Why No Body Armor Posts?

Reader “EA” sends me an email that states:

Maybe I missed it, but why have you not put in any body armor posts? Like bullet proof vests, helmets, etc.? Or did I miss this? I would think you would want this kind of gear for any survival SHTF situation.

Then I think, holy crap, I really don’t have any body armor posts … and perhaps a bit coincidentally, I haven’t written a post about THIS:

It’s an old, heavy piece of body armor that I got … for free! Jealous much? I would be, too. Don’t ask how or why, I didn’t loot it. I didn’t steal it. Someone I know that comes across a lot of old stuff texted me a couple months ago and writes “u want an old suit of body armor?” I read that, do a double take, and type “hell ya!”

What exactly is it? I don’t know. It’s old, used, came from a correctional facility. I suspect the correctional facility upgraded their body armor and the old stuff just got dumped, left somewhere, or who knows what?

Here is a stamp on the suit of armor in case any old body armor experts out there can help a homie out:

I write back to “EA” and say, “great idea – thanks – content to come.”

Little did he know I actually know very little …. about body armor. I’ve just always had other SHTF preparedness needs that my budget never got to body armor level. I know it comes at different levels, different grades, and prices rise accordingly. That’s all I know. That is the end of this body armor post.

Except it’s not.

EA responds:

Cool, I think body armor would come in handy if you’re going to get into any gun fights, then having body armor is just as important as a gun. I mean, cops, swat, army wear them, so why not a survivalist? It would really give you a big advantage in any combat situation as almost nobody has body armor. There is what like 30 million guns in America, but maybe hardly any non law enforcement person has any kind of bullet proof vest.

Ummmm ….. yes, I suppose it would ……

Did I ever mention the person I know also found me a military grade Kevlar helmet once?

I sold it on eBay.


– Ranger Man

39 comments… add one
  • Joe Nobody January 3, 2012, 10:44 pm

    I know a little about body armor, perhaps this will help –

    Body Armor is rated in “levels”, typically 2, 3 or 4.
    Level 4 Body Armor is typically military issue and is designed to withstand multiple hits. Level 4 armor is heavy to carry.

    Most police and private militiary contractors use level 3, which will stop all handgun rounds and even up to a .308 from some distance. This is what I personally use. I have a softsided vest that goes a tad over 3lbs.

    Level 2 is older, heavier and really outdated.

    The rating system used by the military is not black and white. Ambient Temperature, Balistic versus Kinetic energy absorbution and many other factors all impact the rating. For us preppers, level 3 is a good bet for 99% of the potential situations we should find ourselves in.

    One word of advice in picking up surplus or used armor. Many types of kevlar plates have “expiration dates”. Thats right, it degrades over time. Be very, very careful you don’t purchase “expired” armor. It could be a lot worse than expired milk.

    My second piece of advice is to get removable plates if possible. The vest itself gets REALLY FUNKY over time. If you can’t remove the plates, it can make the unit difficult to wash. Your wife won’t let you in the house after a while.

    Hope this helped a little….Joe

    • Odd Questioner January 4, 2012, 9:52 am

      All I know is, unless it’s some sort of ultra-modern wonder material, that thing is going to be *heavy*.

      I can see someone using it while defending their home, or perhaps putting it on a child to protect him or her. OTOH, I don;t think I’d want to carry that critter and a bug-out bag at the same time, at least not for very far.

  • The Prepper January 3, 2012, 10:56 pm

    I’m thinking about picking up the following vest “just in case”:


    It won’t break the bank and I can add rifle plates to it down the road. The odds of me needing this are slim, but it’s a small investment that will definitely pay for itself if things get bad.

  • T.R. January 4, 2012, 12:13 am

    I did the same thing , I was able to find a German Army kevlar armor vest complete with the shoulders for not too horrible a price . Matches my other flecktarn gear ;)

  • Adam January 4, 2012, 12:32 am

    First, most police use Level IIIA and not III. Level IV is ceramic plates, which are military grade and impractical for most people. The vests that police wear include a trauma plate, which goes over the heart and increases the survivability to certain rounds (depending on the plate you get).

