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11/17/13

The Devil's Advocate: No Armor?

The Devil's Advocate series seeks to explore ideas that run against the mainstream, accepted wisdom. We're not necessarily recommending a particular course of action, but instead exploring alternatives.

Body armor has become a hugely important tool in increasing the modern soldier's survivability. It's saved countless lives. If you're expecting a high likelihood of getting shot in the chest, there's no better idea than donning a set of good rifle plates.

Of course, body armor undeniably weighs a lot - 15 pounds of additional weight is a decent average. It also restricts movement to some degree and is fairly uncomfortable to wear. At the end of the day, those add up to reduced speed and reduced endurance, especially if you're not in excellent physical shape to begin with.

The weight may also mean tradeoffs between other critical gear--if 60 pounds is the most you can realistically operate with, that 15 pounds of armor probably means less food, water or other survival gear. What if it's 45 pounds? Or 30?

I know of at least a few occasions where Tier 1 SF guys, facing a long hike over difficult terrain have ditched their armor in favor of the lighter load, speed, mobility and added stamina that choice afforded them. And these guys were facing certain combat at the end of their journey, versus a citizen survivor who would be avoiding trouble whenever possible.

What do you think - is the body armor tradeoff always worth it? How do you run your gear - plate carrier or no plate carrier? When would you leave your rifle plates behind - if ever?

33 comments :

  1. sometimes yes, sometimes no. thats why I use a slick plate carrier. every day shtf no, but when the hairs on the back of my neck stand up or the odds favor trouble, you bet

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  2. I see the scene from BHD where the Ranger removed his back rifle plate and later was killed. Not sure if it was based on an incident during BHD or just Hollywood. Murphy's Law!

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    1. BHD was the worst movie for the Army. After that movie we had to live by the motto, 25 is one and 24 is none. Backups to backups to backups and 10 more on top of that. There comes a point when a Soldier is so loaded down with extra CRAP that he becomes a liability...all because someone somewhere doesn't want to get in trouble.

      Two is one and one is none? Guess one, sometimes you are just SOL and that's that. It is what it is.

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  3. I double up- 3a+ gold flex liner with level 4 plates. The plates stay in 90% of the time. After taking 2 ricochets over my lifetime, I'm done taking chances. Train how you fight, fight how you train. Pulling the plates changes how the plate carrier settles and also the profile of the draw when doing reloads. It's better to keep them in for continuity of training.

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    1. Train how you fight has been bastardized to the point of ridiculousness. Which is why we see military personnel waddling up to the firing line with every piece of conceivable gear on...just to zero a weapon.

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    2. You know, you're right. I'm not going to wear it at all, it's a complete waste of time.

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  4. What carrier and plates would you suggest for a civilian getting ready for riots or no rule of law situation?

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    1. Chest rig that takes 10x12 and DKX Max III ( you think you run in to rifle rounds) DKX Max IIIa (if you just planning to run to pistol round). DKX civilian friendly!

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  5. Present day level 3+ POLY plate is running 3-4 pounds. It is a must have! Now if you are running around with steel plates. That is not a good idea, even the super high cost of the sub 4 pound ceramic by BAE. Just cost too much.

    I want to shoot some UHMWP +IIIA with 5.56 and 7.62x39, and see what happens. DIY plates UHMWP available on online in the 3/4x10x12 size. This is just an idea!

    At this time my I out of continental united states kit is level 3 stand alone poly plates and level 3a soft panels total weight in 20lbs range that includes radio, 3 rifle mags, 2 pistol mag, IFAK , 6P, multi tool, and seal pup.

    State side a eagle rhodesian rig with single poly plate plus soft panel, radio, 3 rifle mags, 2 pistol mag, IFAK , 6P, multi tool, and seal pup. This give you protection and ability to carry a ruck for extend periods. This not an urban kit more of state side bug out kit. Urban kit I would run the same kit out of continental united states.

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    1. Those are very cool plates - under 3 pounds is amazing!

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  6. Where do you recommend to look to compare or purchase body armor for readers of the blog. I am super concerned with scams out there with body armor.

    What is the best armor for the price, and if you have the cash- where is the best place to get light and strong plates

    Any suggestions help.


    thanks

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    1. LOL best plate is made by BAE you need to be Law Enforcement or MIL and the coast is like 1400 a plate that was last year! Best bang for your the buck is DKX Max III Armor Plate! http://www.firearmsprostore.com/dkxmaxiiiarmorplate-shooterscut.aspx

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  7. Anyone that advocates no body armor has never been to Iraq or Afghanistan. Plenty of fat turds flap their gums about how high speed they think they are but are exceptionally inexperienced even if well armed. Calling for no body armor would be a sure sign of their ignorance. Why would anyone advocate it? Moving through mountains in Afghanistan it is heavy but worth it. What sort of "recon" mission does some wannabe warrior envision? Pre-SHTF there is no reason to walk around in LBE with gear anyway unless you are training. If you are training for a gunfight, train for a gunfight and wear the gear. Don't listen to me, listen to Vegetius: http://www.midrealm.org/kith/kith/De-ReMilitari.pdf Look at lines 446-461.

