The 27th Annual Report on the Latest Advances in Ballistic Armor Technology and Design
Police and Security News Editorial Staff
Photo by Alec Favale
It’s been unusually quiet on the home front regarding the state of the industry for advances in ballistic armor technology. This can be attributed to a number of reasons – the most obvious being the current situation worldwide, with countries continuing to battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
First reported back in 2018, the NIJ’s revised ballistic-resistant body armor standard 0101.07 is still awaiting implementation. It is a revision of NIJ Standard 0101.06, Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor, introduced in 2008. Its primary purpose is for use by the NIJ Compliance Testing Program (CTP) for testing and evaluation of ballistic-resistant body armor for certification by the NIJ. The .07 standard seeks to improve the test methods, along with the performance requirements, for the level of ballistic resistance body armor must have to protect from handgun and rifle fire. The NIJ Standard 0101.07 is more stringent when compared to the previous NIJ .06 Standard. For example, it will include improved test methods for female body armor and updated body armor protection levels which incorporate additional rifle threats faced by US law enforcement. According to unconfirmed sources, publication of the final version of NIJ Standard 0101.07 is anticipated to occur in the beginning of 2021.
In late November 2019, Honeywell introduced Spectra Shield® 6360, an advanced ballistic material for the creation of soft body armor. In tests, Spectra Shield 6360 demonstrated up to seven percent more ballistic protection than its predecessor in the Spectra Shield 5000 series, reducing the risk of blunt force trauma with greater absorption of energy from bullets. Subsequently, in late January of this year, an announcement was made regarding the introduction of Spectra Shield 6166 which is Honeywell’s highest performing ballistic material for rifle protection in hard body armor designs. Pound for pound, Spectra is 15 times stronger than steel, yet light enough to float.
Help for the Ladies
In September 2019, women from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) embarked on a project to assess the capability, usability, deployability, maintainability, and affordability of various makes and models of female body armor. NUSTL’s System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) program convened a focus group of female first responders from several states to obtain their recommendations for evaluation criteria, product selection and operational scenarios. Because the responders use ballistic-resistant body armor in daily operations, their input was critical to ensure that the right models are tested and that they are assessed in true to life environments. All of their initial input is available now in NUSTL’s recently published focus group report which will serve as the basis for evaluating several PPE models during an upcoming assessment. A copy of the focus group report can be downloaded at https://tinyurl.com/yad8elcz.
Existing body armor which female officers wear in the field tends to either be gender-neutral, (meaning it can be worn by any officer), or it has a three-dimensional structure (using folds, darts or seams to create cup shapes) intended to curve and fit around the bustline. Focus group participants noted that, in their experience, these designs do not conform well to their body contours. For NUSTL, providing an opportunity for female responders to assess several currently available body armor options will ultimately allow response agencies to purchase the right PPE for their officers.
Focus group participants identified 21 different evaluation criteria and determined that, first and foremost, usability and capability – not affordability – are the most important factors to consider in assessing the garments, though cost, ease of deploying and ease of maintenance will be taken into account. Regarding design, assessment criteria will include belt and vest compatibility, comfort, cup size, fit measurement process, female design fit, nonprohibitive movement, and closure direction.
NUSTL’s Body Armor for Women assessment will address the practical aspects and experiences of women wearing armor. It will take place after the release of the new NIJ standard and associated product certification and will include female law enforcement officers of all shapes, sizes, ages, and levels of professional experience.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has previously warned that the COVID-19 virus can remain infectious on hard surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to three days.
In response, the Safariland® Group has recently issued guidelines for properly disinfecting their armor products including ballistics, carriers, hard armor plates, shields and helmets.
In order to prevent exposure and illness, it is critical for first responders to frequently and thoroughly disinfect all armor equipment:
• Visibly dirty surfaces should be cleaned using a mild detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
• DO NOT USE AEROSOLS, such as Lysol®, on armor products. Aerosols may negatively affect the ballistic material, reducing the performance of the product.
• Use only EPA registered disinfectant wipes. Use only wipes which don’t contain bleach.
• Refer to the product label for the required contact time (how long the disinfectant should remain on the surface), the product’s shelf life and all safety instructions prior to handling and use.
• The surface should remain “visibly wet” for the prescribed contact time in order to produce disinfection. Note: If the surface is not kept wet for the appropriate amount of time to kill the microorganisms, it is possible to spread microorganisms with the wipe.
• It may be necessary to use more than one wipe to keep the surface wet for the recommended contact time.
• After prescribed disinfectant contact time, surface may be wiped dry or the surface may be allowed to air-dry.
For additional information, refer to the Safariland Use and Care Web page for cleaning information on armor ballistics and carriers (https://tinyurl.com/yaleeupe).
New Ballistic Protection Products
The RISE® Tactical Carrier (R.T.C.) is Angel Armor’s newest offering in the RISE Armor System Family. The R.T.C. provides a fully adjustable cummerbund system which transfers weight from your shoulders to your core and features locking hardware and rapid release FirstSpear® Tubes™. The adjustable shoulders come with padded inserts and optional rapid release technology. The vest mesh lining is constructed with custom moisture wicking and antimicrobial properties coupled with a removable passive air channel torso pad for increased airflow.
