A recent hubbub surrounding a manufacturer of steel plates for body armor highlights the importance of choosing a good manufacturer.

It has come to light that this company used the excellent Armox Advance (manufactured by SSAB in Sweden, a reputable and highly respected company) to make their newest plates, which on the surface had impressive specs: .196″ thick (before coating) and under 5 lb. for a 10X12 plate, in a complexly curved plate (almost unheard of). They claimed that the plates would stop M193 at 3100+ FPS, which based on the capabilities of the steel, they should have. Seemed too good to be true.

And it was.

Several testers immediately reported that the plates were failing, and failing rather dramatically at well below the stated velocity threshold.

Some sleuthing (which uncovered a patent application by this company), showed that in order to press the plates into the comfortable multi-curve profile, the company had…wait for it…ANNEALED the blanks.

To my non-metallurgist readers, that means the plates were heated up to what is known as critical temperature (around 1600 F for this particular steel), which removes all hardness. The plates were then apparently re-heated and re-hardened (NOT by SSAB, but by the company in question) after forming. Which is why the failures should surprise no-one.

There are no free lunches.

Steel for body armor is certified by the manufacturer, right up to the point it is meddled with.

Stripping the factory heat treat to make it easier to bend can turn a previously excellent steel into just another piece of random plate. 80% of a given high performance steel’s properties are in the heat treat, the remaining 20% are the chemistry and how the piece is shaped/engineered. Thinking that they could equal the heat-treat of SSAB using standard commercial methods was pure irresponsible hubris, and could have cost lives. There is a reason curved Armox Advance plates are rare, and usually single curve.

Unfortunately, it is incidents like this that give steel rifle plates an undeservedly bad reputation, and it is up to reviewers and end-users to educate themselves. Purchase steel plates from well-known, vetted companies such as Patriot Plate, Spartan, AR500, and others.

And while it is laudable to want to innovate and improve, manufacturers of body armor need to have a grasp of some basic, basic fundamentals of the materials they are working on, and rigorously test their product in-house (the above issue would have been avoided had the company in question actually tested the finished plates before letting them out the door).

It is my hope that this company will do the right thing and refund the money of their customers that purchased these plates, and replace them with plates that have been tested and pass QC.

As always, do your homework, and I will do my part to get this information to the end users.

D-Rmor Gear is pleased to announce the newest version, 4.4, of our classic Spall Guard, has been released. Still lightweight, even more rugged, with changes to make it easier to install your plates. Now you also have the option of lighter, FR treated 500D Cordura in Coyote Brown.

Check them out here:

https://drmorgear.wordpress.com/products/spall-guards/

https://drmorgear.wordpress.com/coming-soon-d-rmor-gear-extreme-duty-plate-backers/

Recently I have had several inquiries about GRP (Glass Reinforced Polymer, or “fiberglass”) armor. It’s important to review this material, as it is becoming more prevalent in the armoring world. It has advantages in certain applications, but is totally unsuitable in others.

GRP has been around for a while. Some of the first body armor and vehicular armor utilized this material. It is comprised of woven, large-denier S-Glass fibers in a resin (usually epoxy, but often polyester or similar). The panels are rigid, and range from a few millimeters to over an inch thick.

In applications such as structural hardening and vehicular armoring, this material is very suitable, as S-Glass is much less expensive than either Aramid or UHMWPE reinforcement. It also has excellent environmental stability, able to withstand long periods of exposure to the elements without appreciable degradation or maintenance.

Recently however, this material has begun to be re-introduced as body armor, either in standalone applications as “handgun resistant” plates, or as the backing component to ceramic rifle plates. In my experience, this material is to be avoided as personal armor.

First and foremost, during a ballistic event, glass fibers are thrown off at high velocity. Unlike Aramid fibers, these can embed themselves in the wearer, requiring exploratory surgery to remove (since glass fibers do not show up on X-ray). A projectile defeat of the plate will pull additional secondary glass fiber projectiles into the wound, complicating it.

Secondly, in handling. This material often has “slivers” or “splinters” of glass fibers standing proud from the surface. These are a non-inconsequential hazard.

Finally, GRP armor is nearly twice as heavy as an equivalent Aramid panel, and three times the weight of UHMWPE for its protection.

My advice would be to spend a little extra to ensure you are getting either Aramid or UHMWPE plates, and avoid rifle plates that specify GRP backing.

It’s already March, and 2017 is going fast. To all those that have waited patiently on the Spall Guard wait list, the backlog is shrinking by the day.

For 2017, I will be offering two new services: Gear repair/modification, and custom soft armor carriers.

