View Full Version : Bullet 'proof' vests

January 27, 2002, 01:03 PM
Who makes the 'best' bullet proof vest. OK,OK, I know, NO vest is actually bullet 'proof', but...

If you are a user of a vest, please tell me make and model. Likes and dislikes. What you would like to see that would improve this product. Any other info would be appreciated.

January 27, 2002, 03:20 PM
If I had it to do over again I would go with a Second Chance vest and have it fitted by someone who knoew what they were doing. I don't know if they are really any better but they sure have a great reputation.
Any of the name brands will do what they are rated to do, it really boils down to a matter of comfort. Up to a point you get more comfort (lighter weight and more flexability) as the price goes up. The more comfortable a vest is the more likley you are to be wearing it when you need it.

January 27, 2002, 03:30 PM
There are a ton of great options out there right now... I was looking for a level IIIA vest recently and found a SpectaFlex vest from Galls for under $500. That was the best I could do after considerable shopping around. For the material, the coverage, the level of protection and the price, I think I did ok.

I've been taking a long hard look at vests recently. I'm looking at putting together my own kit because I haven't been overly pleased with my issue gear. The people at Tactical Taylor make a modular vest carrier along the lines of the new Interceptor vest / MOLLE attachment system that you slide ballistic panels into. Next thing is to find a vest to insert in the carrier or a dealer or manufacturer that will build ballistic panels to my specifications.

One of the issues I've been grappling with is on size and coverage. Obviously the more it covers, the better protected you are, but you sacrifice maneuverability that way...

Anyway, back to your original question, Point Blank Spectra vests are neat... have not had any experience with Second Chance but I'm very curious about their high end super thin and flexible vests, anybody out there use them?

Anybody with any experience with the new Safariland stuff out there?

Jake 98c/11b
January 27, 2002, 04:31 PM
I have used American Body Armor, PACA, Safariland and Second Chance, far and away the best is Second Chance. I sell police equipment and while we cary a line of bodyarmor (RBR) the only concealable armor I would reccomend is Second Chance. The RBR is good stuff but I wouldn't use any but their overvests, their SWAT and military stuff is great as are their helments but for full time use the Second Chance is the lightest, most comfortable I have ever tried. I would suggest the 2A over the heavier stuff, I am not convinced there is any advantage. Richard Davis has shot himself over 200 times to date while wearing a 2A vest and he uses a six inch .44 mag (full load). The 2A offers better protection than the NIJ tests will lead you to believe, they are based on poor scientific models and are not realistic test standards.

January 27, 2002, 05:12 PM
"Who makes the 'best' bullet proof vest."
The "best" vest is the one that saves your life. Who makes the "best" vest is akin to asking who makes the "best" bullet. Products manufactured within the contraints of the exact same specifications WILL function differently under even the same scenario. I've resolved to choosing the one that has a recorded history of performance under actual conditions.
I've worn the Second Chance product line for well over 16 years. I've not reported it, but I'm a "save." My credo regarding it's usage is 'Second Chance?, First opportunity!' I believe that Richard Davis is the only one compiling a database of "saves" and he is happy to demonstrate the merits of his product line. Safariland also makes a very desirable vest but I have not had any experience with that brand.

BTW, I'm not an employee, manager, sales rep, or stockholder of either firm.

January 27, 2002, 06:33 PM
I recently read an artical on body armor and was surprised that the vests have not only saved officers' live from lethal fire, but also from car accidents.Evidently the Kevlar prevents blunt trauma from high speed accidents.

January 28, 2002, 01:17 AM
I wear and very much like a Safariland Zero-G Gold model.

It's light, fits well, has good coverage all over (including the sides) and is as cool as a vest can be. It's also thin enough that with a white carrier I believe it could be easily concealed under a dress shirt/suitcoat. I haven't had occasion to try, however.

January 29, 2002, 06:29 PM
The best vest is the one that is thin enough, light enough, flexible enough, and therefore comfortable enough to see regular use.

Wrap around coverage and a minimum of level IIa protection should apply.

II is the way to go, imo, for general use applications. i.e. LEO patrol and the like.

