Making the Armor

Making the Armor

How To Make Bulletproof Body Armor Plate

In a way, I’ve always had a fascination with “bulletproof vests” ever since I first heard of them as a kid. My appreciation for them has matured over the years, as well as my understanding of them. Now I know that there is nothing that is truly “bullet-proof,” but rather bullet resistant. There’s always a bigger, faster, more powerful bullet out there that can make it through any armor you can come up with.

This has be the battle of the ages, since long before guns were invted. The contest betwe armor and armamt brought us the great suits of armor from the Middle Ages. But it has also brought the flack jackets of the Vietnam era, as well as the improved ballistic armor we have today.

With this constant race, it’s no wonder that individuals and companies are constantly working to see if they can come up with a better ballistic armor. In the case of the companies, this is obviously for sale; but in the case of individuals, it’s survival they have in mind. Although… I have to say that I’m not sure how well some of these invtors are going to come out in the Darwin awards; you know… survival of the fittest.

Such was the case of an armor composite I saw a few years ago, which used a combination of dim and construction adhesive. Ev though it supposedly worked for the guy who made the video, from my own testing, I’d say the only thing that particular attempt will do is sure that the coroner finds dim fibers and traces of construction adhesive in the wound, along with lead and copper.

But I can’t say the same about the latest combination of materials that came across my desk. This was a combination of ceramic tile, stainless steel and fiberglass. I decided I needed to test this one out.

How To Make Bulletproof Body Armor Plate - Materials

What intrigued me about this particular combination was that the materials that this invtor chose materials that have all be successfully used in ballistic armor before. The innovative part here was that he chose to use them together.

A number of differt successful ballistic armor designs have be done with ceramic plates installed.

Three-quarter inch thick ceramic plates, over Level IIIA soft body armor is considered effective for Level III armor against . The big problem is usually dealing with the weight.

How To Make Bulletproof Body Armor Plate - Ceramis & duct tape

What I did was to use ¼” thick ceramic floor tile, which is what is commonly used in DIY body armor. Rather than using a grid of 2” square tiles, I chose a single 6” square tile, as I was only planning on firing one test shot at it. The idea of using 2” square tiles is common, because the ceramic tds to shatter in a spiderweb pattern wh shot.

In expectation of this shattering, I covered the front side of the ceramic tile with a layer of duct tape, so as to attempt to hold the pieces together as much as possible. I didn’t bother covering the back side, as that side of the tile is not smooth, so the tape would not stick well. I fully expected this tile to be shattered, without doing more than slowing the bullet slightly.

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Ballistic chest plates are made of a special ballistic steel, formulated for the purpose. A ¼” thick ballistic steel plate over Level IIIA armor is also considered to be effective as Level III armor against light rifle fire. In my own testing I was able to shoot a 5.56mm rifle round through a ¼” ballistic steel plate, which would td to invalidate it for body armor. However, the steel lowered the velocity of the slug to the point where it was trapped in the layers of Kevlar backing it; so it was successful.

I have never heard of stainless steel being used for any sort of ballistic armor. Compared to regular steel, stainless steel has the addition of chromium (think chrome plating) to resist rusting. The actual mixture of steel, chromium and other minerals varies, depding on the grade of stainless steel.

For this testing, I am using a 0.024” thick or 24 gauge piece of 304 stainless. This is a low-grade stainless steel, known in the automotive industry as “muffler stainless” because that is what it is commonly used for. I didn’t have high hopes for it.

Fiberglass is actually an amazing material, where ballistics are concerned. It has several advantages to it, including that multiple layers of material are used. With multiple layers, the bullet has to pierce each layer individually, ev though they are all bound together by the fiberglass resin or epoxy. In the process of breaking through each layer, some ergy is lost, making it harder for the bullet to break through the next layer.

Bulletproof safe rooms are actually made using fiberglass panels. Typically, 1 ¼” of fiberglass is used, made up of three 3/8” thick panels. Using multiple panels like this allows the installer to offset the seams, improving the ballistic protection that the fiberglass provides.

