Mass shootings and ballistic armor

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

Once again, our nation has been rocked by a deranged individual entering one of our schools and killing off a number of innocent children. This time, 17 people in a Florida high school were killed, including some heroic teachers. Predictably, those on the political left are using this as an excuse to call for gun control, blaming the gun for the crime, instead of blaming the person wielding the gun.

These shootings bring forth a wide range of reactions, from all across the political spectrum. While some are illogical or used strictly for political gain, one of the more important questions they raise is what can be done to protect ourselves and our children from such occurrences? Leaving the politics aside, isn’t that what’s really important?

There is a debate going on about making classrooms lockable, allowing teachers to secure the door so that a shooter can’t get in. While this is an excellent idea on the surface, security professionals have raised some issues about it. Primarily, they’re concerned about the police not being able to get into the room. As a secondary issue, such locks defy building code, which requires that doors can be opened form the inside with one movement (i.e. a crash bar) in order to escape from a fire. Having to remove or open the lock to exit the room breaks this regulation.

While you and I can raise our voices in this debate, the issue is going to be decided by someone other than ourselves. Ultimately, each and every school board will have to face this issue and make a decision on it. You and I aren’t part of that decision making process.

The question for us is what can we do ourselves? Most schools have strict anti-gun laws, going as far as a “no tolerance” viewpoint that castigates children for even making something that looks like a gun. So, at least as far as school property is concerned, there is nothing we can do to actively defend ourselves or our children. Or is there?

One possibility that exists is to wear ballistic body armor. Years ago, when I worked retail sales, one of my co-workers, who was a retired police officer, wore a ballistic vest under his clothing, every day. That was a bit extreme as far as I was concerned; but he rationalized it by saying that he had known two store managers who had been shot during robberies and no police that had been.

But is that practical for us? That depends on you; but for me, I’d have to say no. There are a couple of problems with this idea.

First of all, ballistic armor is uncomfortable. Granted, I’m sure that it’s possible to get used to wearing it, but it’s still uncomfortable. I live in a hot climate, so it would probably be even worse than if I lived farther north.

Secondly, ballistic armor is not a perfect solution. Not all armor is made the same, with the same stopping power. It takes Level III-A armor to ensure that you have protection from all calibers of handguns. That’s currently the most popular level of protection and is readily available. But it’s not really all that concealable. It’s just too thick to hide well under your clothing.

Please note that lower levels of protection aren’t going to stop all handgun bullets. Considering that criminals today use larger caliber handguns than those of a generation ago, opting for a lower level of protection isn’t really a good decision.

But even Level III-A won’t stop rifle bullets, just pistol bullets. So it’s not going to be enough for a terrorist attack or for most mass murderers, both of which tend to use rifles. To get enough protection to stop rifle rounds, you need Level IV armor. This requires adding a hard plate to the soft armor of the vest. Basically, we’re talking about the kind of body armor that military forces or police SWAT teams use. It’s effective, but it’s thick and heavy; definitely not the sort of thing to have your children wear to school every day.

Nevertheless, even with its shortcomings, ballistic armor is still the best option available to most of us, especially if we are forced to be in a gun-free zone. While not a perfect solution, it does provide some protection, making it worth the cost and effort.

But I personally wouldn’t bother with wearing a ballistic vest, unless I was going into a situation where I thought I might need it. Rather, I’d install a ballistic insert into my backpack or briefcase. That would provide me with something I could use for protection, without having to wear bulky armor under my clothing.

These ballistic inserts are available from a number of manufacturers, for about 40% less than buying a ballistic vest. The cost savings comes from them being one-sided, not needing protection in both the front and the back. Inserted in a briefcase of backpack, they can be worn or held over the chest, providing some protection. In the case of a backpack, you’d want to wear it backwards in an active shooter situation, over the chest, rather than on the back.

Typically, these inserts are Level III-A, like the most popular vests. So, once again, they won’t stop rifle bullets. But they’re better than nothing. If I had children who were still in school, I’d be sure to buy them and put them in their backpacks. Some protection is better than no protection.

Of course, this also requires teaching your children what to do in such a situation. The best equipment doesn’t do the least bit of good, if it’s not used properly. Some drills on using their armored backpack would definitely be appropriate.

In the mean time, be sure to carry where you can. Keep your powder dry, so you’re ready to defend yourself and keep your survival gear close at hand.

Chris and Dr. Rich

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