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Over the 40 plus years the NIJ has been certifying body armor, much has changed. Back in the late 60’s, through the 70’s and early 80’s, handgun threats on the streets escalated from .38 SPL RNL and .22 LR out of short barrels to hot 9mm FMJ and .44 Magnum JSP. The level I rating virtually disappeared as a result (though it is still better than nothing, see my shoot tests with Level I panels).

But perhaps the biggest changes have been in the area of rifle threats, specifically AP (Armor Piercing). At the outset, NIJ level IV was rated to stop arguably the most potent threat that could be regularly encountered (and all comparable but lesser threats), the .30-06 M2 AP 163gr. At 2750 FPS, this round was (and still is) formidable. Having a high molybdenum and vanadium tool steel core hardened to around 59-61 Rockwell C hardness, it can punch through 8mm of RHA at 100M. Comparable Soviet and ComBloc rounds do slightly worse.

But fast forward more than three decades, and the threat profile has changed. WC (tungsten carbide) core rounds are no longer a rarity, and their penetration profile is far better than the M2. The American military has recently introduced a second generation WC projectile as a replacement for the first generation M993. Called the ADVAP (Advanced Armor Piercing) round, it is essentially the same design as the M80A1 projectile, with a hardened WC “arrowhead” swaged to a copper alloy base/driver. At $13 -per round- it is designed to cope with advanced emerging armors.

Which means the threats are not unilateral. Advanced Russian and Chinese designs must be assumed to be at least comparable to the M993 (7.62), M995, and AP4 (5.56) rounds. Which is why the NIJ is strongly encouraged to drop the M2 AP as the baseline round for the highest rated rifle plates, and begin using the M993 (as sourcing the newest Russian rounds for testing is virtually impossible at this time).

Testing by Buffman, of BuffmanRange has shown that there are plates that are (barely) capable of stopping the M993 round (and by extension, the M995 and AP4), but it is a crap-shoot. They are neither designed, nor rated for WC threats, which necessitates a completely different design philosophy.

The second problem is that of fragility. The current NIJ IV rating specifies a SINGLE M2 AP round must be stopped, in order to meet the standard. The NIJ III is not much better, specifying 6 rounds of M80 ball in a 6″ circle. In nearly every case, the plate is reduced to rubble, with the entire strike face compromised after a single round. A more reasonable standard is to require 8 rounds in a 6″ circle, for both levels of plate. More difficult? Absolutely. But in keeping up with advancing threats, absolutely necessary.

Here at D-Rmor Gear, we are not satisfied to rest on our laurels, and have been working on these problems tirelessly over many years. As a result, we will have a major announcement by the end of the month. Stay tuned.

From the inception of modern soft armor in the late 60’s to early 70’s, body armor has been tested and rated by the National Institute of Justice, a private organization that took it upon itself to issue standards and testing protocols for body and vehicular armor.

In retrospect, the NIJ rating system was a perfect example of “making it up as you go along.” For example, the use of Roma Plastalina #1 modeling clay as a witness backing material was simply the result of one of the NIJ’s employees grabbing his kid’s modeling clay off his kitchen table.

Over the years, the NIJ Standard has been taken as gospel when it comes to rating and testing armor, but certain high-profile failures over the years were the results of failures of the testing and evaluation of armor.

Chief among those failures were the Zylon fiasco, and the continued use of UHMWPE materials in soft armor.

Zylon, a new “super fabric” of the 90’s, began to see use in soft armor. Touted as the next big leap in body armor technology, it looked good on paper, and performed well- until it didn’t. The the original manufacturer of the fabric, Toyobo of Japan, had never envisioned the fabric being used as soft armor. But with the push for lighter, thinner, and softer vests, several manufacturers immediately jumped on the Zylon bandwagon.

Unfortunately, Zylon had a fatal flaw- because of the manufacturing process, the final step of cleaning the filaments left traces of acid on the fibers. Combined with moisture (such as perspiration), this initiated a chemical reaction that led to degradation and a massive loss of strength in the Zylon fabric. To the extent that it was no longer bullet resistant. This lead to the completely unnecessary and tragic deaths of several peace officers, including Tony Zapatilla, who was killed after receiving shots to his vest that would have been stopped by a non-Zylon armor.

Because the NIJ did not have any kind of environmental conditioning requirements in place, the utter unsuitability of Zylon for use in soft armor was never detected, until it led to deaths and injuries. Two of the earliest crusaders for more accountability in soft armor rating and testing were Kevin McClung, and Gary Roberts, DDS. Kevin also brought to light a key vulnerability of another commonly used material, UHMWPE. UHMWPE is another material that looks good on paper, performs well in its narrow range of suitability, but has several key flaws.