For the purpose of this test, I made a panel using 30 layers of 200g fiberglass cloth, bound together with fiberglass resin. This gave me a panel that was 0.035” thick. The main reason I chose 30 layers, is that I’ve shot 24 layers before and I know that a 9mm bullet will petrate that much. However, it won’t petrate 45 layers.

How To Make Bulletproof Body Armor Plate - Making FiberglassWh making any sort of ballistic plate out of fiberglass, it is necessary to paint the resin onto each layer individually, as it is added to the stack. This is to sure that all the layers are fully wetted and there are no air bubbles in the stack. I’ve se people stack up their fiberglass cloth and just pour in the resin, but this almost always results in creating air bubbles.

As you can see from the picture below, I made my panel oversize (8” square) th cut it down to size. The material underneath the fiberglass is plastic food wrap, which I taped to my workbch, in lieu of using any sort of a mold. The particular plastic wrap I am using is a freezer wrap, which is coated on one side. That makes it easy to peel off the finished panel.

The specifications for ballistic body armor levels come from the National Institute of Justice and provide specific rounds that are to be fired at the body armor in testing for each level. The most common of these is the 9mm, although differt levels specify differt muzzle velocities. In addition to the 9mm, traveling at 1400 fps, level IIIA also specifies testing with a .44 magnum semi-jacketed hollow point, traveling at 1400 fps. As I don’t own a .44 magnum, I chose to use only the 9mm.

From previous testing, I can state that the 9mm has greater petrating power than any other caliber of pistol round, other than the FM Fivesev. However, in all fairness to the 9mm, the FM Fivesev is basically the same bullet as the 5.56mm NATO, on a shorter cartridge for use in pistols. It was developed specifically for the purpose of defeating ballistic body armor, and is therefore known as the “mata policia,” which is Spanish for “kill police.”

As a geral rule of thumb, ballistic armor is said to be compromised once it has be hit by one round. Therefore, my inttion was to test it with only one round. As it was, I fired two rounds at it, because it was the first time I had used that particular pistol; therefore, my first shot was on the edge of the plate.

Fortunately, I have a very good relationship with the owners of my local shooting range, so they allow me to do all sorts of strange things, like testing these panels, without question.

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Let me begin by saying that I was a bit surprised by the test results I had. I was fully expecting the 9mm round to petrate the ceramic and stainless steel and get trapped in the fiberglass. However, the round was actually stopped by the stainless steel, which I hadn’t thought was thick ough to stop it.

Here’s the front of the panel (on the left), where you can see the petration of the bullet into the ceramic tile.How To Make Bulletproof Body Armor Plate - Testing - PenetrationThis is the back side of the ceramic tile (on the right), showing the typical spiderweb cracking pattern. You can easily se where the bullet passed through it.

For ceramic to be effective as a ballistic material, I believe it would have to be mixed with something fibrous, much like fiberglass.

One option I’ve thought of for years, is to use something like wire screing material, allowing the scre to act much like rebar does in cemt.

However, to do any testing of this type would require having my own kiln for firing the plates, as no one else is willing to fire them for me.

How To Make Bulletproof Body Armor Plate - Testing - Stainless Steel

Here’s the stainless steel plate, showing the indtation of the bullet. Surprisingly, it only deformed the plate by about 5/16” and did not petrate through it.

The second indtation, on the right side, is from the shot that hit the edge of the plate.

Finally, here’s the fiberglass panel and the back side of the stainless steel panel, together.

You can easily see how the two align, and that the force of the bullet’s flight passed through the stainless steel and into the fiberglass, ev though the bullet didn’t. That’s why the fiberglass is discolored. The discoloration is actually showing the part of the panel that is delaminated from the force of the blow.How To Make Bulletproof Body Armor Plate -Testing - Fiberglass & Stainless

I didn’t bother testing the fiberglass plate alone, as I had done so in previous tests. Besides, my fiberglass panel was already compromised, because of the impact of the bullet delaminating the fiberglass layers.

