What To Do with Old Ballistic Vest Panels? Here’s a Few Options

by June 16, 2011 06/16/11
Body Armor in Car

So what do you with your old ballistic vest panels? If you have been in law enforcement or other occupation where you get a new vest roughly every 5 years, you probably have a couple of sets sitting around.

A few years ago I figured there had to be a way to use the panels I’d accumulated, as mine were sitting in the closet collecting dust.

Around that time I came across a video and photos of a Schertz Texas Police cruiser that had taken a bunch of rounds to the front from a AK-47. The article showed forensics photos of the trajectory the rounds took and had the officer been in the front seat he would have been killed.

While attempting to defeat rifle rounds would only be accomplished by an armored vehicle, it doesn’t take much to send pistol rounds through the windshield, windows and doors. I came up with a simple solution that got my vest panels out of the closet and into my cruiser. We’ll also talk about other ways you could use this concept in the civilian world. The photos presented here are older, but the concept remains the same and I still carry this system with me today.

About “old” Vests

Let’s talk about “used” vest panels before we go any further. What were talking about here are your vest panels that you have cared for, cleaned properly, and maintained like you’re life depended on it (because well, your life did depend on it). I’m not advocating running out to the nearest surplus store and buying panels out of a pile of Vietnam web gear. If that is the route you want to go because you don’t have your own panels then you do so at your own risk.

Body Armor

Properly cared for ballistic panels will last for years if maintained correctly. I’ll give two examples: A few years ago one of our firearms instructors took his old issued vest (from the mid 80′s) to the range and it stopped everything it was rated against. Our training section also had an old vest they used during knife defense classes that they tried to sick a ice pick through. The old vest stopped it every time.

The Concept

Body Armor UsesAll we’re doing is making a bag to hold the ballistic panels. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or made out of 10,000 Denier Cordura with quadruple stitching.

It should at the very least have handles to make it easy to carry and stitched well enough that it wont fall apart if you need to use it. As you can see in the photos of the bag I have, there isn’t much to it.

This bag was made by a local Sailmaker. I took my ballistic panels in and gave them a basic idea of what I wanted done.

I lucked out as they did a fantastic job with a heavy Cordura type material and heavy stitching. I had two sets of handles made; one set for the top and one set to hold like a shield. The top is secured with heavy Velcro to keep it closed. As you can see in the photos I have both my panels in the bag. Two panels might be an overkill but in this case more might be better because having to deploy it means the crap has hit the fan.

Uses

Body Armor UsesThis idea is pretty simple and can be used in multiple ways. From throwing it up on the dashboard, holding it against a door, or tossing it to someone pinned down. I keep mine on the passenger seat in my cruiser or take it with me when doing surveillance.

You could keep it at the office or classroom (if you’re a teacher). During the Virginia Tech shooting, students and teachers attempted to hold the doors shut with their bodies.

Cho shot through the doors because he knew victims were behind them. If I were to design one for a school setting I would have two separate panels that folded out to give you extra height protection; in effect, a soft shield.

Body Armor UsesThere is no reason you couldn’t apply those same ideas at home. Also look at the news footage of the recent tornadoes. You could use this as added protection against flying debris for you or your family while your in your safe room. Think outside the box.

Make one with adjustable handles and you could hang it behind the seat of your cruiser for extra protection. Yes, officers miss guns on prisoners and yes prisoners can slip their cuffs to the front.

You could also keep it in your TFDV (tactical family deployment vehicle) to help protect your family if the need ever arises. Everyone else has a swagger wagon right? Looking at the recent article on SSG Peoples who confronted the bank robber in Sarasota Florida, he surely could have used something like this.

Bad things tend to happen quickly and without warning. You may not have time to deploy this concept in certain circumstances, but having something like this at your disposal could come in handy. It surely beats having your ballistic panels siting in your closet or garage doing nothing for you.

Please leave us your thoughts and feedback in the comments below. Stay safe out there!


Are you getting more than 14¢ of value per day from ITS Tactical?

Please consider joining our Crew Leader Membership and our growing community of supporters.

At ITS Tactical we’re working hard every day to provide different methods, ideas and knowledge that could one day save your life. Instead of simply asking for your support with donations, we’ve developed a membership to allow our readers to support what we do and allow us to give you back something in return.

For less than 14¢ a day you can help contribute directly to our content, and join our growing community of supporters who have directly influenced what we’ve been able to accomplish and where we’re headed.

