Open Source Body Armor Project

The Chopping Block has been experimenting with home made body armor.

Here is his first attempt.

Test of field expedient “body armor.” Three PEI grade V porcelain floor tiles with a coat of Herculiner on the front and between tiles and a thick coat (about a quarter inch) on the back to capture fragments.


Now he tried a different recipe of ingredients to make cheaper body armor.


The Chopping Block makes reference to Royal Nonesuch making his own home made armor. His armor is made of phone books and ceramic tiles. He shoots a .38 spl, buckshot and 7.62×39 at the armor. One issue is that he replenishes his armor after every shot. Whereas The Chopping Block shot multiple rounds at his armor.


Here is another home made armor test using denim, liquid nails and ceramic tiles.


Hopefully these guys and other enthusiasts can come up with a recipe that is low cost and highly effective.

Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at


  • Bill

    Hopefully, not all of them will die in the process. Why does the movie “Devil’s Rejects” come to mind?

    Seriously, for-real armor isn’t hard to get, and way less expensive than the hospital bills or funeral costs this kind of stuff will result in.

    • iksnilol

      Shh, research as this is important for those of us that can’t buy body armor (AKA people outside of the US or people who don’t want a paper trail).

      • Bill

        Google “North Hollywood Bank Robbery.”

        • iksnilol

          Their armor was made out of spare vests, and one of them used a trauma plate.

          It was homemade in the sense that they stitched several vests together.

    • Phil Hsueh

      The thing is, I don’t think that anybody who’s doing is advocating these experiments as legitimate replacements for COTS body armor, to me, they seem to be experiments for the sake of experimentation. They also look like fun experiments, makes me want to god down to Home Depot and start experimenting with different materials and see if I can make something that would stop a bullet for less than $50 and would, theoretically, be wearable.

      • Bill

        The only thing I can think of for 50 bucks would be a really fat truckstop hooker.

        • Malcolm Reynolds

          Or, you know, the plates shown in those videos. πŸ˜‰

    • no

      While for-real armor may be less expensive than hospital bills, hopefully somebody comes up with effective armor that’s significantly cheaper than for-real armor. Bonus points if it can be easily done with readily available materials.

    • patrickiv

      If someone is dumb enough to test it while wearing it then they deserve the outcome.

      • Chris Maddox

        Thing is…if the armor at least mitigates the damage of getting shot, then it’s not an exercise in futility should you ever need it. NOT a replacement for proper body armor, but definitely a SHTF alternative.

    • Paladin

      Body armor isn’t freely available everywhere, and there’s no guarantee that it’s going to remain freely available in the places where it is.

      I see experiments in homemade body armour much the same as experiments in homemade firearms. Neither of them are going to be out competing off the shelf designs any time soon, but both are worthwhile endeavors nonetheless.

  • Don Ward

    TFB has a post mocking homemade redneck body armor. Couple hours on the same day, there’s another one wishing for better homemade redneck body armor.

    • TFB mods disagree in threads from time to time also πŸ™‚ Just sayin. TFB isn’t the Borg πŸ™‚

  • Don Ward

    Do they even make body armor these days in size XXtra Neckbeard?

  • tony

    It is a tough project.
    Light and strong material == high cost

    • Malcolm Reynolds

      Strong isn’t really the material property that does the job. It’s hardness that breaks up the bullet and tough materials like steel or HDPE catch the fragments.

      • wzrd1

        Hardness, friction all help to slow a round down.
        Perhaps those tiles sandwiched with the previously mentioned cutting mat between them, finished with a final mat, then spall liner after (with the spall coating holding the sandwiched layers together for a next experiment.
        With a bit of work, it should be possible to come close to ESAPI performance in a slightly thicker package with common alternative components.

  • TDog

    As one of my friends told me once, if it were that easy it would have been done by now. I know these guys are having fun, but there is a reason why armor costs what it does.

    • Malcolm Reynolds

      It actually is that easy. Kind of. Watch the videos. Stopping bullets isn’t complicated or difficult. Homemade solutions like this are heavier than real armor, but also far cheaper.

      • TDog

        And far less reliable.

        And less durable.

        And probably slightly toxic.

        Okay, I added that last one just for grins… πŸ˜‰

        • Malcolm Reynolds

          So are you trying to claim that wearing home made body armor is worse than not wearing anything but a T-shirt if one is shot? Did you watch any of the videos in the post before commenting?

          • TDog

            Yes, I did. Can’t I be just the slightest bit irreverent or disagree without someone bristling about it? Why is it that if someone disagrees or doesn’t agree the same way, that somehow that person is advocating the complete exact opposite? I’m curious where this line of logic sprang up because it’s getting tiresome. “A T-shirt is better than this stuff! Durrrr!” Yeah, I said that… it’s right in my first post right behind me advocating Martian dust as a cure-all for baldness…

          • Malcolm Reynolds

            It arises from a failure to fully articulate your position. No one has advocated that homemade armor is better than real armor in any way but expense and availability. Your comments imply that no one should even be trying these experiments. If that’s not what you meant, you should have more carefully articulated your point.