However, as you can see in the front and rear pictures below from that previous testing, a ½” thick fiberglass plate will stop a 9mm round. The delamination showing in the rear picture (on the right) is from the 9mm round, not the .44 mag; due to the greater petration of the 9mm.How To Make Bulletproof Body Armor Plate - Testing - Fiberglass - frontWhile I personally think I’ll stick with my Kevlar body armor that I made, it looks from this testing that either stainless steel or fiberglass can effectively be used for making improvised body armor.

If I was to actually need this armor, I think I would do a bit more testing, just to make sure that this test wasn’t just an anomaly.

Another interesting thought that this brings up is that a suit of medieval plate armor, made of 24 gauge stainless steel or greater, would probably be pretty effective against pistol rounds.

It would be slightly heavier than steel armor, but only by about 4 perct. Again, I’m not sure I’d want to bet my life on it, but the possibility of it working is at least interesting ough for further exploration. I just might have to try that some day.

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Having worked up-armor projects for the gov’t, the article was a little remedial for me, however, it is good food for thought for those looking to build a safe-room or beefing up the front side of your home from street spray in less than peaceful villages ….. like Chicago.

While NIJ considers body armor that has be shot just once to be compromised and therefore should be discarded, I would suspect that other areas of the plate, away from the impact area would not be compromised. In addition, ev if the plate has a defect in it from impact, in an EOTW situation, a compromised plate is better than no plate at all. Ev if a projectile were to the previous impact point in exactly the same spot, traveling at exactly the same angle, it would still be slowed down by the resistance of the edges of the hole so that it would not petrate as deeply as if fired against your unprotected body. In an EOTW situation where I could not replace the plate, I would not just discard it as no good any longer just because it has be hit a couple of times.

I have experimted with table saw blades to see if they were effective in stopping bullets. I can report that they are not. Only the teeth of a table saw blade are harded. The rest of the disc is mild steel and ev a .38 special at 50 yards will easily petrate a table saw blade. They might be useful for protection against ricochets or shrapnel but a straight on shot petrates like a hot knife through butter.

I did not try a petration test with .22 long rifle ammunition. It may be they will stop a .22 long rifle, certainly not any of the cter fire .22s and maybe not ev .22 WMR or .17 Hornady.

This article reminded me of what my basic law forcemt trainer said at the firing range about “bullet proof vests vs a shotgun slug” he said, “The only thing a bullet proof vest will do against a shotgun slug is slow it down a wee bit”.

The test should be repeated several times. as I have shot a 9mm at a plastic soda bottle (2Litre) from apx. 30 ft., and the bullet was inside the plastic bottle.

Wow, that’s amazing.
Was the bottled filled with anything?

Probably with soda :/

If the bottle were filled with soda it would explode upon the round petrating one wall. Makes for an impressive photograph. Works ev better if the soda has be sitting in the sun for a while.

9mm is not the most effective petrating round. .38 Super, .357 SIG, .357 magnum, 10mm, 41 magnum, etc. are just some of the handgun cartridges that will way out perform 9×19 in petration. 9mm(9×19) is only more effective than larger diameter slow moving bullets like .44Special, .45 Colt, .45 ACP, etc. It is mainly a matter of sectional dsity. OTOH those big diameter bullets if heavy ough and moved fast ough will petrate any known light body armor. Note that big heavy bullets ev wh they don’t fully petrate the body armor can still cause massive bodily injury.

i thought .38 super was a relatively low caliber cartridge,or am i thinking of .38 special?

.38 special has a poor reputation because for so many years that it was the main firearm carried by police departmts all across the country loaded with 158 grain led round nose bullets. They would petrate, but left didn’t leave much of a wound channel. We had a case at the district legal office where a sailor involved in a robbery was shot in the chest with a .38. It was a through and through wound but didn’t really hurt him. 3 x 3 gauze patch on front and back and he was good to go off to the brig on Treasure Island.

The .38 super was built to field a round for law forcemt that would petrate the body of an automobile and perhaps ev damage the gine block. It is a high velocity round. The usual muzzle velocity of the .38 special is about 850 fps. I don’t recall the muzzle velocity of the .38 super but it was above 1000 feet per second.

Actually the .38 Super (or Colt Super .38 as it was originally marketed) was touted to be the ultimate man’s defsive field pistol capable of stopping bears and lions. It was a little later that LEOs found that the high velocity rounds could petrate the body armor (of the time) and the auto bodies of the time. Colt did not specifically create the round for that purpose.

