Body Armor: Make It or Buy It?

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Body armor is a topic that comes up on a fairly regular basis, and for good reason. Although some see wearing body armor as something strictly in the realm of military and law enforcement, the truth is that owning good body armor isn’t just for fun, it’s a wise idea if you’re serious about your SHTF kit. There are quite a few well-made options out there, but of course they’re pretty expensive. Demolition Ranch decided to take matters into their own hands and find out what it takes to make your own body armor. Is it cheaper? Yes. Is it a good idea? Watch the video below to find out.

Do you own body armor, or are you hoping to in the near future? What’s your favorite, and why?



katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about guns, hunting, and the military for various publications both online and in print such as Outdoor Life, Handguns, and Shooting Illustrated. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • nova3930

    Unless we’re living a real life Fallout situation….buy it duh!

  • Darhar M.

    If it the end then take it.
    If it is what passes for normal these days then buy it.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    I draw the line at body armor.
    If the Tupacalypse happens then im just going to kill everything that comes within a hundred yards of me and accept eternal damnation.
    Ive already started burying ammo and teaching my women how to make a cereal bowl out of a human skull.

    • ozzallos .

      Wow. That turned fast.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Jeez, I thought I was the only one that did that.

      I’m not kidding, I have one of these:

      • Don Ward

        That turned from eating a bowl of Cap’n Crunch to PTSD Crunch.

        • ostiariusalpha

          You know I also have the thigh bone whistle that comes with every box:

          • Don Ward

            Saturday morning cartoons must have been interesting at ostiariusalpha’s house.

          • ostiariusalpha

            They were indeed. I’m glad I remembered that I have them, now I have more props for Halloween. No need to tell the kiddies they’re real.

          • Don Ward

            I feel at peace knowing that somewhere, someplace, some lucky trick or treaters will be given a memorable Halloween.

          • Bill

            I wanna party at this dude’s place.

          • Giolli Joker

            Just bring a friend… in case there’s no main course already…

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        I don’t even want to know why anyone has those while we have a functioning government

        • ostiariusalpha

          Because ‘Murica! I like to say that they are objet d’art, but the true reason is that *mumble mumble mumble*. Hope that lucid reasoning relieves any concerns you might have. Have a Happy Halloween!

        • Not So Free

          Who says we have a functioning governmentt?

      • iksnilol

        You have bowl made out of a legit human skull?

        That’s gotta bring some bad mojo… Also, how do you aquire something like that? I mean, the smugglers that I know probably draw the line at body parts.

        • ostiariusalpha

          I’m sure whatever Tibetan family allowed it to be collected for use in Vajrayana practices after their loved one passed away felt that it was for the karmic good of the deceased and themselves. It’s a 19th century curio, so it’s not exactly a fresh import, though new skulls can be had from some legitimate (and some not so legit) sources for several hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on condition and decorations.

          • iksnilol

            Hey, maybe his family had something against him so they made a bowl out of him after his death?

            xD

        • fireants

          Planned Parenthood sells body parts, but you might have to haggle…

    • INFI

      Hmmm

  • cwp

    Body armor is second only to antibiotics on my list of things where “make it” is only the right answer if there is no other alternative.

  • Darkpr0

    If you have decent metalworking skill, or just know how to use a torch and a grinder you can buy AR500F stock of whatever thickness you want and create any shape you want in flat plate. If you know a machine shop you can also have them roll the body-fitting radius into it for a pretty reasonable fee (maybe even if you buy their guys lunch). We have guys at our shop make targets out of worn-out AR500 wear plates. Lots of things are possible with a little bit of know-how, and you can save yourself some decent money.

    • Giolli Joker

      I don’t know the details of metallurgy and heat treatments of AR500, but in general your not willing to use a torch on a piece of steel that has to maintain critical mechanical properties.
      Machining, on the other hand, can be done, as long as proper care is taken.