  • Wetcoaster

    Interesting that none of them are testing the armour the way vests are tested – resting over some solid, deformable material as a stand-in for a torso. Then and again, the real issue isn’t making something tough. It’s making something tough, but light enough to wear while providing useful coverage.

    After all, sandbags stop most bullets cold, but good luck doing anything while wearing one over your chest.

    • Malcolm Reynolds

      Precisely. I’m the guy behind The Chopping Block. It’s easy to stop a bullet, not so much to do it repeatedly and with lightweight, inexpensive materials. I think the results so far are encouraging and I think we’re narrowing in on a repeatable standard. Once we identify a good, workable design, I intend to refine it by cutting the corners for a “shooter’s cut”, weigh it, and test it against a clay back stop per NIJ standards. One of the important facets is to have several independent testers assemble and test the same design in a standardized test protocol.

      • Rick O’Shay

        Think you guys could try some HDPE sheets off Amazon? It’s basically what they use for cutting boards, but different thicknesses. Last I checked it was about $12 a square foot for 1/2″ thick material. I’m curious how well it would perform compared to ballistic HDPE. Also the difference in performance between two 1/4″ layers versus a single 1/2″ layer, or four 1/8″ layers, etc.

        • Malcolm Reynolds

          I tried straight cutting boards a long time ago. four roughly 1/4″ boards all taped together will stop a .22lr but not .40 S&W. It does work really well as the final layer to stop bullet fragments and tile from a tile plate, though. My last OSAP test was three PEI grade 4 tiles with backed by two layers of HDPE from a barrel I had in my back yard. The second layer was completely unnecessary. It stopped one round of PMC .223 55 gr FMJ cold. Subscribe to The Chopping Block and I’ll probably have the video up in a week or two.

          • Rick O’Shay

            Subscribed. I love the concept of the open source aspect of what you’re doing. Makes me want to try it out, too.

          • nova3930

            An idea that may be worth exploring is air gaps. One of my college professors and later co-workers was involved in designing the micro-meteoroid shielding on the ISS. It was composed of a LOT of really thin layers of metal with air gaps in between. At least in extremely high velocity impacts, multiple layers with gaps in between is far more effective per unit of mass than solid shielding. Don’t know if it would translate to rifle bullet mass/velocity but it’s worth a shot….

          • Phil Hsueh

            I think it does, I’ve penetration tests conducted in where the same caliber rifle penetrates more or less of a given object depending on whether the object was stacked back to back or spaced out. An example of this are the hard drive penetration tests performed by Taofladermaus, he stacks the hard drives back to back and the rifles can penetrate more than a few, then somebody does a similar test with a similar rifle, like an AK, against iPhones and it only penetrates 2 or 3 vs. the 4 or 5 hard drives. Of course this isn’t exactly apples to apples since even though the same caliber rounds were used there would be differences in the exact brand and model of round used and distance to target.

          • Mastro63

            Two things- the gaps are actually vacuum gaps (being space and all) and the velocity of space junk makes it shatter more than a lead bullet at most normal speeds.

  • marathag

    Why would anyone think that ceramic tile that will shatter when dropped, would be of any use against bullets?

    Boron Carbide(B4C) =/= Feldspar(KAISi3)8)

    You would be better off sawing tread off of a truck tire.

    • Malcolm Reynolds

      Why would someone think it works? Because we tested it and it did. Watch the video before putting your foot in your mouth. Boron carbide shatters on impact, too. For floor tile body armor to work, it has to be porcelain, which is very hard. Not as hard as boron carbide, but nowhere near as expensive, either.

      • marathag

        Ceramic tile is as hard as glass.

        yeah, glass, or clay based tile will absorb some energy. Don’t dispute that.

        Would be better off using windshield glass, than tile.

        but are not worth the weight of it, compared to what fiber in a resin matrix or Steel alloys can do, protection wise, oz for oz.

        typical Home depot tile has a Mohs hardness of 6.

        Steel runs between 5 to 8, depending on treatment and alloy.

        Boron Carbide is 14, one less than Diamond on the Ridgeway adjusted Mohs range

        Thats why you see that used for trauma plates

        • Malcolm Reynolds

          There are several grades of “Home Depot tile” the ones used in these videos are PEI grade 4 and 5. No one is arguing that floor tiles are better than purpose built and independently tested to NIJ spec level IV or III plates. But my last project literally cost me about $4 and it stopped a .223 round. It will be posted to The Chopping Block soon.

    • Mastro63

      Easy- hard ceramic versus lead bullets= deformed bullets- maybe even shattered.

      • marathag

        try shooting thin jacketed .243 or even .223 at 3/8 thick mild steel. You will be surprised at how the lead cores deform, and blow right thru those plates.

