Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Thanks, I hate it.

 I can't believe that it's been more than five years since I was issued body armor. 

Soft body armor breaks down over time, and has to be replaced. Aramid fibers like Kevlar are super-strong, but daily use, and especially heat will cause them to become less strong over time. Because early cops (and some modern ones) have had a habit of keeping body armor in the trunk of their car, to pull out "when it's needed" (when is that?!?), the National Institute of Justice put standards on how long armor could be worn, and put standards on "conditioned" armor. 

Per NIJ protocol, "conditioned" armor shall be tumbled at e 65 ºC (149 ºF) for 10 days at 5 rpm at 80% humidity. Basically, it's being put into a clothes dryer. 

Since I have known since the early 1980s that soft body armor doesn't like excess heat or humidity, I have never kept it in my car in hot circumstances. The NIJ is trying to allow for those who are not so careful of their caretaking, I suppose. 

Because wet Kevlar is apparently not as good at stopping bullets as dry Kevlar, the NIJ set standards which required that a tough waterproof cover be placed over the bulletproof panels. Most armor companies use a heat-sealed vinyl coating which is almost exactly like a cheap shower curtain. Then the officer wraps this around himself, and tries to be active. 

The rigidity of the armor panels is generally determined by how many layers of Kevlar are stacked to make the panel. Even silk cloth can be stacked enough times to be made rigid (interesting note: old Japanese body armor often was made of multilayer silk panels). If you're going to have to wear body armor, you might as well wear body armor that stops bullets. For example, there was initially an NIJ standard for Level I body armor. It was considered effective at stopping up to, and perhaps including, .380 acp bullets. I've never personally seen it, and it would be a collector's item to find. 

NIJ Level IIA is the lowest rating for soft body armor which is standardized. Per the NIJ, the standards are thus: 



NIJ Level II is the middle-of-the-road soft body armor. Per the NIJ, its standards are as follows:


NIJ level IIIA is considered the most bullet-resistant concealable body armor. The NIJ standards for it are: 
Level III is rated for rifle. Level IV is rated for armor-piercing rifle. I do keep Level III+ plates in a plate-carrier in the patrol car for special events, but I do not wear rifle plates during regular patrol. I have seen some officers in some agencies do so, and I feel that it is excessive. I am not working in a war zone, and the vast majority of police shootings do not take place with a rifle. Moreover. a man with a rifle can aim at the head or low pelvis, and end me that way. Life is not without risk. 

There's quite a bit of overlap between Level IIA and Level II. Level IIA was actually expected to stop some .357 magnum, back in the day. (The standards change.) Look at Level IIIA, though. What do I gain? The ability to stop a .357 Sig traveling at 1470 feet per second is something. I have chronographed a lot of handgun rounds, but I have never personally seen a .357 Sig round that broke 1400 feet per second out of a handgun. Then we have the ability to stop a .44 Magnum jacketed hollow point bullet traveling at 1430 feet per second. I have actually seen this velocity before, but it was out of an 8" Ruger Blackhawk revolver and it was a handload. Out of the far-more-commonly-encountered 4" barrel, 1250 fps would be closer to reality. Out of a 2" revolver, it wouldn't break 1100 fps. 

So it is that for the first 10 years of my career, I've worn Level IIA, and since then, I've worn Level II body armor. But my chief was dead-set on getting me the "best" protection that I could have this year, so I got Angel Armor Level IIIA body armor. It feels like I am wearing a barrel. It may be heavy, but at least it's stiffer than the stiffest cardboard that ever was used to ship auto parts with. I'm not knocking Angel Armor, here (although I'm irritated about the loss of pile to attach my backup gun holster to). I'm just frustrated with wearing what feels like a flak jacket under my uniform shirt.   I am ashamed to admit that I put on a lot of weight during COVID, and I feel like a poorly-wrapped sushi roll where someone didn't soak the seaweed wrapper. I feel like a dry manicotti. 

So, even though Level II stops 99% of handgun bullets fired at police, I'm wearing bulkier, heavier, stiffer armor that stops the remaining 1% of handgun bullets which MIGHT be fired.... yet still won't even stop .30 Carbine ammo. 

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