First, because it is essentially the same basic chemical structure as milk jug plastic, it will denature above 180 degrees Farenheit. Back in the late 80’s vests were being constructed with a woven version of UHMWPE, and there were several instances where a hot cup of coffee had been spilled on concealed vests. Hot coffee can easily exceed 180 degrees F, and because of the nature of the woven fabric, it was much more vulnerable to heat-degradation.

This lead to a “retirement” of woven UHMWPE, and a laminated version became standard (the idea being that laminated plies are more resistant to heat transfer, especially from liquids, which is valid). However, the trunk of a vehicle in a hot environment can also exceed the temperature threshold for de-naturation, and so to this day, UHMWPE soft armor is, in my and several other’s opinions, unsafe.

UHMWPE has another flaw, related to the temperature vulnerability: contact shots. Because muzzle blast from most pistols can exceed 900 F, UHMWPE armor can, and has been shown to be susceptible to penetration by contact shots. More importantly, these shots were from rounds that would normally have been easily stopped otherwise.

To their credit, the NIJ listened, and like most good companies, realized they needed to change.

Next year will see a complete restructuring of the standards and ratings.

The Roman numeral levels will be discarded, and instead, a more intuitive rating system will be unveiled. For example, for handgun threats, there will be HG1 and HG2. For rifles, RF1, RF2, and RF3. In our opinion, this will go a long way towards updating and improving armor’s effectiveness.

Some things that will be essential would include:

-More stringent environmental testing, including high temperature conditioning of both hard and soft armor @ 200 F.

-More focus on contact and high-angle-of-incedence impacts

-Specialized testing for female armor

-And perhaps most importantly, the updating of the Rifle threats, to make the M993 and M994 the standard threat projectiles in the higher levels, since the M2 AP is an 80 year old round.

Our hats are off to the NIJ for listening to their customers, and look forward to seeing how the new standards stack up.

Modern armor leans rather heavily on a class of materials known as ceramics. Man has been developing and using ceramics since antiquity, and they still play a vital role (some would say even more so now) in the 21st century.

But instead of amphorae to hold wine, olive oil, or other bulk trade goods, ceramics are used in more demanding applications, where extreme heat, pressure, abrasion, and corrosion resistance are critical.

For applications in body armor, ceramics must exhibit several seemingly contradictory attributes, of which four are absolutely critical. They are:

Bulk Density: This translates into how heavy a ceramic is for a given volume. The lower the number, the better.

Hardness: This is a ceramic’s resistance to indentation. Harder is better, especially when facing tungsten carbide core threat projectiles.

Fracture Toughness: How resistant to crack formation and propagation a ceramic is. The higher the number, the more suitable as armor.

Modulus of Elasticity (Also known as Young’s Modulus): This describes how stiff a material is  (elastic deformation). The higher the number, the stiffer it is.

There is also another vital attribute to consider, which is cost. There are several ceramics that would be considered “ideal,” but are disqualified due to prohibitive cost. I have provided the attributes below, as well as a numerical rating from 1 to 3 (1 being least efficient, 3 being most efficient). Below a usable threshold will result in a 0. This will allow us to see how each ceramic stacks up.

The three primary technical ceramics that account for 95% of the ceramic armor currently used (personnel and vehicular) are:

Aluminum Oxide (AKA Alumina, Al2O3)

Silicon Carbide (AKA Carborundum, SiC)

Boron Carbide (AKA Black Diamond, B4C)

The traits and attributes are as follows:

Al2O3-

Bulk Density (99.5% grade): 3.90 g/cm3 (1, heavy)

Hardness: ~1400-2000 Knoop (Kg/mm2) (2, low-medium hardness)

Fracture toughness: 4.5 (2.5, very good)

Elastic Modulus: 393 (1.5, low)

Cost: $ (affordable)

Overall rating: 1.9 out of 3

SiC-

Bulk Density (Sintered): 3.21 g/cm3 (2.5, medium weight)

Hardness: 2800  Knoop (Kg/mm2) (2.5 high hardness)

Fracture Toughness: 4 (2, good)

Elastic Modulus: 475 (2.5 medium-high)

Cost: $$ (expensive)

Overall rating: 2.3 out of 3

B4C-

Bulk Density (Hot Pressed): 2.51 g/cm3 (3,extremely light)

Hardness: 3500 Knoop (Kg/mm2) (3,extremely hard)

Fracture Toughness: 2.6 (1,low)*

Elastic Modulus: 675 (3,extremely high)

Cost: $$$ (extremely expensive)

Overall rating: 2.2 out of 3

So, as can be seen, there are numerous factors involved. While Boron Carbide is the hardest of the commonly used ballistic ceramics, it is not the best overall. Silicon Carbide takes the honors, having the best combination of factors. If weight is paramount, B4C is the leader.

