“I think vests are all about protection. You know what I mean? Like a life-vest protects you from drowning, a bullet-proof vest protects you from getting shot, and the sweater-vest protects you from pretty girls” - Demetri Martin
“Bulletproof” - More complicated than you may think.
Have you ever purchased a phone case, looked at the features on the side and saw something like “water resistant” or “waterproof”? Many people will read these terms and use them interchangeably, assuming they mean the same thing. This, however, is a mistake.
When something is labeled as “water resistant,” it will repel the effects of water to a certain point. After a specific time, depth or pressure has been applied, water will begin penetrating through the object. “Waterproof,” on the other hand, denotes something that is virtually impervious to water, no matter what forces influence the object. Typically, you will see phone case manufacturers put something like “Waterproof up to 50 meters” on the box - meaning as long as your phone is submerged in less than 50 meters of water, you can expect it to remain entirely dry within the case.
But what if it sinks below 50 meters? Hold on to that thought.
Speaking earlier of protective vests, you’ll also see “stab-proof” and “slash-resistant” vests - which, as you may have guessed, come with very different levels of knife protection. But even something advertised as “stab-proof” must have its limits, right? Similar to the phone case?
So it is with bulletproof armor.
Just as someone may see the phrase “water-resistant” and not hesitate to swim with their phone, so will someone see “bulletproof” and assume some level of presumed invincibility when wearing body armor. You can largely thank the movies and media for that.
What next, are we supposed to believe silencers aren’t completely silent?!
That’s a joke.
As long as we are not speaking from a purely scientific perspective, even “this-proof” or “that-proof” products will have their limits. If there exists a stronger force than the item at hand, nothing can actually possess the trait of “proof” with no exception - but that is an implied understanding on behalf of the purchaser, usually elaborated upon in the product’s description. If someone tells you this phone case is waterproof, or that vest is bulletproof, it would be unwise to accept that statement at face value without additional information - because there is almost always a limit.
So Bulletproof Armor isn’t bulletproof? What if I need protection from bullets?
When shopping for bulletproof protection, this is exactly where to start. We’ve gone to great lengths in prior articles to talk about NIJ standards, different levels of body armor, and how those levels will stop different calibers.
In short, “Bulletproof” is an entirely relative term - meaning it will apply to certain levels of body armor, but not others. A Level IIIA body armor plate, for example, is completely bulletproof to the common .9mm FMJ round. It is not bulletproof, however, to the equally-common 5.56 FMJ round. A Level III body armor plate is completely bulletproof to that .9mm round; it may or may not be bulletproof to that 5.56 round. The ballistic “gap” between Level III and Level IV armor is enormous and leaves ample room for companies to decide how strong of a Level III plate they actually want to make. It is also why people falsely believe Level III armor is “useless.”
Let’s take care of that one right now:
Useless? Hardly. For the record, the NIJ would consider both of these plates Level III. (link to 3+ article)
Predator Armor seeks to provide peace of mind for this misconception, offering Level III body armor that meets minimum NIJ standards of stopping 7.62x51 M80, while also stopping 5.56 (M193
/M855) from a 16” barrel at 20 yards. Our Level III+ armor does the same thing from a 20” barrel. That III+ plate will also stop a slew of other calibers you may expect to encounter when the world falls apart - provided you aren’t picking fights with the humble old vet up the road and his .30-06 AP rounds. You’ll need Level IV armor - and a damn good reason - to take him on.
All of this may have you asking questions like, “What bullets do I realistically need bulletproof protection from then? Am I in an environment where all threats will come from handguns, or am I at risk of being shot with large caliber rifles?” The answers to these questions will help greatly in deciding what type of body armor to purchase for yourself.
But wait… there’s more.
Think “Bulletproof” is complicated now? It gets better.
Just when you thought you may have gotten a grasp on how different types of armor can be more or less bulletproof, allow us to throw an additional consideration at you:
The real world.
All of those official tests, metrics and experiments used to determine how “bulletproof” your body armor is? Those are performed in scrupulously controlled environments, with specific barrel lengths, velocities, temperatures, angles, shot placements, and more taken into account. That list barely touches the massive catalog of influential factors that ballistically influence a bullet’s flight path, trajectory, and impact between each round, including air resistance, air pressure, and temperature, muzzle velocity, bullet shape and drag coefficient. Understanding these terms and how they apply to each and every cartridge is a lifelong obsess… ahem, pursuit.
Yes, becoming the world's most elite and badass sniper will also require being a math and physics wiz. No way around it.
There is some good news here: as complicated as all of this can seem, it will generally work out in your favor, even if you aren’t a ballistician. How so? Think about it - Just because your armor isn’t rated to stop a specific round from 20 yards away in a meticulously controlled environment, doesn’t mean it won’t stop the same round from 30 yards away in the real world.
