Posted on June 05 2019
ReadyMan Challenge One, Mike Simpson of Phoenix, Arizona showed up with his BugOut bag and his BugOut kit. True to his training and practice, Mike went into the challenge with the exact stuff he’d take into the Apocalypse.
Part of his kit was ceramic body armor plates and Mike faithfully wore them for two days, going up and down some serious mountain terrain. Ultimately, they “saved his life” in a shooting scenario where a sniper got the drop on him.
But, Mike paid the price to have those plates. He trekked over hill-and-dale cooking inside his ceramics like a cup of coffee.
Tye, his opponent in the Challenge, ran around footloose and fancy free, with just his tie-dyed T-shirt and his six-gun. But, in the end, when he and Mike came together to fight, Tye had to hang back, since any “hit” on Tye would be the end of him.
Without a clear answer on body armor from the ReadyMan Challenge, we decided to put it to the ReadyMan cadre. Is body armor worth the cost, weight and hassle if the SHTF?
Here’s where they weighed in.
Charles Waldron (Army Engineer — retired)
My experience in Iraq was primarily with Kevlar and SAPI ceramic plate inserts. What was not thought through well, in my experience, was how the armor shifted around in various fighting positions. Our first casualty was a soldier leaning forward on a bipod-mounted M249SAW on top of a tracked vehicle. By learning forward, his vest raised up exposing his lower internal organs and that’s where his was hit. He was stable when loaded on the helicopter but later died in the hospital from sepsis. Rarely is one standing straight up when wearing armor, especially when being shot at. And, the general shock of being shot with or without armor is enough to make one combat-ineffective, at least for a while. Even if the armor inspires “false” confidence, it does make a fighter more likely to do what they are trained to do. So, am I for body armor if the SHTF, absolutely. But, in a situation requiring dexterity and movement, I’d probably leave it behind or use a lighter option than plates. I’d have it available when I’m defending, even if I had to craft a makeshift version. With that said, I’d prioritize at least ten things above body armor.
Chad Wade (Navy SEAL — retired)
At a very minimum, I would want soft armor if the SHTF since it’d stop most handgun rounds. I’d like something that I could wear concealed under a shirt. If I had the luxury of plates, I would go for that too. I’d rather have a single plate of AR500 than nothing at all. Though steel is extremely heavy, it offers serious security and morale. On my dream list, I’d run with the same ceramic SAPI plates I had on deployment. Not only are they light, but they will stop a rifle round. I’d probably look at a regular carrier vest instead of a tactical load bearing rig so that folks didn’t see me as a “prepper” target. If war ever came to American soil, I would definitely want to have body armor even if it were just cheap steel or homemade marble armor. And, I’d be looking to armor my vehicle and portions of my house, too.
Evan Hafer (CIA, Green Beret — retired)
If you’re going to get into the body armor game, you have to know what you’re buying. First off, understand the levels of armor, what projectile your level will stop and what you’re willing to spend. If you live in an urban area, you’re more likely to need something low-profile, stab-proof and something that will primarily stop a handgun round like 9mm. That’s accomplished pretty well will Level IIIA armor, though it’s not specifically stab-proof. If you live in a rural area, you’ll need something more substantial like hard armor that’ll stop a .308 over soft armor. That’s a Level IIIA with Level IV plates over top, especially since “printing” your armor to others won’t be a huge concern. Soft armor is easy-to-find, less-expensive than plates and more durable. Ceramic plates will often crack when dropped, so I don’t like their durability. A metal blend, like AR500 is way more durable for rough, SHTF use. You can beat the hell out of it with zero concern.
Jeff Kirkham (Green Beret — retired)
Without a doubt, I’d use body armor in a SHTF scenario, especially Level IIIA soft armor. I’d choose to endure the hassle for a number of reasons. First, even if the armor isn’t rated for stab, it will still do a great job helping to stop or slow a knife attacker. Second, in a car wreck or other trauma, soft armor dissipates impact and often makes the difference between internal bleeding and going home OK. Many police officers have been saved by soft armor in car wrecks. Third, soft armor does a lot to defeat blunt force attack like with a baseball bat, club, pipe, fists or boots. It’s a LOT better than nothing. Last, even IIIA is excellent for handgun rounds. I’d have to decide on hard plates on a case-by-case basis. They definitely draw attention to you as a fighter. I don’t think hard plates are practical in a day-to-day SHTF scenario.
There you have it. The guys who’ve used them in hundreds of combat situations have spoken. Body armor isn’t the FIRST thing they’d buy with their preparedness budget, but it’s definitely on the list. And, surprisingly, they largely favor Level IIIA armor before buying plates.
Turns out, Level IIIA armor has a lot of uses outside of just defeating bullets and it improves the effectiveness of your plates substantially. Internal bleeding from trauma brought on by a hit to hard plates will send you to the hospital in modern day combat. In a collapse where hospitals are rare-to-non-existent, internal bleeding is probably synonymous with death.
Soft armor has a significant role and a combination of both soft and hard armor would be advisable for, at least, defensive jobs like standing guard and defending road blocks.