Rifle Ammunition and Soft Body Armor

You are probably well aware that even the very best soft armor is no help against rifle ammunition. Even relatively slow cartridges like 7.62x39mm and .300 AAC can still easily slice right through level IIIA armor. But what if several panels were layered on top of each other? Would it be enough to stop a rifle bullet? That is to say, obviously if you have enough layers of Kevlar you can stop any bullet but can you do it without looking like Ralphie’s brother in “A Christmas Story”? What if the shooter was far enough away? At some distance, it certainly could. At some distance, a cotton T-shirt could stop a bullet, but is it possible for a reasonable amount of soft armor to stop a rifle bullet at a speed that we can all agree is still truly a rifle bullet? To answer that question as definitively as is feasible, we shot a stack of four armor panels with a relatively slow .300 AAC load.

IMG_0901

Level IIA, level IIIA, and two IBA groin protectors.

IMG_0903

.300 AAC Sellier & Bellot 147 gr FMJ

 

The panels we had available were a Gall’s Lite level IIA, CATI level IIIA, and two groin protectors from IBA armor, which are approximately equivalent to level IIIA. This is, of course, a great deal more than any person is likely to be wearing at one time so if it can’t stop the threat, it seems safe to conclude that soft armor is ineffective against rifles under any reasonable conditions.

We chose .300 AAC Sellier & Bellot 147 gr FMJ because it is significantly slower than many other rifle rounds and velocity is the biggest factor that determines whether a projectile can defeat soft armor. It’s worth pointing out that at the muzzle, this load roughly approximates a 7.62x51mm M80 FMJ fired from an M14 at about 400 yards.

 

 

 

 

 

The results are pretty conclusive. As you can see in the high speed, the bullet slammed through all four armor panels, six inches of ballistic gel, and five gallon jugs of water. That means that it didn’t just barely get through; it had a great deal of hate left inside it, even after slicing through all that armor. While water does not compare perfectly with tissue, it tends to produce about 1.6 – 1.8 times the penetration observed in ballistic gel or soft tissue. That means that this bullet could still have passed through approximately 20 inches of tissue even after defeating the armor.

300 vs soft armor intro.mp4.Still006

As noted above, there is certainly some distance at which this amount of armor would be successful in stopping a 7.62x51mm 147 gr bullet, but it appears to be quite a bit farther than 400 yards. To be fair, this much armor could be able to stop the .300 AAC load at a longer distance than seen in the test. Then again, it might not. Likewise, adding more armor would eventually be enough to stop it, too, but this is already more armor than a person could reasonably be expected to wear. To be sure, changing some of the factors could certainly have different results, but this seems to be fairly conclusive proof that no reasonable amount of soft armor can be depended upon to protect against rifles at any reasonable distance.

You can’t use a hammer to drive a screw and you shouldn’t depend on pistol armor to stop rifle threats. Use the right tool for the job. If you wear armor for a living or if it is part of your home defense or survival preparation plans, it is important for you to understand its capabilities. The level IIIA panel used in this test can stop virtually any handgun round, but we have seen that there just is not any practical way for soft armor to stop rifle rounds.



Andrew

Andrew is a combat veteran of OEF and has performed hundreds of ballistic tests for his YouTube channel, The Chopping Block (https://www.youtube.com/user/chopinbloc). He is an avid firearm collector and competitor and lives with his family in Arizona. If you have any questions, you may email him at choppingblocktests@gmail.com


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  • Nick

    I’d be curious to see how it handled 300 AAC subsonics. They’re about the same speed as many pistol rounds, but I’d wager bullet geometry could play a massive difference in penetration.

    • AC97

      .300 Blackout subsonics would stop on the first panel, end of story.

      • Jared Vynn

        Source? Has it been tested by someone?

        • AC97

          I’m pretty damn sure that this very channel has found that .300 Blackout subsonics can be stopped by IIA armor.

          I don’t remember if it was an OTM or whatever.

          IIIA can definitely stop FMJ subsonics from .300 Blackout.

          • Jared Vynn

            The wound channel on YouTube has a video of some Remington subsonic defeating level ii at least.

