The modern Ballistic Vest is a form of armour that covers the vital areas of the torso. It is intended to reduce and prevent injuries from stabbing and gunshots. It should be noted that not all vests are dual resistant and some are ballistic only - those which only resist stabbing are called stab vests.
|Type I||Protects against .22 LR and .380 ACP handguns|
|Type IIA||Protects against .22 LR, .380 ACP, 9x19mm Parabellum, and .40 S&W|
|Type II||Protects against .22 LR, .380 ACP, 9x19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, and .357 Magnum|
|Type IIIA||Protects against .22 LR, .380 ACP, 9x19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, .357 Magnum, .357 SIG, and .44 Magnum Hollow Point|
|Type III||Protects against .22 LR, .380 ACP, 9x19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, .357 Magnum, .357 SIG, .44 Magnum Hollow Point, and 7.62x51mm NATO rifle bullets|
|Type IV||Protects against .22 LR, .380 ACP, 9x19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, .357 Magnum, .357 SIG, .44 Magnum Hollow Point, 7.62x51mm NATO and .30-06 Springfield M2 armour piercing rifle rounds.|
In general, the better the grade of armor, the more protection it gives. Larger and faster bullets will penetrate lighter armors, though damage may be reduced somewhat by the armor slowing the bullet. Don't get too cocky, though - hits on seams and weaker areas can still penetrate, non-penetrating hits can still crack ribs, and the armor doesn't cover every square inch of your body. The actual classification system has a lot of additional information concerning bullet velocity, but the above should be good enough for gaming. Not only that, but many of the higher levels of protection are generally only over a limited area of the vest (usually a ballistic insert protecting the heart and lung roots) and are only good for a small number of impacts before the protection is downgraded. Even hits which fail to penetrate will permanently degrade the armour - which is generally easier to replace than repair.
Informally, such armor is often called a "Bulletproof Vest", but that term is on the outs because of a psychological issue. Use of the term tends to fool the wearer into thinking they are better armored than they are, which can lead to overconfidence and risk-taking.
The term "Bulletproof" is no longer commonly accurate, anyway. The term originated in the 16th Century, and it meant armor that had actually been shot with a gun and was not penetrated. This would leave a dent in the armor as proof that it could resist bullets. Armor on display for sale in the era would often have the dent circled in chalk to draw the potential customers attention to it. In the modern day, manufacturing standards allow for consistency in the armor's performance, and no need to test any given vest by shooting it before sale. Which is good, because the pressure of a gunshot degrades the armor, and "proofing" armor in this way can actually make the armor less effective.
Materials and Construction by Era
- During the Middle Ages, portable armor intended to resist guns always consisted of at least one hard metal plate. The best of the era was probably that used by the Ironside (cavalry) in the English Civil War. It featured two layers of metal plate - the outer layer would slow the musket ball enough that it couldn't penetrate the inner layer.
- In the 1860s, after the French Campaign against Korea, 1866, Korean armorsmiths figured out that a vest made of 30 layers of cotton could stop a bullet. Such vests were used by forces defending against the United States expedition to Korea in 1871.
- In the late 19th Century, an outfit in Chicago produced vests modeled on the Gambeson, made of 18 to 30 layers of silk. One of these vests cost $800 in 1914, which was a lot of money at the time. Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, was wearing one when he was shot to death - the fatal bullet hit him in the neck above the vest.
- During World War I, the U.S. Military experimented with several types of body armor, including the steel Brewster Body Shield, and a jacket of steel scales affixed to a leather backing. Neither saw significant combat use.
- In the roaring twenties, a type of crudely fashioned cotton ballistic vest was popular amongst the hitmen and gangsters of the mafia. The effectiveness of these vests lead to the FBI upgrading to .38 Super and .357 Magnum handguns that could penetrate the vests.
- During World War II, the U.S. Military made Flak Jackets for bomber crews out of Nylon. Doron Plate, a fiberglass-based laminate was used for bulletproof vests as well, which were first issued at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Britain and Canada also developed bulletproof vests, but they were generally only issued to Combat Medics. The Red Army developed the SN-42 vest, which was issued to SHISBr (assault engineers) and to Tankodesantniki (infantry that rode on tanks) - but was too heavy for standard infantry use.
- In the 1970s, Kevlar was invented, leading to the first ballistic vests light enough to be worth wearing daily by police and soldiers that weren't facing open combat. Kevlar vests, however, can produce significant blunt trauma on the wearer.
- Since then, several new fibers and construction methods for bulletproof fabric have been developed besides woven Kevlar, such as Dyneema, Gold Flex, Spectra, Twaron, Dragon Skin (body armor), and Zylon. All are more effective than Kevlar, but also more expensive to produce.
- Currently, the United States Army uses the Improved Outer Tactical Vest and the United States Marine Corps uses the Modular Tactical Vest, both of which can be augmented by ceramic plates such as the Small Arms Protective Insert.
Game and Story Use
- As evidenced above, ballistic armor is available in multitude of eras and settings.