One of the best pieces of kit for law enforcement, military and civilians, in the 20th century, has been, in my humble opinion, body armor. While many believe body armor to be a fairly recent invention, it is not! I know body armor – the type that stops bullets, has been around since the 1920s – armor for stopping swords and arrows has been around for centuries. I had my first experience with soft body armor in 1980, when I owned a gun shop, and bid on a contract to provide soft body armor to a fairly large police department in 1980. I won the bid!
Some months back, I reviewed Infidel Body Armor and I came away quite impressed with their hard body armor – it easily defeated many high-powered rifle rounds, including .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, 7.62×39 and even an armor piercing round of .30-06 – it took more than 100 rounds from an AK – and all handgun rounds and 00 buckshot were no match for this hard armor. However, with many things in life, there are always compromises – in this case, AR500 steel body armor plates and a carrier weighed about 20 pounds – and toss in your gear, and we are packing some serious weight around.
Enter Infidel Body Armor’s new Trauma Max Level IIIA soft body armor panels. Over the years, in my law enforcement and security career, I’ve worn soft body armor while on the job – while is was comfortable, and gave me the confidence I needed on the job, it was bulky and one had to purchase uniform shirts one or two sizes bigger in order to wear the soft armor under your shirt. Still, it was worth the extra effort. Soft body armor has continued to evolved over the years, and what Infidel Body Armor has come out with is the lightest and thinnest soft body armor I’ve yet to see.
Each soft armor panel weighs about a pound – yes, you read that right – one pound, so a set of two panels is a mere 2 pounds in weight. Additionally, they are approximately 1/4 inch think (thin?) – again, you read that right – soft body armor, that is rated and certified at threat Level IIIA is only about a quarter inch thick. Each panel is 10×12 inches in size, and taper towards the top of the panel. This is stand alone soft body armor. I know that some manufactures who produce ceramic hard body armor, provide soft panels to wear behind their ceramic panels, to soften the blow from a high-powered rifle round – not a bad idea at all. The Infidel Body Armor – this new Trauma Max is designed to be stand-alone level IIIA soft armor.
Threat Level IIIA is a step down from the protection of Level III. It designed to stop most common handgun rounds, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, .45ACP, .38 Special, .357 Magnum and even .44 Magnum rounds. Additionally, these soft armor panels are certified to Military Standards to stop fragmentation from grenades. I know what Kevlar is, it’s been used for many years and was, at one time, the only type of material used in soft body armor – and it works quite well, however it is bulky and it takes many layers to stop handgun rounds – it’s thick! The Trauma Max is manufactured out of Kevlar KM2 and Goldflex – a combination that makes this body armor thin and lightweight, and effective enough to stop all of the above handgun rounds.
I’ll be the first to admit that, I’m not an expert when it comes to body armor. Different types of materials have been used over the years to produce soft body armor – some works better than others – some are more expensive – a lot more expensive – than other vests, while some are reasonably priced. The Trauma Max provides up to 40% blunt force reduction, too.
I’ll relate a story, at one time, I was a distributor for some soft body armor, that was one of the lightest weight body armors around at the time – it didn’t fit into a traditional soft body armor carrier, instead a special, heavy-duty t-shirt was designed with pockets inside the T-shirt – front and back – that the soft armor panels fit into. Now, according to the maker of this armor, it was rated to stop a Winchester 9mm Silvertip JHP round. I was training a small, rural police department in SWAT methods, and I decided to see if they were interested in purchasing this body armor. I took a soft armor panel, taped it to a phone book, and placed a 1-inch wooden board behind it – and at 25 yards, I had one of the officers fire at the body armor panel. The 9mm Silvertip JHP round not only complete penetrated the soft armor, it penetrated the phone book and the wooden board behind it. Needless to say, I didn’t get a sale that day – and I cut ties with that company in short order. Their armor didn’t even come close to stopping one single round that they claimed it would stop! Was my testing scientific? Of course not, and any testing I’ve done since then, hasn’t been scientific – but neither is getting shot on the street a scientific test. What happens – happens!
