Archive for the 'Body Armor' Category

Cops, AR-15 Maintenance, And Body Armor

BY Herschel Smith
2 weeks, 1 day ago

A few odds and ends.

Via David Codrea, cops kidnapping children.  Yes, seriously.

How to remove an AR-15 trigger group.  Now do one on proper installation.

Removing an AR-15 barrel nut (hint: he heats it with a torch).

Rex reviews some really, really light Level IIIA body armor.  Yea, it’s not good for rifle rounds, but it’s significantly less expensive and you’re protected against the most probable shot (and more likely to wear it given how light it is).



Personal Protection: Bulletproofing Your Book Bag

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 4 months ago

Rifle rounds are very hard to defend against, but it’s interesting to note that the 5.56X45 did a little better at penetrating than the 7.62X39.

What Does The Inside Of An ESAPI Plate Look Like?

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 6 months ago

I’ve never seen this done before.

Bump Stock And Body Armor Ban In Chicago

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months ago

Chicago Tribune:

Bans on bump stocks and civilian use of body armor were advanced by Chicago aldermen Tuesday as they reacted to last year’s mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip and the recent killing of a police commander in the Loop.

City lawyers believe the Chicago assault weapons ban already prohibits the possession of bump stocks like those used in the Vegas shooting, but the City Council Public Safety Committee approved adding a specific reference to the devices.

The panel also approved a ban on the sale, purchase or possession of body armor, like bulletproof vests, by people other than members of the military, police officers or other emergency responders like firefighters acting in their official capacities.

Because no one should be able to stop rounds discharged from LEO weapons, so in order to make that illegal, a ban is promulgated to affect innocent, peaceful, law abiding citizens so that they can’t stop rounds either, not even from the same criminals that scare the cops.

Because cops.  They are the most important thing, not you.  Just because.  God, what a hell hole.

Body Armor Test Goes Wrong

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 10 months ago

Ukrainian pro-Russian separatist militants test body armor.  I … just … don’t know what to say.  Readers can complete this post in the comments.

China, SAPI Plates And Environmental Hypocrisy

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 10 months ago

Fellow gun blogger Mike Vanderboegh gives us a link to Strategy Page on the various issues surrounding quality with SAPI plates.  As I’ve said before, my own son was saved by a SAPI plate.

I usually don’t like citing Strategy Page for anything.  They don’t provide sources, and if it’s public domain (as it is from time to time), they don’t supply URLs.  I also think that this particular Strategy Page article spends too much effort to explain something fairly simple.  SAPI plates are for 5.56 mm rounds, while ESAPI plates are designed for 7.62 X 39.  Troops generally train with SAPI plates, and get issued ESAPI plates in theater.

But this little tease at the end of the article is worth some thought.

All these plates are made of boron carbide ceramic with a spectra shield backing. This combination causes bullets to fragment and slow down before getting through the plate. Occasionally, some fragments will get through, but these are stopped by the layers of Kevlar that make up the flak jackets. The ceramic plates require a manufacturing process that uses, and produces, a lot of toxic chemicals. As a result of this, much of the production has moved to China.

Did you get that?  Much of the production has moved to China.  Ponder that statement for a moment.

China is the land of counterfeit parts, and not just any counterfeit parts, but ones intended for our military.  But there is another dirty little secret that most engineers know.  The Far East (China, and to some extent Japan) doesn’t do QA.  Engineers who have components fabricated in Japan must travel there extensively and repeatedly to ensure that they get what they’ve ordered.  Then usually they still don’t.

China is even worse.  The concept of QA isn’t part of the cultural or social fabric of the country.  They don’t understand it, don’t live it, don’t abide by its principles, and don’t have any conceptual understanding of it.  Nuclear power plants are forbidden by federal orders from installing parts fabricated in China.

Here is a note to my readers.  Procure anything that must be reliable in America.  Do not purchase guns, ammunition, tactical equipment, important products and supplies, body armor (soft or hard plate) or anything else from China.  Don’t do it.  Just say no.

As for the ESAPI plates being made there, it’s just a little hypocritical to claim that our EPA is trying to protect the environment while in fact we just ship our “pollution” overseas.  This isn’t the only product with which this kind of thing is done.

Ah.  Hypocrisy.  Rather like the ATF claiming to enforce gun laws while shipping thousands of rifles and handguns into the hands of Mexican cartels, no?

