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Old 07-05-2009, 12:45 PM
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Exclamation German Flak Vest Informal Ballistics Test



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A few years ago, I purchased a supply of surplus German flak vests; these were originally designed as light body armour for protection against shrapnel and not for rounds from firearms, and yet their NIJ-equivalent ballistic protection level has been widely debated.

I didn't set out to settle this argument. I took one look at one of my vests when I got them and new I wasn't interested in trusting my life to one of these. Even compared to my highly concealable level IIA modern vest with low areal density, the panels inside one of the surplus German vests looked pretty flimsy -- all though for $30 a piece that's about what I'd expect.

So I got the bright idea to try doubling up the armor inside the vests. For $60 I could combine a pair of similarly sized flak vests, adding the ballistic panels from one vest inside the carrier of another, stacked on top of its inserts, to double the armor value. If a vest with a single layer of inserts was marginal for pistol rounds, I figured maybe twice the armor would put it over the edge and give it some practical survival value.

Yesterday I finally tested my theory. I took advantage of a safe place to shoot and doubled the ballistic panels from two surplus German flak vests of unknown age within a single cloth carrier, backed by a 5-gallon HDPE bucket full of water, and shot at 7 yards with 9mm 115-grain standard pressure ball ammo in a three-shot quick-fire group covering just over two inches at the approximate center of the front panel.



Water splashed out of the top of the bucket from the concussion of the first shot, and more water was clearly leaking out the bottom after all three shots were fired. From a distance this didn't look good. Upon cursory examination of the target once the firing line was clear, it was obvious that the bucket had been broken by the blunt trauma of the subsequent shots but not pierced by a round.



Opening the vest and examining the inside confirmed this. The bullets did not penetrate the doubled vest, although the blunt trauma would have been appreciable.



Upon removing and examining the inserts, I was able to recover the slugs.



The first two rounds were stopped by the original top panel of the vest. The third round, which deformed the least, penetrated the first insert but was stopped after penetrating three plies of Kevlar into the second.

Clearly, this is a very minimal amount of experimental data, but the double-armor surplus flak vest performed well enough to warrant more serious testing. Would this ever be my first-line ballistic gear? Certainly not, but if I had to move a group of people through a dangerous area where the threat of gunfire was a serious concern, putting a doubled flak vest on someone might be worth considering. It would be better than nothing, and it would probably be robust against fire as mighty as a 00 shotgun blast (the next thing I want to try!).

If you can still find these vests for $30 to $35 a piece, they might be worth your consideration as a SHTF prep. It's had to find even marginal ballistic protection for under $300, so being able to armor an entire family or squad of shooters on that humble of a budget has a certain value all its own.

I hope someone else does more thorough tests and really puts these old German vests through their paces so we learn more about what they can and cannot do.

NB: These vests were not designed to stop firearms rounds, and I accept no liability for the actions of anyone who uses them for such purposes.

DO NOT RISK HARM BASED ON THESE RESULTS.
Old 07-05-2009, 01:10 PM
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Awesome, and the vest looks pretty cool too, I wouldn't mind obtaining some of those.
Old 07-05-2009, 01:11 PM
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Excellent and very informative. I really appreciate you taking the time and expense to test this. Might you now be willing to test the vests by shooting them (in a different area than the 9mm) with other bullets like .40 S&W, .45 ACP and calibers smaller than 9mm? I mean, why the hell not? The vest are already worthless at this point since you've just shot them.
Old 07-05-2009, 01:11 PM
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Where did you find them for $30-35 dollars? Cheapest I've seen is $49.95 at CTD

I've always wanted one of these because I like flecktarn
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Old 07-05-2009, 01:47 PM
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We did Vietnam era vests. Distance is the number 1 factor in how well they performed. At 40-50 yards you will see a drastic change in how well they do. Rifle bullets seem to take any of them though.

Good test. I always wondered about the german models.
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Old 07-05-2009, 03:31 PM
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That's not too bad. It's just a shame that as an Aussie I cannot use a vest in Australia as they are a restricted item, as illegal as machine guns.

Paul.
Old 07-05-2009, 03:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilc View Post
A few years ago, I purchased a supply of surplus German flak vests; these were originally designed as light body armour for protection against shrapnel and not for rounds from firearms, and yet their NIJ-equivalent ballistic protection level has been widely debated.