I received two Trauma Max soft armor panels, and a carrier from Infidel Body Armor – the Trauma Max Threat Level IIIA panels do not come with a carrier – however, you can purchase outside the shirt carriers from them – they have many different styles, or you can purchase under the shirt soft body armor carriers from any number of sources. I’m hoping, in the very near future that, Infidel Body Armor will offer concealable under the shirt carriers for this armor.
Not everyone needs to wear their soft armor under a shirt, and they choose to use a carrier that fits over their clothing, where they can have MOLLE webbing for attaching other gear, like spare magazine pouches. Not all SWAT teams wear hard body armor – they can be seen wearing an outer vest, that has soft armor panels inside of them – just like Infidel is offering. In any event, you have a couple choices here, you can purchase an over the clothing vest from Infidel or just purchase the soft armor panels from them, and look for an under the shirt armor carrier from one of many suppliers. And, if you purchased any of the Infidel hard body armor from them, these panels will fit right behind the steel plates – giving you additional blunt force trauma protection from taking a hit from a high-powered rifle round – a darn good idea if you ask me.
On to my non-scientific testing of the Trauma Max soft body armor – and I’ve used this same method for many years, when testing soft body armor. I placed one panel in the front pocket of the carrier, and put a phone book behind the carrier. And, at 25 feet, I fired different types of handgun rounds into the carrier with the soft panel inside of it. I fired 9mm FMJ as well as JHP rounds, and .357 Magnum rounds, as well as FMJ and JHP .45ACP rounds into the test panel. I didn’t fire all the rounds into the same spot – I fired at different areas of the panel, in all, I fired six rounds into the test soft armor, and there was no penetration. Now, without a doubt, you are going to get some serious bruising and possibly a broke rib when you take a hit from something like a .357 Magnum round, but it beats the alternative – penetration of your body! Some pages in the phone book were “broken” from the impact of the rounds – but once again, your body wouldn’t have been penetrated, as the rounds were all stuck in the Infidel Body Armor Trauma Max panel.
Due to the FedGov shutdown, I wasn’t able to access the NIJ web site, in order to see how many rounds are used to test the various types and threat levels of body armor hits they will take during testing. I don’t think they fire more than a few rounds into soft body armor panels in their testing, though. I was very impressed with the way the Trauma Max IIIA panel stood-up. I know I could defeat this armor – and I will get out for some more testing, to see just how many more rounds of handgun ammo this panel will take before it fails – and all body armor will fail if you shoot it enough times. But just for fun……..
Now for the good news, if you purchase one Trauma Max panel from Infidel, it’s only $160 and if you purchase two panels they are $305 and this is a special right now – they normally cost more. And, you can find outside the shirt armor carriers for as low as $100 from Infidel, too. Check out the various carriers they have, they are all slightly different from one another. And, if you already have an armor carrier/vest, you’ll only need the Trauma Max panels by themselves. If you’ve purchase the Infidel hard armor with a carrier, then the soft panels are really a good thing to add – to no only reduce blunt force trauma, but for those call outs where you might only need protection from common handgun rounds. There will be times when hard armor might be too heavy, or too confining, and soft body armor will get the job done alone!
Infidel Body Armor started with an idea and concept, and that was to produce affordable hard body armor, for the Prepper and the Survivalist – and they accomplished that goal. And, their armor was not NIJ certified when they first came out with it – it’s a very expensive testing procedure to get body armor certified by NIJ. However, they had numerous requests from police officers, who wanted the hard body armor, but couldn’t use it on-duty, if it wasn’t certified by NIJ. So, Infidel went through the expensive process of getting their hard armor plates certified – and then they set about to produce soft body armor panels, and once again, they are certified to NIJ standards, and Infidel is living up to their goal, of producing affordable body armor – soft and hard – that is NIJ certified for civilians as well as law enforcement. So, before you lay down a thousand dollars for a big-name soft body armor set-up, do yourself a favor, and check out the Infidel Trauma Max Threat Level IIIA line. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio
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