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Body Armor for Home Defense

Body armor should be a primary consideration for any truly serious prepper or retreat homeowner. Whatever your word du jour is to describe either a prepper, survivalist, or off-grid homeowner, most of them are more concerned with how many guns to buy, what kind of guns to buy, and building up mountains of food in #10 cans. This is all fine and good, and it should be thought of and planned for, no doubt. What if, however, the first time you’re met with any serious resistance, you take a bullet? What if it’s the first bullet of the engagement, and moreover, it is a fatal hit? Your preps are for naught in that case.

Body armor has a certain stigma around it, mainly held by civilians who feel that purchasing or using body armor firmly puts them into the “Rambo” side of things might cause them to be viewed as extremists. To compound this, there are extremely vague laws in most states as to the legality of body armor (as of this writing, it’s legal most anywhere in the U.S. except in the commission of a crime or in the possession of felons). Most law enforcement officers also take a dim view of civilians owning body armor and are frequently the source of most body armor disinformation. As a prepper however, especially in a situation where there might be civil unrest, body armor is an important consideration. Although it can be relatively expensive, it should be looked into.

Types of Body Armor

Most people equate body armor with “bulletproof vest.” First of all, no armor is completely bulletproof, and second, a vest is not the only form of body armor. Body armor is loosely categorized by the National Institute for Justice into various levels of protection, called types. These types are categorized by bullet weights and muzzle velocities they are more or less resistant for. To break it down simply:

  • Type I:  .22LR, .380 ACP
  • Type IIA: 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP
  • Type II:  9mm, .357 Magnum
  • Type IIIA:  .357 SIG, .44 Magnum
  • Type III:  7.62 x 51 NATO (.308)
  • Type IV: Various kinds of armor-piercing rifle rounds

Practically speaking, Level IIIA and under are soft armor (i.e. Kevlar based vests) and Level III and IV are hard armor, such as plates. Another interesting delineation is that soft armor ceases to be concealable above Level IIA – in fact, most police officers in the United States actively wear Level IIA armor under their shirts on a daily basis. This armor is good for common pistol calibers, and while you can tell the officer is wearing a vest, it is not overly bulky.

Level IIIA armor is mainly used in the construction of over-the-shirt vests or exposed armor. This type of armor is the typical armor that SWAT teams will wear as well as certain police officers who carry emergency armor in their trunk in case of a major altercation. Many of these vests have the capability to accept hard plates, such as the Level IV plates. They use pockets sewn into the vest that accept the plates—usually one on the chest and one on the back, but they sometimes can accept side plates as well.

The military uses exclusively Level IIIA and Level IV armor in combination, although military ratings do not directly coincide with civilian NIJ ratings. Military armor also is designed to prevent against fragmentation as well.

What This Means to You as a Prepper

In theory, you wear the armor for the highest possible threat you will encounter. In practice, you wear what’s comfortable and what you will wear often, because even some armor is better than no armor. What’s interesting is that the bulk of civilian police officers do not have armor that protects them against any sort of rifle round. The Level IIA armor worn by most cops is easily penetrated by .223, .308, 7.62 x 39, or any sort of popular hunting cartridge in America, and yet, they keep wearing it. This directly illustrates how America is very much a pistol-based threat society.

At a minimum, the vest you purchase should have the ability to accept hard plates, and that usually means purchasing exposed armor. Exposed armor like military IBA and IOTV vests (and clones) as well as plate-carrier-type systems have some serious advantages for the wearer. For starters, they are usually designed to by much tougher externally and use fabrics on the outside like 1000 denier nylon – ultra strong. They also accept hard plates for the front and back, and some models accept side plates. These vests and plate carriers are also usually equipped with MOLLE loops so you can add ammunition and sustainment pouches to the vest, giving you a full load out at your fingertips. Accessories are also widely available— things that take protection to the next level such as collar yokes and groin protectors and clever features like pull releases to drop the armor in the event of an emergency.

