Startling Facts About Body Armor That You Never Knew

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Written by Martin Banks

Body armor can be a life-saver in a survival situation, stopping both bullets and blades. But as with most survival tools, you get what you pay for.

Good body armor is expensive and can even be difficult to get your hands on, depending on where you live and the laws regarding body armor ownership.

In a pinch, if you find yourself in need, here are some facts about body armor that can help keep you alive.

Armor Through History

Humans have always been looking for ways to protect themselves — from other humans and from external threats like animal attacks. Ancient armor didn’t look anything like it does today, but much of it has provided the blueprint for the modern tools we use to protect ourselves.

In ancient Japan, and other countries in and around the Pacific Ocean, stingray skin was a popular choice for protecting clothing and skin. Its rough texture also made it great for wrapping sword hilts, providing superior grip even in wet conditions.

Tree bark, rattan — woven strips of plant material — and even turtle and tortoise shells have all been used for armor throughout history, to various levels of success. While these may have been sufficient to stop swords, spears, and arrows, this sort of ancient technology won’t stand a chance against modern projectile weaponry.

Don’t DIY

There are a lot of options out there for DIY armor, and some of them sound like they might work until you take a closer look at the science behind them. Creating a non-Newtonian fluid — one that hardens when it takes an impact, such as a mixture of equal parts water and corn starch — might seem like it could block a bullet until you realize that the Mythbusters tested that exact theory. They found that six bags full of a water/cornstarch mixture wasn’t enough to stop even a small-caliber bullet.

DIY body armor might get lucky and stop a bullet or two — but so can a couple of books in your backpack, as one college student at Florida State University found out when his copy of “The Oxford Context of Wyclif’s Thought” caught a bullet that was heading for his spine. This isn’t a rule, though — it’s an outlier. DIY armor is something that should only be used in a dire emergency. Don’t make it your primary way to protect yourself.

Looking at Smart Textiles

When we think of textiles like cotton or polyester, we don’t usually prefix them with the word “smart.” That’s a term we usually reserve for things like phones or refrigerators. But a growing number of smart textiles are beginning to emerge that could change the way we look at things like body armor.

Smart textiles are defined as any fabric that can react to environmental stimuli, which can mean anything from sensors that detect the wearer’s vital statistics to lightweight body armor that can harden on demand.

These fabrics can be infused with anything from carbon nanotubes to graphene and everything in between. And while most of their applications are still theoretical, the potential is there to create all sorts of new types of body armor that could keep you alive in a survival situation.

Bulletproof Backbacks

Books might not be the best tool for protecting you from gunfire, but as it turns out, backpacks can be. Bulletproof backpacks are comfortable and offer plenty of space to carry books, laptops, and other necessities for school, but also come equipped with a bulletproof plate capable of stopping rounds from an AR-15 or AK-47.

The armor plates are designed so they don’t add a lot of weight to the bag — which is great when you consider how heavy textbooks can be on their own. The NIJ IIIA option only weighs 1.5 lbs. and is rated to stop pistols. The NIJ III option weighs 5 lbs. and can protect against rifle rounds.

Bulletproof Suits

“Carbide discs, ceramic matrices, accompanied laminate, cutting-edge body armor. We just sew it between the fabric and the lining.” — The Tailor. Remember John Wick and his tactical suit? The technology isn’t there yet, but the potential for bulletproof clothing is there, especially with the smart textiles we mentioned earlier.

Bulletproof suits — especially ones designed to look like everyday clothing — could potentially save lives. Putting on body armor is obvious. Putting on a bulletproof jacket or shirt that looks just like your regular wardrobe will make you less likely to be a target. Wearing a kevlar vest is functional but it can also paint a target on your back — or your head, arms, legs, or any other body part not actually covered by armor.

Don’t Wait — Invest.

All of these alternatives are great, but when it comes down to it, a good kevlar vest is worth the investment. If you feel like you’re going to need body armor — or are preparing for a situation where body armor might become a necessity — don’t wait. Invest now and make sure you’re ready for anything.

About the author

Martin Banks is the managing editor at Modded. Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates on his work.

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  1. I find it interesting that body armor can protect your vital organs from gunfire and other physical attacks. My friend plans to invest in a firearm that’ll let him defend himself once he completes his big countryside move in the future. I should relay this information to him so he’d consider getting a plate as well.

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