Vintage Kevlar Armor; or, Old Armor Better With Age?

Posted: July 13, 2014 in Armor Care, Uncategorized

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:

Click to access 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!

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