The Downside

With all good things come a slew of negatives, and armor has many, many disadvantages. The first and foremost is cost. Armor is no place to save a buck (it’s your body after all, right?), and manufacturers realize that. Plan on spending a minimum of $350-700 per vest on a military-grade Level IIIA system (without pouches) and at least another $600 on hard plates. Plan for more if you want ceramics and more yet if you want side plates. And all this is per person. Think of it this way though: A set of armor, properly cared for, will last a long time, and there is always a market for expired armor as well.

Weight represents a substantial factor as well. Expect a military-grade IIIA system with plates to weigh in at between thirty and forty pounds, and much more in larger sizes and with equipment added on. Armor is not something you buy and stuff in a closet, never to see it again. You need to train with it and adapt to the weight of it and the limited range of motion that it penalizes you with. It’s amazing what you can do after your body adapts to the load –soldiers routinely march for miles and operate in all sorts of conditions without really noticing the weight anymore, as they are conditioned to the weight.

Lastly, heat is something to think about with armor. More coverage means less air circulation, which means more heat buildup. Compound that with the weight, and you may soon find yourself tired and dehydrated – if you haven’t adapted to your new armor.

Body armor isn’t just for cops and soldiers – body armor is for any law-abiding and responsible person who wants a level of threat protection should a situation go south fast. It should be a part of every survival retreat and factored into your plans.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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20 comments

  1. What about getting a ballistic shield, similar to what police have available? It can be carried and brought out in an emergency. i don’t know if civilians can purchase one? jmh

    • If you want a better a better solution and more flexible solution see a product called Dragon Scale. It offers far better protection and flexibilty. I took a long hard look at it when my son was in Afganistan. It is a bit more expensive though.

      • Do your research and think hard about all scenarios. Bullets might not be the only thing coming at you. Knifes and arrows are a major threat as well. We offer affordable – high quality body armor, N.I.J. Threat Level III certified and below the minimum price listed in this article.

        Check us out if you are considering a purchase. http://www.steeldefender.com

      • Dragon scale appears to be unavailable to civilians, selling to military people only. Doesn’t seem right to me, but I don’t set their policy. I’m happy to read about other alternatives linked on this page though.

    • Steel plates are not tactical in my professional opinion. They are significantly heavier and are not even to the comparison in the armor that I’ve been using. I buy from an American made company called RMA Supply. One of the founders of that company is a former Marine so I gladly support us fellow Marines. Anyway RMA Supply produces incredibly strong Kevlar armor that stops higher ballistics then what other companies offer. They have a video out showing that their armor is better. The video shows the company owners shooting the shit out of their armor. RMA Supply has the best Kevlar armor plates on the market trust me. They are ceramic and impressively tough. They are also waterproof which for us Marines is perfect. Somebody over at their office told me they have a patent pending on their armor so however their making it is awesome. I wont be deployed again without wearing their armor. And no I don’t work for them, just very impressed with them. RMA Supply has awesome prices for what you get too. Their Level III plates that stop .30-06 FMJ start at $149.99 the last I checked.

  2. If you sold such equipment, I would be a buyer.

    • Like I said in my comment above… look up RMA Supply. They have the best prices and the strongest toughest armor in the world. I don’t know how they make it but it’s impressively strong. They are awesome and I’m proud to wear their armor plates when deployed overseas.

  3. There should be a satisfactory substitute to expensive armor. I can visualize armor plates just hung over the shoulders on straps. The plates could be shaped to conform to the human body in various sizes and shapes including “Wonder woman” styles for the ladies. Steel would be the low cost choice for material although lighter weight ceramics would be nice. Till something comes along I will try to get off the first shot

    • So how thick are the Level III & IV plates when made of steel? Or better question – how thick of steel will .308 penetrate? I would tend to use double alternating layers of plates half that thickness.