By comparison, the following are the attributes for Silicon Nitride, an “ideal” ceramic for ballistic applications:

SiN-

Bulk Density: 3.31 g/cm3 (2.3, medium heavy)

Hardness: 2200 Knoop (Kg/mm2) (2.3, medium hardness)

Fracture Toughness: 7 (3, extremely high)

Elastic Modulus: 317 (1.5, low)

Cost: $$$$ (prohibitively expensive)

Overall rating: 1.82

And the attributes for fused silica (SiO2, glass)-

Bulk Density: 2.2gm/cm3 (3, very light)

Hardness: 600 Knoop (Kg/mm2) (0, below usable threshold)

Fracture Toughness: 1 (0, below usable threshold)

Elastic Modulus: 73 (0, below usable threshold)

Cost: $ (very inexpensive)

Overall rating: 1.2

So, as can be seen, multiple factors are in play when selecting optimal ceramics for ballistic use. Looking at just one, or even two will not give a complete picture.

Which is why most ceramic armor for rifle and larger caliber applications is either Alumina (most effective ceramic for the money), or Silicon Carbide (best performer for the money).

And until revolutionary advances are made in the field of nanotechnology and technical ceramics, the three main materials listed above will be soldiering on for the forseeable future.

*Special note about Boron Carbide- B4C undergoes what is known as “amorphization” under impact loading. In layman’s terms, the crystalline structure of the Boron Carbide is converted to a glassy (amorphous) structure when impacted at high speed. This causes a tremendous loss of strength. The reasons for this impact-loading loss of strength is still not fully understood, and ongoing research is attempting to remedy it. Neither Al2O3 nor SiC undergoes this transition.

We have placed our version 4.4.1 Spall Guard orders on hold due to material shortages. The mill that custom produces the material is backed up about 90-120 days.

Please email us to get on the notification list, and we will keep you apprised of the status.

Thanks for your patience, and patronage.

In the past few months, we here at D-Rmor Gear have been burning the candle at both ends to bring our patrons and loyal end users several new and innovative products.

Just to let you know, it’s going to get even better.

We are preparing to release several more new products, some that have been in development since 2014.

These will include enhancements and improvements for those of you running plate carriers, as well as performance and safety upgrades for existing concealable soft armor.

Finally, for those that have been loyal followers of D-Rmor Gear from the beginning, an exciting upgrade to two of our flagship products.

Stay tuned, and follow us to keep up with the latest!

After a rather long hiatus, we have updated the ever-popular Recommended Armor/Gear Database. There have been some interesting (and surprising) additions, and sadly some items became unobtainable for various reasons.

But time and gear marches forward! Thanks for your patience. Check out the updated page here:

https://drmorgear.wordpress.com/recommended-armor-database/

Over the past 15 years, we have been designing, building, innovating, and improving armor, tactical gear, and related equipment. Our philosophy has ever been, “there’s no such thing as over-engineering, merely proper engineering.” After wearing out, destroying, and dissecting more pieces of personal gear than we can recount, there were some themes that kept repeating: stitching geometry, materials, and design are all critical. It sounds like common sense, but after witnessing many gear failures, and tracing them to their causes, we saw that common sense is not so common.

We began to design gear that incorporated advanced materials. Materials normally only found in ballistic armor, such as Kevlar and Twaron. We sought out the best materials, and when they couldn’t be found, we had them custom milled to our specifications. And we realized that using ballistic-rated materials could enhance the overall protective capabilities of the entire system, meaning that pouches and load-bearing gear was no longer pure parasitic weight.

The results of that decade of design, planning, innovation and re-design are now available to you, a dividend that you can benefit from when you purchase any of our FragTuf(TM) gear.

When you see the FragTuf(TM) name, it means that the item is stronger, lighter, better. There are three levels of FragTuf(TM) construction:

FragTuf-A: Utilizes our signature dual-stitching, combining mil-spec Kevlar and Nylon. Can also include advanced HANK (High Abrasion Neoprene Kevlar) laminate.

FragTuf-B: Includes everything found in FragTuf-A, but goes a step further, and contains between one and three layers of fifth-generation woven ballistic aramid.

FragTuf-C The most rugged FragTuf gear includes everything A and B has, with the addition of our custom-milled SpallGuard aramid material, usually in places other makers would use mundane padding.

Our goal is to create a comprehensive line of gear, that is both universally compatible with everything we make, as well as interchangeable and compatible with as much extant gear (current, future, and legacy) as possible. To give you the absolute maximum number of possibilities in setting up your kit, with the absolute best quality and durability.