SAPI Plate Saves Another Soldier

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 2 months ago

Michael Yon has another great report of heroism, fallen comrades and Soldiers saved by SAPI plates, entitled Men at War: Come Home With Your Shield, Or On It.  Visit Michael’s web site and hit the tip jar if you can.  It’s usually bad form to consume band width to splash a photograph on one’s own web site by using feed from another web site.  But I asked and Michael graciously granted me permission to use this one photograph below.

Michael gives us the following caption: Another Soldier had been on the roof when Brice was hit, and this Soldier was shot in the ribs.  The bullet was stopped by his SAPI plate.  He said it felt like he had been stabbed.  Other Soldiers said that the troop who had been shot in the ribs collected his wits and stayed in the fight.

Michael has worn body armor for a very long time, and certainly there are many hundreds of thousands of Soldiers and Marines who have worn it in combat long enough to comment with authority on it.  I don’t want to steal their thunder here with my comments.  But I will make them anyway.

I have worn the Marine MTV (Modular Tactical Vest) only for a short period of time, but I have worn it.  It’s tight, obtrusive, hot, heavy (with its SAPI plates), and constrictive (it hugs the torso in order to place its weight on the hips, rather like an internal frame backpack).  It’s hard to move, and must be even harder to fight in combat.  I recently humped a 65+ pound backpack on Mount Mitchell, up and down terrain changes, and I would rather do that than hump that body armor.  It’s more than just the weight.  It’s hard to breath when it’s on.

That said, I confess that I felt some degree of relief when I knew that the Battalion Commander in Fallujah in 2007 (FOB Reaper) ordered all Marines to wear all PPEs when outside the wire.  At that time the Marine Corps Commandant had given Battalion Commanders the discretion to wear or jettison PPEs as they saw fit, and depending upon the circumstances.  The Battalion Commander didn’t leave it to the discretion of the Marines under his charge.

My own son was saved from a piece of mortar shrapnel by his front SAPI plate, and Michael posts an example of yet another Soldier who was saved by his SAPI plate – his side SAPI plate, no less.  There are many more such examples.  I know that it is totally obnoxious to wear the stuff, especially up and down hills in Afghanistan, and especially on hot days.  But I’m just saying … another Soldier saved.

The U.S. should do all it can to give our warriors the best armor, including lighter polymer (the existing SAPI plates are ceramic surrounding a metal plate).  That prospect seems at risk now that the Pentagon is set to face severe budget cuts.

Visit Michael Yon’s web page.

Prior: Body Armor Category

Army Rejects Call for Independent Assessments of Body Armor

BY Herschel Smith
12 years ago

About eight months ago the GAO issued a report concerning body armor (SAPI plate) recall, and outlined a number of findings concerning the testing the Army had performed.  We summarized a few of the findings in DoD Testing Requirements for Body Armor and Army Recall.

COPD is “Contract Purchase Description,” PEO is “Program Executive Officer,” and BFD means “Back Face Deformation.”  This last concept becomes important in the overall picture.  Turning to the specifics of the report, several key findings are outlined below for the purpose of providing examples of the investigation.

The inconsistencies that we identified concerned the treatment of over velocity shots.  During first article testing conducted on February 20 and November 7, 2007, shots on six of the plates were over the required velocity. Because none of the shots resulted in a complete penetration, the shots should have been considered fair, and the test should have proceeded, according to the COPD. During the November 7, 2007, test, the testing facility official complied with the COPD and correctly proceeded with testing. However, even though the scenario was exactly the same for the February 20, 2007, test, the testing facility official conducted retests on additional plates. The testing facility official documented all of the shots, including the retests, and provided the test results to PEO Soldier for scoring.  When scoring the test results for the February 20, 2007, first article test (design M3D2S2), the PEO Soldier scoring official chose to use the test results for the retested plates when he computed the test score. Use of the retested plates resulted in a score of 5.5 points, and the contractor passed the first article test. Had the scoring official followed the fair shot acceptance criteria as stated in the COPD and used the initial plates that withstood the over velocity shot, the contractor would have accumulated an additional 1.5 points (complete penetration on the second shot) and would have failed the first article test with 7 points.

Translation: When an over-velocity shot is taken on a plate, the testing may proceed if the plate is not penetrated under the assumption that a lower velocity shot would not have penetrated either.  This is a reasonable assumption.  However, if the plate is penetrated by the second shot it fails the testing, even if weakened by the initial shot.  The PEO made the decision to exclude the plates that had sustained over-velocity shots on the initial testing and to perform retests, but not consistently (as later records show).  A second example of the Inspector General’s findings pertains to measurements of BFD (back face deformation).

