Over the past half century, the primary fiber for use in soft body armor applications has been Aramid fiber (known commercially as Kevlar or Twaron). And though continued innovations and improvements have kept this fiber at the top of the heap in overall effectiveness, it is nearing its plateau. There is only so much that can be done with the (admittedly excellent) fiber, and a worthy successor has been chosen.

Some time ago, it turns out.

Originally developed in 1998 by Azko Nobel, M5 was first produced by Magellan, and subsequently by Dupont, which purchased the rights from Magellan in 2005. With a modulus of around 310 GPa and tenacity of around 5.8 GPa, it exceeds every current high-strength fiber (with the exception of carbon nanotube fibers) by a large margin.

It derives its great strength, in part, from its ability to form hydrogen bonds in 4 axes (by comparison, Aramid only forms biaxial hydrogen bonds). In addition, it is more flame resistant than Nomex, and exhibits almost no degradation when exposed to UV light. It also tolerates humidity well. Essentially, it shows none of the weaknesses inherent in current ballistic fibers, while being far stronger and tougher.

So why are we not seeing this fiber in commercial armor yet? Well, it is in part due to the exceptional characteristics. M5 requires “tempering,” which is a combination of heat treating and tensioning of the fibers as they come off the spinnerets. Unfortunately, equipment designed for Kevlar would be destroyed if it was used for processing M5, simply due to the incredible strength of the fiber. It is thought that much of the delay in bringing this fiber to market is due to the massive retrofitting required to process it into fabric.

One thing is for certain- the translucent blue M5 fiber will eventually replace the iconic golden yellow Aramid fiber as top dog in ballistic armor. Keep your eyes on M5, it will make quite a splash when it goes live.

http://web.mit.edu/course/3/3.91/www/slides/cunniff.pdf

http://defense-update.com/products/m/m-5-fiber.htm

**UPDATE** Spall Guard Backlog

Posted: August 19, 2014 in Spall Guards, Swag

For everyone waiting patiently on the backorder list, I wanted to provide a quick update. Due to the current volume of the backlog, I am taking incremental orders. What this means is, if you are interested in ordering, I will give you a projected date for sending in your order. This way, I can maintain both my sanity and the quality of product you expect. Please contact me to get an estimated order date, and thanks for your patience!

The legendary Tactical Armor Products GAMMA III+ series of plates was one of the most highly regarded rifle plates of its time. With decent weight, good quality build materials, and excellent stopping power, the now extinct TAP’s plates command a premium on the secondary market.

To fill the vacuum left by the discontinuation of the GAMMA, Midwest Armor stepped up to the plate. Like pretty much everything else in their linup, their continuation of the lineage, the SIGMA, was a grand slam.

I ordered my sample of this plate from Appalachian Training. Though they did not even have it officially in stock at the time, Mike was more than happy to get the ball rolling. The plate was a little over $449 shipped, thanks to Appalachian’s enviable flat rate shipping rate.

Due to an unfortunate (albiet very minor) issue with the plate’s PU finish, I got to experience the superhuman customer service that both Appalachian, and Midwest, strive for. I alerted Mike to the issue, and from that moment, it was as if a small army of extremely efficient Armor Ninjas were set in motion. I had an RMA number and label in my hands within mere hours, and the plate was back to Midwest, but NOT BEFORE they had already initiated shipping on a replacement. The box showed up two days later, full of extra goodies (some edible, some not). Now that, folks, is how CS is done.

The replacement plate arrived in good order, and the unboxing commenced. Even though this is armor, and is rugged as heck, the packing job done by Midwest would have kept a dozen eggs from getting so much as a single crack. The extra little details really matter.

Midwest Sigma 3+ front strike face.

Midwest Sigma 3+ front strike face.

The first impression of the plate was “tough.” The tan PU coating is really grippy and resilient. Curvature is not too extreme, and fit my plate carrier very nicely (SKD PIG). Weight is right at 5.45 lb. and thickness is 1.27″. The weight puts this into the “just under medium” category. Much lighter than steel, it is still heavier than the pure UHMWPE plates. However, this is due to the welcome addition of a thin ceramic strike face (in keeping with the GAMMA theme), which allows it to defeat the Green Tip M855, the bane of all UHMWPE plates.