.38 Super velocities will better 9mm with the same weight bullet 200+ fps.

IMHO, it comes down to weight. If you are serious about a vest, I would look into Kevlar chaps that are used by loggers and using them on the front and back side of 2″ phone books. Make pockets for the phone books to slide into so you can swap them out or use any other impact deading material you can find wh SHTF.. Ceramic tiles can shatter and cause multiple wound cavities. Better yet, drop the SOB before he dials you in. 🙂

There was an attempted bank robbery years ago in Southern California. The robbers wore layers of Kevlar (as I remember) and were able to leisurely walk around shooting at the police, although hit several times from police gunfire. This seemed pretty effective body protection but I don’t know if the police used anything more than a .38 revolver. Thoughts?

“North Hollywood Shootout” 1997.
Initial police contact was with .38 Special revolvers, 9mm pistols, and 12 gauge shotguns. None of those weapons petrated the armor. However serious wounds were inflicted to buttocks, legs and hands of the perps.

That was known as the North Hollywood shoot-out. The bank robbers had flak jackets that they were wearing. I don’t know the composition and it was not mtioned in the news that I saw, just that they had body armor. At that time body armor was pretty primitive.

The cops were shooting from some distance away with their duty 9 mm sidearms and shotguns. That was before they were nominally armed with .223/5.56 type .

As a matter of fact, several cops raced over to a large gun shop in North Hollywood and the shop owner lt several .223/5.556 to the cops with mags and ammo. It was those guns that finally killed the bad guys, although they had sustained life ding wounds prior to the final shootout which was televised live. I watched it unfold. The cops were disorganized and didn’t put up a very good offse against the bad guys, both of whom were reputed to be high on from the autopsy report.

The bad guys had modified AKs to be full automatic and sported multiple 30 round mags. They mostly sprayed and prayed. A lot of the shooting was done at 50 or more yards.

A final ironic note, the owner of the gun shop lost his shop because the BATF as it was th known decided that he had lt the to the cops in contravtion of federal law. It was a very large gun shop that I used to frequt oft. It actually was one of the larger gun shops in SoCal.

The bad guys were finally shot point blank by .223/5.56 and that ded their criminal career. There was some controversy about the cops letting the bad guys bleed out on the street. As you can imne, they were low on the priority list for care by first responders. Cops and civilians got treated first and th the bad guys, by which point they had bled out. Golly, gee, who wudda thot that the bad guys would be the last ones to get treated for GSWs at the sce of a mass shooting.

The grieving parts alleged that the cops were prejudiced against their loving sons. Well, duh! If you shoot at me, I probably would not be favorably disposed towards you and if you managed to hit me or some frids of mine I really would not be favorably disposed. I suspect human nature kinda runs that way.

I don’t recall if the parts got any money. I hope not.

I don’t recall any reports of whether the pistol rounds petrated the armor or not. I suspect a 9mm from 50 or more yards would not petrate ev level II body armor. A hot .44 mag from 100 meters which is a little more than 100 yards sometimes will not move a 60 pound ram off a steel rail unless the ram is hit just right. The wounds that were described as fatal were artery severing rounds through the arms and legs. Pumped with adraline and , the bad guys probably didn’t ev realize that they were hit.

I just finished reading an account of the Florida shootout with the FBI and one of the bad guys had his brachial artery severed and his lung punctured in the first few minutes of the gun fight but he managed to kill a couple of the FBI boys and wound others until he and his buddy finally were shot dead at point blank range by one of the wounded FBI boys with his .357 mag revolver loaded with .38 sp. P+ ammo.

The North Hollywood shootout is still talked about among SoCal l.e.o.s. It was a damned shame about the owner of the gun store versus the BATF, but they had more lawyers on payroll than he could afford. I guess just proves no good deed goes unpunished.