    Vests have an expiration date of 5 years. That does not mean that the vest will be worthless in 5 years, but the manufacturer will no longer cover it under warranty and you should get a new one if you can. Kevlar degrades over time. However, what degrades it a lot is humidity, sweat, water, etc. Needless to say, police officers who use one every day need a new one every 5 years. If you keep one stored in a closet (they are supposed to be stored flat, not hanging up) the lifespan of the vest will increase.

  • Steelheart January 4, 2012, 3:42 am

    Here’s the best site I know of to learn about body armor. Their info has agreed with stuff I’ve read on the DOJ site along with others when I was researching body armor.

    I don’t have any (yet) but will probably go through them when I do as their prices look good and I try to support places that provide free stuff (like great info). I’ve come across some good purchase feedback for them as well.


  • irishdutchuncle January 4, 2012, 8:43 am

    helmets are easier to get than vests. the important thing is to remember to use the body armor, now that you have it. (whenever you have the slightest doubt about your safety…)

  • China_man January 4, 2012, 8:51 am

    I use protective vests on almost daily basis.
    With vests it’s always protection VS mobility.
    All soft vests, including IIIA, are worthless against anything more than pistol rounds and shotguns.
    There are NO soft armour vests providing level III and IV protection. This is only achievable with ceramic/metal plates, which are heavy as hell, uncomfortable and reduce your mobility greatly.

    I’d take mobility over protection any day.
    That’s why in the SHTF event I’d use NIJ II or IIIA vest for everyday wear. Ceramics only if going intentionally to the deepest shitpit.
    No vest will protect you 100%., ability to move fast and stay low is much more valuable.

    • 3rdMan January 4, 2012, 5:57 pm

      Where are you that most people are carrying long guns everyday. Here in the U.S. long guns are still the exception, handgun are still the first choice of criminals, but if your still are worried about the long gun threat buy a plate carrier with level III or IV plates to throw on over your level IIIA concealable vest.

      Also forget about a level II, your wasting your money. Buy a IIIA, because your life is worth more than the 200 dollar price difference.

  • Planner32 January 4, 2012, 9:39 am

    The level on body armor (ie IIA, II, IIIA, III) references the rounds it will stop. The higher the number (2 is more protection than 2A), the more rounds it will be able to stop. The weight of the armor itself does not directly affect the ballistic level of the vest. It does affect price. The way they make a lighter vest that will offer more protection is by using different (usually more expensive) materials to make it. A vest made of the same material in a higher level will be heavier than a vest made of the same material in a lower level. Usually, the lighter and more flexible (COMFORTABLE) the vest of the same ballistic protection, the more expensive it will be.

    No soft body armor will stop rifle rounds by itself. It is the velocity or feet per second of the round that causes penetration. Thus, the more feet per second the round is traveling, the higher level the protection needs to be to stop it. Soft body armor is not yet capable of stopping rounds that are of the velocity that most long guns fire. A 22 rifle round can defeat most ballistic vests. A small faster round is very hard to stop.

    For rifle rounds, you need to be above level 3. Once you get above Level 3, you are talking hard, heavy plates that are worn on top of the soft armor.

    As for the vest that you got from the prison, I would make sure that it is a ballistic vest and not a stab vest. A lot of prison guards wear stab vests rather than ballistic vests. Ballistic vests will not stop a knife. Stab vests will not stop a bullet. Most prison guards do not have to worry about bullets, they do have to worry about knifes or stabbing weapons. Prisoner transport guards are usually the ones that wear ballistic protection, but there are exceptions. There are vests made that include both a ballistic layer and a stab layer, but they are basically 2 vests sewn together and are very heavy.