Rear face with label

Rear face with label

Thickness is right at 1.27"

Thickness is right at 1.27″

Overall, I give this plate 4.5 out of 5 stars. The only reason it was not 5 stars is that I generally don’t give 5 star ratings to anything. This plate is rugged, relatively affordable, and comes with a 5 year warranty (and take it from me, if you need the warranty, you will be well taken care of).

Kudos to Midwest Armor and Appalachian Training. They make and sell excellent products.

http://www.midwestarmor.com/body-armor/sigma-iii

http://store.appalachiantraining.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=sigma&Submit=

Armometers Available

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Swag

The D-Rmor Gear Armometer is now available again. I underestimated the demand, and have remedied that. Get yours today!

In several of my posts, I mention that while UHMWPE UD armor is an excellent choice for certain applications, and has material advantages over woven or laminate Aramid ballistic fabrics (higher potential V50, positive buoyancy, UV resistant, waterproof), it suffers from several glaring weaknesses (degrades to complete ineffectiveness above 170F, no breathability, delaminates/curls, and is WEAK AGAINST CONTACT SHOTS).

It is important to reiterate that last weakness: a large number (if not the majority) of self-defense and duty scenarios take place at 0-5 feet, where contact shots are a high likelihood. Woven Kevlar soft armor has shown to provide EXTREMELY good protection against contact shots (defined as the muzzle of the weapon being in physical contact with the vest or armor panel). The point at which Kevlar chars is around 500F, and it will retain its strength below this temperature.

The failure mechanism for UHMWPE in contact shots is the high temperature propellant gases that exit the muzzle microseconds after the bullet. These gases heat the area surrounding the muzzle and bullet path, and cause the laminate to melt/denature. This allows the bullet to penetrate much further than would normally be possible. In the case of large caliber revolvers (with a large muzzle blast footprint), this can allow the round to completely defeat the vest.

Test Round

Test Round

For the sake of the test, the round chosen was the .357 Magnum, rather than a .44 Magnum, as I wanted to see if the (relatively!) more modest caliber would still defeat the level II ballistic panel. The panel consisted of 15 layers of Dyneema SB-38. Round chosen was Hornady Custom 158 gr. XTP @ 1250 fps muzzle velocity, from 6″ barrel. The level II panel is specced to stop an equivalent round.

Test Panel

Test Panel

Backing

Backing

The panel was placed against a backing material consisting of 8 layers of bubble wrap, covered in a dish towel. In retrospect, this was probably a bit too “springy,” giving the panel an advantage by permitting it to move away from the hot muzzle blast faster than if the armor was being worn.

Test Panel Ready To Shoot

Test Panel Ready To Shoot

The test panel and backing were placed upon the ground, and the muzzle pressed firmly (but not forcefully) against the surface. The round was discharged into the center of the panel.

First shot

First shot

First shot, through the backing

First shot, through the backing

First shot, rear of panel...

First shot, rear of panel…

The panel was defeated, showing that the muzzle blast had melted a moderately large area around the point of contact. The round penetrated the backing and buried itself into the dirt (as shown).

To verify, a second round was fired into the lower left area of the panel (away from the heat affected zone of the first round). The second round performed identically, burying itself into the dirt beneath the panel.

Second Contact Shot

Second Contact Shot

Second Round, showing penetration

Second Round, showing penetration

Second shot, layers peeled back

Second shot, layers peeled back

Second shot, showing exit into backing...

Second shot, showing exit into backing…

...And into the dirt

…And into the dirt

Conclusions:

The results of the test shows that UD UHMWPE laminates are at risk vs. contact shots. Heat from the muzzle gases (especially medium to large caliber revolvers) “blazes a trail” so to speak, for the round to penetrate further than it normally would.

On Friday, House Democratic Rep Mike Honda exposed his mistrust for the American Public by suggesting that only the military or law enforcement should be allowed to possess, sell, or purchase hard armor:

https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/5344/text

http://www.guns.com/2014/08/08/congressman-wants-to-ban-sale-of-enhanced-body-armor-to-civilians/

What this outlandish legislation would do is instantly make felons out of millions of honest Americans. Banning an inanimate object because of what a vanishingly few *MAY* do with it is not only illogical and irresponsible, but unlawful under the public law. It is the equivalent of banning the wearing of seat belts in cars.

Please get out your quill and parchment, and WRITE to the Senators to voice your disapproval of this preposterous affront to health and safety. Armor is part and parcel of ARMS. We the Public need to be heard.

Due to overwhelming response, I am backlogged 25 days on both types of Spall Guards. I will not be accepting new orders until August 17th. If you would like to be placed on the waiting list, please contact me with your information. Thanks for your patience!

