GREAT Info on Agency Purchase of Body Armor and Helmets | MassCops

GREAT Info on Agency Purchase of Body Armor and Helmets

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Hush, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. Hush

    Hush Moderator Staff Member

    Reposted from Links DO work, outstanding info and very similar to the setup I chose with input from 5-0/Dan Stark that he procured for his department.

    "I am sharing this after having just gone through the process of selecting and purchasing 360+ plate carriers, 700+ plates, and 360+ ballistic helmets for use by uniformed patrol officers. Nothing written here is intended to supplant or contradict advice provided by the SME's in this forum. Some of the information in this post is available elsewhere in the Lightfighter forums. Nothing in this post is intended to address the needs of SWAT teams or other special units in American law enforcement. This is primarily intended for patrol officers trying to make a personal purchase or patrol supervisors tasked with selecting and purchasing the "best" product possible for their officers while working with a limited budget. Some of this information may also help answer questions & criticisms from administrators, purchasers, policymakers, and citizen watchdogs.

    I do not claim to have all the answers. I'm just trying to help the overworked street cops trying to re-invent the wheel as they paddle homemade rafts through an ocean of bad infomercials. I freely admit that some of the information in this piece is influenced by the culture and requirements of my agency (which may be radically different than yours). Let's begin...

    There is no nice way to say this but we all need to beware of “snake oil salesmen” looking to make a buck from tragedy. Heretofore unknown vendors of rifle plates and active shooter “packages” are coming out of the woodwork since the Dallas incident. Most of their textile products (i.e. carriers) are poorly constructed and made in China. Such carriers may be satisfactory for Airsoft games but they are wholly inadequate for duty use. Some of their plates are lightweight but ineffective against ammunition commonly available at gun shows and large retail outlets. In some instances, their plates are effective but far too heavy for practical use by the average uniformed patrol officer (especially with two plates - 1 front and 1 rear). The body armor industry is beset by merchants altogether devoid of the least qualification to the field of terminal ballistics. Internet startups are peddling rifle plates from assemblers holding no papers of authenticity from any institution, recognized or improvised.

    Selecting the "right" plates is super-confusing unless you've been working with this stuff on a regular basis over the last few years. It seems there's a "catch" or a "yeah, but..." to every option. For example, the “old fashioned” ceramic plates were and are effective armor but they can be somewhat fragile. They are supposed to be X-Ray inspected annually to check for cracks compromising their ballistic protection. Steel plates can work well but they are heavy and awkward even if they are thin. Most importantly, they often do not stop some of the 5.56 rounds which can be purchased by the case at Cabela’s, Academy Sports, etc. Polyethylene plates are light and comfortable but they are often very expensive. Also, like some steel plates, several variations of commonly available 5.56 rounds will defeat them. What to do? Who do I believe? Which product do we truly need?

    START WITH THIS: Realistic protection from rifle ammo must assume that suspects will walk into a big box store and unknowingly purchase a case of ammo which is capable of defeating many rifle plates. Your future adversary need not be well-informed or intelligent to select this product. He only needs to pick it off the shelf at random. This ammo is not “armor piercing” but it will punch right through many of the plates currently being sold with flashy marketing or fear. The ammo in question primarily includes the following types of 5.56mm X 45mm (Mods: These links go to retail outlets only to serve as an example of how widely available this ammo truly is - please de-link if needed):

    Let's get serious about learning important stuff now that I've got your attention with my own fear-mongering. The attachments to this post are intended to provide you with the “minimum must know” material for dealing with salesmen, vendors, and manufacturers. Before you read any further, you should go to the bottom of this post and carefully read the four attached files:

    • “Rifle Plates" and Plate Carriers for Patrol Officers: A Few Things to Think About by Doug Deaton (Me)
    • Good Rifle Plate Options for LEOs by Dr. Gary K. Roberts (with a supplement at the end by Lightfighter member Longeye)
    • Excerpts Specific to Rifle Plates (Hard Armor) from “Selection & Application Guide 0101.06 to Ballistic-Resistant Body Armor” collected from the original document by me.
    • Classifications & Definitions from NIJ 06 Standard separated and collected by me.
    Now that you're becoming better informed about standards and ratings, here are the "parent documents" you will want to save somewhere and refer to often:

    NIJ Selection and Application Guide to Ballistic Armor

    Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor (NIJ Standard 0101.06)