      • Darkpr0

        We use torches on AR all the time with no adverse effects on it. We can even flux-core weld it without pre or post heat if field conditions require (you try telling an oil company they have to wait for it to heat up). If you want to machine it, you’d better pack some nice end mill bits. We had to countersink 20 holes in AR with 7/8 diameter. It was a very bad day. At that point you might as well buy it online, or have it jetted. If you want to take a grinder to it… Pack a lunch.

        • Giolli Joker

          Ok, I now understand that you use the torch for cutting, I initially thought to heat up and bend to shape…
          Do you know what steel are we talking about? I see AR500 is a commercial name, I can’t find its composition.
          Thanks.

          • Darkpr0

            AR500 is a commercial name, but you can get it from a multitude of suppliers. I don’t know the exact composition, but even as a design engineer it’s useless. What we care about are its physical properties. Stress v strain, hardness, heat treat. It’s roughly equivalent to Hardox, but that’s another commercial name. If you want a composition and a crystal structure, trying to get it out of a manufacturer may result in Fun.

          • AnEngineer

            There is no standard composition. Unlike say SAE 4140, the AR series of steels are defined by their mechanical properties rather than a specific composotion.

  • nobody

    While the answer is always buy it, the video was still interesting. I wish he would have tried layered cotton undershirts (folded twice you get about a 10×12 panel with 8 layers of cotton), as supposedly layered cotton has actually been used for that purpose in the past.

  • Don Ward

    I don’t know Katie. You’re the gun expert. What is YOUR favorite body armor? Do you own it or are hoping to in the future? And why?

    • I feel the stinging bite of sarcasm. Is it just my allergy to BS or am I really bit?

      • Don Ward

        Nah. It’s just me putting on my (tattered, moldering) editor’s cap. Not to bust Katie’s chops too much, but of late she has been resorting to linking to other folks’ sites, writing a paragraph and then ending with something along the lines of “let’s get the discussion going by what you think”.
        I know Katie is a good writer. She is a contributor to TFB which makes her an Internet “gun expert”. And she has lady parts, which is unusual in the field. I want to know what she thinks. From a female perspective, what does she think about body armor. Is there stuff out there that is good for her or not? I suspect most of the offerings are geared more to men so does she have to cope by buying men’s size small body armor? Is it too heavy? Is it uncomfortable?
        Or, since this is a do it yourself body armor topic, what is her opinion on that? Or has she made her own?
        See, there are a lot of takes that Katie can take on the subject rather than just writing a paragraph and linking to someone else’s Youtube channel.

        • OK, thanks for writing this up! I agree, there can never be too much journalism =)

        • iksnilol

          That’s an interesting topic; body armor for women. Would be an interesting read (HINT, HINT).

        • Kjk

          Agree, her “articles” are hardly even articles anymore.

  • Vitsaus

    Next, how to make a home made parachute, home made insulin, and coronary bypass surgery with a swiss army knife. Prepping on a budget!

    • Kelly Jackson

      I imagine it’s useful knowledge if you live in a less than free city / state that bans such basic protections to it’s citizens.

      • Bill

        If you live someplace where hard armor is a “basic protection,” I’d move.

        • Kelly Jackson

          Pretty much any of the liberal strong holds, like Detroit, Killadelphia, Bodymore, Murderland, or Chi-raq require hard armor as basic protection.

          • COBRACHOPPERGIRL

            You forgot Washington, DC.

          • MRHapla

            Stylish,,,yet practical.

          • valorius

            You can get by in Killadelphia with soft body armor.

    • Tom

      Always best to start with the basics like how to restart someones heart with a downed power cable.

      • Hank

        There really isn’t a wrong way to do it

      • Jeremy Star

        Ah, Hollywood. Teaching people how to do the wrong thing in a crisis since 1900.

        Seriously, we all know that defibrilators (and by extension power lines) DO NOT restart hearts, right? You need to be administering CPR at that point.

        • CavScout

          CPR works like 1-3% of the time.

          • Jeremy Star

            Defibrillators work 0% of the time on someone whose heart has stopped unless you induce a shock-able rhythm with CPR.