Here at D-Rmor Gear, we are always striving to give the end-user more options, and more ways to solve gear problems. We believe that the best way to do that is provide as close to limitless versatility, modularity, and compatibility as we can.

Enter the D-Rmor Gear FragTuf 360 panel! As the name suggests this panel provides you with 360 degree load-carriage options. With three rows of four-column MOLLE, and nine integral 1″ loops on the front, and both 2″ webbing slots AND belt-loop attachment points on the rear, it is up to you how to use it. Just a few of the possibilities include:

Low-Profile/Minimalist Chest Rig (When combined with our forthcoming Universal Suspension Rig)
Drop-Leg Panel (When combined with our forthcoming Drop-Leg Suspension Kit)
Shoulder-Rig Panel (When combined with our forthcoming Shoulder Rig Kit)
Minimalist Rear-Panel Add-On for Chest Rigs
Belt-Panel
Micro-Cummerbund Panel
Daisy-Chained Bandoleer (Connect multiple 360 panels together with split-bar SR buckles)
Ruck Panel (Interior or Exterior)

Compatible with 1″ split-bar side release buckles, ITW Nexus G-Hooks, and 1″ up to 2″ webbing, we give you the option to use it as you see best.

And, because it is constructed of D-Rmor Gear’s Innovative and Industry-Leading FragTuf technology, this panel outshines everything else out there: it contains two layers of woven fifth-generation ballistic Aramid, and is sewn at critical points with our dual Nylon/Kevlar stitching method. FragTuf technology both ensures your gear holds together through the most challenging situations, as well as enhancing the overall protective value of your entire kit.

The 360 Panel boasts a FragTuf-B rating.

And because we are looking forward, all of our gear is designed with an eye toward seamless integration with our forthcoming Load Bearing Vests, Plate Carriers, and Chest Rigs.

Finally, what would D-Rmor Gear be without our guarantee? The 360 panel comes with our no-BS, fully transferable lifetime guarantee. If you break it, get it back to us and we will repair or replace at our discretion. Just tell us how you managed to break it!

Specs:

6.5″x6.5″x0.2″
Material: Mil-Spec/Berry Compliant 1000 or 500 Denier Solution-Dyed NIR Compliant Cordura Nylon
Thread: Mil-Spec/Berry Compliant size 69 Nylon and Kevlar
1″ Mil-Spec/Berry Compliant webbing, compatible with 1″ Hardware, cable routing
2 Layers Fifth Generation woven aramid (Kevlar or Twaron)
100% Designed, Tested, Constructed on America

Available in your choice of:
500 and 1000 Denier Coyote Cordura
500 and 1000 Denier Multicam Cordura
500 Denier Black FR Cordura
500 Denier Coyote FR Cordura

With more color options on the way. Pricing is $59 per panel. Order yours today!

Everyone loves Kydex. It makes for durable, lightweight, rigid holsters, mag pouches, and knife sheaths.

However if you want to attach a Kydex sheath to a MOLLE panel, or have a blade you want to run on a dundee rig, a drop-leg setup, or attach to a pack…the Kydex leaves much to be desired. Zip-ties or paracord lashing keep the low-profile of the original sheath, but are somewhat…low-speed. Other methods using screws and polymer hardware work, but add significant weight and bulk.

Enter the D-Rmor Gear KTM (Kydex-To-Molle) sheath adapter. Constructed of 1″ Mil-spec nylon webbing and rugged 500 denier solution-dyed Cordura, the KTM adapter gives you an abundance of mounting options. With the use of ITW G-Hooks, Tactical Tailor MALICE Clips, or split-bar side release buckles, you can mount your knife tip-up, tip-down, or horizontally. Set it up as a Dundee shoulder rig, a drop-leg rig, or mount it to your ruck or plate carrier. The KTM boasts four mounting loops and double-sided MOLLE compatible mounting webbing, in addition to a paracord tie-down integral to the design.

The KTM offers positive integration and retention of the Kydex and KTM, resulting in a secure, comfortable, versatile, and low-profile upgrade to your favorite sheath and blade combo.

Intended to work with quality Kydex sheaths (such as those offered by Al Welke of AZWelke Sheaths), the KTM can be crafted for both pancake and taco style kydex sheaths.

Pricing will vary by size, knife shown is a Busse SWatmandu Taco sheath by AZWelke, and would run $49 as-equipped (sheath and blade NOT included). Each KTM is customized to your sheath, and requires end-user to mail sheath with payment.

Color options are Coyote, Black, Multicam.

Taking pre-orders, contact us today to discuss having yours made!