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  8. As an Infantryman (Marine) I would say always have them in, always train with them in (shooting and patrolling). But, the point of avoiding trouble is valid. At the School of Infantry, our young MCT students do their hikes with the plates in the main pack. This is for a number of reasons, none of which really apply to a SHTF situation.
    If you are concerned with wieght or comfort - use a better plate carrier. There are thousands of them, find a good fit for you, focus on carriers that have wide shoulder straps (especialy if your old or you do a lot of pull ups). Another good trick is to reduce the wight on the carrier. Running a few mag pouches in the front is ok (I don't, I'm a lefty and shooting from the prone with mags in my gut sucks), but try useing a "war" belt to keep heavy gear on, attach it to your rig to help displace weight, like a back pack would...
    Also, train, train, train... It may be heavy now, but if you work in it, jog in it, heck, just wear it around the house, you will get used to it.
    -For 3rdman - reducing gear was very common back in the day. The plates were so new back then that only SF had them and most took out the back plate, if they killed everything in front of them, there would be no one behind them... Right??? Almost everything that went wrong durring BHD became a learning point for the rest of us. You can't leave the wire now without an extensive inspection of your gear, weapons and ammo... Those guys have saved countless warriors over the years. If your going to wear them, wear them both...
    Personaly, I don't own them. I have been in conflicts since 1994 and only used them post 9/11. I had the old flack jacket in Kosovo, got shot at and never hit. I wore them in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and other places. Still never got hit. I have seen them save lives with body shots but I have also seen them be totaly useless when up against snipers. For me, as I get older, and retire (no one will make me run in the mornings = chunky) I am going to need the advantage of speed to bug out of a trouble area as I will not be alone. The added weight for me is going to be hauling my (broken down old) wife's gear (don't tell her I said that).
    Interesting food for thought though! I think I am going to throw this out as a discussion topic with some of my jrs.

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  9. In an initial WROL scenario no I do not believe society will have broken down to the point where I am going to catch a high powered rifle round center mass. As society continued to break down I would not where the plates while operating in my immediate neighborhood however, if i had to leave for more supplies or because we had to bug out I would where plates. My reasoning is that plates add more bulk and weight then I am comfterable with unless the situation is very dire. I would rather rely upon my ability to move concealed then to armor up. I am in NC so the plates would be rather uncomfterable in the heat. YMMV

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  10. How would advocating no body armor determin where a person has been? I know a few hundred people who have been to both, multiple times, and not FOBits that don't have body armor. It's amazing that we fought all the way up to Iraq and never had ballistic shields and all of a sudden everyone has to have it. If you are skilled at avoidance/ observation - do you need it? Are you going to fight effectively, or stand there and absorb rounds? Keep in mind, this is a SHTF senerio - you are only going to get hit once - then the plate will be broken and useless - then what? Then you have to evade/avoid - but you didn't work on that skill because you had ballistic plates. Though, now you have a slight advantage - if you wore plates a lot, you now have very well formed legs, and can run...

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  11. My personal opinion is that plates are nothing but a false sense of security. Even if you are hit while wearing them it will hurt alot but, if you got it flaunt it. I would not purposely put out the money to buy a pair if I happened to find a decent pair at a decent price or find it after teotwawki i would keep em.

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  12. i served 29 years and only wore armor once, because they made me. we have become too dependent on armor, gear,optics, and gadgets to survive the shtf. get back to the basics,now. i have plates for the defense only, just like the helmet. i don't see my group dogging it out with big army. if it comes to that, we failed already.

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    1. There's a lot of truth on the armor dependence - many 'tactical' schools don't spend a heck of a lot of time teaching people to take good ol' fashioned cover.

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    2. By back to basics, do we mean bow and arrows? Or swords? Mano a mano?

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  13. one big advantage/disadvantage of a plate carrier is it make you look like you have the right gear it may put some people off attacking you but it may encourage others for the same reason

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  14. How many turtles get run over every year? As armor evolves, so do threats.... If you cannot evade a threat, you cannot engage it.

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    1. What does the turtle reference have to do with it? Your talking about a 5 cm bone dome vs. a half ton of focused pressure. That is like taking a a 155 arty shel (pun intended) to a SAPI plate... But you are correct - the original SAPI could stop a 7.62 round IF it was fired from just under it's max effective range - which covers most of the people on patrol. Then we started to get frequest ambushes, at close range, so we went to the ESAPI, that could take a 7.62 at 100 meters or less. Those who were in the cities loved it, as most of their fighting was less than 100 meters, while the folks in the bad lands were getting contact at 300-500 meters... And then they started getting good with the PKM.... Side SAPIs were introduced - by then, we just couldn't wak as far.
      The NAM guys had flack jackets. Not bullet proof, but for shrapnel from grenades and arty. There is very little difference in guys killed by bullets (not IEDS, etc..) between the two wars, if you average patrol distance/time.

