Armour musings

Dammit. Lost one of my gloves today. The irony is that this glove was not one of the 40 or so pairs of surplus wool gloves I picked up last year, but rather one half of a unique set. I can console myself, I guess, by knowing I’ve got several dozen pairs of other gloves but still…annoying. Nice to not be too inconvenienced by it though. Swore at myself for being careless, and then pulled a pair outta storage.


I get so wrapped up, from time to time, in the guns-n-mags aspect of proposed legislation that I sometimes overlook some of the ancillary stuff. There was a link on Drudge to an article about a fella who, apparently, shot up a home, set it ablaze, and then offed himself. When he was found, it was noted, and played up a bit, that he was wearing body armour.

From time to time, legislation is proposed (or passed) to limit the availability of body armour to ‘civilians’. (Quick semantic argument: cops are civilians, too.) In some localities, these types of rules are already in place. Most folks would say if you arent a cop or security guard, why would you need body armour? Isn’t that just a wee bit over-the-top?

Some folks in ‘high risk’ businesses wear body armour. I know there are jewelry shops and diamond vendors in NYC who wear the stuff. There’s probably more than one pharmacist somewhere who wears it under their smock. And there are probably plenty more industries and businesses, some in ‘high crime’ areas, that have folks wearing it.

I’ve had several sets of body armour over the years. I could probably count the times I’ve worn it on one hand. Almost always those times were at the range when teaching newbies to shoot. I think the only time I ever actually wore it ‘for reals’ was one time when I was accompanying someone on a ‘large(!!) amount of cash’ transaction. (Also the only time I ever carried two pistols. I figured if I needed the armour I’d need the guns, and vice versa.)

Given that very, very low usage rate, is there a place for body armour in preparing for the uncertain future? Arguable, I think. Certainly I’d rather have it and not need it blah, blah…. But on the other hand, it’s fairly expensive for something that you’ll probably never use and those resources can be best used elsewhere. It’s a choice between dumping several hudrred dollars on something you may never use versus dumping it on something you may be more likely to use (like food.)

I suppose the degree of practicality depends on the particular flavor of apocalypse that you see coming. If youre convinced that the end of the world looks a lot like ‘The Stand’ you probably don’t have as urgent a need as if the end of the world looked like ‘Jericho’. While pretty much every permutation of the apocalypse will have gunfire in it’s soundtrack at some point, you never know if it’ll be the refrain or just a few opening notes. Take the LA Riots for example:

Korean store employees/owners ca. 1992. +20 for friend-or-foe identifying headbands, -100 for ballistic resistance.

No one really planned on an impromptu re-enactment of Rio Bravo that day, and I’m sure that a nice set of plates in a good carrier would have been quite welcome. (Although there are pictures from the riots that do show some merchants wearing body armour.) The point being that although this was hardly an end-of-the-world event it was certainly an event that would have called for some serious ballistic protection.

As the economy declines, people start queuing up for food, and robberies become more common it would be nice to have some concealable body armour to wear on those trips to the barely-stocked supermarket or no-more-than-three-people-in-the-store-at-once convenience stores. When the gloves come off and it’s Katrina-ville where subtlety is uncalled for, then it’s time for the less discrete armour systems.

Personally, I doubt there’s much in my future that requires a high level of personal ballistic resistance. My goal in life is to leave ugly armed encounters to others and keep openings in my body limited to the ones I came with from the factory. But, you never know what’s gonna happen. So….there’s armour in storage.

My point, though, is that eventually this is another product that is going to get nudged out of the ‘readily available’ market and tucked away into the ‘Mil/LE only’ market. If not by legislative shenanigans then by economic ones as the manufacturers and distributors are ‘encouraged’ to restrict the availability to ‘legitimate end users’.

If you don’t think youre going to need either concealable armour or plates in a carrier then don’t worry about it. But if you think it’s something youre going to want down the line, you may want to consider acquiring some before it stops being overlooked by the ‘ban it for the children’ crowd.

16 thoughts on “Armour musings

  1. While I agree with what you said, I would add that a good set of plates only runs about $300 and would be nice to have if things got really bad. I can see driving in to town for supplies – or escaping town for us city dwellers, where I would have some extra peace of mind with some lvl 4 protection. For the average “things are getting weird” times, a good IIIA concealable vest is just the ticket.

    • Oh, youre right about the price. I think I covered that a few weeks ago here. Add in a decent plate carrier and youre in the $450-500 range which is dirt cheap compared to major thoracic surgery. But $500 is still a hard pill to swallow. I’ll be getting a pair of those plates in the next month or so.

