Friday, August 10, 2012

Body Armor, To Buy Or Not And When To Use


The topic of body armor has come up again recently. I have talked a bit about it in the past. Anyway here we go, some of this will probably be new and some will be rehashed.The first question is if you should buy body armor. I would say that folks who think they might end up on the two way range some day would be well advised to acquire body armor. It saves lives and gives a useful advantage. It broadly comes in two types soft armor (like cops wear)  and rifle plates. Soft vests can sometimes be had pretty cheap. They will stop most pistol rounds and buckshot. It comes in class 2A, 2 and 3A. Each successively heavier type stops larger/ faster bullets but is also heavier and thicker. A lot of folks recommend class 2 as a good compromise. One of these might be handy if you have to make large cash transactions or otherwise function at increased risk in a normal non mad max world. Rifle plates are solid ceramics or steel plates that stop heavier/ faster rounds including most common rifle rounds up to the .308/30'06 range. They are relatively heavy, cumbersome and expensive. Then again they do stop rifle bullets. While a stripped plate carrier could theoretically be concealed under a coat or sweatshirt they are not something most folks would wear outside of a war zone or situation where a gunfight was likely. When to buy it is however a practical question. Once you have some basic weapons w/ ammo and ancillary stuff, some food and other gear it might be a good time to look at body armor. The subject of cost comes up here. My experiences as a consumer and brief google research show the following for prices. A soft vest will probably cost as much as a decent used revolver (around $300) and a plate carrier with rifle plates costs about as much as a mid shelf AK or lower end AR ($600ish or more). This is honestly something folks on really low budgets may have a hard time affording. I wouldn't fault somebody who was doing their best to slowly work through their families needs in a logical way and had to put off the purchase of body armor indefinitely.That being said if you have several nice pistols and a half dozen military pattern rifles but no body armor your priorities are skewed. I would recommend that you stop collecting guns. Delay the purchase of your next toy vital survivalist tool, consider maybe selling a safe queen and get the stuff you need to have every possible advantage on the two way range. Personally I would place body armor before gen III night vision. This is simply because of cost as body armor costs about 1/5th as much as a PVS 14 monocle. [While night vision is another topic most of the things said about body armor could be amplified about night vision. Very useful but very expensive.]When to use it. Personally body armor is part of my home defense plans. I want every possible advantage, fighting fair is for idiots and losers. Lots of folks talk about how body armor is not useful for insurgents or  guerillas or generally in modern "4G" warfare. I have to observe that most of them have not been a boots on the ground (vs say a senior FG officer in some redundant "command") participant in one of these conflicts. Lots of lives are saved by body armor. There is a reason that historically speaking fatalities are down (though amputees are up by percentage) in our recent conflicts. Body armor saves lives. A plate carrier will typically weigh around 20 pounds (plates at 7-8lbs each, a couple pounds for the carrier, potentially side plates, etc) give or take. A full up IOTV weights more and to be blunt I would not recommend it for most civilian or G applications.Some folks talk about how the added weight slows you down. Some argue this is a significant factor in recent conflicts, particularly Afghanistan. I read a great article about this called Bring Back The Light Infantry which I linked to in an old but if I do say so myself pretty awesome post.For me if things went all Red Dawn and I was playing guerrilla with remaining parts of my unit, buddies or whatever I would be inclined to wear body armor far more often than not. The decision would be a trade off between the protection body armor offers and the decreased mobility it brings. Mostly this would be an issue if we needed to carry a particularly heavy load to sustain ourselves for a long period or due to heavy items needed for the mission. Also if speed was important and the risk of contact was quite low I might consider ditching the armor. Certainly I would wear armor if conducting any sort of planned operation such as a raid or ambush. Basically unless there was a really good reason (or reasons) not to I/we would wear our darn body armor. Not too long ago I found myself doing a timed run in interceptor body armor, a uniform, boots and a helmet. Two miles took me 16 minutes plus a few seconds but I do not remember exactly; so about a minute to a minute and a half longer than it would in shorts and running shoes. Of course adding a chest rig with a bunch of magazines and a rifle would be an increase in weight but you would have that stuff either way. The point I am trying to get at is that body armor, especially a basic plate carrier with 2 rifle plates, just ISN'T REALLY ALL THAT HEAVY. If you have a strong core, a bit of muscle and run/ ruck regularly like you should be doing anyway wearing body armor, though it does increase the suck a bit really isn't an issue. I have to humbly submit for consideration that if a person who isn't fit enough to go play war wearing body armor isn't fit enough to play anyway.

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