Click here to learn about all the benefits and Join!


rugercat45
rugercat45

Great info, I have also thought about taking your old panels and making a shield like this, BUT, you can also keep it in your backpack, luggage, "tac loadout bag" or whatever you carry, even your childs school backpack (if God forbid you worried about school shootings happening at their school, 'course, you never know where they can happen. Better to be prepared, and CARRY that shield with you, even IF you wear a vest- I would rather have all the stuff possible between me and those bullets coming your way! You may also hang it in your window at night or behind your head when you sleep, and when you travel. In Vietnam, chopper pilots pilots used to fly with body armor on the ground under their feet and under their seats " Five on the floor" I believe they called it. The AK rounds would go thru the aluminum skin like hot butter. I remember one guy saying you could see the body armor jump and hop when the rounds hit it, and if you weren't expecting it, it would scare the crap outta you, as you could hear the round until after it hit, if you heard it at all above the rotor blades and at that height. Take care and keep it up. 

KSPJarhead
KSPJarhead

Thanks a bunch for this post.  Your idea and info is definately out-of-the-box worthy.  Who'd ever thunk about such a proactive/protective-recycling of expired plates?   I think my sewing machine may get some work this weekend.  Sweet!

KSPJarhead
KSPJarhead

Thanks a bunch for this post.  Your idea and info is definately out-of-the-box worthy.  Who'd ever thunk about such a proactive/protective-recycling of expired plates?   I think my sewing machine may get some work this weekend.  Sweet!

Virginia
Virginia

great article! Also, the reason armor companies only offer a 5 year life span is mostly to get agencies to buy more armor. Though it could also be due to any adhesives and/or coatings that may be used. That being said, I have to caution you to always follow the manufacturers warranties and advisories. Also, too, be aware of the armor levels. Not all armor is the same. Know what your armor will and will not stop. Do your homework! Your armor manufacturer should be able and willing to answer all of your armor questions. Also verify all the information you get regarding body armor; there's a lot of misinformation around and even some armor companies and salesman give incorrect information.

Stay Safe!

Virginia
Virginia

great article! Also, the reason armor companies only offer a 5 year life span is mostly to get agencies to buy more armor. Though it could also be due to any adhesives and/or coatings that may be used. That being said, I have to caution you to always follow the manufacturers warranties and advisories. Also, too, be aware of the armor levels. Not all armor is the same. Know what your armor will and will not stop. Do your homework! Your armor manufacturer should be able and willing to answer all of your armor questions. Also verify all the information you get regarding body armor; there's a lot of misinformation around and even some armor companies and salesman give incorrect information. Stay Safe!

Tom
Tom

I have found conveyor belt to stop most everything,drill holes in it for wire to hang it from.Inside a door,outside ect.Glad to see people thinking!

TGugs
TGugs

Tactics....first LEO to the donuts!!!! Seriously though great idea

derrick
derrick

something so simple yet ive never thought of it.

considering im not law enforcement and the army likes to take back their body armor, i'll be going to my local surplus store and grabbing the old stuff. something is better than nothing right?

may even use the cheaper ones they have to bring to the range and test how many layers will stop what and whats really practical. i have a .45 and an SKS, both should show some helpful results

derrick
derrick

something so simple yet ive never thought of it. considering im not law enforcement and the army likes to take back their body armor, i'll be going to my local surplus store and grabbing the old stuff. something is better than nothing right? may even use the cheaper ones they have to bring to the range and test how many layers will stop what and whats really practical. i have a .45 and an SKS, both should show some helpful results

Repton Brepcount
Repton Brepcount

Until the very end of the article I thought the idea was to take the inside of the door off and put the panels in there. Would there be space in there for them?

lpd5408
lpd5408

Great idea. Thought it was such a great idea that I found a custom gear maker on LF who is going to make one for me. Just got a new vest so this will be good use for the panels instead of just sitting in my gear cave.

Question, could you tell me what case is pictured in the squad car? Looks like a pelican.

lpd5408
lpd5408

Great idea. Thought it was such a great idea that I found a custom gear maker on LF who is going to make one for me. Just got a new vest so this will be good use for the panels instead of just sitting in my gear cave. Question, could you tell me what case is pictured in the squad car? Looks like a pelican.

Nick Marcus
Nick Marcus

Excuse my ignorance but in pic 4 what is the backing you are using under the vest. Thanks for the help

D
D

so when, who and how, can i get a bag like this?

Rich
Rich

Great use for old panels. We have been advising officers for a few years now to put them inside thier go bags. This at lest provides a bit more protection. Thanks for the article and great job.

Rich

Rich
Rich

Great use for old panels. We have been advising officers for a few years now to put them inside thier go bags. This at lest provides a bit more protection. Thanks for the article and great job. Rich

Bass
Bass

I planned on adding my panels that expire this year to a couple of backpacks, but this is a much better idea! Fowarding it to my old partners as well.