    If you are buying on behalf of others, I recommend you take the time to carefully read these sections from the “Selection and Application Guide” before you get too far along in your process:

    Chapter 3 - NIJ Ballistic-Resistant Body Armor Standards and Testing Program

    Chapter 5 – Measurement, Fit and Coverage

    Chapter 6 - Purchasing and Procurement Considerations

    Chapter 7 - Development of Procurement Specifications

    Use this NIJ-maintained site to confirm if a particular item or model of armor has actually gone through the NIJ’s compliance testing program:

    Models that Comply with the NIJ Standard-0101.06 for Ballistic-Resistance of Body Armor

    Additional resources that may be helpful for verifying information provided to you by vendors and/or manufacturers:

    Testing, Standards and Products Information

    Ballistic Armor Compliant Product List (Alternate Site)

    Approved Testing Laboratories
    Chitownlost likes this.
  2. Hush

    Hush Moderator Staff Member

    Regarding Plate Carriers for Patrol Cops:

    I strongly recommend you avoid anything with large exposed plastic buckles because they tend to get caught/crushed in car doors or trunks, hung up on hinges or wires, and basically crushed, snapped, or lost. Get something that is made to rapidly don over the top of the patrol uniform (and underlying soft body armor).

    Avoid anything made "offshore" unless the vendor can provide adequate proof of quality (and preferably a list of other professional end users). Be sure there are bar tacks (reinforced lines of stitching) at critical load-bearing points. Make sure it comes with at least one pouch or pocket. MOLLE is nice but consider the follow on issues of logistics and purchasing of pouches.

    Check out the first attachment to this post entitled, "Proper Wear of Armor" and this post about the same right here on LIghtfighter. Stay focused on the reason you are getting these things in the first place. The primary purpose of a plate carrier is to hold the protective hard armor plates in place. Their secondary purpose is to enable the patrol officer to carry mission-essential equipment. If you don't control methodology and doctrine early on, you will have some of your people overload the carrier with stuff they don't need. Some might even compromise their ability to perform at their peak effectiveness. For example, watch out for the guy who loads his carrier up with 6 spare magazines (in addition to the one in his rifle) but doesn't have a place for other important items (trauma kit, radio, multi-tool, flashlight, etc.).

    Side Note RE Patrol Rifle Magazines: Even if it takes an average of 6 rounds to stop 1 bad guy, three magazines loaded with 28 rounds each is still enough ammo to kill 14 bad guys. Using that same math, a single magazine loaded with 28 rounds will enable you to put down an average of 4.66 bad guys. Patrol cops can do a lot of good work with a rifle and 2 spare magazines (for a total of 3 magazines).

    Do not take any vendor's word for anything. Period. Get your hands on the product. Put two heavy plates in the carrier and then have different sized people at your agency try it on. Then have them run with it. Dance in place. Make it shake. Make it shimmy. Get out your seat and jump around. Jump up, jump up and get down. You might surprised at how many of the "offshore" plate carriers will fail this simple test in the first 30 seconds.

    If you keep seeing "knock off" carriers which are clearly a copy of another company's plate carriers...that's a clue about the products you should be looking for.
  3. Hush

    Hush Moderator Staff Member

    Regarding Ballistic Helmets for Patrol Cops:

    The preferred helmet style/pattern for most police patrol operations is the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH). The MICH pattern is also acceptable as it is effectively identical to the ACH. There are several other helmet profiles similar to the ACH/MICH pattern which would likely meet your needs.

    The ACH/MICH helmet profile is compatible with most standard public safety style gas masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). The ACH/MICH has been in service since approximately 2002 and is now the standard “workhorse” of helmets for both military and law enforcement. It can be used in its simplest configuration or it can be upgraded later to accept modular components (rails, search lights, night vision mounts, etc). See the attached photo and this article for more information about the ACH.

    Some agencies choose to avoid the PASGT profile because of the visor or “lip” which can make it difficult for some officers to fire their rifle from the prone position and/or interfere with acquiring a proper sight picture, especially when using a red-dot sight. This is not always the case and it's certainly not a hard-and-fast rule (I can sense the Marines bristling now). It goes without saying that a PASGT-style helmet is definitely acceptable for officers who are not using patrol rifles.