Up-armoring is achieved with external loading rifle plate pockets located at the front, back and sides. Front and back plate pockets can fit multiple plate sizes up to 10″ x 12″.
The R.T.C. is customizable with 360 degrees of MOLLE compatible, laser cut laminate fabric which is lightweight and durable. The R.T.C. also accommodates quick attach, mission flap PALS placards or kangaroo/rifle magazine pouch accessories. (angelarmor.com)
The Traverse overt carrier with a front zippered opening offers both MOLLE and dress configurations, along with optional features to meet departmental requirements. It is available in Armor Express’ new BRAVO cut. Internal plate pockets accommodate inserts for added protection. Front and rear hard armor plate pockets accommodate rifle plate protection.
Also from Armor Express, the Busch PROtective face shield visor, constructed of a silica/polycarbonate proprietary mixture, offers protection levels ranging from lightweight impact to fragmentation for 9mm and .44 Mag IIIA threats. Coupled with Busch’s Speed Connect System (SCS), the end user can instantly connect a visor in the field without any tools or having to remove the helmet.
All Busch PROtective helmets are now available with an advanced padding system, including the latest CPP-2 Pad System. The pad system connects with VELCRO® to the helmet surface; is constructed of EPP, foam, porous foam, and mesh fabric; and comes in light blue and black. (armorexpress.com)
GH Armor Systems
The Tactical Critical Carrier MOLLE (TCC.M) is an external tactical carrier made of 500 and 1000 denier CORDURA® nylon and incorporates MOLLE webbing. An external 360° adjustable cummerbund is designed with standard hook and loop front closure or a new feature, a quick-clip closure, as an upgrade. Front and rear top-loading plate pockets accept a variety of special threat and hard armor plates. Other features include shoulder closures which offer up to three inches of adjustment; a telescoping rear drag strap; mic tabs; and an internal cummerbund for secure fit. (gharmorsystems.com)
Hardwire’s Tactical Shields come in three designs (notched, window or standard) and two levels of certified NIJ protection (Level IIIA or Level III). These tactical shields are lightweight – weighing only 5.8-8.2 pounds for Level IIIA and 20-25 pounds for Level III (depending on design). Hardwire designed their shields from armor technology which was developed for the Department of Defense and with input from law enforcement professionals. This provides ease when carrying any of these Tactical Shields with one arm, for as long as necessary. It also adds speed to the officers and protects the head and torso area in nearly every tactical scenario. (hardwirellc.com)
Havis recently announced a partnership with Hardwire, LLC to provide mission critical ballistic armor for public safety vehicles.
Hardwire ballistic panels are proven, high performance vehicle armor. The armor provides NIJ Level IIIA armor protection and tests confirm that they will stop .357 SIG and .44 Magnum ammunition fired from longer barreled handguns, as well as from shotguns. This enhanced armor provides additional protection to public safety officers while in the field or on the scene.
Hardwire’s armor kits from Havis include an external door and window insert solution. The kits are lightweight and durable, easy to install or remove, and transferable to like models. (havis.com)
Point Blank Enterprises, Inc.
Point Blank Body Armor has a host of new ballistic protection products available in 2020. Constructed of a highly durable stretch material, the Compression Carrier incorporates four-way stretch mesh material on the shoulders, sides and tail for improved ventilation. The proprietary Thoracic Ballistic Contour (TBC) design naturally represents the human form with soft ballistic panel edges to achieve a low signature. The Compression Carrier naturally flexes to the contours of the body for greater maneuverability and concealability while the thermoregulating inner lining provides a cool, comfortable fit.
The new Guardian Series allows the user to custom build a carrier based on the most frequently requested options, such as the Pocket Shape, ID Panel, Badge Flap, Load Carriage, and Plate Loading preference. These features can be selected to meet mission specific needs, resulting in multiple variations of the Guardian which offer optimal functionality. The Guardian (GDC) is one of the variations which combines the durability of a load-bearing vest with the tailored appearance of a uniform shirt carrier. The carrier features multifunctional pockets, MOLLE webbing to attach equipment pouches and a concealed center zipper for easy donning and doffing.
The SOB NEMESIS™ is a rifle-rated defensive position designed for situations where mobility, lightning-fast deployment and efficient transport are essential. The SOB NEMESIS is available in NIJ Level III armor, as well as NIJ Level III+ armor which is certified to defeat the special threats of the M855 and 7.62×39 MSC. The viewport and front fasteners are certified to the same ballistic rating as the armor itself. The system features a removable shield which can be quickly detached and used independently as a hand carry shield and the entire system folds in half for storage and transport. (pointblankenterprises.com)
The Safariland Group (Safariland) introduced its next generation Safariland PROTECH® X Series ballistic shields featuring the FoxFury® Taker B70 integrated shield light and handle.
The X Series models with the FoxFury Taker B70 Integrated light and handle feature a highest quality LED light with the functionality merged into the handle design. The cord-free light is bolted to the shield through the handle and is powered by six CR123 batteries which are incorporated into the handle, eliminating the need for battery packs and external wiring. Two handle options are offered: the standard horizontal handle or a three position handle design which is ambidextrous and features ergonomically designed pressure switches easily activated by the thumb. (safariland.com)