If you have a piece of gear that is showing wear and tear, or have something about your EDC that bugs you, contact me and we can discuss fixing it or making it better. I have a decade and a half of experience building and fixing all sorts of gear and accessories, and can optimize your kit to make it suit you better.

If you have a set of soft armor that really suits you, but the carrier is starting to show its age, get in touch, and I can build you a top of the line carrier. I use advanced FR materials to craft a truly custom-fit carrier that is unparalleled in the body armor world.

Along with these options, I will be releasing nearly a dozen new and interesting items. Stay tuned…

In spite of the demands of life over the past year, I have not been letting the grass grow under my feet. Several projects that have been in the works for some time are nearing fruition. Some of the more particularly exciting are listed below:

1. D-RMor Gear Blades- These have been on the drawing board since at least 2011. As a huge fan of both the fixed blade and the Karambit-ring, (as well as the close-quarters blade shapes embodied in the Japanese Tanto and Viking Seax), and finding nothing currently available to satisfy my needs, I decided to design them myself. After many revisions, and redesigns, I settled on three designs that would provide end users with blades that would suit most possible training backgrounds.

In extreme-stress scenarios, fine motor skill goes away. Manipulating a folder (yes, even an assisted-folder), becomes quite difficult. Gross motor skill rules the day. Having a fixed-blade with an ring to index on makes gross-motor skill deployment and manipulation much easier.

Blade length was also a prime consideration. Having a blade in less-permissive environments is of vital importance, and in nearly all jurisdictions, a sub-3″ blade keeps you legal. This blade length does not sacrifice capability, and ensuring you always have a knife in all situations is an essential habit.

Blade geometry/materials/finish was chosen after having used many, many knives over decades. The blade geometries are designed for simple, close-range techniques. The EDK-1 is more functional in cutting, with a blade-shape inspired by the Tanto, but gives up nothing in the thrust. The EDK-2 and EDK-3, inspired by the Norse Seax, are primarily designed for the thrust, with the EDK-3 intended to enhance the overhand grip. I chose canvas micarta over G10 due to my preference for its feel (Canvas is “warmer” and “grippier” in my experience). CPM-3V steel is absolutely amazing when it comes to durability and edge holding. And Nickel Boron and Black DLC keep corrosion from ever being an issue.

I am confident that there are currently no other blades that embody all of these design features.

2. D-Rmor Gear SpreePreventionBag(TM)- In the past few years, things have definitely gotten a bit more…interesting in society. Violence and mass shootings are becoming more frequent. Being a designer (and end-user) of armor, I am always looking to improve my extant designs, making them more comfortable (and thus, wearable). But there are some scenarios that make wearing armor difficult. One of these scenarios was brought home in a very personal fashion a few years ago, after a very public shooting in a popular shopping area. I and my family had been at the venue mere hours prior to the incident.

Due to the day’s heat, and being a rather “trendy” venue, wearing concealed armor had not been an option. That was the point I started designing what was to eventually become the SpreePreventionBag(TM).

My considerations were to make something that could be carried anywhere, ensuring that myself or a loved-one would always have armor in the event of an Active/Mass Shooter type event. It had to be “Non-Obvious” in appeareance (color pallete could not include “tactical” or “camo” colors), had to be small enough to be handy, but big enough to be useful and provide coverage when folded out. It also had to fit a wide range of body types and sizes.

The finalized design does all of these things. Deployable in under 20 seconds, it goes from carryall to protective vest with a minimum of fuss and fiddling. It will also be able to accommodate eventual D-Rmor Gear rifle armor.

The SpreePreventionBag(TM) will be available for pre-order in Spring of 2017.

3. Frag-Tuf(TM) Magazine Pouch- The D-Rmor Gear SpallGuard does an excellent job at soaking up secondary fragmentation from bullet strikes on rifle armor, but what about secondary frag from outside of the plate pocket? Specifically, full magazines? Rounds impacting full rifle mags tend to create a cloud of razor-sharp, high velocity brass fragments which pose a grave threat to the face and throat. Thus, my design for the Fra-Tuf(TM) pouch. Designed to incorporate the same material used in the popular and effective SpallGuard, the Frag-Tuf(TM) stops and absorbs a large percentage of the secondary fragmentation in the event of a mag-strike. Designed to be light, strong, and functional, the Frag-Tuf(TM) will utilize standard attachment methods to secure to LBVs and Plate carriers. Initially to be offered in single-mag 30-round AR configuration, more options are planned.

The Frag-Tuf(TM) Mag pouch will be available for pre-order in Spring of 2017.