    Whatever helmet you decide to go with, make sure it provides Level IIIA ballistic protection. While most helmet manufacturers state their products provide level IIIA ballistic protection, it is important to note that NIJ does not certify Level IIIA helmets. The NIJ certification for helmets only provides for testing up to Level II. The only comprehensive Level IIIA testing protocol for helmets in the U.S. is conducted by H. P. White Laboratory, Inc. Though NIJ Standard 0106.06 does not address helmets, most reputable manufacturers conduct or contract testing of their helmets consistent with or similar to the Level IIIA requirements of that standard.

    Here’s some verbiage that may be helpful for writing your specifications:

    “Helmets considered for purchase must conform to the requirements of Type II classification as defined by the NIJ Standard for Ballistic Helmets (0106.01). Vendors must provide documentation of ballistic testing consistent with the Level IIIA requirements of NIJ Standard 0106.06. Additional documentation of testing conducted in compliance with the following standards is strongly preferred:”

    Helmet Manufacturers (non-exhaustive list):

    Helmet Vendors (non-exhaustive list):

    If you're still reading this post, I know what you're thinking: Enough of your blather! What did y'all buy?

    These are the products my agency went with. I am not suggesting that you should do the same thing.

    Plate carrier (one per officer)

    Shellback Tactical Banshee (black in color)

    More Info re Shellback Banshee @ SKD Tactical

    Plate (two per officer)

    ProTech Model 2120-5, Level III+ Stand Alone, Multi-Hit / This is a multi-curve ceramic/polyethylene composite plate weighing only 5.5 pounds. It is capable of stopping 6 hits of some of the most potent 5.56mm and 7.62mm rifle ammo available. They are drop-tested and include padding on the surface worn nearest the body. This plate is rated for all the ammo listed in our specs and it does not need to be x-rayed every year. It is the best value we could find in terms of protection, weight, cost, thickness, and curvature.

    Helmet (one per officer)

    United Shield ACH/MICH Level IIIA with military pad system (black in color)

    While we sought the best possible price on items meeting our specifications, these are not “low bid” products. This is professional-grade equipment intended to ensure our officers' survival in the face of extraordinary threats. We believe these products provided us with the best possible combination of personal protection, durability, weight, cost, anddelivery time. A “better” product does us no good if it cannot be delivered for another 5 months or if we cannot afford to buy it for every member of our department.

    Please check out the attachments for additional information. I'm happy to answer any questions as much as I am able.
    Goose likes this.
  4. mpd61

    mpd61 Retired Fed, Active Special

    Lots of effort into the above presentations........Thank You!
    BTW.....did you see the data where the SS109 was NOT performing up to expectations? The older M855 or M193 actually penetrated better!?!?
    Wish I could remember where I recently read it. NO! it wasn't some guy over at NES either!:p
    Hush likes this.
  5. Hush

    Hush Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks, I didn't write it just reposted.
    SS109 and M855 are essentially the same round, SS109 is the NATO designation but M855 has been found to have more consistently higher velocities. The M193 is actually much better at defeating AR500 and steel armor than the "penetrator" green tip ammo due to higher velocities. Both are common and can be found at Walmart. Level III+ armor is better designed to soak up multiple 5.56 hits than Level IV, which seems kind of counterintuitive. Level III+ is also lighter and usually more expensive. It's something you have to keep current on as new technology keeps being developed. If you have ANY rifle armor, you are already ahead of the curve. It should be in every cruiser whether dept or personally purchased.
    Goose and mpd61 like this.
  6. USM C-2

    USM C-2 MassCops Member

    We went with AR500 plate carriers. Good quality, and we could afford to get enough for our needs. If there's money left later I'd like to make them individual issued equipment.

    And the first thing we did with them was tactical training so officers could get used to running, proning out, working stairs and room entries wearing plate carriers and helmets. Definitely a plus to have them get used to the gear ahead of time.
  7. mpd61

    mpd61 Retired Fed, Active Special

    "The M193 is actually much better at defeating AR500 and steel armor than the "penetrator" green tip ammo due to higher velocities. Both are common and can be found at Walmart. Level III+ armor is better designed to soak up multiple 5.56 hits than Level IV, which seems kind of counterintuitive."

    Thanks Hush! I knew that was recently revealed about the ammo somewhere, and appreciate the info regarding Level III= vs. Level IV!!!!
    Hush likes this.

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