PEO Soldier instructed the testing facility to deviate from the COPD and use an offset correction technique (a mathematical formula used to adjust the BFD) when measuring the BFD. The testing facility official used this technique during 2 of the 21 first article tests conducted under Contract 0040. The COPD required that the testing facility officials measure the BFD at the deepest point in the clay depression after the bullet impacted the plate. However, PEO Soldier officials stated that contractors complained that the BFD measurement was not fair if the deepest point in the clay was not behind the point of impact. Therefore, a PEO Soldier official instructed the testing facility in an April 25, 2005, e-mail to use the offset correction technique if the deepest point in the clay depression was not behind the bullet’s point of impact.

Translation: The contractors complained when the measurement of deepest penetration was made at any point other than the point of bullet impact, which is the point of highest risk to the Soldier.  Therefore, the PEO made a decision that a correction would be applied to account for this effect and bring consistency to the program.

The Captain’s Journal initially concurs with both of the program deviations discussed above, since it isn’t fair to penalize one plate as compared to another if an over-velocity shot happened to be taken against it, and also since the highest risk to the Soldier does happen to be the point of bullet impact.

And it is also fair to point out that these aren’t the only problems discussed in the report.  But there are deeper problems that discussed even in the report.  With respect to the over-velocity shots, our judgment is that not enough SAPI plates are being included in the test samples (i.e., the sample size is not large enough) and the boundary conditions (such as shot velocity) are not being well-managed.  With respect to the deformation, the question naturally arises why the most severe deformation is occurring anywhere other than the point of bullet impact?  What’s happening to the ESAPI plates that is causing deformation in other than impact locations?

These questions (and other such technical questions) are not posed or answered in the Inspector General’s report, since the investigation is done by a government office.  The investigation focuses on programs, QA, adherence to procedures, consistency of application of rules and the like.  True enough, there are problems with some of the above.

But Senators and Representatives who have infinite trust in the power of government to solve problems leave the technology to the experts when a government office is the the sole arbiter of the strength of any technical program – and technological expert doesn’t usually define government offices.  In this particular case, as we have suggested before, there is no shame in assistance from industry experts.

Questions have been raised above which point to the need for completely independent consultative services focusing on QA, programmatic controls, statistical analysis of sample size, control over testing boundary conditions, and most especially the SAPI plates themselves and the underlying fracture mechanics of bullet impacts by finite element analysis.

At this point the business of body armor investigations wasn’t complete at the Government Accountability Office.  Hence, in October 2009 they issued Warfighter Support: Independent Expert Assessment of Army Body Armor Test Results and Procedures Needed Before Fielding.  In the executive summary they state:

To determine what effect, if any, the problems GAO observed had on the test data and on the outcomes of First Article Testing, the Army should provide for an independent ballistics evaluation of the First Article Testing results by ballistics and statistical experts external to the Department of Defense before any armor is fielded to soldiers under this contract solicitation. Because DOD did not concur with this recommendation, GAO added a matter for congressional consideration to this report suggesting that Congress direct DOD to either conduct such an independent external review of these test results or repeat First Article Testing.

To better align actual test practices with established testing protocols during future body armor testing, the Army should assess the need to change its test procedures based on the outcome of the independent experts’ review and document these and all other key decisions made to clarify or change the testing protocols during future body armor testing. Although DOD did not agree that an independent expert review of test results was needed, DOD stated it will address protocol discrepancies identified by GAO as it develops standardized testing protocols. DOD also agreed to document all decisions made to clarify or change testing protocols.

To improve internal controls over the integrity and reliability of test data for future testing as well as provide for consistent test conditions and comparable data among tests, the Army should provide for an independent external peer review of Aberdeen Test Center’s body armor testing protocols, facilities, and instrumentation to ensure that proper internal controls and sound management practices are in place. DOD generally concurred with this recommendation, but stated that it will also include DOD members on the review team.

Consistent with our own recommendations, they counsel in the strongest possible terms that outside independent consultative support be obtained.  But as soon as the GAO released its report, the DoD released a statement claiming confidence in the safety of the SAPI plates – a completely irrelevant rejoinder to the overall recommendations of the GAO report to procure consultative support for the program.  The same day that the DoD announced that they had full confidence in their body armor tests, they announced several new QA positions concerning ballistics and body armor testing.

The Army is sounding defensive and unwilling to open their program to outside expert inspection and assessment.  Here at The Captain’s Journal we haven’t recommended draconian measures such as jettisoning the Army test program, or complete replacement of the SAPI (at least until an equivalent, lighter weight ballistic insert can be developed).  We have only recommended the engagement of outside consultative services for the Army, just as did the GAO.

