POLICE Magazine

AUG 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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Y ou wear your so body armor when you're on duty. But what if you have to respond to a school shooting or other incident that might involve rounds your armor isn't rated to stop? e trauma plates that fit inside front and back pockets in armor carriers offer protection against rifle rounds, and some protect against armor-piercing rounds. But should you have them? And if so, how do you know which kind to choose? MATERIALS Plates that use ceramic tile to slow a bullet have been around for decades. Different types of backing help to both increase absorption and protect the ceramic itself from accidental breakage. But because the ceramic is designed to break when a bullet hits it, the hard yet brittle plate can only take a limited number of bullets. And the ceramic in the plate can crack if it's dropped or hit in any way, such as when thrown into a bag or cruiser trunk. Such cracks diminish the plate's ability to protect an officer from a bullet, and the cracks aren't always visible. While they've been around since the late 1980s, the technology to make polyethylene plates thin enough for practical use is more recent. High-pressure treatment increas- es performance and decreases weight. Unlike ceramic, ultra-high-molecu- lar-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) plates take advantage of the spin of a bullet to slow it down. e bullet's friction creates heat, which partially melts the polyethylene until it stops the bullet. en once the bullet slows and eventually stops, the polyethylene cools and rehardens. Because of the way in which polyeth- ylene plates work, they can stop multi- ple bullets. And because the material is more resilient than a hard material like ceramic, dropping a polyethylene plate will not cause damage. ey are also rela- tively lightweight. Some manufacturers use a blend of ceramic and pressed UHMWPE in hard rifle plates to help reduce the weight significantly. Plates made only of polyethylene tend to be thicker but lighter. Steel is a comparatively inexpensive material for trauma plates and it is able to stop multiple rounds. But steel hard ar- mor is generally impractical because it is so heavy. e weight makes wearing steel plates uncomfortable and cumbersome. Any steel armor that is worn should contain an antispall coat- ing to trap any shrapnel created when a bullet hits the steel and fragments. Titanium is another, lighter metal that is used in hard armor plates. SHAPES AND SIZES Now, thanks to the military's insistence that companies create five sizes of SAPIs (small arms protective inserts) to fit different soldiers' torsos, more size options have become available to law enforcement in the United States. Even smaller side plates are now available to protect the area under the arms that becomes exposed when aiming a weapon. is is in large part due to advances in shaping technology. In addition to absolutely flat plates, officers now also have the option of purchasing a sin- gle curve or a multi- or sometimes called tri- ple-curve plate. ese are designed to wrap around the body for a better fit, which improves comfort and performance. ARMOR RATINGS To verify how well it will protect wearers from spec- ified threats, about five independent labs test ballistic armor for law enforcement use, according to standards set by the De- partment of Justice's research and de- velopment arm, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Periodically, the NIJ revises its standards for the testing and certification of ballistic protec- tion gear, as it has done recenlty. If the NIJ's proposed 0101.07 standard (or 07 for short) passes, the terminology used to discuss the protective level of armor worn by law enforcement will be much simpler and easier to under- stand. ere will now be three levels of hard armor called Rifle 1 (RF1), Rifle 2 (RF2), and Rifle 3 (RF3). e 07 standard specifies improved methodology for de- termining how much force is transferred into the body of the wearer during a bullet strike, a concept known as backface de- 12 | SP E C I A L R E P O RT | B A L L I S T IC PR O T E C T IO N PHOTOS: U.S. ARMOR Trauma plates are now available in a variety of ma- terials, shapes, and sizes to be used in conjunction with soft armor to increase ballistic protection. What You Should Know About Hard Armor New materials and designs have improved rifle plates' performance and comfort. MEL ANIE BASICH

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