Posts Tagged ‘armor testing’

Here at D-Rmor Gear, we appreciate no-nonsense, no-hype evaluation of armor (it is, after all, why we started the site).

It is for that reason that we are continually impressed with the work being done by Mike at Buffman R.A.N.G.E. He has, singlehandedly, done more for the armor testing and design community than just about any other site or organization.

Just to name a few of his contributions:

Testing and evaluation of several popular ceramic rifle plates vs. the extreme threat projectile M995 black tip round.

Testing and evaluation of the U.S. ESAPI plate vs. M995, M2AP, and overpressure M2AP rounds.

Honest evaluation of several new body armors offered by several companies.

We strongly urge you to check out his channel at:

Our hats are off to you, Mike.

For several years it has been debated whether or not .22 LR could or could not penetrate soft armor vests.

Originally, in the 1970’s, Kevlar soft armor was developed to protect Officers against common street threats, which typically were .22 LR LRN, .32 ACP LRN, and .38 SPL LRN. Threat level I vests were certified to stop these ubiquitous, low-velocity threats. As time went on, the threats escalated, and more powerful rounds became common, necessitating thicker vests. But, with the advent of the internet, rumors persisted and spread that called into question whether or not the .22 LR could pose a valid threat to lower level soft armor (I and IIA).

Level I soft armor is seldom seen in this day and age. Typically comprising between 6 and 10 layers of woven aramid, it lacks the thickness to provide sufficient protection against backface deformation. Surprisingly, Level I armor will often stop rounds such as .45 ACP hardball @ 850 FPS, or even .40 S&W. However, these rounds leave a very large backface signature, regardless of whether they are stopped by the armor.

.22 LR has the distinction of being a very good penetrator, primarily due to basic physics- it has a very small frontal area, and can achieve relatively high velocities (1400 FPS from a 16-20″ barrel is not unheard of in certain loadings, I.E. CCI Velocitors). However, it is not a jacketed round, and therefore deforms fairly easily.

The NIJ specifications for Level I call for it to be able to stop .22LR LRN at or below 1050 FPS. Now, it is very important to note the velocity threshold- most longer barrels (above 10″ or so) push .22 LR above this velocity, and therefore can be expected to defeat level I armor. The ongoing debate on the Interwebs rages, but without paying much attention to the distinction between .22 out of a short barrel (handgun) vs. a long barrel (rifle). In order to (hopefully) put this debate to rest, I am posting a test.

This test is aimed at settling the longstanding debate on whether .22 LR is a threat to lower rated soft armor (I and IIA) Furthermore, it seeks to establish whether it is a viable threat only in longer barrels, or both long and short barrels, when faster ammo/more pointed rounds are used.

For this test, the ammo used is Remington Viper 36gr. Hypervelocity round, which features a solid copper washed truncated cone lead bullet and a stated MV of 1410 fps (out of a 20″ barrel). This round was chosen as the shape is more conducive to penetration (smaller frontal cross section). This is fired from a 16″ and a 4″ barrel, from 12 inches.

The panels (two level I and two level IIA) are identical, and will each be shot only once to allow for their full ballistic potential to be evaluated vs. each barrel length. The level I panels comprise 7 layers of Kevlar 29, while the level IIA panels comprise 12 layers of the same material. The backing material is Roma Plastalina #1 modeling clay, to allow backface deformation/penetration to be evaluated and observed.

Stay tuned for the results.

Ever since the late 15th century, with the advent of powder-propelled projectile weapons (and indeed, pre-dating that time with crossbows), armor smiths have sought a way to ensure their product will resist (within reasonable limits) the injurious tendencies of fast moving bits of metal.

Smiths making plate armor would often shoot the finished product (with crossbow bolts prior to lead muzzle loader round balls arriving on the scene), and upon visual confirmation of a successful “stop,” would engrave their maker’s mark, showing the armor had passed. This methodology was (and is) referred to as “bench testing” or “proof testing.” An article of protective gear is subjected to one or more ballistic events, and when it either passes or fails, provides the maker, and the end user, with evidence that it is effective, or “proofed.” Many modern firearms bear similar proof marks after being subjected to equivalent testing.

Bench testing is still used today, and while it has certain advantages, it also has some notable drawbacks. For instance, if large numbers of finished articles need to be produced, it becomes ungainly to batch test each lot (a neccesary requirement to verify efficacy of the finished product). It is also subject to the whims of either the maker or the end user. Bench testing is much more suited to custom, or small-batch manufacturers of armor.

Bench testing remained the norm until the 70’s, when it became necessary to certify large numbers of concealable vests. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) scrambled to come up with a way of testing and certifying large quantities of vests. The “NIJ Rating” methodology was created, which should be familiar to everyone with any exposure to armor. The rating levels go from I to IV, and are directly proportional to what threats are stopped. I-IIIA are for soft armor, while III and IV relate to hard (rifle) armor. The tests, in a nutshell, subject a batch of test armor articles to successive rounds of ballistic testing. This ranges from 2 to up to 240 rounds fired, and newer iterations of the tests have become more stringent. However, there are some issues with NIJ testing, which will be discussed in a later post.

In just the past few years, two new test protocols have appeared on the scene: the FBI and DEA test protocols. Publicly released in 2006, the FBI protocol was a vast improvement over the NIJ protocol, subjecting the armor to much more realistic and useful tests. In addition to simply shooting the armor, the FBI/DEA protocols subject the armor to extreme heat, cold, immersion as well as conditioning the armor and subjecting it to flash/flame. While there are still some issues (one in particular that is shared by the NIJ tests), they are far superior to the earlier protocols.

Moving forward, there is still room for improvement regarding armor test standards. This has been a brief overview of the most typical test protocols for modern body armor. In future posts, more detailed analysis of each protocol will be given. Thanks for reading.