      • JJM, I have some experance with this, Buying the plates will be better then fabercating them, However if you need to make your own, 5/8 inch steel with 1/4 inch (Level IIIA) Kevlar will stop 7.62x51mm ball ammo, Also try two plates 1/4 inch with a 1/4 inch rubber plate sandwitched between the 1/4 inch steel plates. We would use this to make target stands when shooting sniper rifles into building for training. We would put 3 of these for .300 Win mag. However these measurements will not stop 2 rounds into the same area.
        My body armor is 1 &1/2-2″ thick.

        Home made armor for your vehicle, Mythbusters did it with phone books. Any type of Armor will wieght a bit and you need to train with it. PT will go a long way in helping prepper to survive many situations. The more out of shape you are the harder it is to survive and do the work required. The more you sweat in training the less you bleed in war.

        God Bless and protect us all.
        Soldier4hire

      • My armor is ceramic Kevlar. I bought from a Michigan based company called RMA Supply. I’ve been talkin’ them up simply because I personally know many Marines currently deployed and we all wear RMA. They make the best shit without question. Their plates for Level IV are less than 1 inch thick and weigh less than 6 pounds. Their Level III plates that I have weigh about 5 pounds and are about a half inch thick. I’ll never wear steel plates again after seeing how tough RMA’s armor is. Their Level IV ceramic armor plate took a hit from a .300 Win mag and there wasn’t even a bump on the back of the fabric. That same plate was also shot 9 times with armor penetrating rounds and even point blanc with a 12 gauge shotgun and it held up strong. No blunt force trauma and the back of the plate still had the label stuck to the back. Find me another armor plate that can hold up like that. You wont. Thats why my and the rest of my infantry Marines buy RMA armor.

    • The old nam style flak jackets will deflect some bullets. Depends on how far a way you are. Currently my armor wieghs about 75 lbs, around 100lbs with the ammo/first aid, and water etc. I have the armor ceramics in front and back as well as the side cumberbunds. These will stop close range .308/ 7.62. Flak jackets will stop most things including pistols from short range. But it will not stop the pain.
      However, if you are close say 100 yds they are going to get you. But then they have to hit you sqaure on, too. Anything glancing or from the side is likely to bounce off. Flak jackets can be had cheaply from pawn shops. Or a place called cheaper than dirt sells a very inexpensive flak jacket called a “flectarn vest” about $50.
      Lastly, though it may deflect bullets I must warn you that the impact of a bullet is going to hurt like nothing you have ever felt hit you!! It will raise a blood blister on your skin even though it hit you in the plates. If like above you are shot with a .300 magnum anything, you might not get up without broken ribs or bones.
      The only way to fight this is to wear your armor, used scoped rifles, shoot the people after you and displace. Set up again repeat. If you knock them down try to shoot them in the arm holes. That will kill them. Face shots and neck are kills as well. Humans are soft targets, a .22 in the leg will knock them down, then run!!! Re-set somewhere else and hit them again. Do not engage long as the tactics are to stick you with a base of fire, then manuever around you for the kill. Your goal is a running bounding and firing retreat. If it is me, in the troops dont worry I am on your side, but then I wouldnt be firing on you either.
      The Col

  4. Maybe this will help you start your search for whats right for you.

    http://www.bulletproofme.com/Body_Armor_Accessories_Rifle_Protection.shtml

  5. Affordable Body Armor for Home defense is something every prepper should have. Take a look at http://affordablebodyarmor.com/body-armor-news/92-doomsday-preppers-look-for-affordable-body-armor.html

  6. Interesting article and comments about body armor. For readers interested in additional information regarding this subject visit: http://www.bodyarmornews.com

  7. EnGarde offers a concealable solution which gives a NIJ Level III or Level IV protection. The EnGarde Dual Use Vest: http://www.engardebodyarmor.com/concealable-body-armor.htm#dual
    This is be a great option for persons that do not want to look like Rambo but still have maximum protection against (assault) rifles.

    A more economical option is the EnGarde T.R.U.S.T.™ plate carrier:
    http://www.usabodyarmor.com/order_engarde_trust_IIIA.htm

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