For the Army to reject that recommendation is very small and in extremely bad form.  When counsel has been given to open your programs to outside inspection and that counsel is rejected, it constitutes poor engineering.  There are many industries which “live in a glass house,” so to speak: nuclear, commercial air transport, pharmaceutical and medical, just to mention a few.  There is no valid technical or budgetary reason whatsoever that the Army cannot open their program to inspection by people who know as much or more than they do.

Army Delays in Body Armor Testing

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

From Stars and Stripes:

The Army’s policy of testing body armor at its own laboratory instead of private facilities is causing delays in approval and is raising costs for manufacturers, The New York Times reported.

Army officials told the paper on Tuesday the decision to test armor at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland was made as part of an effort to upgrade safety standards. However, they said they might still hand some of the work back to private labs if delays became common.

According to the Times, manufacturers said the cost of the tests has in some cases tripled, and results that might be returned within 24 hours from a private lab are taking as long as a week to be returned from the Army lab.

Asia Fernandez, who owns Armacel Armor in Camarillo, Calif., told the Times that the Army charged more than $50,000 to perform safety tests on a new product. Testing at a private lab, she said, would have cost less than $15,000.

“It’s a little rocky right now,” said David P. Reed, the president for North American operations at Ceradyne, the Army’s largest body-armor contractor. The Army lab, at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, “is not really as responsive as we’d like to see,” he told the paper. Reed added that so far the delays have not hurt troops because the Army had been stockpiling armor.

However, congressional aides told the paper they were looking into the accusations to ensure that there are no delays in getting critical gear to servicemembers in the field.

It is, after all, the Army.  To expect that the Army would keep people in their employ who were technical experts in all areas of application is unreasonable.  Also, this report doesn’t say that the Army did not perform adequate testing.  But the efficiency with which it is done calls into question the propriety of having this function done in-house.  The Captain’s Journal has addressed this before.

Given the lack of confidence inspired by the federal government, independent consultative support is necessary to restore the public confidence in the system.  Support, that is, who doesn’t stand gain from whatever conclusions that are reached.  This is necessary for not only proof of principle for future body armor designs, but for currently deployed armor we well.

While not exactly addressing the same issue, we have recommended independent consultative support for body armor technology.  This wouldn’t preclude corporate-based testing by the manufacturer, but it would necessitate an independent assessment and some kind of oversight; not oversight that the Army could deliver alone, but as assisted by engineers and technical experts.

In further news, proposed legislation may force the issue.

Representative Niki Tsongas has introduced legislation that would require the Pentagon to develop lighter body armor for soldiers in an effort to reduce the thousands of orthopedic injuries reported each year as a result of lugging heavy gear.

The Lowell Democrat, a member of the Armed Services Committee, introduced the bill Tuesday and has enlisted the support of other key lawmakers, including Representative Neil Abercrombie, the Hawaii Democrat who chairs the panel’s Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, her office said today.

The legislation would set up a special task force to evaluate various personal protection technologies that could provide the same level of defense as current body armor, but with reduced weight, according to the bill.

Tsongas told the Globe that in the course of her investigation of the issue, including in committee hearings and discussions with an Army captain who serves on her staff, she found that the amount of gear that troops must carry is sometimes too much to bear.

“There is a tendency to take it off,” she said in a brief phone interview.

And many soldiers exhibit lasting health effects from wearing their personal gear for long periods of time.

In 2007, the Army reported 257,000 injuries attributed to the stress of bearing heavy loads during repeated deployments. The service’s vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, estimates that such injuries are currently sidelining 20,000 soldiers.

“With the increased emphasis on Afghanistan in the coming years the load that soldiers must carry will no doubt become more of an issue,” said John Noble, a spokesman for the two-term congresswoman.

Tsongas’ bill would also establish a separate program in each branch of the military dedicated to the research and procurement of body armor. Such efforts are now included in multi-billion dollar research accounts that cover all types of military equipment.

By establishing a stand-alone funding stream Tsongas believes Congress will be able to monitor how much money is being spent on body armor and better identify shortcomings.

“This is so we know exactly what is there and that it is being spent appropriately,” she said.

This also follows closely with our previous recommendations to lighten the load that Soldiers and Marines carry.  Our first target has been the weight of the SAPI plates (Side Arms Protective Inserts), the heavy ceramic plates help by the carrier in the front, back and sides.  The soft ballistic panels carried throughout the carrier is not a significant actor in the overall system weight.

