Throughout history, warriors have used various materials to protect themselves from injury in combat. In ancient times, protective clothing and shields were crafted from the skins of animals. Later on, wood and metal were used to make shields.
During the middle ages, more sophisticated types of armor were introduced. Chain mail eventually gave way to armor plate. Plate armor however, was rendered obsolete with the introduction of firearms.
The Japanese are generally credited with the introduction of the first ballistic armor. Tightly woven silk garments proved somewhat effective in defeating low-velocity ballistic threats. Silk protective garments remained in use until the beginning of the 20th Century. It has been reported that Archduke Ferdinand was wearing a silk vest when he was assassinated in Sarajevo at the onset of World War I. Unfortunately, he was shot in the head.
The genesis of modern ballistic armor began in the late 1960s. Kevlar was originally developed to replace steel belts in automobile tires. Its potential was quickly recognized and this new material was used in the construction of bullet-resistant vests. Over the last 30 years, Kevlar, along with other materials such as Twaron, Spectra, and Dyneema, has proven very effective in defeating handgun threats.
What about high-velocity threats? Soft body armor has proven very effective against handgun rounds. However, it will not stop rifle rounds. In order to defeat rifle threats, more formidable armor is required.
For the soldier, tactical operator, or beat cop, the threat from rifle fire is very real. Soldiers engage enemy combatants while SWAT cops might have to deal with barricaded subjects, drug traffickers, or heavily armed gang members. In the post-Columbine era, patrol officers may be expected to seek out and neutralize an active shooter before the arrival of the team.
Defend-X Life Saver Trauma Plates
Clearly, all of the above situations call for tactical armor. DefensTech International of Huntington Beach, CA is a world leader in the development of armor products for military, law enforcement and industrial applications. Although a relatively new company, DefensTech is changing the way we look at tactical armor.
Among the more distinctive products in the DefensTech line are its unique Defend-X Life Saver Trauma Plates. The line features full-size, non-ceramic plates well-suited for the tactical operator, as well as a smaller 4-inch-by-7-inch Concealable Rifle Plate that can be worn by the patrol officer. These plates afford the wearer multi-hit, stand-alone protection from rifle fire.
Defend-X plates represent a departure from ceramic plates which have pretty much been the industry standard. Constructed of unique materials and polymers, DefensTech claims its plates hold any number of advantages over those constructed of ceramic. When a bullet strikes a ceramic plate, fracturing occurs which compromises ballistic protection qualities for any subsequent impact. Defend-X plates however, will withstand multiple hits without failing. Ceramic plates also require greater care in handling and non-ballistic impacts can cause stress cracks. This is not the case with the Defend-X plates.
Putting Defend-X To The Test
In today’s hostile world, patrol officers may find themselves in situations where soft body armor alone is inadequate. A partial solution is the Defend-X 4-inch-by-7-inch Concealable Armor Rifle Plate. Made of an aramid/polyurethane combination, the Concealable Armor Rifle Plate fits right into the pouch of most soft body armor carriers. I had an opportunity to examine one of these plates that had taken several rifle hits without penetration. The fact that this plate stops rounds such as 5.56 x 45mm and 7.62 x 39mm is downright remarkable. The plate’s protective qualities are far beyond the metal trauma plates of old.
Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a video demonstration of a few Defend-X plates being struck by rifle rounds. In the first demonstration, a Level III Plus Defend-X plate sustained 63 hits with 5.56 x 45mm ammunition. The first 30 or so rounds didn’t seem to affect the plate at all. The shooter then dumped the balance of the rounds on the plate by firing full auto. Distance was approximately 5 meters. The end result was very minor backface signature and no penetrations.
The test was repeated on another plate with an M-14 rifle loaded with 7.62 x 51mm ammunition featuring a mild steel core. Six rounds fired into the plate again yielded very little backface signature and no penetrations. Four rounds of .30-06 failed to breech the plate with absolutely no backface signature.
DefensTech reports that its plates are the most durable non-ceramic, stand-alone, multi-hit capable plates on the market. Plates are available to defeat both Level III and Level IV threats. Defend-X plates are designed to fit into the standard carrier harness. To compliment its line of plates, DefensTech also markets the Tactical Stacker Plate Carrier.
Beyond Body Armor
In addition to armor plates, DefensTech also turns out ballistic door panels. Door panels can be installed in existing vehicles or during the manufacturing process. These inserts are less than one-half inch thick and add less than twenty pounds of weight to the door. Needless to say, this technology expands the vehicle’s tactical role in the field and enhances officer safety.
DefensTech has also developed products and services designed specifically for blast mitigation. By using a special blast mitigation structural coating, treated walls can withstand a blast twenty times greater than a normal, untreated wall. Fields of application for this technology in the civil, military and transportation sectors are limitless.
It is virtually impossible to build anything that is 100 percent bulletproof. We can, however, protect ourselves from the vast majority of anticipated threats that we might face. As threat potential to our soldiers and law enforcement officers grows, DefensTech continues to meet the challenge by creating products to help keep them safe.
Throughout history, warriors have used various materials to protect themselves from injury in combat. In…
by patrickdurkin / Sep 1, 2007