Friday, September 4, 2020

Ballistic Armor: Miscellaneous

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This is the final post in my series on Ballistic Armor, and it's a catch-all of topics which didn't really fit anywhere else.

Side Plates
As the name suggests, side plates are ballistic plates which cover the gap between your front and rear plates. They are typically 6x6" or 6x8" and protect your vital organs from your armpit to the bottom of your ribcage.

Do you need them? I don't feel qualified to answer that.
One veteran has told me that side plates are the kinds of things that people in foxholes need, and that as long as I shoot squared-up, the benefits of side plates are marginal at best and that a ballistic helmet is more important.

However, others have told me that engagements on the two-way range have a distressing habit of being from directions you don't expect, and that it all comes down to whether or not you're willing to take the risk and, of course, if you can afford it.

If you do decide to purchase side plates, here is what I have to say:
  1. Ensure that your plate carrier is cummerbund-compatible;
  2. Get the best plates you can afford;
  3. Do not forget to get trauma pads for them to reduce injury from impact and backface deformation;
  4. Practice moving and shooting with your armor, as full armor rigs require significant practice before you achieve proficiency with them. 

Your Abdomen
You may have noticed that ballistic plates do not cover your abdomen, leaving your vulnerable to being gut-shot. This is the unfortunate result of the "pick two" dilemma I talked about in Levels of Protection: any armor which will completely protect your front will be significantly heavier, significantly bulkier, and significantly more expensive than what we have now.

Furthermore, ballistic armor is designed to protect you from immediately fatal injuries to vital organs, and being shot in the intestines is not immediately life-ending. Yes, it is painful and yes, left untreated you will bleed out, but it is not fatal in the way that a gunshot to the heart or lungs is; unless civilization has completely collapsed, you should survive long enough to make it to a hospital to treat you for your injuries.

I know of only one company which makes a commercially available abdominal plate, and that is AR500 Armor. I am reluctant to recommend them because their abdominal plate is steel (and I covered the issues with spalling here) and because the company has a poor reputation (information on which can be found here), and so all I'm going to say about it "I rather like their plate carriers" and "If you really want a steel abdominal plate, you can get one from them."

The US Military has access to Interceptor armor, which not only covers the entire front torso but also the neck and groin, and has armored sleeves for the arms and legs. However, I do not know if it is commercially available. Furthermore, it's only rated to stop a 9×19mm 124-grain FMJ bullet at 1,400 ft/s, so it's not even level IIIa protection.

If all this makes you feel funny, then take some comfort in the fact that I don't like it either. If anything, I'm worried about my face being unarmored. Speaking of which...

Ballistic Visors
If you have $300 lying around, you can purchase a level IIIa face shield. In fact, you have two choices:

Your first choice looks like a hockey mask, and it doesn't protect your eyes nor does it look like there's any way to put a trauma pad in it. Still, it beats being shot in the face, and it works with a helmet. (for $50 more you could purchase one that doesn't work with a helmet... but why would you want to?)

Your second choice is a clear face shield which mounts to a helmet. It only protects up to 9mm so it doesn't offer full IIIa protection, but it does protect your eyes. I also don't know how much the curvature distorts your vision. Being offset from your face it won't need a trauma pad, but I imagine that even a glancing shot will reduce visibility.

Again, welcome to the world of ballistic armor, where everything is a compromise.

Beware the Fatal "V"
I cannot find the link for this now, so you'll just have to trust me on this. Back in the 90s, when cities like Los Angeles started to heat up with gang warfare and police officers were issued kevlar vests, there was a spike in fatalities where officers wearing vests were nevertheless shot in the upper chest, just below the throat, and died.

As it turned out, this spike in fatalities was due to a combination of factors:
  1. The officers in question were wearing their armor lower on their body, with the upper edge sitting below their collarbones. This is more comfortable to wear long term, and therefore understandable when pulling 8-12 hour shifts. 
  2. Department policy at that time was to wear dark uniforms with a white t-shirt underneath. This created a high-contrast "V" target for criminals. 
  3. Therefore, this provided a handy, visible target for shooting at an area which was unfortunately unprotected by the kevlar. 
Therefore, do two things to avoid the Fatal "V":
  1. Wear your armor as high on your chest as possible. 
  2. Do not create contrast between your armor and your un-armored bits. 
This video will show you how to properly position your plate carrier. There are more in-depth videos out there, but this is short and sweet.

In Conclusion...
I have taken great pains to ensure that this series is as complete and as accurate as possible, but there is always the possibility that I have missed something important or gotten something wrong. If that happens, please do not hesitate to contact me; it is more important to me to that I give correct information than it is for me to always look correct.

For those who wish to refer back to previous articles, they are here:

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