Often on the Prepper Boards, Forums, etc. in the more machismo world of guns and fighting off the Mongolian Hordes come TEOTWAWKI the subject of Body Armor always comes up, quickly after is a discussion of what to get, where to buy it, etc.
However I want to broach the subject of SHOULD YOU even buy it?
What is Body Armor/PPE
Now a quick rundown of Body armor is needed.
There are three components to Body Armor
These can vary from just a cloth shell to one replete with pouches and MOLLE straps to put various other pouches onto
These are the actual kevlar weave pieces that go inside the “shell” and provide the ballistic protection. These can be separate pieces that can be removed or sometimes they are one in part of the vest and sewn in.
II- Will stop 9mm 124 Gr. FMJ(5″ barrel/1175 fps) to 375 Magnum 158 gr. (6″ barrel, 1395 fps)
IIIA- Will stop 9mm 124 Gr. FMJ (16″ Barrel/1400 fps) to 44 Magnum 140 gr. (6″ barrel, 1400 fps)
Now this is where the price gets relatively expensive, however this is also where you get maximum ballistic protection. These are Steel or Ceramic Plates that are slid into a pouch on the front and back of the vest itself. As far as Steel vs. Ceramic goes, its a personal choice. Steel has a lower profile, however rounds can fragment and hit you while the ceramic doesn’t have this problem.
III- Will stop a 148 gr. 7.62x51mm NATO M80 BALL @ 2780 fps
IV- Will stop 166 gr. 30-06 Springfield M2 AP @2880 fps
When you buy a set of body armor you will look at all three components and these will dictate the price, the best thing to look at first is how do you envision yourself using this, what are the likely set of scenarios you will face.
In my opinion getting something like what I have is not necessary for a realistic scenario, that is the all in one tactical vest, I own the Eagle MARCIRAS vest, that has the ballistic inserts as well as Level IV plates.
Now why is that a bad idea? and why do I have it then!
I have it because I purchased my own vest when i was contracting and spent a pretty penny on it, but I wanted the best gear for the job I was doing, which IS NOT what the average prepper or ANYONE will face in a collapse scenario most likely.
You will not be assaulting positions or rolling around waiting for a fight and need to have this all in one package, now I understand there is a small possibility that might happen, so there is a middle road to do this and will offer you all the same protection but will also give you the ability to dress “up” and “down” depending on the situation.
I would look into getting a vest that is made to be wore underneath clothing, more for police, that has a very slim fitting ballistic inserts with simple velcro straps to hold it clsoe to you, that also has the pockets to put in the ceramic/steel plates. This way you can wear the whole package without looking to bulky and definitely without looking like you are itching for a fight.
If you have to go to Defcon 1 status you can always throw on a padded web belt with magazine pouches as well as a chest rig, you can have that laying in your vehicle to grab and put on if needed during a collapse scenario, but this way you can still have the protection without anyone every knowing you have it on.
I would recommend this type of load-out for all preppers, since most of us are on tight budgets and cant afford to buy multiple sets of body armor.
It is vital that you understand this, many people will just buy a set of ceramic plates with a small “plate carrier” that can go under the clothing. This works very well for concealment. HOWEVER one of the reasons that the military has plates ON TOP of soft armor is that even though the plates can stop 7.62x51mm, etc. the round will still have a large amount of force that will go into your body. The round will be stopped which is the main lifesaver, however the force of the round has to go somewhere, much of it is dissipated into the plate, but without soft armor underneath this will go into your body and the soft tissue which can cause internal bleeding and worse. In a combat scenario in the military this is considered “ok” as you can be medivac’d relatively quickly and will be able to receive proper medical treatment, but in a collapse scenario this could spell death for you. Never just wear plates unless you have no other option, i.e. you don’t have soft armor, in that case plates are better than a 7.62 to the chest.
A Few Reason’s you SHOULD
Now there are a hundred, thousand, million different scenarios we can think of in a collapse, partial collapse scenario where It may be smart to have some personal protective equipment (PPE) or Body armor is it known colloquially.