I didn't set out to settle this argument. I took one look at one of my vests when I got them and new I wasn't interested in trusting my life to one of these. Even compared to my highly concealable level IIA modern vest with low areal density, the panels inside one of the surplus German vests looked pretty flimsy -- all though for $30 a piece that's about what I'd expect.

So I got the bright idea to try doubling up the armor inside the vests. For $60 I could combine a pair of similarly sized flak vests, adding the ballistic panels from one vest inside the carrier of another, stacked on top of its inserts, to double the armor value. If a vest with a single layer of inserts was marginal for pistol rounds, I figured maybe twice the armor would put it over the edge and give it some practical survival value.

Yesterday I finally tested my theory. I took advantage of a safe place to shoot and doubled the ballistic panels from two surplus German flak vests of unknown age within a single cloth carrier, backed by a 5-gallon HDPE bucket full of water, and shot at 7 yards with 9mm 115-grain standard pressure ball ammo in a three-shot quick-fire group covering just over two inches at the approximate center of the front panel.



Water splashed out of the top of the bucket from the concussion of the first shot, and more water was clearly leaking out the bottom after all three shots were fired. From a distance this didn't look good. Upon cursory examination of the target once the firing line was clear, it was obvious that the bucket had been broken by the blunt trauma of the subsequent shots but not pierced by a round.



Opening the vest and examining the inside confirmed this. The bullets did not penetrate the doubled vest, although the blunt trauma would have been appreciable.



Upon removing and examining the inserts, I was able to recover the slugs.



The first two rounds were stopped by the original top panel of the vest. The third round, which deformed the least, penetrated the first insert but was stopped after penetrating three plies of Kevlar into the second.

Clearly, this is a very minimal amount of experimental data, but the double-armor surplus flak vest performed well enough to warrant more serious testing. Would this ever be my first-line ballistic gear? Certainly not, but if I had to move a group of people through a dangerous area where the threat of gunfire was a serious concern, putting a doubled flak vest on someone might be worth considering. It would be better than nothing, and it would probably be robust against fire as mighty as a 00 shotgun blast (the next thing I want to try!).

If you can still find these vests for $30 to $35 a piece, they might be worth your consideration as a SHTF prep. It's had to find even marginal ballistic protection for under $300, so being able to armor an entire family or squad of shooters on that humble of a budget has a certain value all its own.

I hope someone else does more thorough tests and really puts these old German vests through their paces so we learn more about what they can and cannot do.

NB: These vests were not designed to stop firearms rounds, and I accept no liability for the actions of anyone who uses them for such purposes.

DO NOT RISK HARM BASED ON THESE RESULTS.
is there any way you can put armor plates in side.I will say if anyone has some ideas on how to make that vest stop a .223 or 7.62 that would be awsome.
Old 07-06-2009, 12:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Proyas View Post
Excellent and very informative. I really appreciate you taking the time and expense to test this. Might you now be willing to test the vests by shooting them (in a different area than the 9mm) with other bullets like .40 S&W, .45 ACP and calibers smaller than 9mm? I mean, why the hell not? The vest are already worthless at this point since you've just shot them.
Thanks to you and others for the kind words.

I picked 9mm Luger because bigger-bore rounds like .40 and .45 with their superior "knockdown power" tend to dump their kinetic energy more easily upon impact with a ballistic insert than 9mm ball, which can zip through. That said, for subsequent hits, it might be interesting to see how much stress these flak vests can take on repeated impacts from high-energy rounds.

When I get another opportunity to do this kind of experiment, I'll try some other ammunition.
Old 07-06-2009, 03:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilc View Post
Thanks to you and others for the kind words.

I picked 9mm Luger because bigger-bore rounds like .40 and .45 with their superior "knockdown power" tend to dump their kinetic energy more easily upon impact with a ballistic insert than 9mm ball, which can zip through. That said, for subsequent hits, it might be interesting to see how much stress these flak vests can take on repeated impacts from high-energy rounds.

