These tests are more of a proof of concept. We wanted to validate the probability of our initial ideas. This test was not to validate the ballistic plate, but rather to document what happens when a bare metal plate is used with a typical plate carrier sans the spall guard or spall liner.
Additionally, we wanted to document the interaction between what we termed “first contact” by the rifle or pistol bullet when impacting any personal equipment i.e. anything hanging on the outside of the plate carrier such as pouches, magazines etc. Further we posed that the shooters arms, extended in a manner consistent with holding a rifle or pistol, would be at risk of receiving damage from the equipment being impacted by the projectile, small pieces of material, and bullet fragments could impact the forearms and inner portion of the upper arms causing serious and possibly life threatening injuries.
A bare metal ballistic steel plate (no spall guard or spall liner) when shot with a high velocity rifle or pistol bullet, would be a danger to the wearer of the plate. We went on to propose that the exposed arms (held out in a manner consistent with holding a rifle or pistol) as well as the lower legs (depending on body position / leg position) would be the most likely areas to sustain damage from spalling.
The first two video tests were done with a plate carrier containing the bare steel ballistic plate. We observed the XP193 in the 1st video and the XM855 in the second video. The first round struck the vest penetrating the outer material, the round shattering against the steel plate reflected small pieces of bullet fragmentation back out through the material.
Reviewing the slow motion video and inspecting the ballistic gel, we found several small bullet fragments had penetrated less than a centimeter into the test dummies right arm. Most of the reflected fragments which appeared to hit the ballistics gel in the video did not penetrate. Those that did penetrate would not have been considered a life threatening wound. We found upon inspecting the plate carrier that a large amount of bullet fragments were trapped in the hook and loop velcro around the cumerbun area. The second round fired XM855 we did observe small fragments had impacted the face around the mouth as well as hitting the left lens of the safety glasses.
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We wanted to do a test that would document the effects of a high velocity projectile first contacting an individuals equipment. We see from several of these videos that there is a significant amount of fragmentation occurring prior to the round entering and striking the bare steel ballistic plate. When we talk about spall liner or fragmentation mitigating material on the strike face of the ballistic steel plate, we often don’t take into consideration that the round has already impacted material on the front of the plate carrier causing fragmentation to occur.
This test raises many other questions. The test in and of itself was not designed to stand on its own. After reviewing some of the findings we see the need to repeat the test with a more focused approach, and with controls in place which would allow for a more scientific comparison of fragmentation mitigation from ballistic steel plates with a spall liner and without a spall liner. It is fair to say that in some instances it won't matter if the steel plate has a spall liner on it or not if the high velocity round strikes a piece of gear you are wearing on the outside of your plate carrier and disintegrates into hundreds of smaller high velocity projectiles; then the spall liner on the ballistic plate isn’t playing any role in mitigating the fragmentation. What does that mean? It means we want to do it again but the next time we will have a more ballistics gel, more cameras, and a list of new requirements which need to be tested.
Spall or fragmentation can occur in numerous ways. Focusing solely on one aspect of a piece of gear in a vacuum does not provide a holistic analysis of risks associated with a specific product. I personally feel that if I choose to wear a ballistic steel plate it must have some type of proven spall mitigation built into the plate. I also personally feel that even if I did have on a ballistic steel plate with a spall guard or spall liner/ or ceramic plate, the risk of catching high velocity projectile fragments caused by the round first impacting my equipment on the outside of the plate carrier- is a very real risk.
Often times we get grumpy about the “eyes and ears” admonishment heard on every range -everywhere. For me wearing Personal Protective Equipment has always been a love hate relationship. PPE is never cool, it seems like PPE is always ill fitting and in my mind I never trusted it to “really work”. Eyes are a must have if you are going to be an effective warrior / protector of your family. Some of the fragments we observed embedded into the ballistics gel were only a few centimeters deep in the gel and the fragments were small enough to sit on the tip of an ink stick. However, if that same fragment hit your unprotected eyeball you might end up being completely combat ineffective from just a tiny fragment. When you attend our Optics Enhance Night Fighting class, it becomes evident quickly that eye protection is your friend.
Look at your equipment and understand the interaction between the gear you carry and high velocity rounds. We found that every single round was stopped which made contact with the ballistic armor. We also found that every single piece of gear which contacted a high velocity rifle or pistol round became unserviceable. I’m not saying hide your gear, just keep in mind that if you are in a situation which doesn’t allow for equipment refit, then you might be hurting. I usually wear a small backpack which contains different items many of which are specific to the task at hand. I also have items that are always in the bag such as water, food, extra loaded magazines, and additional medical equipment.
On the topic of medical, take a look at the videos and imagine those are your arms sticking out. Visualize the pipes which rundown the length of your arms carrying blood to and from your heart. I wrote in a couple places above that the wound could possibly be life threatening. We have some pretty big pipes that run from our upper trunk into our shoulder area and down our arms. Consider how you would treat a wound on one or both arms which was a heavy bleeder. Can you reach your tourniquet? Is it accessible by both hands? Can you deploy it with blood soaked fingers? Your tourniquet isn’t still in that little plastic bag stuffed in an admin pouch located somewhere on your back side is it?
PMC 5.56 55gr XP193 FMJ
Federal Lake City 62gr XM855
Wolf 7.62x39 123gr FMJ
PMC .45 ACP 185gr JHP
Remington 1oz shotgun slug
Material used to simulate arms:
10% FBI Gel Block 16L X 6W x 6H
18 LBS Each
Plate carrier and pouches made with 500D Cordura material
Ballistic plate: level III certified AR500 ballistic steel
Troy 30 round Battlemag-impact resistant polymer AR magazine
30 round steel AR magazine
15 round 9mm KCI Glock magazines
Wiley X Romer II glasses with Shatterproof Selenite™ polycarbonate lenses