February 3, 2002, 03:46 PM
If you plan on wearing this vest on a regular basis don't be afraid to spend money. All of the name brand vests do a good job of being safe and (very important) comfortable if you buy their top of the line stuff. I wear Second Chance and am very happy with it and my partner is equally happy with his Safariland. But we both smile condescending smiles at the guys that don't wear their vests because they were cheap and got stuff that is three generations old and an inch thick. Unless you intend this armor to be set by they bed waiting for the home invasion, remember that the vest that you aren't wearing because it's hot and stiff is exactly as usefull as the gun that you aren't carrying because it's too heavy.

In regards to non-firearms injury. A hard trauma plate will protect you better than soft against blunt trauma, ie steering wheels, or knives than a soft plate will. However, some folks worry that a hard plate will cause ricochets up into your face and head if you are shot in the chest. I leave it to you to judge which of these events are of the greatest concern for you. I will suggest that if you do go with the hard plate that you spend the extra $20 and get a titanium plate. The weight difference may not seem like much when you are reading the specs but I can assure you that you will feel it after 10 hours of wearing your vest.

Good luck and I hope that your choices are never tested.

February 3, 2002, 03:54 PM
Second Chance, Ultra-Light, Level II, I like the 5x8 Ti plate. When you buy it, get an extra carrier (you can get them in black so you can be tactical) to soak. They get to smellin' after a while.

Jake 98c/11b
February 3, 2002, 07:04 PM
KSF reminded me of something. The Second Chance T-shirt carrier will me far more concealable even if it is not as convenient to put on and take off. If you want to be discrete the T-shirt carrier IIA Ultima with an inch or so open on the sides (for airflow) is about as good as it gets right now.

February 3, 2002, 10:07 PM
I don't know who makes the best, but I do know a general rule for chossing the protection level of your vest is to choose a vest that will stop whatever bullet that you are carrying in your own gun at the very least. It would really suck to got shot by your own gun and have it penetrate your vest.

February 3, 2002, 10:21 PM
For those who routinely wear a vest for sustained periods. Two questions.

1. Who wears a groin guard?
2. What do you wear underneath the vest.

Someone mentioned that they can get "smelly." Indeed! Heat retention is what I'm "getting at" with the second question. Try wearing a vest in the South in mid August. See how many expletives you can utter in 10 hours.

I know a few on the "other" side (BGs) who have told me that they aim for below the belly button. I've worn mine since they first made them. Makes sense. Any thoughts?

Vern Brink
February 6, 2002, 01:55 AM
Which vest to get? Only 1 choice - Second Chance.

Improvements? Make them lighter, more comfortable (especially in the heat), less expensive, more coverage, more flexible, make them protect against rifle rounds and make them last forever :)

Had a Monarch for 5 yrs, currently wearing an Ultima level II w/the Ti plate.

kogatana-I wear an outer vest carrier now, but I found the tight Under Armor shirts worked well. In Phoenix, you'll be hot and wet so comfort is all you can hope for. The material allows the vest to "slide" and "move" and the shirt doesn't get bunched up like a cotton T. If you ever saw the movie "Any Given Sunday" they were the shirts the football players had on in the locker room.

Double Naught Spy
February 6, 2002, 11:13 AM
bought the most inexpensive Level IIIA vest with side protection I could find and that was at Gall's, part of the Lite line, the panels were actually made by Safariland. I wear my vest at the range, the only place I know of where loaded guns have been pointed at me. I have had the vest for over a year. With shipping and the extra carrier, it cost me a little over $400. Knowing what I know now, I should have gotten the most lightweight vest I could find. That would be from Second Chance and the model would have cost me about $1500. That being said, it would have been less than 1/2 as thick and only weigh about 1/3 of what mine weighs.