With the recent roll-out by Midwest Armor of their FM4 and FM3 plates (currently the lightest level IV and III rated stand-alone plates respectively), it was hard to contemplate what they could do to top it.

By releasing the FM-STX (“Force Multiplier, Special Threat”) they may have done that. The STX plate fills a niche for a light, THIN rifle plate that won’t break the bank. While the FM3 is still the lightest level III plate out there (~2.2 lb.), it is relatively thick (a hair over 1″) and does not address the M855 threat. The STX does not carry an NIJ level III rating, as it is tested specifically against M193, M855, and 7.62X39 steel core (hence the “Special Threats” designation).

The STX, at just over .55″ thick, and weighing in at 5 lb. in medium ESAPI profile (4.8 lb. in 10X12 shooters cut!), comes in thinner than either the FM3 and the FM4, providing the thinnest profile of the 3 (with the FM4 being .90″ thick). Consisting of a thin monolithic ceramic strike face sitting atop a backing package of advanced, proprietary UHMWPE rigid laminate, it pushes the limits of hard armor technology.

It also compares very well to the SIGMA III+ (review forthcoming), as it is triple curve (compared to the SIGMA III+ single curve), .55″ thick compared to the SIGMA III+ 1.25″ and only about $50 more per plate @ $499. If M80 ball is not a concern, and you need the thinnest non-steel plate to stop common-threat rifle rounds, the STX is the correct choice.

Add to this that Midwest is not satisfied with a single plate profile- the STX is available in all four ESAPI-profile sizes (small, medium, large, X-Large) as well as small and medium shooters cut, and small and medium full cut (rectangle). Options are nice to have.

The price point does place it in the midrange, with the standard MASS III running $399 and the Guardian IV triple curve at $150. But each plate should be considered for the intended end-use. If you are looking for a thin, light ceramic plate that will stop M193, M855, 7.62X39 steel core and all lesser threats (which accounts for a large percentage of typical threats) for PSD work, the STX is the best choice.

Armor is not a one-size fits all proposition, and by increasing the available choices, Midwest continues to lead the industry. Check out the FM-STX plate here:

http://www.midwestarmor.com/body-armor/venture-fm-stx

(Disclosure: As usual, I have not received any financial inducements, discounts, or remuneration from either Midwest Armor, nor Appalachian training. When I do my hands-on review, as usual I will have paid for the plate out of my own pocket).

Or contact Mike at Appalachian training to special order.

Armometers Sold Out!

Posted: July 23, 2014 in Swag, Uncategorized

Due to overwhelming response, I am now sold out of the Armometer:

https://drmorgear.wordpress.com/project-a/

Should have more in about 30 days. Please contact me to get on the wait list.

One of the more interesting tidbits concerning woven Kevlar armor is that it retains its protective qualities exceedingly well over a long period of time. 30+ year old panels still stop the threats they were designed to stop, with boring regularity.

Even more intriguing, is a study showing that older vests may in fact get *BETTER* with age. Wine, cheese, and woven aramid? You can find the abstract here:

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/111390NCJRS.pdf

Some quotations from the article:

“NIJ tests failed to demonstrate any significant differences in 10-year-old armor, regardless of the extent of use or apparent physical condition”

“The warranty exists solely to limit the manufacturer’s liability on the product and is not a reflection of the anticipated service life of the product.

I hear lots of folks say that their department religiously discards vests as soon as the 5 year period is up. While I understand that this is due to departmental liability, the idea that these vests suddenly become worthless is ridiculous. If they are 100% woven kevlar, they are barely broken in, and should easily have another quarter century (or longer) of use left in them. I say longer because I have not been able to get my hands on vests older than about 36 years. Saving a few of these for the 40 year mark, and will report back on the results.

Unfortunately, this extreme longevity only applies to woven aramid vests, and in my experience, the older ones are typically built better than the new. Laminates will experience peeling and edge creep, the newer all-woven vests also see much more edge creep (fraying) that reduces the effective area of protection.

If you have an older vest in good shape, remember there are things you can do to keep it going: keep it out of sun, or exposure to florescent bulbs (which are actually worse in some ways than sunlight), keep it dry, clean, and free of mold or mildew. Wash with clean water (not tap, not distilled) and a mild detergent, let drip dry.

So keep that older vest, and appreciate a well-built vintage armor!