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Old December 2, 2007, 05:46 PM   #1
cold dead hands
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Life span of body armor

How do you know when it is time to replace your armor?

I have heard that manufacturers put expiration dates on armor, but they are assuming you wear it daily right after you recieved from the factory, yes? How did they decide when you need to buy more? I understand that they are in the buisness of saving lives, but they are in buisness to sell and make a profit as well. The more you buy the more money they make. Might they be under rating (lifetime not quality) their equipment to increase profits?

What if your armor never got worn and you finally decide to wear it (you witnessed a crime or whatever the reason) 4 years after you bought it? Did it go bad like food would?

How do you determine that it may not do it's job and it needs replaced, espescially if you wear it and never have been shot? I could understand that armor is good for only so many hits, but what about when it never has been hit?
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Old December 2, 2007, 07:04 PM   #2
Don P
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Life span

I have been told we should replace our body armor every 5 years. They have stated that the fact of getting wet from sweet will over time reduce the effectivness of the vest. When you think of the price over 5 years it's not all that bad. I would rather replace mine every 5 years than finding out the HARD way that I scewed up by Not replacing it.We only get one chance to get it right.
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Old December 2, 2007, 09:53 PM   #3
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Location: Greenbow, Alabama
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Kevlar does not break down as officers have been told for years, neither does it have self destruct date. The vest in general will wear out due to normal wear and tear. Example an officer with a new vest quits after a month at a department. Two years later, another officer is issued that vest. The vest is still good and useable as long as it was stored in cool dry environment.
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Old December 3, 2007, 09:10 AM   #4
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Location: So Cal
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Heat, moisture and the amount of flexing that the panels are subjected to affect the life span. The 5-year expiration time is somewhat true, but only if the panels go through moderate to maximum usage. I spoke with one of the "Second Chance" people, and he said that the panels would remain relatively "new" if properly stored.

That reminds me....I have a couple of "Second Chance" vests that I want to test. One has never been used and has been stored in a relatively cool environment, and the other has been used "moderately" over the course of about 3 years before going into storage. They both look to be in good condition....after 6+ years. Only throwing some bullets at them will tell, though.
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Old December 3, 2007, 10:23 PM   #5
Join Date: May 4, 2007
Location: Central California
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I've shot two different vests in the past couple of years at range days. About two years ago, my partner threw his vest into the bed of his U/C truck following a search warrant operation. He did this since it was soaked in sweat and it needed to air out. Well, he forgot about it and it rained that night. When he discovered it was outside, he got it and found that it was rank. Man, it looked horrible. We thought it was toast. Since he had been wearing it for close to 5 years, he decided to just get a new vest. He wore a back up vest for a couple of weeks and when his new one came in, we took the old one out and gave it heck during a training day. This vest was a Second Chance Level 3, and we shot it with all of the common calibers (9mm, .45, .357, .22LR, .44 mag, .223, and .17HMR) Only the .223 and .17 punched through it, which is to be expected. I can tell you this, I don't want to be hit by a .45 in a vest, though. We hung it over a 36" 2x4 post to shoot it. It left a golf ball indentation on the post and cracked it from top to bottom. Man the fibers were distorted, but not pierced. That must be like getting hit by a car.

The other vest I shot I did so a month ago. I purchased a Safariland vest back in 1992 that was a level 2A. I wore this vest full time for the better part of 5 - 6 years and then moved it part time into some ballistic load bearing equipment for search warrant operations. It was worn probably 3 -4 times a week at best, maybe for up to 3 hours at a time. I think its shelf life was used up, but it did just as well as the vest listed above. Nothing I shot at it pierced it, other than .223 which again is to be expected.

Bottom line is that if you take care of your vest, much as your other equipment, you will reap the benefits of doing so. I am sure you can safely double the "5 year" rule, but in today's litigious society nobody will stand up to such claim. 5 years is plenty often enough to avoid frivolous lawsuits and to keep vest manufacturer's pockets thick by keeping you coming back for more.
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Old December 5, 2007, 01:10 AM   #6
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Just FYI, I own a vest that I bought at a local gunshow a few years ago. DPI (manufacturer) says that the panels themselves should live pretty much forever, unless shot. That being said, they told me that they would pull the panels and insert them into a new carrier for a very minimal fee. They also offer that if your vest sustains "damage during a felony or violent confrontation from a firearm projectile, automobile accident, sharp and/or blunt instrument, DPI will replace your vest at no charge."

They are:

However, I don't see soft armor on their page anymore, other than the new stab proof stuff. BUT, there is a gunshow the weekend of the 15th here and I will likely see them and get an update.
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Old December 5, 2007, 11:18 PM   #7
Join Date: November 28, 2007
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Several years ago, the Chief was cleaning out the basement at the PD I work for. We found some ANCIENT Second Chance vests in a closet. One of the old-timers told us these vests were 20+ years old and had been worn for 10+ years before the Dept bought new and these got put in the basement and forgotten about. Storage conditions were generally cool and dry but had periods of high humidity due to the basement flooding a few times.

We took these vests out and shot them with .38+P, 9mm, .40 and .45. Vests were wrapped around bundles of newspaper, as was recommended my Second Chance, according to an Officer who allegedly called them to ask about testing the vests. Nothing penetrated.

Myself, I honestly think that, as long as the vest is properly cared for, it SHOULD be good well past the 5 year mfr recommended replacement date. However, having said that, I don't think I would wear one past 5 years if I could help it, if only because of liability reasons. If it was all you had, however, it should still be better than nothing. The problem is you have a Catch 22 situation. The only way to be SURE it's still good is to test it, but by testing it you ruin it and have to buy another anyway!

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Old December 6, 2007, 09:46 AM   #8
Join Date: May 30, 2006
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Some guys from our dept. took some armor up to the range that was 10 years old and it held up.
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Old December 17, 2007, 05:23 PM   #9
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Had the pleasure of shooting a 2nd chance vest which was 17 yrs. old and turned in by one of the local depts here in Delaware. We shot 40 S&W,357 mag,38 special,38+p,9mm,22cal,and 223. Only the 223 pentrated both sides of the vest. None of the handgun calibers p[entrated more than 2 lalyers of Kevlar. There were 16 layers of Kevlar and it was a level 2 or 3. I was also told that a lot of Police Depts. would take their old vest and install them inside the doors of their cars as extra protection. FWIW.
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Old December 17, 2007, 06:18 PM   #10
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I have a Second Chance 2A that is more than 20 years old, and was worn daily. 6 and 7 days a week for about 8 years. Panel were recovered by SC. I would wear it without any worry today.
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Old December 21, 2007, 11:32 PM   #11
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They also offer that if your vest sustains "damage during a felony or violent confrontation from a firearm projectile, automobile accident, sharp and/or blunt instrument, DPI will replace your vest at no charge."
Oh, I bet they will replace that vest. Might not do anything for the hole in your chest, but I guess that would fall under incidental damages.

Reminds me of my supervisor who was told through to cut through a conduit, only to have a feed from the powerplant blow him out of the hole. The company splurged and bought him a new hacksaw.
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Old December 23, 2007, 12:20 PM   #12
Para Bellum
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My manufacturer gives 10 Year Warranty.
Si vis pacem - para bellum
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