For a case example, check out this independent review of our Level III Armor from Turncoat Tactical:
In the video, the shooter uses .308 Armor-Piercing rounds at 15 yards, which penetrate the armor. Afterwards, he takes the same plate back to 50 yards, fires the same round, which is easily stopped this time. If you are in the same situation as this plate, the best solution would obviously be to upgrade your armor to either Level III+ or IV - but if standard Level III is all you’ve got, you can see how attempting to engage an opponent at further ranges would provide a tremendous (and life-saving) advantage, if you are able to do so.
Got it. So as long as I get the right type of body armor, I’m bulletproof… right?
…Not quite. There’s more. Sorry.
Here’s the thing - bulletproof armor is not meant to prevent you from getting shot entirely. It is simply meant to protect your vital organs. Think of it this way - if you were ever shot, would you rather receive a flesh wound to the arm, or a center-mass hit through your heart? While the obvious answer is neither, it is easy to see how one of those would be easier to patch up. And that, my friends, is the purpose of body armor - and why it does not make you “bulletproof” in the sense that you are impervious to being shot.
With all this talk of bulletproof vests and armor, you’ve likely heard the instruction at some point to aim “center mass” when engaging a target. Is this advice still valid if the target is wearing body armor? The answer is still yes, and for several reasons: first, center mass simply gives you the greatest chance of landing hits on your target in a high-adrenaline situation (more on that in a moment). Second, even if the target is wearing body armor, taking shots to that plate will put them down and out of the fight - at least long enough for you to take necessary follow-up action.
Oh, right - just because your armor stops that bullet, doesn’t mean you won’t feel it. That round is traveling at several thousands of feet per second. No matter how small a projectile is, you’re going to feel that force against your body, and you can expect to have the wind knocked out of you (at the very least). There are ways to mitigate this, of course - such as trauma pads, which spread that concentrated energy over a larger (and less painful) area.
Moment of impact: A bowling ball is dropped on 2 cinder blocks: one is protected by a piece of styrofoam, the other is protected by Predator Armor’s Trauma Pad. One crumbles from blunt force, the other remains undamaged. (Link to video)
We discussed how center mass presents the best opportunity for rounds to hit their target, even if the target is wearing body armor. Since this discussion inevitably brings out the “I’ll just aim for the head” crowd, let’s address that real quick - why not just assume everyone is wearing body armor, aim for the head, and go for the quick and easy kill? Simply put, because real-life is not like Call of Duty. If you’re ever in a gunfight, you cannot expect to run-and-gun your way to victory, slide canceling and 360 no-scope headshotting your enemies. You certainly cannot expect to maintain a negative Kill/Death ratio… we’ll let you figure out why.
Put yourself at your local 25 yard shooting range, with a weapon you’re proficient with. At that range, are you capable of consistently shooting a head-sized target? The answer is probably yes, if you are a decent shot. Now, replace that target with a human being, give them a firearm, an unknown level of proficiency with that firearm, an unknown level of realization to your presence, and a desire to kill you before you kill them. While you’re at it, think of the largest adrenaline-rush you’ve ever experienced, multiply it by five, and add that into the mix. Are you still making that headshot every time?
If you’re being realistic, the answer is no - and you may now understand why the vast majority of professional shooters and combat veterans recommend aiming center mass first, as it gives you the single best chance to incapacitate your target - whether or not they’re wearing body armor. Even shooting techniques like the “Mozambique Drill” prioritize center-mass before headshots. And remember, we used the word “incapacitate” for a reason - if you are ever in a home-defense situation and it can be proven your intention was to explicitly kill your target (as opposed to “stopping the threat on your life”), you will more than likely go to jail.
These scenarios are why training smart is just as important as training often.
We humans may be simple, but life sure isn’t.
Let’s face it. As human beings, we yearn to see things as simply as possible - it makes it easier for our brain to process. Night and day, good and evil, most of our entertainment presents these topics to the world in a way that is pleasing to our brains. We like to think there are two distinct “sides” to every situation, and that the safest route is to wholly align ourselves with one of them. The powers that be sincerely hope you’ll adopt this conditioned mindset on a political spectrum, for sure.
But no - life doesn’t work like that. Most things are not as simple as they seem, and that includes bulletproof armor. This is not a bad thing at all, but an opportunity to learn, do your homework, and make educated decisions for your own well-being. And hopefully, then, to enlighten others as well.
And that’s the point here. People want peace of mind, and we are certainly in the business of providing it. Like most things in life, that peace of mind is not as cut-and-dry as many would like it to be. Maybe saying that will negatively impact our sales compared to companies that sell people on fear or clever marketing, but we will stand by it in the name of remaining honest and transparent.
What truly matters is you, the reader, the individual, taking the time to learn, think for yourself, and make decisions that could - quite literally - save your life.
After all, your armor may be bulletproof - but you’re not!