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Old April 13, 2017, 01:21 PM   #1
simonrichter
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Are degraded ballistics vests completely useless?

Depending on the type of fiber used, ballistic vests will sooner or later degrade over the years and / or when exposed to moisture and sunlight.

Is a vest thus considered unsafe for service completely useless or will it still stop at least less powerful threats than originally designed for? E.g., how likely is it a say 15 or 20yrs old IIIA vest would stop a .32acp or even .380acp round?
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Old April 13, 2017, 02:40 PM   #2
ShootistPRS
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The question I would ask is; "Is it worth the risk to find out?"
If the manufacturer and the original purchaser don't trust it why should I?
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Old April 13, 2017, 04:58 PM   #3
Old Stony
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They don't just automatically self destruct after a certain amount of time. It's sort of like the expiration date on some foods.....they only tell you when it's at it's best, not that it is automatically rotten. Maybe not too good of a comparison, but they can still have some uses...
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Old April 13, 2017, 05:51 PM   #4
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Only one sure way to know.
If they aren't too expensive, buy one and shoot it.
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Old April 13, 2017, 07:46 PM   #5
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I got ahold of some retired police vest panels. All were well broken-in, showed salt/sweat stains and ranged in age between 8 and 13 years of age. I had IIa, II, and IIIa panels. I don't know if the IIIa would stop everything it was rated for, but it stopped a 44 magnum hollowpoint (hollowpoints being among the easiest bullets to stop). I recall a IIa vest taking somewhere between 30 and 40 hits from .45 acp and 9mm before penetrations started occurring and by that time a significant portion of the vest was lead, LOL.

All the vests in question were kevlar and not any of the other nylons. Mostly they were shot with 9mm and .45 acp and stopped plenty of rounds. They all failed when being shot by rifle rounds, as expected.

This is NOT to say that old vests are reliable to their claimed testing levels. This is only to say that vests that are out of date certainly may maintain a very real level of usefulness. If you are wanting to use the vest panels for self protection and that is all you can afford, I would try to find IIIa kevlar panels since the have more layers than the II and IIa panels. This isn't an ideal solution, but it would certainly be better than going without.
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Old April 13, 2017, 09:03 PM   #6
2damnold4this
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I tested an old British military body armor vest back in 2013. It stopped .45 Colt, .45 ACP and .38 Special. It did not stop 9x19 or 9x18 unless it was doubled up.
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Old April 15, 2017, 04:27 AM   #7
simonrichter
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Thank y'all for the interesting insights!

And no, I wouldn't put it to the test, my question came purely out of curiosity.


To get a little more specific: Does anybody have particular experience with Zylon fiber vests? These were drawn from service because allegedly the fiber decomposes much faster than Kevlar or Dyneema etc.
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Old April 15, 2017, 04:45 AM   #8
armoredman
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Some of the exotic fibers were removed for exactly that reason, like the infamous Spectra Shield. If it's not Kevlar, I wouldn't use it.
As for Kevlar, I was told that 10 years is simply when DuPont would no longer warranty the fabric. I THINK, (non scientific non expert), that if in the original plastic cover and the actual fabric hasn't been exposed to sunlight or water, I THINK they retain usefulness long after the "expiration date".
I had some old vests back in the day, and donated some to be tested, but that person moved away soon after and I never did find out what happened with them.
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Old April 15, 2017, 05:04 AM   #9
Brit
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In a Police Range in Ontario, Canada, we hung a old vest up, shot it from 7 yds.

Stopped 9mm hard ball/hollow points. And .40 cal. Just hollow points.

100g frangible, for use on steel only? Head stamped ICC. Went straight through, left little swirls of fiber floating in the air!

Mine sits in a closet, in AC bedroom, when I did Security, armed here in Florida, wore it every day. Retired from work! But I think, as it is never out in humidity, or rain? Would wear it now. But no need of, so it sits.
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Old April 15, 2017, 06:52 AM   #10
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Zylon? Put in garbage and walk away. Second Chance got sued over multiple failures of the material and lost, lost, lost. Cops died and were injured when the vest failed to stop rounds that were well under its max capability.
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Old April 15, 2017, 08:57 AM   #11
simonrichter
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Got a 2003 Second Chance from my local Army Surplus for only a few bucks (now I know why it was THAT cheap). No harm done since I bought it only out of curiosity and I reckon I'll never actually need a vest living in a "no gun country". Guess I could as well use it as a backstop if it indeed proves to be Zylon stuff..
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