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Beyond the Bullet: Trauma Pads and Protecting Against Blunt Force Trauma


Plate carrier, trauma pads, and body armor

Body Armor - Stopping the bullet, not the pain?


In today's unpredictable world, personal safety has become a paramount concern for individuals across various walks of life. Whether you are a law enforcement officer, military personnel, security professional, or simply an individual seeking enhanced personal protection, the risk of being shot is unfortunately always real (even if that risk is higher or lower for some). Body armor can prevent rounds from entering your body, but that is hardly the end of the story. After all, energy is neither created nor destroyed - and a bullet fired from a firearm carries a LOT of energy.


Safeguarding against blunt force trauma is of utmost importance if you’re interested in living through the moments immediately following getting shot, and being able to react effectively. Body armor and trauma pads serve as vital, complimentary tools - sometimes nearly equal in importance - in mitigating the risk of serious injury or fatality in high-impact scenarios. In this article, we will explore the importance of these protective measures and shed light on how they can significantly enhance personal safety.

Imagine the cinderblock is your body - which protection would you want?


Understanding Blunt Force Trauma


Blunt force trauma, or simply blunt trauma, refers to injuries caused by the impact of an object that does not penetrate the skin - as opposed to penetrating trauma, which of course involves objects penetrating the skin. Blunt Trauma occurs as a result of sudden, forceful blows to the body - such as from a punch, an unexpected collision, or a bullet striking a body armor plate - leading to any number of potential injuries like bruises, fractures, contusions, and potentially life-threatening internal injuries. While it is impossible to predict when the need to mitigate blunt force trauma will arise, proactive measures can be taken to reduce the severity of said injuries.


Body Armor is obviously the first line of defense when talking about protection from firearm-involved injuries. It plays a crucial role in protecting vital organs and minimizing the risk of severe injuries that are difficult to patch up in the field, like a shot through a vital organ. Armor is typically constructed from different materials tailored to meet the unique needs of different professions and scenarios; these materials include Kevlar, steel, Polyethylene, ceramic and more, and are primarily designed to do one thing: stop bullets (imagine that!). Bulletproof material is typically divided into “hard” and “soft” armor, and different materials will handle the receiving and transfer of kinetic energy from a bullet in different ways. Understanding the ballistic threats you are likely to encounter in your unique circumstances can play a helpful role in choosing the material that is right for you.

Trauma Pads

Trauma Pads, on the other hand, are not a ballistic device; they are a supplement to body armor, not a replacement. While body armor is effective at stopping projectiles from penetrating the body, trauma pads play a complementary role in directly minimizing the risk of blunt force injury. Trauma pads are lightweight inserts, typically made from various foam and/or gel-like materials, placed behind body armor plates (closer to the wearer). Their primary purpose is to absorb and disperse the residual energy that may transfer to the body after the armor stops a projectile, spreading it over a larger and safer area. By absorbing and reducing the amount of force transmitted in a smaller, concentrated area, trauma pads help prevent potentially life-threatening injuries, such as broken ribs, internal bleeding, or organ damage.


Think of it this way - would you rather have a massive amount of kinetic energy concentrated in one small area on your body, or would you rather that energy be dispersed across a larger and less painful area?


As it stands, body armor itself must stay within specific limits for backface deformation to properly be considered within its respective NIJ armor level. If the back of the plate creates a “bump” from the result of being shot which is larger than the set standard, the plate is not within NIJ guidelines. This specific guideline allows for body armor to do some of the work when it comes to protecting against blunt force trauma - but certainly not all of it.

Backface deformation

Because even though that dimple may look small, it packs a BIG punch. That’s from a 300 Win Mag, by the way. Poly and Ceramic Plates are much more prone to backface deformation.


The many added benefits of Trauma Pads


We’ve touched on the exclusive usefulness of body armor, as well as trauma pads in mitigating blunt force. Let’s map that out a bit more thoroughly, and touch on a few other helpful uses:


  1. Enhanced Personal Safety: Simple enough. By wearing body armor with a set of quality trauma pads, individuals significantly improve their chances of surviving or minimizing injuries in high-risk situations (such as, well… getting shot at). The added protection can give wearers the confidence and peace of mind needed to carry out their duties effectively. This capability is particularly crucial in emergencies and active shooter scenarios, but can also prove useful if there is any risk of blunt force trauma, such as from a vehicle, debris, and so on. We see humanitarian workers and other first responders besides police regularly use armor and trauma pads for these very reasons.