    • China_man January 4, 2012, 10:41 am

      BS what you said about number of rounds. Read current NIJ testing procedure description, it’s available on their site. NIJ I to NIJ III are tested with 5 rounds of each caliber they are intended to stop. Only NIJ IV is testet with 1 or 2 AP rounds, I don’t remember from the top of my head.

      .22 LR even from the rifle, even FMJ bullets will be stopped by NIJ IIIA vest without problems, let alone those all lead rounds.
      NIJ IIIA will also stop 12 gauge shotgun slugs from penetrating, you will die from blunt trauma eventually anyways though.

      • Planner32 January 4, 2012, 11:24 am

        China_man, you need to do your research. I didn’t say anything about number of rounds although you may be referring to someone else with that comment. Level III is hard plate armor and will stop some rifle rounds although not AP. Level IIIA is not tested against 22 caliber ammo. None of the soft armor is. It is tested against .357 and 44 Magnum which are higher velocity than the 22LR however, the 22 LR is a much smaller diameter and will defeat these vests. The way these vest work is by “catching” these larger rounds and distributing the energy. The small 22 round does not allow the vest to distribute the energy and causes penetration. I know what I’m talking about. I sell body armor to police departments for a living and have had quite a bit of training on it. I have also participated in numerous vest shoots where police departments fire various rounds of ammo at vests to see how they perform. Here is the text from the NIJ testing requirements:

        2.3 Type IIIA (.357 SIG; .44 Magnum)
        Type IIIA armor that is new and unworn shall be tested with .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose
        (FN) bullets with a specified mass of 8.1 g (125 gr) and a velocity of 448 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1470
        ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets with a specified
        mass of 15.6 g (240 gr) and a velocity of 436 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).
        Type IIIA armor that has been conditioned shall be tested with .357 SIG FMJ FN bullets
        with a specified mass of 8.1 g (125 gr) and a velocity of 430 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1410 ft/s ± 30 ft/s)
        and with .44 Magnum SJHP bullets with a specified mass of 15.6 g (240 gr) and a velocity of
        408 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

        • Planner32 January 4, 2012, 11:36 am

          As further explanation, the reason the 22 can defeat these vests at a slower velocity is the same reason a knife will defeat a ballistic vest at the speed of a human thrust. It has such a fine point that it fits “between” the fibers and does not allow the energy to be distributed. Larger rounds, even thought they are faster, are flattened at contact and the load is distributed. Higher caliber rifle rounds are even faster and penetrate before their power can be spread across the surface.

          You are correct about the shotgun slug however. I have personally witnessed a vest stopping one of these at a vest shoot. The indent in the clay behind the vest was fearsome to behold though! You would be using the bathroom in a bag after taking one of those hits if you survive!

          • riverrider January 4, 2012, 12:17 pm

            thats funny, i shot an old vest (2a) and it stopped 22lr just fine. i also shot an old flak jacket. it stopped 9mm and 45 acp, both within the first few layers. check out theboxoftruth.com for real world tests by two old soldiers. its eye opening.

          • China_man January 4, 2012, 12:55 pm

            No, .22LR cannot beat soft body armor, regardless of it’s small diameter. It simply does not have the punch, especially with the lead bullets. Only thing it CAN do, ir to “dig through” the armor, with multiple (10+) hits to the same, concentrated area.
            I know NIJ does not test against it, but I have done my own share of experiments with used vests, I can stand behind my statements 100%.
            It’s pretty much the same for knives – most “tactical” knives with wide blades, tanto and similar tips will not even penetrate 18 layers of kevlar, but of course they are not intended to be used for stabbing.
            Those narrow bladed clip, drop, spear, spike point blades will punch through vest, however they don’t penetrate so deep as they would without vest.
            Only very sharp spikes less than .2 inch in diameter usually go through without any noticeable resistance.

  • Planner32 January 4, 2012, 12:54 pm

    I should say that when I say that a round can defeat a vest, that does not mean that it has to penetrate every time. Just that it will penetrate sometimes. I have not seen these penetrate myself. I am going off of what I have been told by various vest manufacturers and police officers. I trust that they know what they are talking about with this round. Plus I do not know which velocity of 22 round they are talking about. They could be speaking of a high velocity round.

