When wearing body armor, most people are simply instructed to wear it and told which level the armor is. However, not as many people are told how to use body armor properly. We want to encourage civilians to learn everything they can about their body armor. So, this blog will explain how to optimize your armor, giving you the best chance at survival if shot.
How do I Optimize Body Armor?
For me, optimization means giving yourself the best chance for your armor to work without being penetrated thus mitigating the risk of serious injury or even death.
FIRST WAY TO OPTIMIZE YOUR ARMOR
The first thing you need to do is ensure you're wearing your armor correctly. If your armor has a “strike-face” side, make sure that it's facing outward toward your target. Wearing your armor incorrectly can result in it being less effective. Any armor you wear will clearly state which side is the strike face if it’s certified by the NIJ.
SECOND WAY TO OPTIMIZE ARMOR
The second idea to consider is how to position yourself when you’re facing off against an assailant. While training for my 2nd tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), I was fortunate enough to be trained by some of our nation's elite soldiers in the 2nd Ranger Battalion out of Ft. Lewis, WA. These soldiers are incredible at what they do and have knowledge that I'd like to share.
I learned that if you’re going into a firefight or facing off against an active shooter, always square up to your target. Don’t tilt your body or turn to the side, thinking that you’re less likely to be hit when standing to the side. This might have worked in the 18th Century but will not benefit you with today’s ballistics.
The biggest piece of advice I got from them was to let your body armor do its job and always expose your chest to the shooter, instead of trying to duck or lay prone. These elite soldiers have been shot a multitude of times, while wearing body armor, due to the type of dangerous missions they undertake and survive most of the time. They have higher survival rates due to optimizing their positioning against threats, and I think we should all follow their advice.
What to Do When Shot in a Body Armor Plate?
Getting shot, even with the best body armor (ShotStop®), you’re at least going to have a bruised sternum. If the bullet doesn’t penetrate your armor, you’ll at least feel like you’ve been hit in the chest with a sledgehammer. You’re most likely going to have the wind knocked out of you and be taken off your feet.
Understanding that dozens of variables go into each shooting scenario is paramount. For example, what caliber bullet did the assailant use? How close were they to the target? Was the person wearing steel, ceramic, or polyethylene armor? What cut is the armor? These are all questions to consider when assessing body armor.
For more info on how to react, read our blog: Level III vs Level IV Body Armor | Ultimate Guide to Understanding Body Armor
WHY SHOULD I AVOID STEEL ARMOR?
Steel armor is the heaviest and least flexible of all the armor types but can take multiple hits from both rifle and handguns. The reason I’d avoid steel armor is the technology in ballistic protection has improved significantly within the past decade. Steel armor can cause ricochets, resulting in the collateral damage of innocent civilians or more damage to your own body.
Steel armor will also cause more damage underneath the armor because steel cannot absorb the force of the bullet. Its rigidity is too strong and will deflect the energy of the bullet to your body. Steel armor will most certainly cause anything from a punctured lung, broken ribs, or internal organ damage with rifle caliber bullets.
If you want to learn more about why we don’t like steel armor as much as polyethylene, read our blog: What Are the Different Types of Body Armor? Steel, Ceramic, and Polyethylene vs. Duritium® Body Armor
WHY SHOULD I AVOID FULL-CERAMIC BODY ARMOR?
Ceramic Armor may be more effective than steel armor because it’s a little lighter, absorbs more energy, and is more flexible. However, fully ceramic armor is known to have a shattering/glass crack effect upon ballistic or operational impacts which can greatly impair the ballistics performance of the plate., whereas our Duritium® will stop dozens of rounds without cracking. I’d choose ceramic over steel, but never over polyethylene or Duritium®.
WHAT IS BACKFACE DEFORMATION?
Backface deformation occurs when a bullet hits the armor and causes an indention in the backing material of the armor. This is important because the bigger the backface deformation, the more serious the injury your internal organs and bone structure will have.
Why Should I use Polyethylene Armor?
Polyethylene is the lightest of the ballistic material used in making body armor. It’s able to absorb the shock/kinetic energy from the bullet’s energy better than steel and ceramic. This might not sound important, but it could be the difference between serious internal damage and a bruised sternum. Polyethylene is more flexible and comfortable than any other material, so officers and soldiers are more likely to wear it.
I HAVE LEVEL III BODY ARMOR; WHAT CALIBER WILL DEFEAT MY ARMOR?
Understanding your armor’s capabilities is your responsibility and should be taken as seriously as choosing which gun to use. If you have Level 3 body armor, you’ll be able to defeat any caliber bullet up to 7.62x39mm (AK47) or 7.62 x 51mm (.308). However, if you’re shot with a 5.56x45mm SS109/M855) or an M2 AP (7.62 armor-piercing) round, your armor will most likely NOT hold up.
The good news about this is that it’s illegal for civilians to carry armor-piercing ammo. As a police officer or civilian, I’d be comfortable wearing Level 3 body armor as my everyday armor if it was lightweight and comfortable.
I HAVE LEVEL IV BODY ARMOR; WHAT CALIBER WILL DEFEAT MY ARMOR?
One of the biggest misconceptions about Level/Type 4 armor is that it’s 100% bulletproof. We want to make it as clear as possible that we don’t have armor capable of defeating every ballistic projectile. Level 4 will be able to defeat every bullet slower than 2,880 ft/s and lighter than 166 grain.
In short, you’re going to be safe unless you’re hit with a .50 cal sniper rifle or machine gun. If any civilian is facing off against a .50 caliber machine gun or rifle, we have more significant problems to consider.
How Many Shots Can A BulletProof Vest Take?
This question is tough to answer and quantify because it depends on the type of armor and bullet used. Our Duritium® armor not only meets the requirements under the NIJ, but it also exceeds all expectations and federal requirements. Don’t take our word for it, watch the video below.
Being involved in shootings can be one of the most stressful and psychologically impactful events in your life. Understanding how to react and overcome your own psyche is imperative to survival during a shooting. As difficult as it is, the best thing you can do as a civilian when shot is to take a deep breath (if you can) and assess your situation.
As a civilian, the most important thing to consider is the safety of your family, yourself, and any bystanders that could become collateral damage. Train hard, smart, and responsibly and you’ll be as prepared as possible for the dark days that may come your way.