4. The ContactGuard(TM) Laminate Upgrade- Laminate armor panels (both UHMWPE and Aramid-Based), while providing excellent ballistic protection for the weight, suffer from several well-known drawbacks, one of the most dangerous being their susceptibility to contact shots (see my August 13th 2014 post https://drmorgear.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/shoot-test-contact-shots-vs-uhmwpe-soft-armor/ for graphic demonstration). To counter this weakness, and provide an option for those that either cannot or will not go to a full-aramid soft armor solution, I have developed ContactGuard(TM).

Almost 7 years of development went into this design, which makes use of advanced materials and construction methods to prevent contact shots from penetrating laminate panels. Adding negligible bulk and weight, each ContactGuard(TM) is custom made to fit inside an end-user’s vest carrier. And being far less expensive than a new vest, it gives owners of laminate vests a budget-friendly option.

The ContactGuard(TM) will be available for pre-order in Spring of 2017.

There’s more. Lots more. But hopefully this will whet your appetites. As always, your emails and feedback are much appreciated!

At long last, have begun taking names for my Spall Guard order queue again. If you would like to be placed on the notification list, please send me an email with the number of Guards you would like to order, the type/shape of plates they are for, and your contact information.

Have also been very busy with some new stuff coming out the first half of 2017. Stay tuned, and thanks for your patience!

Long Overdue Status Update

Posted: May 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

As usual, thanks to all the loyal readers. I appreciate the emails and inquiries, am doing fine, currently away from the workbench for the time being. I will be bringing D-Rmor Gear back to full operational status by the fourth quarter of this year, so stay tuned.

I will be closing for new orders after December 18th for approximately 2 months due to work obligations. This is the last day I will be able to start on and complete Spall Guard and Plate Backer orders until approximately the middle of February. All current outstanding orders will be completed and shipped before December 31st. Thanks to everyone for their continuing support, and Merry Christmas!

D-R

Over the past six months, there has been a great deal of both excitement, and lately concern, regarding the Armour Wear AR680 plate. Touted as a “level III+” plate, it is claimed to stop the extremely dangerous M193 high-velocity threat.

In the past few months, extremely un-scientific tests on Youtube seemed to “prove” that it was prone to failure when shot by M193 @ 3200 fps.

Unfortunately, Armour Wear did not originally release a very scientific test video themselves.

At this juncture, I have not seen proof either way, either validating or disproving the efficacy of the AR680 plates. Simply because both the proponents (the company in particular) and the detractors (youtube channel) did not take the small amount of extra time and effort to arrange a proper test.

A proper test is *NOT*:

Setting up a bunch of plates on a berm at a 45 degree angle and blazing away willy-nilly.
Setting up a huge sheet of the steel (again, at a range), and (again), blazing away.
Clamping the plate to a rigid fixture, with no backing, and shooting it.

To properly test body armor, hard or soft, requires the use of a backing. The NIJ specifies no.1 Roma Plastalina modeling clay. Any semi-flexible backing will do, as long as it is close in consistency to a human body. The reason for this is two-fold: first, to be able to determine how much energy (backface deformation) is being imparted to the wearer. Secondly (and for the purpose of this post, more importantly), to mimic the physics of the armor being worn.

A plate that is clamped to a rigid fixture will behave differently than one that is resting on a flexible surface. A rigid plate will have no give, and the round will transfer more energy to the plate. With a proper backing, the initial impact will be reduced ever so slightly.

For some armor (soft armor in particular) this will make the difference between complete penetration, and performing as designed (setting a soft armor vest against a plywood or other hard surface enables it to be penetrated with ease). This will also have relevance with hard armor, especially if it is near its failure threshold.

In the same way, propping a plate at an angle will allow it to stop far more than at 0 degrees of obliquity. MBT armor is sloped for this same reason.

As a result of the above, I will be performing a scientific (or at least, much more so than has been performed so far) comparitive shoot test on the Armour Wear AR680 and Maingun Patriot 2 Advance plates. I had contacted Spartan Armor in an attempt to source one of their level III+ plates to include in the test, but have not heard back from them.

It is my hope that this test will settle any arguments once and for all regarding M193 high velocity protection. Stay tuned!

Thank you all for your patience. I have been extremely busy over the past nearly three months, working through the backlog, traveling, and all the attendant details of life.

I have whittled down my Spall Guard backlog, and am currently at two weeks from time of order to delivery (almost back to normal).

For Extreme Duty Plate Backers and Cummerbund panels, I am at a week and a half.

For all other gear, I am at one week.

I have updated my Recommended Armor Database to reflect new information.

I have a lot of exciting review planned for the next few months, as well as new offerings. I will be attempting to returni to my regular blog posting schedule of once a week.

As always, I appreciate all your feedback, suggestions, and words of encouragement. Have a safe and wonderful holiday!