When I get another opportunity to do this kind of experiment, I'll try some other ammunition.
I am curious how doubling the vests does against 556 and 7.62x39. I bought some of these off centerfiresystems, but I am to cheap to test them myself....
Old 07-06-2009, 03:50 AM
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Originally Posted by jason1221 View Post
is there any way you can put armor plates in side.I will say if anyone has some ideas on how to make that vest stop a .223 or 7.62 that would be awsome.
it would be heavy and expensive, but a layer of 1/4 in steel backed with a soft alloy layer or good chunk of aluminum might do the trick for at least glancing blows.

if you can get ahold of them, SAPI plates could be attached simply by fashoining a plate carrier and attaching it some how. Yeah I know its redneck, but i can't help it
Old 07-06-2009, 10:27 AM
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I am curious how doubling the vests does against 556 and 7.62x39. I bought some of these off centerfiresystems, but I am to cheap to test them myself....
I'd bet everything that 7.62x39mm would tear through even a double German vest like it was paper. I think handgun rounds should be tested first.
Old 07-06-2009, 11:04 AM
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You can look into ceramic trauma plates to supplement the ballistic panels....
Old 07-06-2009, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
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it would be heavy and expensive, but a layer of 1/4 in steel backed with a soft alloy layer or good chunk of aluminum might do the trick for at least glancing blows.

if you can get ahold of them, SAPI plates could be attached simply by fashoining a plate carrier and attaching it some how. Yeah I know its redneck, but i can't help it
i was thinking titanium at about a little of a half inch thick.But thats redneck or ghetto what ever.If it stops a rifle bullets than its cool.
Old 07-09-2009, 11:35 PM
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I am curious how doubling the vests does against 556 and 7.62x39...
They'll go through like a knife through butter, almost certainly...
Old 07-14-2009, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by wes1761 View Post
You can look into ceramic trauma plates to supplement the ballistic panels....
Yeah. The flak vest kevlar + NJI Level III ceramic plates should do the job, or 1/4 inch steel plates. You'd have to customize the vest by sowing and stuff, though.

http://vestguard.co.uk/ballistic-pla...tic-plates.htm

I was thinking of buying some lighter concealed armor, such as this one:
http://vestguard.co.uk/covert-nij-le...resistance.htm

It'll stop most handguns and shotguns from a short distance, and knife stabs. Plus it can be worn under your shirt, as to not draw attention. There is even a level IIIA version but it costs like 400, a bit too pricy. I'd say this one is better in most urban bug-out situations than a flak vest, which is very visible.
Old 07-16-2009, 07:04 PM
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Default body armour is usually a total waste

I don't see too much of an advantage of body armor unless you are basically stationary, defending a structure. If you are required to do any moving around, the lack of mobility and manouverability will just make you getting shot more likely. Besides, those plates only cover a small amount of your body. You are likely to get head-shot if you don't know what's comming, and in close-combat where people are stressed, if you do get hit, people are likely to nearly miss you, which means you get hit in the shoulder or leg, or groin...

And finally, whatever they are shooting at you is likely going to penetrate any body armour you'll be wearing anyways, and if it does, it will make a MUCH bigger hole through you than if you weren't wearing body armour in the first place.
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Old 07-16-2009, 07:29 PM
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Quote:
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I don't see too much of an advantage of body armor unless you are basically stationary, defending a structure. If you are required to do any moving around, the lack of mobility and manouverability will just make you getting shot more likely. Besides, those plates only cover a small amount of your body. You are likely to get head-shot if you don't know what's comming, and in close-combat where people are stressed, if you do get hit, people are likely to nearly miss you, which means you get hit in the shoulder or leg, or groin...

And finally, whatever they are shooting at you is likely going to penetrate any body armour you'll be wearing anyways, and if it does, it will make a MUCH bigger hole through you than if you weren't wearing body armour in the first place.
I disagree, there are plenty of cops and soldiers alive today because of body armor.

It is a lot harder to go for a headshot on somebody than center-mass.
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Old 07-21-2009, 12:29 AM
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I guess, if you are counting on only pistol ammo being used.. but the fact is in situations like we are talking about it is higly probable that nobody will be using pistols unless they are in-your-face and in that case you're better off with the mobility required to dodge out and continue from a defence position..than a vest that will make you so slow you're a sitting duck. Any and every joe out there has a hunting rifle and it will put a hole right through front and back of those laughable silly cop vests. Infact, it will make a way bigger mess of someone wearing a vest than someone without one on..
Old 07-21-2009, 11:03 PM
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I don't see too much of an advantage of body armor unless...
To reiterate, the OP is strictly some informal empirical data; what you conclude from it and how you act upon that conclusion is your own responsibility.
Old 07-21-2009, 11:11 PM
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Well it worked for this guy:

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