            Also, your numbers are bunk.

    • SlowJoeCrow

      Funny you should mention home made insulin, http://griddownmed.com/2015/02/07/homemade-insulin-part-i/

    • Bill

      Don’t forget, when you’re doing your home hog-butchering save the veins and arteries in case somebody needs a graft. I bet a screen-door spring can be used as a stent.

    • MRHapla

      If you’re a 3XLT + target,,,,this is useful

    • CavScout

      You forgot building $300 AR’s (with $500 of added fad parts and accessies)!

  • Zapp Brannigan

    Instead of duct tape, filament tape might work a bit better though filament tape is more expensive.

    Paper is a good material if cheap and easily availability is paramount. I wonder how much better it would be if the layers were glued together with Elmer’s glue (though after that it wouldn’t be pliable).

    Plaster of paris, epoxy, or bondo holding together multiple layers of fiberglass matting might work.

    If I absolutely had to make improvised body armor, I’d make it out of 2-3 layers of sheet steel and a similar number of plastic (preferably UHMW) cutting boards layered together.

    A layer of expanded metal on the outside would help with the larger rounds as it can be better to deflect a round rather than trying to stop it head on.

    • marathag

      Silk was the first fiber used for body armor that could stop a bullet before WWI

      • Sir TuberKopf

        Ballistic nylon is also used in vests layered with Kevlar.

        I’d love to see layered silk layered with ripstop nylon from a fabric store. Layered to a weight similar to a commercial vest. I’ll bet it would work surprisingly well.

      • iksnilol

        Just don’t forget that the cartridges were way weaker in those days.

        Also, the vest didn’t help archduke Franz Ferdinand (probably because he got shot in the neck, but still).

        • marathag

          7.63 Mauser wasn’t too shabby.

          • iksnilol

            About the same energy as modern 9×19… only with a smaller bullet and higher velocity, so it should penetrate better.

            But otherwise .32 and .380 were popular cartridges. Y’know, the stuff we use in our backup guns nowadays.

  • tony

    For my daily commute, I will hide behind the engine block

    • Bill

      I just do a weaving run from fat guy to fat guy. There are plenty of them around.

  • Oldtrader3

    He who makes his own body armor, has a dead person for a client?

    • Joshua

      “guaranteed to save your life or your money back!”

  • Bill

    I just tie elementary school desks all over my body. I was taught that they will protect me from a nuclear bomb, so bullets will be nothing.

    Where exactly is this “fan” and why doesn’t somebody just unplug it?

  • Pat Boyle

    He’s amazed that the purpose built body armor works better than his home make efforts. I don’t know anything about the particular company that makes that body armor but I’m pretty sure that they had many many trials of different materials against different guns.

    Home invaders are probably armed with an automatic in 9mm. – .40 S&W – or .45 ACP. I doubt is any robbers break in carrying a shotgun full of birdshot or a .22 pistol. So its clear. Home made body armor is worthless unless you have included a steel plate.

  • Sam Green

    As far as body armor goes, it’s not a bad idea to have it if you believe in the fact that history repeats itself.
    The way I see it is that I live in a hurricane prone state that’s 12′ above sea level (give or take a foot or two) with a high likelihood of being hit in the future. It’s been quiet hurricane wise for an unusual amount of time.
    All one has to do is look at the past, and look at how in some major hurricanes or natural disasters in days gone by, when emergency services are not available, you’re on your own to protect yourself. Just look at FEMA’s history of the time it takes to mobilize. It’s deplorable.
    If history repeats itself, I’d be more than happy to help out those in need. But if violent thugs decide to show up on my doorsteps to rape, murder and pillage, they’ll find my armor is better than theirs, and they will end up exactly where Michael Brown is hanging out these days.
    -That’s my plan

  • Sir TuberKopf

    Hmmm, how about weaving and stitching seat belts from the junk yard into a multi layer form fitting vest. The ballistic nylon they use to make seat belts, should do the job.