I believe that the one walking and still shooting was killed by a shot to the lower leg just above the ankle by an officer shooting under a car. Mike

My recollection twty some years later is that he was driving away and was killed by officers heading his car off and killing him with wh he exited. He ded up laying back by the trunk in the street where the cops left hims for some period of time until the EMTs got through with everybody else and by that time if he was alive after he was downed by the car, he had bled out. His parts alleged that he was alive after being downed and if the EMTs had treated him sooner he would have survived. Of course, my recollection could be totally in error. I would really have to see the videos of the evt again to be absolutely clear on the whole thing.

Some of the cops were shooting from under their cars and my recollection is that is what put the first guy down in front of where they made their initial stand.

That incidt was infamous and the details and video were known ev back here in the east. As I recall, the would be robbers were using AK’s and the police only had their .38 Special and 9mm, used to no real effect. A few of the officers hit a local gun store whose owners loaned them some AR-15’s an ammunition, and this finally level the field ough to stop the incidt. I think that shortly after that incidt, some officers received training and started carrying AR’s in the trunks of some vehicles. As a long time shooter, firearms instructor and NRA member, I remember this incidt specifically because the Anti gun crowd was using it to digrate “Assault Weapons” and body armor for civilians, while the pro gun side pointed out how effective those AR’s were to stop the bad guys. I think there was a follow-up movie based on that 1997 North Hollywood shootout

Bet that was the Hollywood shootout f.y.i., both guys died one from head shot and one from a leg wound, he bleed out if that’s the right robbery

now i know full well that knives are rarely used for attacks (at least in free states). but none the less, i do also realize that an assailant wielding a knife is still a threat if it were to occur,so i built some pierce-resistant body armor, out of something you could find in practically any classroom or any household. it takes a reem of paper (not the whole reem) some duct tape (electrical tape would be effective as well since its only to hold the plate together but duct tape is best because its stronger and you can use less) and a three ring binder. if you take a knife and stab a notebook you’ll see just how resistant paper is (paper is basically very thin sheets of wood if you didnt know) so all you have to do is cut the two sheets off of the sides of the three ring binder,take a good few sheets of paper (paper is cheap, you can just stab an op notebook to see how many sheets it’d take to save someone from your force) and lay (i used like 60-) sheets of paper on one of the sheets from the binder,cover with the other sheet,and tape it all together.

You don’t have to use good paper. You can use magazines and glue them together with Elmer’s white glue and achieve the same thing. I think that magazine sheets would be more resistant to knife thrusts than 20 pound bond. Glossy magazine paper is clay coated to give it that slick finish. Plain office paper is not coated. Using glue takes a little more time, than duct tape. I experimted with magazines at the same time I was experimting with the saw blades.

I wanted to use cheap, readily available materials to see if I could do what the author of this article did. Laminating 30 sheets of fiber glass seems like a lot of work. Perhaps in an EOTW situation wh that might be all that is at hand, it would be a handy expedit, but before th, it is quicker and easier to buy steel plates that are rated to level IIIA.

One thing you have to be aware of in the purchase of plates is that they have anti-spalled coating on them. Wh a round hits a steel plate, small fragmts of the plate break off and fragmts of the round can ricochet. Those fragmts can be deadly. Good quality body armor has an anti-spalled coating on it which cuts down on ricochets from the rounds and the plate itself.

thank you for the feedback on my commt, but i was speaking from the point of view of someone who simply doesnt have magazines.

It would be very interesting to know the results of remade bullet tips using CA and baking soda. There are ways in the home shop to make very symmetrically tipped bullets and using some of those techniques make very accurate rounds in various shapes for experimtation of accuracy and body armor petration using the handgun loads, …I am sure what I am talking about is against federal and state regulations. In shtf situations wh all law is gone, I guess home rules prevail. We have manual loader equipmt and ca glue and baking soda should be in the stock room.

I wonder if you could explain the process your are talking about a little bit better.

CA in the periodic table is calcium. I don’t know if you are referring to calcium or not. The only other thing that CA stands for in my limited experice is California.

I don’t know what ca glue is nor how it reacts with baking soda to make a tip on a bullet that would stand up to impact let alone be armor piercing. I sure would like to know what the process is that you talked about.