The Army also happens to be testing lighter armor at the present.

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — The Army will test lighter body armor next week with plans to field up to 100,000 sets beginning in August, said Lt. Col. Robert W. Myles Jr. of Program Executive Office Soldier.

The tests will take place May 11-22 in Yuma, Ariz., and will involve 10 Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and 25 Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division, Myles said Wednesday.

Soldiers can carry a load of about 100 pounds of gear, body armor and ammunition. The Improved Outer Tactical Vests that Soldiers currently wear weighs about 31 pounds with all four ballistic plates, Myles said.

The Army will evaluate four new types of body armor, each weighing about 24 pounds, as well as body armor already worn by Soldiers, Marines and Special Operations Forces, he said.

The body armor will be evaluated based on ballistic tests, form, wear and comfort, and cost, Myles said.

As a stop-gap measure, the Army will soon issue a battalion of Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division the lightweight body armor that Special Operations Forces wear, he said.

“We want to lighten the load as quick as possible; that’s our No. 1 goal,” Myles said.

In January, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, told reporters that an increasing number of Soldiers were becoming nondeployable in part due to musculoskeletal injuries from the heavy loads they carry.

“You can’t hump a rucksack at 8,000-11,000 feet for 15 months, even at a young age, and not have that have an impact on your body,” Chiarelli said during a roundtable with reporters.

Exactly right.  And lighter armor should have been issued much earlier, including the same type worn by SOF if that is lighter than the IBA and MTV (the IBA with panels and SAPIs is about 31 pounds, the MTV with panels and SAPIs is about 32 pounds with groin and neck protectors).

The article doesn’t make clear what the weight modifications involve, and the recommendations we have made include the same level of ballistic protection with less weight.  It’s all a matter of funding and research.  The health and maneuverability of our warriors is of paramount importance to any campaign, even more so than non-infantry related gear and equipment.  The functionality of infantry gear and equipment may redound not only to the success of the campaign and deployability of the troops, but to their very lives.  This makes it worth the investment, whatever that cost is.


More on Battle Space Weight

University of Virginia Student Designs New Body Armor

DoD Testing Requirements for Body Armor and Army Recall

Changes in Body Armor for Marines

Body Armor Wars in the Marine Corps

Body Armor Goes Political

Body Armor Wars: The Way Forward

More on Battle Space Weight

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 7 months ago

Continuing with our compulsive interest in battle space weight, we learn some interesting things about the potential future use of technology to help reduce battle space injuries and carry more weight.

Assistant Commandant Gen. James F. Amos told a House committee Wednesday about “Big Dog,” a robotic quadruped that can carry 300 to 500 pounds of gear.

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, joined Amos to testify before the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense. He said Big Dog and other alternatives might reduce injuries that have contributed to an increase in “non-deployable” men and women.

The number of soldiers who can’t be deployed rose from 17,000 or 18,000 to 20,000 over three years . Half have less serious injuries, including those caused by heavy loads. That has led to research in lightweight body armor, lightweight machineguns and lighter food rations.

According to an Army statement, soldiers may carry loads that start at 63 pounds and exceed 130 pounds. Extra protective gear or body armor can weigh 41 pounds. The typical combat load increased from 93 pounds in 2001 to 95.1 pounds in 2009.

The statement cited a study that proved “cumbersome” individual body armor caused pain, reduced performance and increased fatigue. Soldiers carrying 101 pounds for 12.5 miles had a 26 percent decrease in marksmanship.

“We are working very hard to lighten the load,” Chiarelli said. “One of the things we are looking at is civilian off-the-shelf solutions.”

Big Dog is one of many projects from the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency started in June 2007. A small, remote-control helicopter might deliver loads to soldiers. Another alternative is to use an “organic load-carrying asset,” or leaving some gear in soldiers’ Humvees or amphibious assault vehicles.

Ah, those DARPA dollars.  Here is one thing those dollars have bought.  The Big Dog.

Now if we can just get it not to sound like a million angry Africanized bees, we’d be much better off since we don’t want to telegraph our location to the enemy.  Seriously though, it seems that it would be a much better solution to invest dollars into lighter weight body armor SAPI plates.

The biggest difference in the weight carried by the Soldier or Marine today versus in WWII is from body armor.  The total weight of the soft panel ballistic armor, SAPI plates and carrier vest is around 32 pounds.  This is 32 extra pounds that the Soldier or Marine in WWII didn’t have to carry.  Body armor is the low hanging fruit.  But it seems that we’d rather design cool robots that sound like a million angry bees.

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