MadSci Network: Engineering

Re: what are the materials used in amking bullet proof vests?

Date: Mon Jul 12 00:13:22 1999
Posted By: Daniel Fletcher, Anthropologist, Pre-Med.
Area of science: Engineering
ID: 931233450.Eg

Anonymous, I couldn't tell you who invented bulletproof vests exactly, but 
I can tell you that the art of armory has been a continuous one from 
thousands of years to the present day. You know that various metals have 
been used to form the breastplate in armor. ie..bronze, iron, steel, 
kevlar and even ceramics. However, bulletproof vests in particular have 
not been well documented. There have been attempts of the past several 
hundred years to make an unobtrusive, concealed form of protection for men 
who needed ot avoid death by gunshot. The U.S. government issued leather 
vests with steel plates to soldiers in WW1 and made animproved version for 
the Internal Revenue Service in 1921. These were heavy and only provided 
protection where the steel plate covered the body, which was a limited 
portion of the torso. During WW2, the U.S. Army developed and issued a 
jacket made of thin layers of plastic and steel mesh designed to stop the 
slower moving projectiles of Anti-Aircraft weapons. This was called a 
"flak-vest" As plastics became more complex and capable of more uses, the 
bulletproof vest became a viable defense to high-velocity handguns.
The first modern bulletproof vests were developed in the sixties and were 
used by policemen and ordinance disposal units. By the seventies the vests 
were small enough to be worn under clothes and still be effective. Today 
they are very comfortable in comparison. their composition is almost 
entirely plastic (Kevlar) but many models still include a steel plate over 
the heart and lungs area. It is called a Trauma Plate.
It should be noted that modern kevlar vests, while effective against 99% 
of handgun and shotgun projectiles, are still unable to stop high-velocity 
rifle rounds. A round moving faster than around 2,000 fps will still 
perforate a bulletproof vest.
There are rumors that pointed steel rounds and fmj rounds coated with 
Teflon will penetrate vests, but I am unaware of any definitive studies on 
I hope I have been of use to you in this subject.

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