Making DIY Body Armor

The guys at Girls n’ Guns are testing different materials with the hopes of making DIY body armor. In the video below they test paper and ceramic tile combinations …

What materials do you think would work well?

Obviously you could always go the Ned Kelly route and strap a steel plate to your chest with sufficient backing material to stop spall (steel particles) from shredding your skin and organs if the plate is hit. The problem with this is you have a big heavy steel plate tied to your chest weighing you down and restricting your movement.

German WWI body armor. Photo (C) Rama

German WWI body armor. The nipples are a nice touch. Photo (C) Rama

Brewster Body Shield (1912)

Brewster Body Shield (WWI era armor)

The problem with most non fiber solutions to body armor is that they have to absorb the energy of the bullet which is concentrated in the relatively small frontal surface-area of modern ammunition. Kelver ,and related technologies, work by trapping the spinning bullet in the fibers that make up the material. This spreads the energy across the vest and is enough to stop low powered pistol projectiles and slow down rifle bullets enough so they can be stopped with ceramic or steel plates that would otherwise be a lot thicker and heavier if there was no kevlar.


Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Chris

    I like the picture with the Brewster armor and that percussion rifle. Did they know steam punk back then? 😉

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      HAHA, yes I also noticed it.

      • verymiddleeuropean

        Steampunk it is – they probably gonna use it in some hollywood Blockubuster. The rifle appears to be cartidge conversion though – you can see little lever for breech opening – springfield trapdoor maybe? I also fancy the nipples on the german one – they could add little rings for some tacticool sling attachment to them. War has certain appeals to the masochists, I suppose. Plus those nipples match aestethically those cute little knobs for visor on 1916 stahlhelm.

        • tox

          Its probably where the lower sections leather straps are riveted in :).

          Funny placement though.

        • Case

          Zitze-Schutz (titty protector)

  • Weezy

    Didn’t they do something like this on MythBusters? I’m pretty sure I remember them using ceramic tiles at least.

    • Samuel Suggs

      yes yes they did also crushed tin cans

  • Mr. Fahrenheit

    I’m not sure what I was supposed to take away from the video…other than if you don’t have ceramic tiles from Home Depot- paper plates will work just as well?

  • Tierlieb

    Small correction: “slow down rifle bullets enough so they can be stopped with ceramic or steel plates that would otherwise be a lot thicker and heavier if there was no kevlar.” – both ceramic and steel armor plates use kevlar as backing against spalling, but not in front to slow bullets down. Metal plates use material in front to prevent shards from the projectile to become shrapnel. This could be kevlar, but usually cheaper and less flexible material is used, like Line-X for the popular AR500-plates.

  • Ron Fox

    I’m pretty sure that if I saw someone walking down the street wearing a Brewster Armor Suit I would run away. But I gotta ask, what are those two “eyeballs” above the peep hole? Flaps?. And if they are peep hole flaps, how the he!! Do you see once you deploy them?!

    • Muntz

      I’m guessing they’d only engage one eye cover at a time, since they might only use one eye at a time while shooting.

  • atm

    Try silicone. When I lived in Tampa years ago, a stripper was saved by her silicone when shot.

    • Maverick

      Her silicone wha….ohhhhh

    • Samuel Suggs

      Well something that caused the bullet to deposit its energy in a non-compressible fluid would certainly look hilarious

  • JT

    So basically paper and tiles?. I guess it’s an expediant option. Just got to overlap them I guess and you could probably only use it to protect from one hit as the tiles would shatter. still impressive. It’s practically an alternative option if you can’t get kevlar

    • apackofwankers

      Its a shame they didnt try other materials. Fiber (glass, carbon, basalt, kevlar) reinforced concrete and Tyvek for the paper (spun polyethylene non-woven “paper”)

  • Ron Fox

    If you lean forward and run as fast as you can while wearing the Brewster Body Armor do you become a human battering ram?. Looks like you could smash right through a door with the “rocket tip” helmet.

    • Chris

      I am not sure if someone could lean forward far enough with that front plate attached. It might work if you tense your body and two or three strong buddies smash you head first into the door. Which explains the origin of planking.
      That shape may have worked like sloped armor but if they’d made it flat, there would not have been anything to hit in the first place.