  • Biff January 4, 2012, 1:28 pm

    It has been awhile, but my state, Louisiana, has some prohibitions on body armor. You may want to check your state before investing in it.

  • GoneWithTheWind January 4, 2012, 1:34 pm

    Not practical! The odds are a million to one you won’t have it on the day someone shoots at you. Even with the best body armor people die from gunshots. It is “fairly” practical for police and considerably more practical for military (their euipment is 100 times more effective then police equipment). It is impractical for civilians.

    • Planner32 January 4, 2012, 2:18 pm

      Not in a SHTF scenario. I would wear it everytime I left the house in that type of scenario.

      • China_man January 4, 2012, 3:02 pm

        In SHTF – yes (depending on SHTF).
        In TEOTWAWKI, if you choose to bail out to the remote location – while on the move could be useful, once there – I don’t think it would do any good, just additional weight to carry around. If attack came – it would probably well planned and long range in that scenario, so you wouldn’t see it coming. And NO ONE will run around in ceramics all day long performing daily tasks.
        Except maybe if your daily tasks are mostly attacking someone in order to take their possessions

        • Planner32 January 4, 2012, 4:01 pm

          You’ve got that right. Plates would only be helpful if you were bugging in, or found some after you got to your bugout location, and were under attack. No one wants to wear those on a regular basis.

      • GoneWithTheWind January 4, 2012, 9:21 pm

        In that instance you would fall under the “fairly practical” category just like the police. But it simply won’t protect you from any hunting rifle or military style rifle. If the bad guy is in the treeline when you walk outside and shoots you in the chest with a 30-06 you are dead.

        So the smart thing to do is wear the full combat body armor, but it weighs about 30 lbs and kind of takes the fun out of most chores around the house. And don’t forget the helmet.

    • 3rdMan January 4, 2012, 6:13 pm

      Please provide a link where someone was shot by a round that the body armor was rated to stop and the person died. Please only stories where the body armor only was struck and the person stilled died.

      • GoneWithTheWind January 4, 2012, 9:15 pm

        The obvious inference (well I thought it was obvious) was that your groin, head neck, underarm, and a long stretch of your femoral artery is unprotected. Yes people wearing body armor do die from gunshots.

        • Jason January 6, 2012, 4:57 am

          They also die from eating at McDonald’s while wearing body armor or stepping off the curb & getting hit by a semi truck. What’s the point?

          I cannot believe that some actually entertain the thoughts that they will be wearing body armor, let alone own it under the impression (delusion) that it will be put into use. Now that’s a scary thought ….

          • 3rdMan January 6, 2012, 5:14 pm


            I wear one everyday. Part of my job, but I do admit I do not wear one when I’m not working. Body Armor does have it place even for people not in LE or military.

          • Jason January 6, 2012, 8:22 pm

            Wearing one for the job is perfectly fine in my book & smart – beats the alternative :-)

            It’s the wanna be’s or the paranoid lunatics that drive me crazy.

            Hmmm, not military or LE … you must be a drug dealer or prevent them from escaping – ha, ha!

          • 3rdMan January 7, 2012, 1:56 pm

            I am not a drug dealer. I am one of the first two choices!

