Webinar presenters Col. Sam Johnson, Sheriff Steve Levorchick, Sheriff Andy Louderback, Skip Gavorski, and Jason Henkel answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Is Your Body Armor Helpful or Harmful? 5 Myths Busted. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Howard says “I just ordered level IV ceramic plates. I’m a volunteer at a local sheriff’s office and go on ride-alongs several times per month. Considering the fragile nature of ceramics but considering I am not putting the plates to hard use like a full-time officer, should I perhaps look at changing my order to the stronger composite?”
Sheriff Steve Levorchick: Having worn real ceramic and composite both now. There is no comparison and you have to look at how you are going to wear them or are you going to put them in the trunk where they are not going to protect you in any way. Thinking that you are actually going to have the time to put the carrier on before arriving at a call. You got to go with what you are going to wear. That’s what we, law enforcement executives across this country have found. It has to be wearable. Otherwise, these people will not wear them. Knowing what’s wearable but also the ability, the stopping power of composite, if I were you, I’d be changing my order.
Sheriff Andy Louderback: Don’t waste money. Go with the best you can get.
Audience Question: In situations where our agency is not able to afford polyethylene plates, should we allow officers to procure the body armor, the higher grade body armor on their own or do you see issues with that?
Sheriff Steve Levorchick: Having people purchase their own is I think that’s a gamble because you don’t know what quality they’re getting. Your setting people up for failure. here are many grants out there, there’s a partnership in Ohio. I know the attorney general has assisted with grants for body armor also, I’m sure that that way across many states. In law enforcement, from a supervisory position, there is not a lot that is better than having consistency and making sure that all your people are being taken care off. I do get small budgets. I understand that. I think that having the exact same equipment and knowing that it’s good quality equipment for your people is a must. It’s necessary.
Sheriff Andy Louderback: This is pervasive in our industry in law enforcement simply from lack of funding issues. This is a small monster or one of the largest monsters in our basement. We see this with firearms all the time, where agencies will allow the person to go to a gun shop and buy any firearm. We’ve had the result and problems that go with that. You are going to run into the same issues. It really boils down to the agency administration whether it’s the city council or commissioner’s court or someone is making that decision of fiduciary matter in the law enforcement situation which is flat out wrong. I’ve been against that from day one. I’ve been very vocal about the fact. This is where you hit. I think the administrator have to fight that as one of his major battles. We have a responsibility to protect our staff and our men and women in this business. That’s what we are going to do. You have to fight those battles sometimes, unfortunately.
Audience Question: Jason, do you know off hand does ShotStop help agencies write those grants or help them research what’s available?
Jason Henkel: We have helped several agencies. Skip, I’ll let you talk more on that
Skip Gavorski: Yes. If anybody is interested, give me a call. I have some resources that can potentially help. On the state grants, I’m a little bit better on. On the national grants, I do have people I could turn to and actually Col. Johnson has a team that is very very good at this. You can actually contact me. I can get you in contact with them. We can start working step by step on helping you out. Lastly, I want to answer one thing going back to Howard. Howard I’m going to ask you one question. “What’s your threat level? And how are you going to wear it?” What I would recommend is keep it in plastic, if you have those. If you haven’t, you’re in great shape. Really, look, you’re going to be carrying the weight. If you’re an auxiliary what do you do full time? Just realized I got a bad back myself, not fun. Carrying extra weight is not fun.
Audience Question: Fred has a comment but I would love you all to weigh in on this comment. What Fred said is another concern is the issue with rifle plates that are ICW plates which stand for in conjunction with. Unfortunately, some officers get that ICW plates and mistakenly have used them as a standalone plate. He recommends extreme caution with this ICW plates. Would love to know your thoughts on that.
Jason Henkel: Thank you very much for that comment. This is a very dangerous area. I was up in Michigan last week, found an agency who were touting this beautiful, very thin, very lightweight standalone rifle plates. I looked at the model. I looked at some very small fine print on the back and noticed that it was an in conjunction with plate, only meant for soft armor underneath it to stop a rifle round. They were shocked. They just finished the procurement. They were very proud of their research. They were duped into buying plates that are not meant to stand alone or stop rifle rounds.
The other comment I’ll say before anyone else steps in, when an in conjunction with plate is purchased, even when the agency at that time understands that soft armor needs to go under it, you never know when the generations coming. We all know how hand-downs happen, officers coming and going. Replacing, retiring, fresh out of the training. Things are getting muddled. The people who bought it usually very quickly filter through and they don’t know they’re an in conjunction with plate.
