Testing Bulletproof Vests
Testing bulletproof vests at the Oregon Ballistics Lab, which one held up the best?
Only the most effective bulletproof vests are worthy of being certified by the National Institute of Justice. But the question is – which vest stops bullets with the least pain?
Over at the Oregon Ballistics Lab, one of six NIJ-certified facilities in the US, testing is carried out by mounting the armor on a 220-pound block of modeling clay then using a mechanized rig to fire six .44-caliber and six .357 rounds at it.
Readings taken from the indents in the modeling clay show how much pressure the impact has on the subject, and with a simple but crazy formula, they can work out what that equates to in pain, or protection, which ever way you want to look at it.
The NIJ recognizes six levels of ballistic protection for body armor; IIIA is the highest a soft – with no metal plate- can attain. And that’s the category the guys over at Wired decided to test themselves.
With thanks to Mac Castle, ‘who has a firing range in his basement and was nice enough to go just a tad more, err, ballistic on our test subjects,’ the guys proceeded to carryout their own research with some interesting results.
1. Bulletproof Bodyarmor HQ Vest – $344
Bulletproof Bodyarmor HQ
‘Talk about protection: The dimples left by the .44-caliber rounds in our lab tests were so negligible, the techs didn’t deem them worthy of measurement. Held up even when Castle shot it twice in the same spot. Simple, concealable design. Least expensive vest in the group.’
Cons: ‘Some bullets left sharp plastic edges protruding from the point of impact. But you wouldn’t wear a vest that’s already been shot anyway. Besides, the low price on this one makes replacement a no-brainer.’
2. Miguel Caballero Polo – $4,490
Miguel Caballero Polo Bulletproof Vest
‘Even after 12 rounds, ballistic material was still shrugging off slugs with ease. The polo-shirt exterior stayed cool under fire, with only small holes that you’d have to get pretty close to — we’re talkin’ knife-range close — to notice.’
Cons: ‘Even James Bond’s Q Branch might balk at the nearly 5-G price tag. The shirt doesn’t really hide the armor underneath, so you’re still gonna need that sketchy trench coat. So much for being inconspicuous.’
3. BulletProofME.com Jacket Vest – $760
Bulletproofme.com Bulletproof Jacket
‘Comes zipped inside a warm and comfy L.L.Bean jacket, making it easy to wear in public without blowing your cover/attracting the attention of Homeland Security. The lightest vest tested.’
Cons: ‘Ouch! Clay indentations were at least 25 percent deeper than with the others. One bullet did go clean through, but since it was close to a previous hit, official NIJ tests would have forgiven this failure. Good thing real-world gunshots are so thoughtfully spaced!’
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