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    2. Link on the comparison between Nam and WOT deaths by bullet? I would be interested to read it.

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    3. The turtle cannot get out of the way of the vehicle (threat). The turtle has natural armor and few natural threats, but threats evolved (vehicles) faster than the turtles armor, now the turtle that sacrificed speed for armor has to get faster or much better armor to cross the threat area to survive. Armor caused you to lose speed and distance as you stated, so why be a turtle in an ambush, no armor covers your legs, one hit there armored or not, you are still in the KZ.... No way to prevent all possibilities, but flexibility allows you more options. Armor always has the next equivalent to the English longbow around the corner......

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  15. A good discussion on the topic at MVT: http://maxvelocitytactical.com/2012/12/body-armorplate-carrier-profiletactical-considerations/

    For the record, I think armor is a good tool to have in the toolbox - some scenarios it fits, many it doesn't. For an average civvy, a low-profile plate carrier that can be somewhat concealed under a button up or jacket is the best bet and most versatile. Throw a chest rig on top for mags and gear if needed.

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  16. The way I see it, armor plates would be great. But, there are a lot of other things that need to be put in order first. If you don't have food or water, plates probably won't help you much for very long because you will starve or die of thirst. Even if you had the plates though, you should have the skills to escape and evade if, for instance, you were out hunting and you ran into a non-friendly you could get away and not get shot.

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  17. When I can, I'll acquire plates for holding down the fort and vehicle movement. For movement by foot, I'll see what the situation looks like at the time. It is better to be flexible and adaptable.

    I think most of us think of one scenario (bugged in, foot mobile, vehicle mobile) and assume we need what is best for that one scenario. We need to be able to change and shift between scenarios as 1) disaster might not take the form we expect and 2) the situation on the ground might be constantly changing. Don't throw all your eggs in one basket.

    Until I can afford plates, I'll be hugging cover closely and sending up prayers. After I get plates, I'll probably still be doing the same.

    WG

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    1. Just read the Max Velocity article. I was struck by Matt Bracken's points about 1) America's plethora of scoped rifles and 2) plates leading to a sense of being "bullet proof."

      I believe the best defense against "scoped rifles" is speed and constant movement. I know civilian hunters capable of hitting a running deer at 120 yrds with a scoped shotgun and slugs (for those states that do not allow rifle hunting), and who have done this multiple times, but I don't know very many of those hunters.

      The Max Velocity article was good, informative, and thought provoking. Thanks for posting it.

      WG

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  18. I a TEOTWAWKI situation I believe you should really look into getting some sort of armour. You may not go looking for a fight but what if one comes to you, or not even aware there's a threat there. Sorry to say but if you get shot while serving in todays military there will be someone to replace you either willingly or UN willingly. How many people would you be willing to lose from you survival group or would they accept the loses of your life just because you could be stealthy or could run faster without the armour. How long can you hold out behind a block wall or abandoned car that is quickly deteriorating while the enemy closes in on you, how will you know to go left instead of right? Personally I would rather take one or 2 or 10 rounds to body armour and be bruised, maybe have some broken ribs and be down for a couple weeks, then to bleed out in a forest, or be bleeding out in a make shift unsterile operating room while my friends and family watch me die because they don't have a clue or the equipment to repair a punctured lung or severed arterie. I have no formaly combat training what so ever nor have I been in a gun fight, but I do know if your relying on speed stealth and possibly overwhelming force to take down some bad people in your way then how long til the bullets start flying in your direction? When that begins I would happily trade te speed for armour, because there's no out running a bullet. And lets face it stealth is already out the window

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  19. Tough choice, but I went with no armor. My family's post-SHTFplan is based on well-armed neighbors living next to more well-armed neighbors. The risk of being in a firefight where armor will be useful is much much lower than the risk of running out of beans and bandaids.

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  20. I am not a soldier, but if in Iraq or Afghanistan, I would always wear the extra body armor over a lighter, speedier, set up. In a SHTF situation here in the US though, it is hard to say...I guess it would depend on what actually happened. My plan would be to bug in for as long as possible and bug out later if need be. If I had to bug out, I'm heading to a deep wilderness set up and would probably scrap it for extra "comfort" gear. I would be more worried about a bear attack there than a bullet.

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  21. Armor, like any other piece of gear, can be good to have in some situations and not so good to have in others.

    I personally have had to make the decision to wear or not to wear armor "for real" on more than one occasion. As always, METT-T analysis is your friend.

    Think that you're "always" going to wear it? I could show you some terrain and weather that would change your mind. How much PT do you do, really?

    Think that you "never" are going to need it because you are so stealthy and smart? Here is a lesson that I have learned: The fight that you find yourself in, more often than not, won't be the fight that you had planned. Ponder that.

    You don't "need" armor any more than you "need" an airbag in your car. Until you do.

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