I’ve found that .556 55grn FMG will at 100 yds. blow a clean hole, as if a drill bit was used, through 1/4″ steel plate. Not AR plate but regular steel. Gre tips though a little more costly are 62 grns. and have a steel shank which gives more petration as apposed to cooking up a concoction. Mike

Yes, the reason we can still buy gre tip ammo is because it is called “petrator” ammunition as opposed to “armor piercing” although the differce to me is lawyerese.

I was readying an article today by Knox, son of Neil Knox wherein he talks about the black tip ban and the gre tip controversy which I must admit at this point I remember nothing.

I do remember that we used to be able to buy black tip ammo which in U.S. military .30-06 was true amor piercing ammo. It had a tungst carbide core which would pierce steel easily. If one worked the butts in the Marine Corps during the 50s and early 60s, one could find the cores laying around in the butts on occasion.

In fact, although I had heard of ball ammo, I never saw any ball .30-06 military ammo until I was a civilian firing DCM matches. Everything we used in the Marine Corps back th as far as I was concerned was all black tip AP.

While I have never bisected a gre tip round, my understanding is that it is just a steel sleeve over the lead core. It is much like the ComBlock steel ammo. It is like a sleeve over the lead core. Some call it a bi-metal bullet. I am not sure that is accurate, but I am also unsure what else to call it.

I have managed to hit my steel target frames on occasion firing at 100 years with Russian 7.62x54R steel core or bimetal rounds and they blow through the front of the square steel frame with a hole about .30 caliber but blow through the back of the steel frame with about a .45 caliber hole.

Level IIIA is supposed to withstand that impact, but I’ll bet you sure are sore and stiff the next day ev if it doesn’t petrate through to your body. I would suspect that ev with adraline pumping through your system you would be out of the fight for a while.

Does anyone know what “Storm” was talking about in his post? Or am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue? It sure would help if folks would expand their replies instead of posting a cryptic commt and th never coming back again.

I agree with Mike that using gre tip if one needs petration is in all likelihood far superior to something you whip up out in the shed but I am still curious what he was talking about.

first off,thank you for your service to the country
and second,i have no idea either

Well, sorry about not realizing that Super Glue was not also known as CA Glue. (cyanoacrylate glue).
The realm of model making uses the term CA Glue.
Just for giggles and grins take some Cyanoacrylate Glue – Super Glue – and put some on a plastic lid and add some Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) to it and watch what happs in about 30 seconds or less.
There is no bang, boom, or explosion just the combination turning rock hard.
A little imnation and some experimting could prove interesting both in armor and armor petration.
Just a thought for experimting.

Interesting. Thanks for the clarification.

Get real armor. Don’t skimp on it and get cheap shit. You’ll regret it wh a rifle round hits it.

Sarco Inc. has full suits of armor with helm, shield and spear for only $1200.00. However, it is 80 inches tall, so a shorty like me would be lost in it. If you are interested, their website is I imne that shipping is extra.

There is an illustration of the armor on page 78 of the currt edition of Firearms News.

Years ago I got the state of New Jersey to pay me unemploymt while I apprticed in a shop hand crafting medieval style armor. I made barding for horses out of 304 stainless as horse sweat tds to rapidly corrode both hot and cold rolled steel. It also looks nice and shiny to the geral public who don’t know anything about armor any way.

(historic note: the white (bare metal) armor of the high middle ages was made possible by the exploitation of iron deposits in Southern Germany that contained ough chromium and other elemts to qualify as a sort of semi-stainless.)

304 is far easier to form into complex shapes than most stainless steels and it will work hard wh you hammer on it ough. 304 is more forgiving than other stainless but it will still split if you hammer in sharp creases or grooves to make Gothic style armor so I usually reinforced fluting using stainless steel wire in in a wire feed welder. The heat from this procedure also provided some annealing of the stainless that had work harded at these high stress points.

You should be warned that trying to shape stainless is a real bitch because of the springiness. You have to hit much harder with stainless to reach the deformation point and fatigue and carpel tunnel issues take their toll.

Working in 304 is made more difficult by the fact that using standard hammers on stainless transfers ough iron particles to the stainless that it can lose the stainless thing and start to rust. Bummer.