      • Incidentally I bought rifle plates today. Got a post on the matter brewing.

        There is a time for everything. If somebody asked me whether they should get a couple hundred rounds of buckshot and pistol ammo for guns they have less than a hundred rounds for and put the remaining bucks into a currently empty pantry or get a plate carrier I would say food and bullets.

        On the other hand if they were looking at getting a 4th handgun/rifle/whatever or a new optic vs body armor I would say to get the armor for sure. That 4th handgun/ rifle could certainly be useful but a plate carrier could save your life.

        Finally to close I will paraphrase John Mosby aka Mountain Guerilla “If you have 6 AR’s in the safe but not body armor and night vision you’re screwing your friends and buddies.”

        • Yeah, I pulled the trigger as well. Got the Banshee carrier last week and finally sucked it up and order the two lvl IV plates yesterday. I figure even if I never need them, they’ll always hold their value.

  2. For the less-prepared, it’s never amiss to remind that the standard woodland camo PASGT military vests run under $100, and contain enough kevlar to stop just about any pistol round, and shrapnel. It also protects all around, at the expense of any likely conceability. They also work slung behind seat and in side panels of vehicles, if one is inclined.
    As noted, a plate carrier on top takes you to Level III or IV (proof against .30-06 AP!), and still for less than the cost of a nice handgun.

    And eventually, the jackholes in charge will find a way to ban them if they can.


  3. Kudos to you for pointing out that cops are civilians. I’ve gotten into more than one argument with cops over that point (and I am a cop these days).

    I have several sets of armor but that is due, in part, to having been in the business of selling the stuff for a few years. And being a cop. And being a security contractor in Afghanistan. It’s not at the top of the prepardness list but it’s there, right after the basics of food, water, guns, etc..

  4. The biggest turn off for me for personal vests is just the relatively short shelf life. Ultimately, I have better things to spend my money on.

  5. A potential problem is the soft body armor has a shelf life, IIRC. I seem to recall that Second Chance had problems when a supplier of material sent them a shipment of old stock, and they had vests fail in service. Watching Richard Davis, the owner, demonstrate a vest by shooting himself with a .44mag was riveting. I was going to buy one of his “featherlight”? vests, but an expensive vehicle repair on the way home from that SOF 3-gun match put it on hold, and it never happened.
    I never did find out the life expectancy of the various fibres involved.

  6. I’d love to see a breakdown of this topic from someone of your experience, along with a list of recommended manufacturers and suppliers.

  7. For those that are looking for more info on body armor Doc Wesson did a series of podcasts with Alex Haddox on Practical Defense about it. From what I remember Doc is on the manufacturing side for the base materials rather than on the forming side (like making the vests, panels etc themselves). I want to say that they also cover vest longevity, testing methods and what the ratings actually mean.

    Unfortunately the site won’t let me break it down into individual episodes but you’ll want to download 207, 209 and 214.

    The show synopsis’s:
    Practical Defense 207 – Kevlar with Doc Wesson, Part 1: Doc Wesson drops by to share his years of experience developing applications of Kevlar for civilians and the military. In Part 1 we discuss the properties of Kevlar, ballistic protection ratings and stab vests.
    Practical Defense 209 – Kevlar with Doc Wesson, Part 2: Kevlar with Doc Wesson, Part 2 – We continue our discussion with Doc Wesson on the subject of Kevlar vests. In Part 2 we discuss the vest manufacturing process and the care and maintenance of vests.
    Practical Defense 214 – Kevlar Q & A with Doc Wesson: Doc Wesson returns for a third installment on Kevlar vests. In this episode we answer listener questions.

    Alex is born and raised in California so that does influence him a bit but there is still quite a bit of good info in his podcast.

    I probably should re-listen to these podcasts myself as it’s been a while since I first heard them.


  8. I’ve worked in several wonderful neighborhoods in NYC where body armor was a comfortable addition to my work clothes. Nowadays, I have one Level IV plate/carrier combo in addition to a lighter weight Kevlar for the Mrs. for the SHTF scenario. If the opportunity presents itself (i.e. – the right $), I will add to my stock. While monetary considerations are very important, I think you’re need for armor is also dictated by you location and your escape plan in the event of some random catastophe. Being in an urban environment (stuck on an island, no less), I feel that the armor is absolutely necessary, as my first order of business will be to get out of Dodge.

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