        Now how does that lead penetrate?

        • Mastro63

          Simple physics, actually. Even with the increase surface area the momentum of the bullet will go through weaker materials.

          What are you arguing? That deforming a bullet isn’t important? It is.

          • marathag

            That at some velocities, metal is totally penetrated, even with the lead liquified, totally deformed.

            Now what does 800+ degree blob of lead mixed with gilding metal do to ballistics gelatin, vs fragmented?

            That I don’t know, but I don’t think overpenetration will be problem

  • Aaron Russell

    What if a tyrannical government banned body armor tomorrow?

    The point is similar to 3d printed guns, to demonstrate and keep the power to the people.

    • Malcolm Reynolds

      Nailed it.

  • Beeblebrox

    Try using silk instead of denim.

    • Giolli Joker

      That would defeat the cheap part of the endeavour.

      • tts

        Only if you tried to get the high end stuff. If you don’t mind ugly prints and mediocre weaves you can get it for $3/yd which isn’t too bad. A few yd should be good enough for a vest given how effective the denim was.

  • William

    I’ve got a homemade body armor video too, let me know if you want a link you can include it with these.

  • gman

    light. strong. cheap.
    pick two.

  • Dantes

    I am curious I see no mention of Kevlar. You can buy it off Ebay, and there are instructions for bonding it to itself and other materials. I could see overlapping ceramic tiles bonded in several layers of Kevlar as a starting point.

    • Chrome Dragon

      Now I kind of want to make a kevlar-lined lab coat…

  • Sam

    Shredded rubber makes an excellent material for range backstops. Perhaps slabs of tire or finely shredded tire ahhered to or suspended in something else would be worth a try.
    Remember reading silk was preferred long ago by those with money for martial garb as it left less debris in wounds sustained through it, in addition to all its other remarkable qualities.

    • Mastro63

      Be careful putting old tires/etc in your house. They burn really nasty- if they don’t violate your homeowners insurance- they are really bad to breathe in – or could ruin the lungs of some firefighter trying to save you and your family.

      I work with rubber and various flexible foams- I get calls from guys trying to soundproof their basement studios- I tell them not to use foam- it burns/smokes and can kill you.

  • kgelner

    I see a lot of value in this research so you could do things like re-enforce a bedroom door or some other large surfaces in your house in case of armed intruders. For large areas a cheap but somewhat heavy or ablative solution may well be better than something meant to be more light and long-lasting.

    • J Galt

      You can buy many thousands of old used/cut golf balls, on Craisglist, for around 2 cents ceach. A rifle round going thru house siding, and sheet rock, and THEN 7″ of golf balls, is stopped cold. (Or siding, a sheet of 12 gauge steel, then 4″ of golf balls is great too.) I’ve boxed them, and lined the walls up to window level. FYI.

  • J Galt

    With a Level III AR500 Steel Body Armor 10×12 Flat Plate Coated just $50 on Ebay, I wouldn’t use home-made if it were free . . . but it’s fun to experiment and learn what works.

  • Hank Seiter

    AR 500 steel plate armor with trauma foam backing over a Level 2A Kevlar vest for me. It may be a bit heavy and spalling may be an issue with some high full-on hits but redneck armor is really for amusement value only. I don’t think anyone who values their life is going to cheap-out on some two-bit kit-bashed redneck armor.

    Several of us experimented with Lexan, Polyurethane (which has really long molecular chains) and Polycarbonate sheets. We made 10×17 inch “plates” with sandwiched layers. Weight wasn’t the issue but rather the thickness of the crudely “laminated” samples became an issue, exceeding three inches in some cases. Use enough of either of those products and you’ll probably stop some rifle rounds, but regular 5.56 and 7.62 ball penetrated all the samples quite handily. No need for AP and we regret not using 7.62x39mm to see of the ubiquitous commie round would get through, too. However, the plate samples with at least three layers did stop 9mm NATO, .45 Auto and .40 cal. … but then Kevlar would do the job more efficiently with a lot less weight.

  • John Pryce

    Just to point out the obvious, it seems likely that ISIS and other terrorist groups are paying attention to Western media, so if this works, ISIS may start using it. It’s not a reason to not do it (ISIS isn’t known for technical competency), but it is something to think about.

    • M.S.1

      This is a non-issue. You assume that ISIS, etc, don’t just buy body armor from China or other disreputable people. Besides, they seem to have an endless supply of US-surplus equipment that their opposition keeps leaving around.

  • mgilson

    Have you looked at WW2 “Plastic Armour”? Wikipedia has a reasonably detailed article. The original would be too bulky, but it was effective against massed aircraft machineguns of 8×57 or larger cartridges. It could serve as a starting point.
    Also, mild steel can be case hardened, and aluminum anodized. IIRC, if you anodize an aluminum plate long enough you can turn it into pure aluminum oxide.