Stainless also tds to destroy iron and steel hammers used to shape it (both the heads and the handles suffer) This leaves plastic hammers which td to be lighter so you have to hit harder.

Making hammers out of the Lexan stock they use for night sticks works acceptably. Lexan is a hard, heavy plastic that holds up fairly well. A drill press or milling machine can be used to form the hole for the handle. Make slightly undersized and th carefully file to fit the handle you intd to custom fit. Sloppy fits do not last very long. Some flex in the handle is desirable as the Lexan is not forgiving and has a nasty tdcy to transmit the vibrations to your hand, wrist and arm.

I strongly suggest that you do not try to break an 1 1/2 inch shaft of Lexan over a large anvil. We used to sucker strong boys being fitted for their armor into trying this experimt. frequtly the transmitted vibration locked their hands shut and they vibrated in place like Wile E. Coyote. Once again hello carpel tunnel.

This brings us to the proper sizing and fitting of armor. The armor of today is far more 4 or 5 sizes fits all than medieval style plate which works best if individually fitted by an expericed armorer.

The armor systems used in the best armors of the 1500’s and 1600s were the result of cturies of trial and error developmt.and were very differt from the off the shelf breastplates issued to ceremonial guards and the like. Differt arrangemts of plates were specifically built for differt types of combat conditions and tournamt armor usually had additional pieces to make the basic armor more suitable for the differt evts.

It is not always true that some armor is better than no armor. There is always a trade off betwe mobility and the ability to shrug off damage. If the armor is too thin to stop the threat th one is usually better off without the weight of the armor. Of course this must be tempered with a true understanding of the threat.

During the Vietnam War the Marines forced their m to wear flack jackets while most army units were much more lax. The armor was hot, y and did not stop an AK-47 round. Statistical evidce showed that the Marines had far fewer soldiers wounded in combat than the Army because the real threat was not AK-47’s but relatively slow moving fragmts that the vests did an acceptable job of stopping.

As to the ceramic plates used in armor systems it is important to remember that not all ceramics are equivalt where armor is concerned. Ceramics made to stop bullets are differt than the ceramics made as floor tiles,

Over 25 years ago I wanted to make flexible barding for police horses and police dogs that would stop 7.62 military rounds. I discovered the ceramic and Kevlar blankets used to protect special warheads in transit had the specifications I sought but the amount of blanket necessary to protect a police horse from 7.62 AP would have weighed over 200 pounds.

The plates in this balistic blanket were made of a very special ceramic by a ceramic factory in Gold Colorado run by the Coor’s family.

I am not joking. They make more th beer. My research indicated that this company also made the ceramic “bathtub” armor that surrounds the cockpit of the A–10 ground support aircraft.

It is possible to cast and fire curved ceramic armor and other high precision ceramics. That is what the Coors Company spt years learning to do well. In theory an artist skilled in creating and firing ceramics could learn to create small batches provided the proper materials for making ceramic armor could be obtained. This would no doubt be expsive in time and labor.

Thank you for a very interesting and informative post.

I actually learned two new words with this post. Barding which is armor covering horses and bard is bacon put on a piece of meat before roasting. To bard a roast is to cover it with bacon.

Bard meaning armoring for a horse is from Old Frch “barde” which is from Arabic. At least that is according to The New Oxford American Dictionary. I had never in all my reading and time in court heard the term before.

The thought I had upon reading the original article was that the ceramic tile might better survive the hit if it were covered on two sides with epoxied fiberglass rather than duct tape.

In any evt, the NRA is selling 8 x 13 level III plates for $ a piece to members. They are designed to fit into back packs, but I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t fit into a plate carrier. Not as much protection as IIIA plates, but better than fooling around with fiberglass and ceramic tile, in my opinion. The plates are NIJ certified to level III which will stop most handgun rounds. I think the FN7 round will petrate III and perhaps ev IIIA. It was specifically designed to defeat body armor. Like the medieval arms race, better body armor, better weapons, ev better body armor ev better weapons, and so on and so on until everybody said, “It’s too much hassle, just move faster.”