Somebody suggest Level IIA of protection. I would suggest that the IIA is too low. In fact, it is the second lowest you can get. Somebody else suggested getting a vest that will stop whatever round YOU are carrying. While you may shoot yourself and that would suck, don't count on other people who want to shoot you will do so with guns comparable or less that what you carry. I would get the best coverage you can afford and can carry. This is similar to the rules of guns where you should carry the largest caliber you can shoot well, is reliable, and that you can afford. Here is a brief overview of ratings:

Level 1 protects against .22 lr and 38 Special
Level 2a protects against low velocity .357 mag and 9 mm
Level 2 protects against higher velocity .357 mag, 9mm
Level 3a protects against 44 mag and submachine gun 9 mm
Level 3 protects against high powered rifle such as 7.62 fmj, 5.56 fmj, and .223 Remington
Level 4 protects against armor piercing ammo because the vests include ceramic or metal plates.

Level IIIA protects against pretty much any handgun caliber and is the highest level of easily buyable vest for civilians. Some companies, if they offer higher protection, tend to restrict its distribution to primarily LEOs. As I recall, Second Chance is one of those companies.

As for Rich Davis of Second Chance shooting himself 200 times while wearing one of his vests, I am not impressed. It can be done with his vests or any other brands. Davis also provides additional protection to himself by using materials such as phone books under the vest. While the vest will preclude penetration by bullets, the phone book prevents secondary injury that can occur when wearing vests and being shot. That is, blunt force trauma. If you read the Second Chance "Saves" book and see the pictures of officers, usually without a shirt on and holding a vest to the side, you will see that they have some pretty substantial bruising. Such blunt force trauma can render the wearer incapacitated and if in the right place, can stop the heart, collapse lungs, rupture a spleen, etc. In some cases, officers never knew they were shot, but after calm was restored, noticed they were in pain. In other cases, officers have been completely incapacitated and unconscious after being shot, their fellow officers fearing the downed officer was dead. Of course they weren't dead, but they would have been without the vest. My point to all this is that while Rich has shot himself a bunch of times, he is ONLY demonstrating the ballistic penetration protection of the vests, not the blunt force trauma aspect. Blunt force trauma can be very serious and can kill.

Do buy the second carrier. It will be worth it.

Jake 98c/11b
February 6, 2002, 12:46 PM
I will have to disagree with Double Naught Spy on this one. The NIJ test standards used to rate vests are not scientifically valid. Their standards for backface deformation really don't tell you anything, all it measures is the size of dent it leaves in modeling clay. Modeling clay was used because they had to use something, not because it represents your body. I asked Richard Davis and the Dupont Kevlar rep (they both track these things) if anyone had ever been seriously hurt by blunt trauma from a round that was stopped by a vest. I didn't think anyone ever had so I was surprised to hear that one person was actually killed by blunt trauma, caused by a 45-70 round that was stopped by a level 2 vest. Noone else has ever been seriously injured by blunt trauma, it is not a serious concern. I don't think you will be able to find anyone who has suffered a broken rib from a light vest stopping a 3A threat, I haven't been able to anyway. I can only assume that is a story from vest manufacturers trying to sell the more expensive (heavier) vest. Second Chance has several saves from some of their old vests (pre NIJ ratings) that are worth looking at, one that comes to mind is an officer being hit twice in the chest with 12 ga slugs in an old Y model vest. The Y model vest was discontinued because it did not even meet the level 2A standards. As for the extra protection Richard Davis uses I am not concerned with it. He uses it to avoid painful bruising (that is all you have to worry about) and he has been known to shoot himself twice in as many days, he has shot himself several times without the phone book so I trust him and his product.

I say ignore the claims of blunt trauma, the only case I know of where a police officer was unconcious after being hit in the vest was an officer who lost his footing and struck his head falling down. The lighter, thinner vest will be more comfortable and more likely worn so it offers greater protection (than the one left at home). Do what you like but I believe the 2A is the better choice.

February 6, 2002, 01:31 PM
Under the vest I just wear a T-shirt or, in winter, a turtleneck.

I've tried the "Cool Shirts" that are made of netting with ribbing to give some airflow. They worked great under racing leathers, but without the wind blowing by they're just bulky with a vest.

When it's hot, you're going to be hot and sweaty - get the most comfortable vest you can and deal with the heat.