Frank Delgado
Frank Delgado

Another idea would be to purchase an old helmet bag. Looks to be about the same size and would be easily modifiable. Great idea. I too carry old panels in my back packs. Gives them a little rigidity for simple day packs and you can always wear it on your front (or back if running away).

E DUFFIN
E DUFFIN

You need to market that bag! Awesome idea.

Joel
Joel

My panels go in my kids backpacks. They go to a private Christian school...

Brian
Brian

What a great idea. It's so stupidly simple, once you know about it :-) Definitely one of those "why didn't I think of that?" type of ideas. Thanks for sharing.

quicksaber
quicksaber

I keep one in my POV and two hanging in my front room closet next to the front door. I have it set up if some one gets through my front door before I can get there because how the the closet sits I can use it for cover. If it really goes bad I can kneel down low and shoot through the closet below the hanging vest. Got that idea from a SWAT team raid that went bad. The bad guy shot though the wall as the team was stacking at the door and hit the team from the side. Just my 2 cents

Enzo
Enzo

Many back packs have a foam insert that can be easily replaced with an old panel or two.

Terry
Terry

That is pretty tight, I could see how something like that would serve a patrolman on the streets. I think something like that should have been made along time ago. North Hollywood would have been less of a SNAFU for officers if they had those. Maybe use ceramic trama panels or layer them more in the next attempt and let us know how they work.

Tyler
Tyler

Great article Eric and even better idea. The only thing I think is missing, is you may want to really remind people to be aware of the threat level armor they are using. I know you make slight mention of it but people, even some cops and military, think armor is armor and it should stop anything. I'm going to forward this article to a few LE buddies though, who are in the process of upgrading vests to the new NIJ 06 standards.

Tk
Tk

If you can find an officer who wears smaller vests and is willing to give you some old panels, you can actually fit some panels fairly easily into a backpack. Worst case scenario, flip your backpack to your front if you're engaging a threat and you at least have a bit of armor.

Also, some cars have room in the doors if you're able to take the door panels off and fit a panel in there... I've also heard of cops with desks putting panels into the desk or cubicle.

Tk
Tk

If you can find an officer who wears smaller vests and is willing to give you some old panels, you can actually fit some panels fairly easily into a backpack. Worst case scenario, flip your backpack to your front if you're engaging a threat and you at least have a bit of armor. Also, some cars have room in the doors if you're able to take the door panels off and fit a panel in there... I've also heard of cops with desks putting panels into the desk or cubicle.

The Captain
The Captain

Outstanding! I got a locker half full with old vests and I'm due to be issued a new one. Time to make some mobile shields.

Richard Johnson
Richard Johnson

Eric,

Excellent article! I've mentioned doing similar things to others, and I'm glad others are thinking this way also. I have several old vests that I keep around for similar reasons.

Another thought is keeping an old one in your personal car or truck in case you have to take action off-duty. Normally, being a good witness is the best course of action, but if people are dying we have to take action. Having an old vest that you can grab quickly can offer you some protection. Also, attaching "POLICE" or "SHERIFF" patches to the vest can help ID you when the uniforms show up.

Stay safe!

Richard

Richard Johnson
Richard Johnson

Eric, Excellent article! I've mentioned doing similar things to others, and I'm glad others are thinking this way also. I have several old vests that I keep around for similar reasons. Another thought is keeping an old one in your personal car or truck in case you have to take action off-duty. Normally, being a good witness is the best course of action, but if people are dying we have to take action. Having an old vest that you can grab quickly can offer you some protection. Also, attaching "POLICE" or "SHERIFF" patches to the vest can help ID you when the uniforms show up. Stay safe! Richard

Eric S.
Eric S.

The flight bag idea sounds like a good cheap way to go. It would be more bulky than the bag in the photos but should be a good alternative.

Mike Petrucci
Mike Petrucci

Agreed! Eric, I would like to place an order for 2 of those. Hahaha, but really man, great stuff!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] ITS Tactical ran a great article on using old body armor.  Repurposing old body armor is something I have talked about before, but Eric did a superb job in demonstrating ways a used vest can be turned into a portable shield for home and duty use. [...]

The Latest
Squawk Box

If you’re looking for a great lock picking toolset that’s perfect for any skill level, be sure to check out our Bogota Titanium Flats 4-Piece. This toolset includes three straight picks and one tension wrench. Together the Titanium set weighs just 0.3 ounces and their inherently “flat” shape make them easy to store.

2 days ago
Leave a Comment