Sunday, February 15, 2009
Just Shoot Me....
Last October I bought a surplus German flak vest from Cheaper Than Dirt for about $50 + shipping. I got it to wear under my tac vest that I wear for service in the Guard so I could practice shooting with all that bulk on (like I will be in the real world). It isn't very heavy, and it is surprisingly comfortable to wear.
So I was at my friend's range the other day with all my gear on and pondered whether or not this vest still had any protective value at all. All the kevlar panels are marked "1987", and back then this vest carried an NIJ Class IIA rating. That means it will stop most pistol rounds, most shotgun rounds, and NO rifle ammunition. It is mainly meant to keep shrapnel out of your torso, but would concievably have some protective value against firearms. Cheaper Than Dirt remarks that this vest should not be treated as bulletproof, and I agree. But After a quick (highly un-scientific) "test" I would be quick to point out that it does offer some protection.
I TOOK THE VEST OFF and put it on an old tree stump for testing. Do I really have to tell you not to wear this thing while you test it by firing live rounds at it? I will anyway. DO NOT SHOOT YOURSELF OR HAVE SOMEONE ELSE SHOOT YOU WITH THIS VEST ON!!! EVER!!!!
Okay, so James shot the vest with his Steyr M9A1 9mm pistol using 115gr FMJ ammunition from about six feet away. The round DID NOT penetrate the kevlar, but it did tear the inside flap of nylon and boogered up the stump. It stopped, but boy would it have hurt! I'm guessing you may have cracked or broken ribs after this, but you would not have a hole through you. Better than the alternative I guess.
I then stepped back to about six feet and fired one Federal Bulk .22lr copper plated hollow point from my 1911A1 conversion. It DID NOT penetrate, and left no mark except the hole through the front. This probably would have hurt as well, but would likely just be a nasty bruise.
James then let me fire a 12ga 2 3/4" 12 pellet buckshot from about 10 yards (enough to get a pattern going). 10 of 12 pellets hit in a roughly 8" circle centered below where my right pectoral muscle would be. Though they did not rip the inside nylon, they did remove bark from the tree. This would certainly be broken bones and severe bruising. You would likely require urgent medical attention, but again you would have a very high chance of survival with a full recovery.
I did not test any rifle rounds, but this vest was never intended to stop rifle rounds. That and I didn't have any centerfire rifles with me at the time, but they would have shredded it without a problem.
ONCE AGAIN, DO NOT SHOOT THIS VEST WITH SOMEONE WEARING IT!!! THAT IS JUST PLAIN STUPID!!!!!
Cheaper Than Dirt no longer carries this vest, but gunnyssurplus.com and keepshooting.com both carry it. It goes for $70-100 depending on availability and condition. It is no longer considered a bullet proof vest, and should indeed not be used as such. Kevlar degrades over time. Hard use and improper care also reduce the protective qualities of kevlar. These vests are old, and they're surplus. Don't count on one to save your life.
However, I do think they are cheap insurance. If you shoot steel targets, one of these would probably save you from any splatter that might come back. Also, if you wear a vest for work, and need practice shooting in one, this isn't a bad way to go. It's a bit expensive for a training aid, but it does have some protective value. If you can afford a class IV A vest with plates, by all means buy one and use it. For those of you without $2000 to drop, this isn't a terrible option.
EDIT: Cheaper Than Dirt now has some surplus Czech Class IV vests with plates for $700 + shipping. Not a bad deal if they're legit and you can spare the cash.