Actually body armor continued into WWI with some cavalry units wearing cuirasses. However, fast firing cannon and machine guns inflicted such heavy casualties on the cavalry that they soon preferred to attack on foot as opposed to sitting up high in the air on a horse. At the same time they dropped the shiny cuirasses in favor of mud colored khaki.

left coast chuck,

In any evt, the NRA is selling 8 x 13 level III plates for $ a piece to members. They are designed to fit into back packs, but I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t fit into a plate carrier.

As a long time NRA member, I don’t know how I missed this and it’s an opportunity I think I will look in to. Thanks for the mtion.

Like the medieval arms race, better body armor, better weapons, ev better body armor ev better weapons, and so on and so on until everybody said, “It’s too much hassle, just move faster.”

At which point we invted the airplane. It’s interesting how many amazing invtions were developed for fighting or defding. A hostile armed neighbor is a great inctive to innovate.

I really joyed reading this article and all the responses.

While I’m not sure I’d make this to wear, I could see having all the supplies on hand to make door panels for the currt vehicles you own if the world starts spinning out of control. Hang the panels on the inside and you have a thin steel door/window and the homemade panel betwe you and the bad guys.

Not great, but much better than nothing.

I think I’d have a tiny hole where the door handle is, and run a thin steel cable through it and loop it around the handle and all you have to do is pull on the cable and op the door should you need to exit the vehicle quickly.

Maybe ev make a few heavy duty panels and set them against the inside wall of your home, where you have determined that you’ll have a fighting position. Walls in homes won’t stop much, but adding these could make all the differce.

It would be fun to build a mock wall and th see what it takes to stop certain rounds from making it through. It would also be MUCH easier and faster to move and place these panels, than say sand bags.

I also wonder if you could lay tile and wire mesh down in with the fiberglass and pour your resin on it and more fiberglass and so on and create layers?

I think I’d also make a large box to build the panels in and make it as airtight as possible and put a vacuum pump on it to suck out all the air bubbles. Some heavy wood, caulk, and plastic on the outside should make it airtight ough for building these.

I hope to see more articles on this sort of thing. Keep up the great work.


Maybe ev make a few heavy duty panels and set them against the inside wall of your home, where you have determined that you’ll have a fighting position. Walls in homes won’t stop much, but adding these could make all the differce.

True and some type of petration barrier is one of those things we’ve be pondering over for years.

It would be fun to build a mock wall and th see what it takes to stop certain rounds from making it through. It would also be MUCH easier and faster to move and place these panels, than say sand bags.
Back in the 1990’s we were teaching a lot of firearms classes and did something similar, as a petration demonstration for the studts. We mounted a 2 ½ inch solid core door on a stand and fired various projectiles at it. 00 buck made a hole for another door handle; but, everything except the .25 ACP cleared the door and ev it left a sideways impression on the back side of the door as it very nearly escaped. This was a demonstration on the differce betwe cover and concealmt, and I think all of us were impressed with the outcome.
Our main plan for now is to keep some 55 gallon plastic drums on hand, so they could be placed against the wall and quickly filled with water. While they will only survive a few petrations, they will stop nearly any small arms fire at least a few times before they leak to empty. We’ve tried this and it works rather well.

Ohio Preppier: Fifty-five gallon buckets filled with sand would stop bullets better and take more hits than a bucket of water. Of course, a water bucket could serve the secondary purpose of water storage. Darn! There just are no perfect solutions. I have read some place that sand is the best medium for stopping bullets. Don’t know who decided that or what tests were used in order to arrive at that determination, so there it is to accept or reject. I think it is something like kevlar. The bullet doesn’t actually petrate, but loses ergy faster trying to push the sand out of the way. There probably is some physics involved or some law of motion which is why I don’t understand the why’s of it. Or maybe it is just an urban legd.

Of course, moving a 55 gallon container filled with either sand or water would be a major undertaking. Filled with water you are probably talking about 450 pounds. I think sand might be lighter than water, but I wouldn’t bet my retiremt on it.

I too have considered garbage cans filled with sand as bullet barriers but hav’t reached a firm — oh, heck, admit it. Just hav’t gott around to it. So many project, so little time.

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