ShotStop has kind of steered clear of in conjunction with plates just for that reason. We do have in development a very interesting product that is expected out by the end of this year where the in conjunction with plate that we are designing, should it find its way away from the soft armor underneath it, it will still stop the needed rounds. It’s going to be at the border of it. It’s not anticipated. It’s not going to be designed as a stand-alone but it will defeat a stand-alone without the proper backplate information. It will not allow the bullet to penetrate. This is a great point. Be very careful with in conjunction with plates. They’re going to be very attractive when you look at them. They’re going to be affordable. They’re going to be thin, they’re going to be light. Everyone’s going to go for it. But it’s dangerous ground. We totally agree.
Audience Question: I believe Will is asking his question specifically in relation to ShotStop armor. He says I understand testing has been done in accordance with NIJ standards. Has it also been done to mil-spec standards? Has it been tested versus incendiary or tracer ammunition?
Jason Henkel: The incendiary question I’ll answer. Yes, it has been tested. We’ve done it successfully on our level IV and our GT plate for the incendiary round. On the Aberdeen testing, Army testing I’d like to, Col. Johnson, if you could maybe say some words on that?
Colonel Sam Johnson: Of course, I’m not completely aware how deep the testing has gone. I certainly could tell you that some of the hardest standards are even NATO standards. ShotStop plates passed numerous tests over in Europe. That’s a fact. The way army procurement works, of course, I sit in military procurement groups, is that you don’t test until the contract is bid. Once it’s bid, then the plates are tested to a standard of military specs at that time. Whether or not it’s passed any formal tests that test wouldn’t be applicable to any contract with the Army or the Marines are trying to fulfill. What I’m trying to say is that I’m confident that ShotStop could pass any DoD testing requirements, but we don’t really know what that is until ShotStop puts a bid on one of its contracts.
Jason Henkel: Out in the field, if you hear “hey has this passed the Mil-spec?” once the word mil-spec has been passed around, it is meaningless. There is no mil-spec. It is a project by project with the Department of Defense. That’s a big point.
Audience Question: Ralph is from the Caribbean and he says they’re seeing an increase in the number of perpetrators wearing body armor. He’s wondering if there is any way to trace the procurement source for that body armor?
Jason Henkel: For ShotStop, there are serial number while this assumes that the perp is captured, there are serial numbers which tracks back to half of each plate. It is absolutely trackable. We are also implementing RFID technologies within our plates. It is only going to be more trackable. It is dependent on the situation but it is as trackable as possible given that the perp is captured.
Sheriff Andy Louderback: That is part of NIJ standard too, by the way.
Audience Question: Given that the armor stops the round, what other kinds of injuries can be suffered such as broken ribs, etc.?
Jason Henkel: There’s a backface deformation allowed to current NIJ 0101.06 standard allows for a 44mm backface deformation on the first two impacts from these rifle rounds. Then beyond that stop four more rounds from penetrating. There’s no backface deformation requirement on the last four rounds of the six shots NIJ compliance test. The injuries that happen from it depends on where it hit the body obviously. The likelihood if you get hit with an M80 or 762×51 you are definitely going to have some broken ribs. There’s going to be some backface injury. Ballistics is a strange thing. I’ve heard stories of bullets hitting people’s calves and exploding their heart because of the blood pressure. AP round, it was standard AP round hit in front of a body the entire back can be black and blue of that person from head to foot. It does very strange things that kinetic energy dispersing through the body. It depends on the round; it depends on the angle that that round hit. Many things can happen including death even if the plate performs perfectly. We really can’t answer what other injuries. It’s bizarre what happens with ballistics because it’s such high math. Just know that injuries do happen when you get struck by a rifle round especially. It does mitigate the risk of death significantly obviously. Hope that helps to understand a little bit. Didn’t answer you specifically but that’s the best we can do.
Skip Gavorski: Let’s just imagine taking a steel plate and taking a hammer and putting this on somebody’s torso and I smash them in their chest with a hammer. What happens to the energy? Let’s do the same thing with the ceramic plate and let’s do the same thing with a polyethylene plate. Think about what happens with that kinetic energy and what would that do. It just depends. It’s just the thought I want to put in your head what would happen.
Audience Question: Do your level III and IV plates recommend or require a spawl liner, or is it not needed?
Jason Henkel: It is not needed. This is one of our value points is that our polyethylene catches rounds at up to 120° angles. That is especially with steel, the further away from 90° or perpendicular impact you get the more dangerous the ricochet and spawling. If you look at any YouTube video and you see how our polyethylene plate actually just capture the round, encapsulates it, flattens it and holds it. Spawling is almost a non-threat until you get to the very edge of perimeters which just can’t be helped if you nicked it with half an inch on the edge. Sometimes some sprawling where the bullet can spray sideways but that’s the case with all body armor. It is definitely addressed in the ShotStop Duritium polyethylene plates. It captures spawling and the bullet ricochet minimized dramatically compared to any other technology.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Is Your Body Armor Helpful or Harmful? 5 Myths Busted.