          • AC97

            It’s important to note that when The Wound Channel tested the same round against a Highcom ACH IIIA helmet, it failed to go through.

            www(DOT)youtube(DOT)com/watch?v=xL-N_SorFJc

          • Jared Vynn

            So we know it can penetrate armor rated for 357 Magnum but not armor rated for 44 Magnum. Either way it penetrates more than 45 ACP does which is stopped by iia.

          • CommonSense23

            The whole point of 300BLK when it was finally developed was the ability to have both sub sonic and supers in the same mag.

        • AC97

          Okay, what this channel (The Chopping Block) tested against IIA was something called “200 gr REAPR.”

          Source (Broken link, because mod limbo):

          www(DOT)youtube(DOT)com/watch?v=6Fs5bWgfIkY

          • Jared Vynn

            Thanks, mod limbo can be frustrating.

          • Nick

            I’m not familiar with that one, but I’m guessing by the name, it’s an expanding subsonic.

            Perhaps a sharp pointed ELD or BTHP above 200 grains could penetrate.

    • KestrelBike

      Yeah, he shouldn’t have done it with supersonics (most manufacturer’s loads of <200gr… I think one big brand used to have subsonic that was around 180gr, though).

      • Jared Vynn

        I would like to see testing with all the various loads from the 110gr up to the 220+ gr.

    • Jared Vynn

      Well with 22tcm for similar energy levels as 9mm you get soft armor penetration with jacketed soft points, so depending on the bullet used in the subsonic 300 AAC you could get soft armor penetration. A lead bullet may not penetrate but a jacketed one might.

      • ozzallos .

        22tcm will get you past IIa. I don’t think I’ve seen it get past IIIa yet, but some of the more violent 9mm rounds will.

        • Jared Vynn

          Factory 22tcm won’t get past iiia, but has defeated ii (ii is higher than iia). Some 9mm loadings can defeat iiia armor, but they are far from standard. Like the 40 gr @2000 fps from liberty. With a steel core or other bullet design 22tcm could probably defeat iiia with ease, but the factory bullet is a soft point not intended to penetrate or defeat armor.

          But I’m just rambling on about what ifs and maybes.

    • Chop Block

      One level IIIA panel will stop subsonic .300 AAC.

  • Ark

    Armor is no substitute for knowing when to duck.

    • Jared Vynn

      For those without psychic intuition armor is useful.

      • AC97

        Still, armor isn’t an excuse to be reckless.

        • Jared Vynn

          Very true.

    • iksnilol

      No offense buddy, but I can’t duck faster than the speed of sound.

      • Jared Vynn

        What if it was a subsonic, can you duck faster than about 340 m/s?

        /S

        • iksnilol

          Maybe you youngin’s can, but us oldfags can’t.

      • Ark

        I duck preemptively, by ducking my way several hundred miles away from any active warzone.

      • WEAKLING

    • Klaus Von Schmitto

      Knowing when to duck is no substitute for knowing when not to look above the berm.

  • MeaCulpa

    Of there’s more than a couple of inches of tissue behind your groin protector I don’t know if I should congratulate you or offer my condolences.

  • Bill

    Another slow news day I see. How about forming armer panels out of wet newspaper packs allowed to dry? Making your own reactive armorer out of firecrackers?

    …And if .300 Blackout can be stopped by conventional soft armor it just became worthless. One of the reasons we’ve shifted to patrol rifles is specifically to defeat armor and light cover.

    • Now you’ve got me wondering what would happen if you added powdered aluminum and iron oxide to tannerite and filled up a lifejacket shell with it to wear over body armor.

      …If anyone tries this, for the love of Jackass make sure to have someone else film it so you can live forever on Youtube even if you don’t last the afternoon otherwise.

    • CommonSense23

      300BLK subsonic can be stopped by certain soft armor. The whole point of the subsonic rounds was for headshots anyway. If you never had a reason to shoot people without letting anyone else know. They were far better calibers than 300BLK.

  • 22winmag

    I get 2,400fps out of my 10mm Witness and 2,600fps out of my .40S&W Sub2000 with Liberty ammo.

    Body armor beware.

  • gunsandrockets

    I’m curious how well plain-Jane .30 Carbine FMJ would fare vs the same target.