Christmas Day wasn’t silent in Utah where authorities say cops shot a man after he claimed to have explosives in his home. Carrying a medieval battle ax, the man survived attempts to tase him because he was wearing body armor.
After two officers from Cedar City tried twice to use their stun guns, the 38-year-old suspect surrendered and was arrested.
“Bullet proof vests” are in demand among law enforcement, terrorists and all-around ‘bad guys.’ The name is misleading. There is no such thing as a bulletproof vest. With the right combination, no article of apparel will guarantee protection against all projectiles. The armor is bullet resistant and, for law enforcement, could provide a few extra seconds of safety which may mean the difference between life and death.
Short History Of Body Armor
Body armor originally was designed before the era of automatic weapons — way before. Ancient China first developed the oldest known armor around 1400 BC. Also known as chainmail, the protective gear was designed to absorb or deflect slashing, bludgeoning and penetrating attacks.
Chainmail gave way to armor plates in the late 1200s and a variety of methods were used as armorers progressed in collective skills. Eventually metal plates replaced the early horse leather and by the time World War I came around a complete suit consisted of a steel cap, steel plate vests with steel gauntlets and goggles.
Modern armor consists of either metal or ceramic plates which provide protection from gun rounds and knife attacks. Kevlar may be the best known component of bullet resistant vests and bullet resistant face masks. The material has been in use by American forces since the 1980s and gradually moved into the civilian market.
From the time it entered the marketplace, it wasn’t long before the ‘bad guys’ saw opportunity.
North Hollywood Shootout
The Battle of North Hollywood on February 28, 1997, was the first armed confrontation between two armored bank robbers and cops from the LAPD. Eventually, both perpetrators were killed and twelve cops injured in a battle which wounded eight civilians and destroyed numerous vehicles. Over two-thousand rounds of ammunition were fired.
Standard issue sidearms carried by law enforcement weren’t a match for the weapons the robbers carried. The heavy plated body armor protected the bank robbers from handgun rounds and shotgun pellets, but they were stopped when a police SWAT team finally showed up with enough firepower.
The robbert and subsequent firefight started a trend in America which saw police patrol officers being issued heavier firepower including AR-15 type rifles.
Killers In Kevlar
James Holmes, the theater shooter in Aurora, Colorado wore a ballistic helmet, vest, leggings, throat protector and a groin protector.
Jiverly Wong, an out-of-work drifter, was enraged at cops when he donned a ballistic vest, went into an immigrant agency in New York and shot 14 persons dead. There wasn’t a firefight. Wong killed himself and saved the cops the trouble. The next day, Richard Poplawski put on a “suit for battle” — as he called it — and waylaid police in Pittsburgh.
Law Enforcement A Source Of Supply
No one remembers how many outlaws, lunatics and militias have obtained body armor as there is no registration required. The federal government — as do most states — don’t have laws against owning body armor unless a person is a violent felon or using it in criminal activity. Even the sparse laws are poorly enforced.
In Nexis there is evidence that bad guys are using vests stolen from either law enforcement, the FBI and even the military. The problem in New York City is so bad that the city tried to destroy its old vests so they didn’t fall in to the wrong hands.
And If You Still Want To Own Body Armor?
Owning body armor in Utah, New York, North Dakota and numerous other states is not illegal unless the person suiting up is a convicted felon.
Choosing which body armor to buy is as important as any purchase someone could make. Before deciding on which brand, an understanding about body armor is needed. Body armor is categorized into six levels, beginning with Level I which offers the least amount of protection. There are 4 levels with Level IV offering the most protection.
A dated rule-of-thumb is to have a level of ballistic protection which stops the round carried in service weapons. There are variables.
The ballistic threat of a round depends on composition, shape, caliber and angle of attack. Body armor which defeats a standard test round might not counter other loadings in identifical calibers.
No Body Armor Is All-Protective
It is vital to choose body armor based on the job. No body armor protects from all possible threats. Additional information on protective capabilities can be found from the National Institute of Justice, the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.