I preface the review of a vest I recently acquired with my thoughts on using vests in a protracted SHTF scenario for preppers/survivalists:
Armor in a SHTF situation is the devil in disguise to the average prepper or survivalist, IMHO, having more negatives than positives attached to their use in a protracted scenario so much so that I would only recommend its use while manning a defensive position (a vehicle choke point or other static position for example in a Neighborhood Protection Perimeter) and not any sort of patrol (long range or otherwise) because:
- The vest would have to be Level IV, capable of defeating rifle fire. Wearing a IIIA in a SHTF scenario is tantamount to wearing a good jacket when it comes to taking rounds. Rifle fire, IMHO, will be much more prevalent than during a SHTF crime scenario, such as a neighborhood or home invasion.
- Unless the wearer gets hit smack dab in the plates or are otherwise very, VERY lucky and gets hit in a non-vital area, gets the million dollar through and through wound as was not subjected to bullet trajectory change because the projectile glanced off a bone, changed direction, and then pierced something important, the wearer is going to be hosed due to the inability to get to a friendly medical facility or trauma center, with the exception of those groups that have surgery/recovery capabilities.
- As most know, there won’t be any ‘dust offs’ or other med-evacs, so getting back to that fully staffed/capable SHTF medical set up will be, at best, problematic. Field care will, at most, be limited to making the individual comfortable as can be done in the situation (after the gun fight is won, of course). But let’s say for a minute that the wearer did get hit smack dab in the plate center – the blunt force trauma is going to incapacitate the wearer for a bit (especially when getting smacked with a .30 caliber or better projectile), which could be enough for the shooter to have an opportunity to finish the job. Either way, the team member is not effective for a period of time, either due to the GSW or blunt trauma.
- The wearing of armor has a tendency to subject the wearer to the emotional/psychological fallacy that personal risk can be increased by doing things he/she wouldn’t otherwise do without the armor (old school called it, ‘The Superman Syndrome’). Armor, in combination with whatever kit the wearer is carrying, slows down the wearer (remember, ounces equals pounds and pounds sap speed and strength – a Level IV vest can weigh over 15 lbs usually – 10 lbs for 2 plates; 5 pounds for the vest), not counting whatever field kit the individual wears (which includes the weight of water and loaded magazines). Additionally, SHTF scenarios will also be accompanied by significantly reduced intake of nutrients, even in a well-equipped retreat (due to rationing) which will result in a cumulative sapping of speed and strength as the situation is prolonged. The weight of the vest and associated kit will remain a constant, however. Lastly, the ability to move fast and quiet will be essential in a protracted SHTF scenario. Not being seen is your best friend.
However, having a 15+ pound armor vest in, say, a semi-permanent defensive position makes more sense because the defender will have whatever medical support capabilities (defined by available supplies,, the number of trained medical professionals in the group and what facilities have been jerry-rigged together for the purpose of treating GSW’s and trauma) the defended area has available to get to if not hit right in the plates, and the wearer is not using his/her stores of stamina to move over long distances while draining Adrenalin reserves at the same time. The position is stationary, and calories are not burned as fast as when one is on a security patrol.
Now, during peace time or pre-SHTF times where hospital trauma centers are available along with ambulance or other first responder availability to get the individual to the hospital, Level III/IIIA/IV vests make perfect sense. Especially with advances in the armor making it thinner (more concealable) to dissuade a bad person choosing to attempt the more difficult head shot at the wearer. To that end, I’ve purchased the below vest:
It’s very affordable, even when getting the base vest (IIIA) at $299 and the plates (brings it to a IV (if using the ceramic plates) at $169. The company provides an interest free, four month payment, as well. The vest itself costs less than half of competitors, has a very good cordura shell that’s machine washable, and has the complete support of the company selling it: Bullet Safe
So, I bit the bullet and purchased one. Here are my ‘out of the box’ evaluation of what I now own:
- Shipping Packaging – Excellent; both the plates were wrapped in a foam envelope each, and both were covered with a double sheet of bubble wrap on top of the foam envelope. The vest was in a very large zip lock bag (so people wouldn’t be tempted to cut it with a knife and have an issue with the cordura) and then locked into the box with about a dozen or more 5X5 air ‘pillows’ that kept the vest pretty immobile. No bad critique on the packaging!
- Vest – IIIA for sure; fully adjustable in the waist and shoulders, so you can get as close as possible a custom fit for both torso length and waist. I got a medium, and had to do very little adjustment for my waist line. Shoulders had to be adjust a couple inches on each strap (cordura as well – not like the old Second Chance vests with the elastic straps). Fit well. Also has a velcro patch over the right chest area that one may attach a relevant patch, such as ‘Security’, which is given out free by the company if you want it.
One small nit: The plates fit into the front and rear pockets with NO room to spare (which is good on the one hand because they don’t slide around), the Velcro retaining flap along the top must be pulled snug to shut it. It’s workable, and once you get it in, it’s not moving nor is it coming out. It doesn’t lend itself to be removed and installed every other day, but if you find it’s time to wear plates, why would you want to?
- Plates – Every bit of 5.65 pounds each. I bought two (one for each side – don’t want to ever be like that kid in Black Hawk Down movie that got shot in the back and would have been ok if he’d had his plate) They’re a deal @ $169 each. Ends up being more for two plates than just the vest but, you save money overall and have Level IV protection.
- Fit – Adjusting the should and waist straps is easy, and once you’ve got it sized, it stays put.
So, for ‘normal’ use, I walk around with a comfortable vest that weighs 5.7 pounds. I add 11 pounds for plates for ‘special’ circumstances (power outages, or other short term SHTF scenarios that I’m going to be defending hearth and home. 16 pounds for Level IV protection. I can hack that. I’m already thinking it’s helping because I’m going to have to lighten up other gear for non-TEOTWAWKI uses (SHTF-lite, etc).