    • Sebastian

      “I’m the juggernaut, b”ch!”

      (youtube it)

  • Sadlerbw

    A stack of iPads maybe? Strong, laminated glass and aluminum layers might work ok. Maybe some climbing rope woven into a square, at least as a backer? The core material in most of those ropes is pretty similar to Kevlar. Rock wool or fiberglass soaked in an epoxy? Termite mound?

  • Billy___Bob

    Mythbusters found that a layer of thin metal over phonebooks worked well, but not the opposite, In their case the metal was the outdoor layer of a drivers side door.

    The metal fragmented the bullet and the phonebook could stop the fragments,

    Phonebook outside, then metal inside did not work. The phonebook could not stop the unfragmented bullet and the metal could not stop the bullet even after it went thru the phonebook.

  • Billy___Bob

    Mythbusters also found water (in a swimming pool) stopped all bullets (even .50 cal) within a couple of feet.

  • Billy___Bob

    My suggestions. Ceramic tiles sprayed with truck bed liner backed by phone books.

    • Samuel Suggs

      front or back spreyed with bed liner

      • Billy___Bob

        The tiles front and back. The phone books too.

  • Lance

    Depends on the type of armor and the job you want it for. Any rifle bullet will tear threw Kevlar. Thats why steel and other armored plates are popular in the Military. If you want a low grade level 2 vest it can stop none magnum pistol ammo. So in some ways plates are still valid and in use heavily. till a new material can do the same as steel plates to stop rifle bullets plates stay. PS Kevlar wont do it.

  • tox

    I guess by the exit holes and similar penetration to 9mm and .45, 5.7×28 isn’t a weak useless self defense round.

  • MrSatyre

    Some years ago I was visiting a reseller account of mine who informed me of a client of his who had shot his 60″ Pioneer plasma TV with a .45 from around 8 feet away (take your pick of the usual explanations). We examined the panel together which was in the store’s dumpster out back, and the round had not penetrated further than the back-most circuit board. The Pioneer plasma TV, by the way, is a single glass sheet, with a non-glass front filter designed by Bridgestone Japan, making the display panel itself less than a centimeter thick. The rest of the display is addressing electrodes and accompanying processing, driver and power supply circuitry. I couldn’t tell what sort of round it was, of course (how many grains), but I have always been intrigued by how a TV less than three inches thick and mostly empty space stopped that bullet without evening denting the backside. Something about the circuit boards’ and bonding materials and the display panel itself contributed, but I have nary a clue how.

    • Samuel Suggs

      my guess would be he was useing glaser safty slugs or similar

  • MrDakka

    I can’t emphasize this enough: the ceramic or steel plates are PLACED IN FRONT of the woven ballistic fiber (Kevlar, Twaron, UHMWPE,etc.) material to defeat the rifle bullet. The ballistic fiber material is placed behind this rigid plate to absorb any spalling/fragments of the plate. The ceramic or steel plates are what defeats the rifle bullet, NOT the woven ballistic fiber material.

  • Samuel Suggs

    mythbusters summed up in two meme

  • Karina

    If taofledermaus videos taught me anything, gummi bear is the future of cheap body armor… 😉

  • AlanHan

    Industrial quality Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene UHMWP works well, is lighter than steel, and is relatively inexpensive.

  • Brandon

    If you live in a cold climate (freezing or near), you could make ballistic plates out my pykrete.

  • Guess

    What if you mixed broken up glass as use for silica crush charcoal 85 90 % carbon place it in square dugout whole in the ground and ignite aluminum & iron oxide thermite over it? Just a guess based on what type4 plates are made of but would you place polyethylene in the reaction or place over resulting silicone carbide? Ever part of this is speculation someone correct me.

  • Steve Truffer

    what of 7.62 tok? double the energy of 5.7, known for penetration.

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  • Armour dog
  • Armour dog

    Don’t use spray on liner for spall on your hard armor use this

  • Armour dog

    Now you can get ready made soft armor panel’s for your vest pocket behind hard armor as trauma plate or stand alone level II SEE THIS