most likely, the shots came from a pistol caliber handgun, but what if it didn’t?
With millions of registered rifles in circulation in the United States and growing by ~2,000,000 more each year (never mind all the black market rifle distribution), the odds of IIIA soft armor keeping officers safe during active threat situations is declining dramatically.
I’ve been in Law Enforcement as a patrol officer and K-9 Handler and can confidently say that we don’t like heavy armor. I don’t know of anyone that would rather carry 40-50 lbs. of armor when they can carry less than 10 lbs with ShotStop®.
LEVEL 3 BODY ARMOR
Generally speaking, LEO’s don’t prefer to wear Level III armored hard plates because that’s always meant a lot of weight. It doesn’t matter how fit you are or what your BMI is; we all feel 50 lbs. running up stairs to a house or sprinting after a suspect with a gun.
It’s not practical to wear heavy armor in today’s world of better weaponry, advanced ballistics, and mass shootings. Most of the LEOs that I know would rather have maneuverability and freedom to move and rotate over extra protection.
The good news for everyone is that we have Level III armor that weighs less than 3 lbs for a common 10” x 12” plate. How does sub 6 lbs. lbs. of body armor sound over wearing 15 lbs. for the average Level III plates?
MANEUVERABILITY IN HEAVY ARMOR
Let’s face it; the heavier something is, the harder it is to move around. Yet, for some reason, we load our troops down with heavy gear and armor. Now, if they end up in an ambush, they’re slower and more likely to get hit. Wouldn’t it make more sense if they could carry lighter gear and armor? Be able to run to cover and then send rounds downrange? Just because you have armor on doesn’t mean you want to get shot.
Because if you get shot, even with body armor on, you’re going to endure some level of pain and maybe even trauma to your body. If you haven’t read our article on backface deformation yet, you should. Backface deformation can cause the body a lot of trauma, including broken ribs. But, if operators were able to quickly get to cover because their gear and armor were both lightweight, then maybe they won’t have to experience the results of significant backface deformation.
That’s why here at ShotStop®, we’ve invested our time and energy into creating not only lightweight body armor but armor with minimal backface deformation. Unfortunately, we can’t make your actual gear lighter, but we can help when it comes to body armor plates so that you can maneuver quickly to safety.
POUNDS EQUAL STRESS
The more pounds on your body, the more stressed your body is, and stress isn’t good for the body, at least not this kind. When it comes to stressing your body out under the weight of a heavy load, you’re exposing your body to some severe medical conditions, particularly those associated with weight-bearing joints. Now consider those who are wearing this type of weight daily; some real problems are headed their way.
According to researcher Stephen P. Messier, Ph.D., of Wake Forest University, "The accumulated reduction in knee load for a 1-pound loss in weight would be more than 4,800 pounds per mile walked." So, if you reduce your load’s weight by 10 pounds, “each knee would be subjected to 48,000 pounds less in compressive load per mile walked."
That's a lot of pounds! And if your knees are that stressed, how could you expect your troops to maneuver quickly and effectively for extended periods?
POUNDS EQUAL PAIN
You’re not just stressing your body out. You’re also causing it pain as you add more pounds. And believe it or not, adding body armor to your already heavy load can make a significant difference when it comes to pain.
According to Marine Capt. Courtney Thompson, who conducted a study on how our troops pay for weight in blood, the difference in life and death comes down to 15 lbs.
"I was pretty shocked that 15 pounds of gear on top of 43 pounds of gear was already enough."
What it came down to is, troops with heavier loads are slower and easier to shoot, and that results in a lot of physical pain to the troop and a different kind of pain to his or her leaders who chose to add that weight. It’s here where we can genuinely see that pounds equal pain.
This is why it’s imperative to consider your load. And while we can’t dictate what you put in your pack and the things you need to complete the mission, we can help you out with lightweight armor. It might not seem like a huge deal, a few pounds taken off, but it could quite literally be the difference between life and death. Because troops carrying lighter loads are less likely to get shot due to having more maneuverability to get out of the line of fire much more quickly.
Lightweight Body Armor
While I spent most of my military career lugging around heavy body armor, I can say from experience that the first time I put on lightweight armor, it was like a breath of fresh air. I could do walking patrols for longer, ruck greater distances, and I was able to run and do other activities in my armor more quickly and more effectively than ever before.
Yes, I was tired at the end of the day, but my body didn’t feel like it had been hit by a freight train. In general, everything just became easier, and I gained a lot of maneuverability I didn’t have in my heavier body armor.
One reason our body armor here at ShotStop® is so lightweight is from the Duritium® technology we use. It’s also thin. But, don’t let that confuse you; it’s stronger than ceramic and can take more rounds before deemed ineffective because of our proprietary and computer navigated layering angles of ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE).
Because we also offer thin plates, you’re able to use your rifle more effectively, get in and out of vehicles, move your arms, and do pretty much anything more efficiently than what heavy, bulky armor allows for.
MANEUVERABILITY IN LIGHTWEIGHT ARMOR
Lightweight body armor is a game-changer when it comes to maneuverability. I’ve unfortunately experienced the heavy plated body armors. From personal experience, I can tell you the difference lightweight body armor makes when it comes to maneuverability.
Not only can you move more quickly, but you can keep going for much longer. The more weight there is, the quicker you’ll become fatigued. This is important when you think about outside the wire missions, where you might be rucking miles. Then, after walking extensive distances in heavy gear, throw in an ambush, where you have to run to cover quickly if you don’t want to get shot. Your body is already tired, and suddenly you’re asking it to do so much more.
Or let’s say you find yourself in a prolonged stakeout. You might have already put in a 10-hour day with body armor on, so you’re already tired. And we can’t fail to mention that heavy armor, known to cause physical fatigue, is also directly tied to less effective decision-making, which is imperative for critical situations like a stakeout.
That’s why lightweight body armor is so important. Even if you don’t get in an ambush that day, you’re still wearing it for 12 or more hours. Heavy body armor can create a lot of discomfort in everyday use that lightweight armor could help prevent. Because comfort isn’t just about feeling okay, it’s about saving lives.
Lightweight Body Armor at ShotStop®
Here at ShotStop®, we have some of the lightest and thinnest body armor on the market, giving our troops the maneuverability they need to be effective warfighters. If you’re interested in learning about our body armor plates, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.