  2. Absorbing and Dispersing Energy: What trauma pads were literally made for. The pads act as a buffer between the body and the body armor, helping to absorb and distribute the remaining energy that may be transmitted through the armor after a projectile is stopped. By minimizing the force transferred to the wearer; or rather, dispersing it over a larger and less-painful area, trauma pads significantly reduce the risk of broken bones, internal injuries, or otherwise potentially life-threatening trauma.

  3. Multi-Impact Protection: Trauma pads are made from highly resilient materials, allowing them to withstand numerous impacts without being compromised or deformed - for as many hits as your armor will take, in fact. Multi-hit protection is what steel armor is all about, making it a match made in heaven for individuals who operate in high-risk environments where the risk of multiple rounds hitting the chest is present. They provide continuous protection even after initial impacts, allowing for sustained defense and minimizing the potential for cumulative injuries from follow-up shots. Just make sure you’re doing everything you can to get out of the line of fire!

  4. Enhanced Comfort and Fit: Trauma pads are engineered to conform to the contours of the body, ensuring a comfortable and secure fit when worn with body armor. They are lightweight, flexible, and do not impede mobility, enabling users to move freely while maintaining a high level of protection. This ergonomic design also reduces the risk of chafing or discomfort during extended wear, occasionally seen from exclusively wearing plates with a carrier. On that note, a well-built carrier will also do wonders in aiding overall comfort during extended use. Trauma pads will only enhance that.


Different strokes for different… bullets?

Level III+ body armor shot with multiple calibers

If you HAD to be shot with one of these rounds and were allowed to choose, it’s safe to say you may have a preference… right?


As with all things in the tactical world, real-world scenarios need to be considered in order to keep expectations realistic. Just throwing out blanket statements, such as telling someone that their “ribs will shatter” if they use a steel plate without trauma pads is not only ambiguous and vague, but incorrect for virtually any realistic scenario you may find yourself in. It’s the same type of person who believes Level III armor is “useless” since it doesn’t stop their grandpa’s black-tip surplus 30-06 from point-blank, even though it stops 99% of rounds involved in actual shootings within the US.


Let’s simplify it:

  • The average muzzle velocity of a common 9mm cartridge is around 1,200 feet per second, carrying about 375 ft-lbs of energy.

  • The average muzzle velocity of a common .308 cartridge is around 2,750 feet per second, carrying about 2,650 ft-lbs of energy.


Of course, both of these will vary with different bullets, barrel lengths, and other factors.

But while wearing body armor, would you rather be shot with a 9mm handgun, or a .308 rifle? By now, your preference should hopefully be a given - that .308 round carries tremendous force, enough to take down a large animal or person with low to medium effort from upwards of 1,000 yards away (and has been done at even further distances). A 9mm round fired from a handgun is obviously just as lethal in its own setting (and technically kills more people in the US than nearly any other caliber), but is much easier of a round to stop with armor at the close ranges it is intended for, and will carry much less energy when making contact with a plate. That makes getting shot with 9mm a much more… comfortable experience? If you can call it that. Not saying it won’t hurt.


Given that your odds of being shot by a handgun are monumentally higher than being shot with almost anything else, remember that while it can feel great to take out a second mortgage for the best personal protection money can buy… for those of you who cannot, there is a stupendously high chance you can get away with buying whatever is best for your budget. Obviously make sure to do some research and due diligence beforehand (like you’re doing now, reading this). While we dislike the notion that people buy expensive armor exclusively for the price tag and assume it to be quality, there are many “budget” options that are sub-par as well. So yeah - do your homework.

Level IIIA body armor, Level III steel armor, Level III UHMWPE armor, Level III+ armor

Protection on a budget? That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality.


Protect yourself, before you literally wreck yourself


When it comes to personal safety in hazardous environments, relying solely on body armor may provide protection from bullets and penetrating trauma, but the protection often stops there. The inclusion of trauma pads as an essential component of personal protective gear offers a crucial layer of defense, further reducing the risk of injury from blunt force trauma and keeping you in the fight. By absorbing and dispersing energy, trauma pads enhance the effectiveness of body armor, ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals operating in high-risk professions or environments - and at an affordable price. Together, body armor and trauma pads create a formidable combination, empowering individuals to face potential threats with confidence and a greater assurance of personal security - even after taking the bullet.


Check them out on our website today!

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