Evolution of Body Armor
Since the beginning of humanity, there has been disputes between groups of people. Whether it is for the need of land, food, water or even for the spread of religion. Over the years these few reasons have led to many wars. Whether it’s with sticks and stones or with assault rifles, the fact of the matter is that as time has progressed the weapons have followed suit. With the rapid development of weapons over the centuries, there has also been a development of armor to prevent harm from these weapons. In this article we will dive into the development and evolution of body armor over the centuries. From the beginning where hunters would wear animal skins, to the body armor we have today.
To begin, back in the day our ancestors did not have much of an armory. Their weaponry consisted of sharp sticks and stones. However, their main foe was not each other. Instead they had to worry about the scarcity of food, and dangerous predators. This led them to use the skins of their game as protection. Thus developing the first ever body armor.
Fat forward a few centuries, the development of weapons developed to spears and arrows. This in return led to the further development of animal skin armor and wooden shields. Although this was great protection, the development of metal weapons followed quickly behind it. For this reason, the evolution of metal body armor became a breakthrough protection of weapons at the time. This is the well-known armor that the Knights wore in the middle ages.
However, the development of gunpowder in the 9th century led to the discovery of firearms. This discovery, made all known armor obsolete. Centuries later, the Japanese developed soft armor, silk interwoven to help prevent penetration from bullets in firearms. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the first soft armor was first used.
Over the year’s fire arms quickly developed and armor was lagging behind. After WWI, it was well established that something had to be done to address a type of body armor that could potentially save lives. When WWII came around, the clock started ticking. This first development in the research was Flak jackets, that were made up of Nylon. This jacket provided protection from shrapnel, but it did not have the power to stop bullets from most fire arms. Along with its weak stopping power, it was also fairly heavy. After the war was won, the threats did not stop. For this reason, the united states established the National Institute of Justice, where their main objective was to research and develop light weight body armor. Their research and development led to the body that we have today. Along with the research, NIJ developed the performance standards for body armor.
Five years after the NIJ was established, Stephanie Kwolek a chemist at DuPont invented Kevlar. Kevlar is interwoven fibers that were layered together to create plates that will withstand ballistic penetration. Kevlar is well known today as a staple of body armor. Since then, hundreds of other woven fiber armor has been developed, but it has withstood as the top performer. The downside to this armor is the price and availability for public purchase.
Lastly, there is a cheaper alternative is known as AR500 armor. AR500 is specialized steel alloy that developed to withstand up to 500BHN. According to the Brinell scale, BHN is the ability of the steel to withstand indentation. The high BHN allows it to withstand the ballistics, this allows it to achieve the highest level in the NIJ standards. The AR500 armor will withstanding bullets fired from hand guns, sub-machine guns and assault rifles.