Monday, September 24, 2012

US PALM Defender Vest - lightweight and inexpensive bullet stopper

When many people think of armor, they immediately think of military personnel or law enforcement. What they generally don't think of is the average citizen - in fact, I've found the topic of body armor for the average citizen to be quite taboo, even in the shooting and training community. The most common question I hear is "Why would I ever need body armor?" My answer is always the same: "To stop bullets that want to pierce your Juicy Goodness!" Most people that I speak to about personal armor consider owning it to be "overkill" or "paranoid." This is always something I find amusing, since they don't seem to think that a half-dozen or more firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition is "overkill" or "paranoid." Nor do most of those same people consider a first-aid kit, a fire extinguisher, extra food or extra batteries to be "overkill" or "paranoid." Yet for some reason, armor of any kind seems to fit in that description.

But before I go any further, and before you write personal body armor off completely, I want to give you a few scenarios to consider:

SCENARIO #1There's a bump in the night, and you must go check on your kids. Your spouse is calling 911 while you retrieve your firearm, and as you enter the hallway headed to your kids' room, you see a shadowy figure approaching. You get your light turned on and identify the shadowy figure as an uninvited guest who is holding a handgun. As you instinctively fire your handgun, so does he, and since your light is attached to your handgun and he's shooting at the light, his rounds strike your shooting hand and your chest. Your hits are also effective, and the intruder retreats into your living room and collapses. Thankfully, you had taken the 2 seconds needed to put on your soft armor before heading into the hallway, and while your shooting hand hurts like crazy and the impact from the slugs into your vest put you back against the wall, you are able to switch your handgun to your other shooting hand while you move to your kids' room and safeguard your family. Bandaging your wounded hand is an easy task while you await EMS, and with a few surgeries and some recovery time, you are still able to hug your spouse and play ball with your kids.

SCENARIO #2. . . . As you instinctively fire your handgun, so does he, and since your light is attached to your handgun and he's shooting at the light, his rounds strike your shooting hand and your chest. Your hits are also effective, and the intruder retreats into your living room and collapses. One of the rounds that penetrated into your chest nicks your heart and puts a whole in your lung, and as you collapse to the ground, you can hear your wife screaming. Your children run to your side as your vision blurs. Whether or not you die from these wounds is not important right now - what is important is that you are no longer able to protect your family.

SCENARIO #3. . . . As you instinctively fire your handgun, so does he, and since your light is attached to your handgun and he's shooting at the light, his rounds strike your shooting hand and your chest, pushing you back against the wall. Your shot placement is also spot on, but since this particular bad guy has purchased some soft armor from eBay for $50, even the best shot placement in the chest won't matter. While your hits knock him to the ground, he fires a few more rounds, one of which strikes you again in the chest, and with 2 holes in your lungs, you struggle to breathe as you watch your assailant pick himself up and move towards your family.

I could go on with variations, different locations, and circumstances that are just that - circumstantial. So why have body armor, when the chance that you'll have to use it is so slim? Consider that there is only a 1% chance that you'll ever even have to use a firearm in self-defense, so why have that, either? Because it falls under the same reason that we prepare for everything else that we can prepare for: It's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

And this is where US Primary Armament Logistical Manufacturing, or US PALM as they are more widely known, comes in. First off, they are on my list of "Arizona Companies That I Like To Do Business With." Second, they make some very cost effective personal armor options, and I believe the most useful of these options to the average citizen is the Defender vest. This vest comes in several different colors and varieties: Handgun (with built-in holster and magazine holders), AR-15, AK-47, and .308 (each with built-in magazine holders), Slick (just like it sounds, and designed to be concealable), and MOLLE (which has MOLLE webbing to allow for customization of pouches and gear). At a price point of $199 for front armor, and $299 for front and back armor, it is very affordable, and it's easy to put on and customizable for just about any body size, including children, if needed. The armor used inside of the Defender carrier is from ArmorExpress, and is Level IIIA, which means it will stop .44 Mag hits reliably all the way to the edge of the armor. In fact, I've seen the Defender vest stop a 12 gauge slug, though anyone wearing a soft armor vest that got hit with a 12 gauge slug would be suffering some serious internal injuries - one of them wouldn't be a penetrating gunshot wound, though! Be aware that this is soft armor, however, and it will not stop rifle rounds - for that you need hard armor, such as ceramic plate or steel plate.

The picture shown above is a picture of a US PALM Defender vest that was shot multiple times with a .45 ACP with absolutely no penetration and not even any back face deformation - in other words, no major internal damage to your body. The large slug in the front is the 12 gauge slug I previously mentioned that was fired into a Defender vest, which can be seen slightly behind the Defender shown above. If you are anywhere near Scottsdale, AZ, you can view both of these vests, as well as the entire US PALM line, at Scottsdale Gun Club.

In my training, I have found the Defender vest to be extremely comfortable. It breathes well in the heat, takes serious abuse without fail, and is lightweight enough to be worn all day without fatigue. For my personal armor, I chose the MOLLE version, as it allows me to customize the armor according to my needs.

But more than just buying armor is training with it. Putting it on in the dark, in a hurry, and certainly training while shooting and practicing hand-to-hand techniques is a must so that you know how your vest will affect your mobility and your speed. One of the reaons I like the Defender vest so much, in addition to its high level of protection, is that it fits like a glove yet is quick to put on. It also does not get in the way of my drawstroke when wearing my CCW handgun and holster, as you can see in the photo above. The MOLLE version, as I already mentioned, allows me to select what pouches or accessories to add, if any. In keeping with my philosophy of light and fast, I chose to add only a CAT tourniquet and a Streamlight PT-2L flashlight to my setup, both of which are easily accessible with either hand yet neither get in my way, and both of which I consider a necessity to deal with just about any self-defense situation.

If you are starting to consider purchasing body armor by this point, then I applaud your thinking, especially considering that the Sheepdog seeks to always have the same, if not better, tools than the wolf so that he or she can effectively defend against the wolf. And make no mistake about it, there are certainly wolves out there with access to body armor, often a stolen item which means it is better quality than they could normally afford. And if you are considering purchasing body armor, understand that not all armor is created equal: there are materials out there that are old, sub-par, and even flat out dangerous, so do your research, and of course you can always contact us with your questions.

If nothing else, consider armor as another addition to your emergency equipment list, nothing more than a fire extinguisher, a first-aid kit, extra water, or a little extra food. And just like those other items, it may one day be necessary for you to continue your way of life. Without it, however, you may be just another bullet sponge, and a bullet sponge can't defend themselves, defend their family, or stop bad guys from hurting others.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.

-Glen Stilson