What if the security situation has gotten worse, but things are still operating halfway normally, the stores are still open but gangs and miscreants have realized that food and the staples are worth more than rims, cars and gold watches. You are coming back to your car with the groceries, and someone approaches you with a gun, you pull yours and you both get a shot off, now both of you are on the ground, however you get up and now you have a big bruise and some broken food items, but no real injuries, they have some REAL injuries, you live to fight another day.
This is a very real scenario in that type of collapse. And there are, like a said millions of different scenarios where this could matter. The Stereotypical prepper fiction tale of some large group assaulting your home you are fighting back going from one side of the house to another holding them off, if you have PPE it could mean that stray round DOESN’T kill you, etc.
The reasons why it would be helpful are clear, if you are in a shoot out it could save your life, unless you are shot in the head, arms or legs, or they are using a large caliber bullet, like a 30-06 or 7mm Hunting round w/out Level IV Ceramic plates (side note, also why I find some of gun control debate laughable, when they talk about “armor piercing rounds” for AR’s, etc. Any large caliber hunting round will destroy a set of body armor w.out Level IV Body Armor which most cops if any carry…)
This is a harder case to make, but there are reasons NOT to buy PPE/Body Armor.
One reason is that it is expensive, not so much the Second Chance vest/Police Vest style of vests, those can be pretty cheap, but buying the Ceramic Plates to counter Smaller caliber Rifle rounds.
A quick search of sites shows that each SAPI plate at Level III can run around $250 for a ceramic plate, which means you could be running $500 for a set or more, that combined with a decent IIIa concealed vest that will cost you around $500 you are looking at $1000 for a full set up, which is often out of the average preppers price range, and even if you can swing it….in my opinion there are better things for you to buy.
I know it is a common thread in prepper fiction and other talking points of a collapse, but the chance of you getting in a out and out shootout will be low and in one that you will have time to wear the vest (unless you just wear it all day everyday from first sign on out) is even slimmer.
This is not saying that its not a good thing to have, we prepare for any scenario, but in reality saving the $500 for plates and getting another 6 months plus of food will take you much farther.
There are so many different things you could buy with that money that will help you 99% of the time versus that 1% chance occurrence.
That being said, if you really feel you must and you can swing it, buy it AFTER you have the rest of your preps handled and are comfortable with the level you are at, if you don’t ever get any, don’t sweat it. Yes it may seem easy for me to say, because i have some, but I will tell you this, even in combat zones you don’t get in shootouts every day (barring a few REAALLLLY high tempo units in some really crappy areas) and you don’t get shot every day either. So in a collapse scenario, as bad as that is, it wont be like Afghanistan or Iraq at the height of the insurgencies there, so perhaps it would be best to just save your money.
Well if you are dead set on it, i can give you a few recommendations based on my own personal experience.
I own the EAGLE MARCIRAS vest, it is a High Profile Maritime version of their CIRAS vest, it has a pull cord that runs throughout the vest, one pull and it dumps off you. Why is that? well in Maritime environments if you fell overboard it would drag you down, which is a bad thing. In Iraq/Afghanistan I realized I wanted to keep this thing and allow my body to be easily looked at if i was injured so this would allow the Doc to do so without cutting it off. it was also VERY comfortable and easily modded out to how i wanted it. It runs around $500 without the armor.
I also own a Blackhawk Plate Carrier This is a no frils plate carrier that went over my soft armor, and when used in conjunction with the second chance vest and a Tactical Tailor padded Belt with my mag pouches (Link is to LApolicegear.com which you can get a discount from as a member!), i could conceal myself pretty well with a larger shirt and jacket.
Make sure you do a thorough review of the seller, and don’t waste your money on some cheap chinese knockoff from Ebay, if the price seems to good to be true it is, and you will not be getting what you paid for when it means the most.
Also know that Knives and sharp objects like icepicks or crossbows will go through soft armor easily, the kevlar weave is made to absorb the impact of the round and dissipate its force not allowing it to penetrate. if you watch the videos in slow motion it looks like a pebble hitting a still pond, waves go out in all directions, so you will not have STAB protection with kevlar, a cheap option for that is just plain old phonebooks like inmates use, or shelling out cash for stab protection vests.
These are just a few suggestions and only based on what i have personally used, so if you find something that fits you better, go for it!