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Old 01-13-2010, 02:08 PM   #11
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Body armor comes in many varieties. Threat levels I-IV, Kevlar, Spectrashield, Twaron and Zylon. There are a number of issues you need to understand.
Threat level is not just the bullets the vest is rated to stop, but also the backface deformation of the vest when impacted by each bullet. A level I vest will stop better than rated. They must have a built in "fudge factor" so they are over built. They may have a backface deformation that exceeds NIJ standards. The backface deformation standards are a point of contention in the US. The Europeans allow much more deformation than NIJ does and they have not had a rash of wearers dying from "blunt force trauma" because their vest flexed too much.

A study a few years back looked at level I vests issued by the old LEAA in the 70's. The level I vests that were never worn stopped far better than their initial rating.

Age is a factor often discussed. Wear and tear and moisture are supposed to be vest killers. We used to use our old level IIA vests for drownproofing classes. Officers had to swim with these older vests to teach them to not panic if they hit the water carrying extra weight. Most of these classes were conducted at a neighborhood pool (heavily chlorinated). These vests were submerged every week and air dried for several days for two years. They should be absolutely worthless at stopping bullets.

I personally shot one of these vests (14 years old and wet/dry countless times). Level IIA vest and it stopped 9mm 115gr FMJ, .357 Mag 158gr GDHP, .40 S&W 180gr GDHP and FMJ, 10mm 180gr GDHP @1300fps, .41 Mag 170gr JHC @ 1600 fps, .44 Mag 240gr JHP at 1300 fps. The only bullet that penetrated beyond the first layer was the .41 Mag. This vest after being abused still stopped far better than it was originally rated to stop.

Material matters. Kevlar is like a Diesel V-8. Heavy but does a great job. Kevlar hold up to abuse better than anything else. Kevlar vests are thicker and heavier than other vests (generally). Spectrashield is more flexible and thinner than Kevlar but holds up quite well to abuse. Twaron is nearly the same as Kevlar, just from a competing maker. Zylon....Here is the rub. This stuff is amazingly light and flexible, BUT is not thermally stable. Leave your Zylon vest in the trunk for a day or two in the south in August and you may as well wear a good heavy leather vest for all the Zylon will do for you. I personally would NEVER buy a vest that contained any amount of Zylon.

Back to the question at hand. Level I now or save for Level II? A level I vest that is in like new condition for a low price (especially if it is from a well known maker like Second Chance) is FAR better than no vest at all.

For me, I would get the Level I and wear it while saving for the level II which I would wear while saving for the level III.

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Old 01-13-2010, 02:24 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by robocop10mm View Post
For me, I would get the Level I and wear it while saving for the level II which I would wear while saving for the level III.
You took the words right out of my mouth.

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Civilians can still get a 2 and 2a vest, unless things have changed since Obama took office. I will probably save up for one.
As far as I know civilians can get level III but need a letter from the local Sheriffs office. I guess it will depend on what state you live in. So YMMV.
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Old 01-13-2010, 02:54 PM   #13
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i bought a level IIIA from a place called keepshooting.com a couple years back for 200.00bucks...it is trade ins but in great condition,but does not come with a trauma plate,but they sell them also for just another 30bucks...of course you could try your luck on evilbay aka ebay...i have seen level 5 ceramic inserts go for a mere 100bucks...and level 3's for 75.00...good luck in finding a deal on your body armor...maybe you'll get lucky and some dragon skin armor will show up on evilbay...stay safe

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Old 01-13-2010, 03:02 PM   #14
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one more thing to think about....most vest are not knife,ice pick,ect proof...so if your saving up to buy a good vest...look into the stab proof ones also...

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Old 01-13-2010, 06:46 PM   #15
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one more thing to think about....most vest are not knife,ice pick,ect proof...so if your saving up to buy a good vest...look into the stab proof ones also...
I thought about this as well, since it is just as likely a scenario in my situation. Thank you for all the advise so far.
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Old 01-14-2010, 09:59 AM   #16
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I am a firearms instructor with more than 30 years experience including concealed carry and home / vehicle defense. Most people that I come across have been influenced by common opinions which they heard at the gun store, safety class, shooting range, magazines, videos, etc:

- You must carry at least a .380 / .38 Special or better, and preferably a 9 mm or something larger. Anything smaller is useless.
- You must buy a high quality gun from a top manufacturer. Low or average quality guns are unreliable and will not work when you need them.
- You must train and practice often or you will be unable to defend yourself under stress and you will be killed.
- Etc. etc. etc. we have all heard the popular opinions ad nauseum.

Now as an instructor I do know all of the facts about guns, ballistics, stopping power, importance of training, etc. but people are being misled by these opinions which are often misrepresented as facts. You must consider the following:

- Any gun is A LOT better than no gun at all. Give me a .22 LR gun over an empty hand any day.
- A cheap gun now is A LOT better than an expensive gun later. Buy the best you can afford now and then save your money to trade up later.
- A gun owner with minimal training is much safer than a person that is waiting to buy a gun because they can't afford to take the expensive classes.
- Many criminals will use cheap guns or even simple weapons like a knife or a bat, and they usually have no training at all.

So I always teach people the facts first, followed by the options with pros and cons, then let them form their own opinions on what is best for their situation. But in general I will still recommend any gun now rather than a better gun later.

The same argument applies to ballistic vests. Any cover is better than no cover. Even a magazine, book, heavy coat, pane of glass, sheet of drywall, mattress, etc. is much better than being shot without any protective barrier. Any protective vest is better than no vest, and a cheap Level 1 vest can easily be improved by adding a trauma plate or even wearing two of them together if needed. And some of the cheapest vests will give you decent protection from knives, sticks, bats, fists, etc.

So my advice is to get the cheap Level 1 vest now and enjoy it. Save up and get a better vest later then sell your old vest to recover part of the cost. Of course if you can afford more now then by all means get a better vest now. But don't go without just because of all the popular opinions which are readily tossed around. That cheaper vest just might keep you alive long enough to trade up.

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Old 01-15-2010, 01:44 AM   #17
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When reading this please remember that I carry a .45.

Richard Davis would disagree with the first bullet point.


Please stop into the new members section and say hello.
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Old 01-15-2010, 02:07 AM   #18
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SPA+™ | Second Chance Armor, Inc.


This is what I wear on a daily. I also have a full ballistic combat vest for stopping EVERYTHING.... but I can't move in it. I feel that if you are that worried, get a new job. But yes, something is better than nothing. A T-shirt stops more than skin does. So wear a shirt and a jacket.... Just my 2 cents
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Old 01-15-2010, 06:51 AM   #19
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...I feel that if you are that worried, get a new job... Just my 2 cents
I love my job. I'm just a lot more paranoid, now that I have kids. I want to see them grow up.
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Old 06-15-2010, 09:16 PM   #20
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...something is better than nothing...
well, I bought the class 1 vest for $80, brand new (though, it shows a manufacture date of 2002). Not sure I'll even wear it much, but it will help for the times that I do - probably cold days, when a jacket will cover it.
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