  • JohnDoe1999 January 4, 2012, 3:36 pm

    I’ve got some kevlar, for $25 or something, stuff is used and five years old. Definitely not IIIA anymore, maybe gives some protection, maybe. (Remember that kevlar wears out, and ceramic plates CRACK) I had an idea for armor though. Remember that target steel has to take way more punishment, so please nobody tell me about how AR 400 alloy is not suitable for high powered rifles; it depends on the circumstances. Ballistic steel plate specifications state that steel must be 470 Brinnell hardness and .25 inch thick. Metal supply shops can custom make large plates of .25 AR400 for covering up holes in the ground, however I’m sure you could ask for a smaller cut, or buy a large piece with friends and cut it to 10”x12” if you are so inclined to do the extra work.
    Reference Info:

  • 3rdMan January 4, 2012, 5:45 pm

    Do not depend your life on that body armor from a correctional facility. Their body armor is not for stopping bullets but sharp objects, like knives and shanks. You want body armor that is at least IIIA, while III and IV are better they are heavier and are not normally concealable. If is rated for stopping bullets it will be labeled with its rating, not so with correctional armor. Below is a link on what kind of armor you may have.


  • Joe January 4, 2012, 11:47 pm

    Ck out this video from the owner & developer of your vest. It’s Richard Davis who owned Davis aircraft in Northport (Long Island) NY. Those vests deteriate fast. It’s probably not good anymore. The vests were probably made for police & the correctional unit just bought them or they purchased them from the police dept. when the police ungraded their stuff.

  • john January 5, 2012, 1:46 am

    > and a long stretch of your femoral artery is unprotected.

    Unfortunately about a month ago we had a DeKalb GA police officer killed when at a traffic stop an illegal felon, who was a son of an illegal felon, killed a police officer with a single .40 S&W bullet right under the bottom of his vest. He was pretty much DRT.

    imho, The main benefit of body armor, including a helmet, if SHTF is when it is used as a flak jacket defending a house and stopping shrapnel, from metal, wood, brick, and concrete, from rounds that hit or penetrate the walls. It might help you survive a .308 rifle round that punched through a brick wall.

  • Jason January 5, 2012, 10:39 pm

    Body armor?

    Start watching at 31 seconds …


    • JohnDoe1999 January 5, 2012, 11:31 pm

      Jason, ballistic and knife protection are different things. Especially spike. Also, that is an obsolete vest at level IIA when it was new, in other words little if any knife protection. It’s not much more modern than a Vietnam Flak vest, in fact that is not a bullet resistant vest, it’s a flak vest made of Nylon, well past it’s expiration date. If Cold Steel was so confident, they would use a brand new IIIA vest with NIJ II Spike protection.

      • Jason January 6, 2012, 4:35 am

        I was being ironical.

        BTW, the article addressed old body armor – plus, I don’t think many of the SHTFaner groupies will be wearing any type of flack jackets or body armor in a grid down or …. ever.

        Be that as it may, you can’t deny that that knife is plenty sharp which was Cold Steel’s point – pardon the pun.

        • JohnDoe1999 January 6, 2012, 2:42 pm

          Sorry if I came across condescending, I see alot of preppers with substandard protection that are overconfident in their equipment. Well I guess your right, most preppers wont be wearing body armor. I’m all about the community/group approach to survival, and plan to serve in a defensive role; in other words full time guy with a gun. So I’ll most definitely be wearing my stuff. Yes, that looks like a fine combat blade, I’ve always preferred tanto blades for fighting purposes.

  • USMC Corporal January 7, 2012, 1:05 am

    I used the Military grade body armor while I was in Iraq. The ‘armor’ that everyone sees is actually just a carrier that is covered in MOLLE straps. the only armor is the SAPI plates you slip into the front and back, and can be attached to the sides covering from your hip to half up your rib cage. If someone is interested in all the details of Marine Corps armor I can put it up but its a lot of info. Armor is defeatable however as the plates do not cover everywhere inside the carrier. While I never caught a bullet myself, I talked to a couple of guys who had and it is understandably still not fun. The flexible armor is even more painful from my understanding. I have heard its like letting barry bonds knock a homerun into your ribs. While better than taking a bullet straight, you still aren’t going to jump right up. That and you can always get shot somewhere not covered by the armor, like the leg… my suggestion is to prioritize your preparations for surviving, not fighting off the world. Knowing when to start a fight or avoid one will go much farther than being able to stop the first 10 bullets of a situation you could have just went around.

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