Double Naught Spy
February 6, 2002, 05:31 PM
Blunt force is a real issue. Even if blunt force is not a major issue, wearing a lower rated vest is about as good of an idea as using a mouse gun for defense. Sure, it is better than nothing, both a mouse gun and low rated vest, but why not get better protection with a more substantial vest and more substantial gun?

If blunt force tauma was not a serious concern, then why is the topic of so much attention by ballistic vest companies and why does Rich place phone books between himself and the vest when doing ballistic vest demonstrations?

What do you think they call the higher rated inserts "trauma plates"?

According to the NIJ, there records do not have any known incidents of blunt force injury deaths (see http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:0U3weFuPzKMC:www.wws.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/byteserv.prl/~ota/disk1/1992/9230/923003.PDF+blunt+force+trauma+ballistic+vest+lethal&hl=en ), although in control expirements with goats, there were some very severe injuries that results from ballistic blunt force to the animals covered by ballistic materials.

If you take a look at the Second Chance "saves" book, you will find several cases of people hospitalized as a result of the blunt force trauma received due to rounds that did not penetrate the ballistic vest they were wearing.

You don't have to believe the NIJ results, but they certainly are not the only ones looking at the problem (see http://members.aol.com/gnypddoc/trauma1.html ).

Pulmonary contusions (http://www.asancep.org.uk/JRCALC/guidelines/Trauma/TR_6_THORC.htm )

Here, med. personnel are told to be aware of blunt chest injuries suffered by officers wearing vests ( http://www.asancep.org.uk/JRCALC/guidelines/General/GEN_4_STREETSAFETY.htm )

Keep in mind that LA Police in using less than lethal bean bag rounds have managed to kill 4 people due to blunt trauma caused by non-penetrating 1 oz. bean bags fired from shotguns.

Is blunt force the primary protective capability of vests? No. But blunt force trauma is a real problem that vest manufacturers try to help reduce.

February 7, 2002, 01:24 AM
If you take a look at the Second Chance "saves" book, you will find several cases of people hospitalized as a result of the blunt force trauma received due to rounds that did not penetrate the ballistic vest they were wearing.

I'm not disputing that blunt trauma is a serious, valid concern, but the Second Chance catalogue is mainly policemen getting shot. If you got shot, wouldn't it just be a good idea to go to a hospital "just in case"?? I know I would :-p

Jake 98c/11b
February 7, 2002, 09:48 AM
Double Naught Spy, thanks for the links, I have only skimmed them but as time permits I will read in depth. I agree that blunt trauma is of some concern but it is not the issue some seem to think it is. You asked "If blunt force tauma was not a serious concern, then why is the topic of so much attention by ballistic vest companies?" and the answer is simple, the market demands companies meet these standards not knowing the standards are not realistic.

Nothing I saw in the links has yet to lead me to believe my position is wrong. The second only said that there are two mechanisms of injury in police officers killed in the line of duty, blunt trauma and penetrating injury. No where did he say an officer has been seriously hurt by a bullet stopped by his vest.

Like Foxy said, the police are kept for observation, that doesent mean anything is wrong. Could be to assess the psycological impact on the officer too for all I know.

Like I said I will read the info you found as time permits but I have sold several hundred vests over the years and (for the private citizen) few people wear them except those few who buy the top rated, lighter vests. Any vest worn beats the one left at home and very few will wear them even among CCW holdwers who routinely carry. That is why I usually reccommend the 2A with an inch or more gap on the sides (for air flow).

February 7, 2002, 01:12 PM
I'd just like to add that Knife threat is a concern also. The ballistic protection vests aren't designed to protect against stabbing threats.

The ballistic vests will protect against a stab threat about as well as a heavy sweater and jacket would.

Second Chance makes dual Level IIIA ballistic and Level III Spike protection vests.

February 7, 2002, 03:34 PM
How do bullet proof vests compare to military flak vests?I recently saw a British flak vest for around $70.

February 7, 2002, 09:30 PM
The PASGT vests issued by USA can stop a .22LR (which I've personally tested)- they're roughly threat level I (haven't tested a .38Spl though).

The new interceptors are IIIA.
I have no clue on the british vests though.

February 7, 2002, 11:03 PM
Is anyone here that owns a second chance vest a civilian?