[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou’re sitting at home, then all the sudden you see a news broadcast saying the economy has collapsed. You’re shocked, not quite sure what exactly is about to take place. Then, you change the channel and see mass panic in cities. There’s riots in the streets, people looting to get supplies, stealing electronics, absolute chaos.
This is it, this is what you’ve been prepping for. You’re nervous, but excited to see all of your hard work finally put to good use. You call your family and tell them to meet you at the house.
You start getting your gear ready, bringing it out to your car. All of your BOBs, INCH bags, and medical bags, all piled into your BOV. Your family arrives, and once you finish gathering all of their necessities, you head out to your BOL. You can see your beautiful BOL as you pull up, and you tell your family to wait in the vehicle as you stop. You get out, walk cautiously up to your BOL as you get ready to clear it, then you hear a loud bang. You’ve been shot in the chest by a looter who’s already claimed your BOL as his own.
Now, you must watch your family scream and cry from the vehicle as they try to run to help you. What happens to them is now at the mercy of the looter that’s set his defense up in your BOL. All of this could have been avoided if you had saved money and invested in body armor, instead of that $5 coffee you get on your way to work every day. There’s a saying when it comes to body armor in the Infantry, “it’s better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it”.
Body Armor Myths
There are many myths that revolve around body armor that you should know about, because believing them could end up getting you killed. When it’s your job to get shot at, you pick up on some tips and tricks about body armor.
Myth One: Homemade Body Armor is Just as Effective as Store-Bought
First off, if you believe this, you need a slap in the face. Purchased body armor is factory-pressed and made to be lightweight and effective. If you make body armor yourself, you’re placing your life (or the life of loved ones) in your hands. This may sound appealing, but if you mess up one single step, your body armor will be rendered ineffective. Just like how you wouldn’t go through the trouble of making your own beer (most of the time) to taste like Budweiser, you leave it to the experts to do their jobs.
Myth Two: Kevlar Vests are Just as Effective as SAPI (Small Arms Protective Insert) Plates
This is a common myth in the prepping community, but a myth nonetheless. The most protection you can get from soft body armor is with the III-A rating. This rating only grants protection for up to a .44 magnum semi-jacketed hollow point at 1,400 fps. Most rifles would penetrate soft armor if used alone.
This is a major downfall for preppers, as most of your threats would be carrying rifles post-collapse. On the other side of the spectrum, SAPI plates can grant protection of up to 7.62 x 39mm M61 AP (Armor Penetrating) at 2,780 fps. If SHTF, what body armor would you grab if left side by side?
Myth Three: You Can Conceal Kevlar Vests Under Your Clothing
When I read this on a prepper forum, I literally laughed out loud. Most effective Kevlar vests stick out like a sore thumb underneath clothing. Think of it this way, police officers wear Kevlar vests underneath their uniforms (most of the time). Anyone who looks at a cop can easily see their body armor underneath their shirts. If shit’s going south enough for you to have to grab body armor, why bother trying to conceal it anyway?
The entire reason I agreed to write this article is to save your lives. There are way too many rumors and myths regarding body armor online, and without a proper source to tell you otherwise, you’re not at fault for believing them. Now, let’s get into the fun stuff.
While it is possible to just tape SAPI plates to your body, it’s extremely impractical. Therefore, plate carriers are important, so you can strap your SAPI plates to your body. There are hundreds of plate carriers on the market. Like anything, some brands are better than others. Don’t make the mistake of buying an airsoft plate carrier for your real-life prepping. Airsoft plate carriers aren’t designed to carry SAPI plates, and have a higher chance of tearing after rugged use.
One brand that I’ve grown to love over my years of experience is a brand called “ATS Tactical”. I bought a plate carrier from them in 2014, and have had it ever since. It’s gone through multiple training cycles, as well as real-life tests. Not once have I had to replace it, and it still sustains rugged use to this day. ATS is my absolute favorite, and most recommended brand for plate carriers, as well as any other items you could use for prepping (pouches, belts, vests, etc.).
The ATS Aegis Plate Carrier V2 is the newest model of plate carrier from ATS, and is the one I wear and love. They come in five sizes (small, medium, large, 10×12, and XL), making them available for preppers of all shapes and sizes.
They feature MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) compatibility on the front, back, and sides of the plate carrier making them a great foundation to add more pouches and equipment directly onto the carrier itself.
Another great feature of the Aegis V2 is their side SAPI plate compatibility. They can fit side SAPI plates up to a 6×6 size in their side compartment offering added protection for its wearer. On top of all these features, they offer a thin closed-cell foam pad between your body and the plate carrier. This offers added comfortability, as well as mobility for its wearers. All ATS products offer a lifetime warranty against defects in manufacturing and workmanship, so if your plate carrier tears, they’ll fix it for free. Average price: $230.
SAPI plates offer the best protection for their class of body armor. While there are other types of body armor that offer more protection, SAPI plates are unbeatable for their protection in a lightweight, agile design. Most SAPI plates are made of either boron carbide, or silicon carbide ceramic as their base. This allows more protection for their user, while remaining lightweight compared to their steel-plate counterparts.
SAPI plates are designed to crack upon impact, thus dispersing the shock throughout the plate itself. This impact dispersion enables the user to continue fighting without feeling the incredible impact of a round striking them. While some people may believe this renders them useless after the first round impacts them, that’s far from the truth. In the military, do you think we’re going to be able to turn them in for new ones right away after we take a round to the plate? No, we continue fighting and trade them in for new ones when we get back to a FOB (forward operating base).
If you’re going to use SAPI plates, I highly recommend using them in conjunction with soft armor between the plates, and your chest. This allows added protection in case the plate shatters due to an AP (Armor Penetration) round striking it.
Also, you can get Kevlar cut to size for your ATS plate carrier for $280 for front and back. I wouldn’t risk my life relying on just one form of bulletproof material in a SHTF scenario, and neither should you.
If you’re preparing for a gunfight, you don’t think the enemy is going to aim just for your chest, do you? There are many reasons why you should consider protection for your head, not just for bullets. If you’re walking through the wilderness after you bug out, the odds of you encountering another prepper (or looter) are decently high. The odds of that person having some type of explosive are also high enough to cause concern for shrapnel.
Any type of sharp (or blunt) object flying at your head at a high rate of speed has the chance to kill or seriously injure you. Thus, having a ballistic helmet is a great investment as a prepper. The best style of helmet for preppers is a mid-cut ballistic helmet. This way you have a great area of protection, as well as optimizing weight-reduction and maneuverability. Most mid-cut helmets come with ARCs (Accessory Rail Connectors) that offer added attachment capabilities.
For mid-cut helmets, I recommend the Ops-Core Sentry Mid Cut Helmet. Ops-Core is a brand trusted by many avid preppers, as well as some law enforcement agencies and militias. Although they’re a bit pricey (averaging $1,050 per helmet), their protection and comfortability are unmatched in their market. They offer a level III-A protection against up to .44 magnum at 1,400 fps, making it a great level of protection for small arms engagements. An added bonus, they look identical to helmets used by SOF (Special Operations Forces).
For helmet attachments, I recommend the Surefire HL1-A-TN Tactical Helmet Light. I’ve used this light personally and have nothing but good things to say about it. Despite this, there are some mixed reviews about it on Amazon. When used properly, I don’t see why you should have an issue with any Surefire tac-light as they are built to withstand rugged use. The HL1 offers a white LED (with multiple light brightness settings), blue LED (with multiple light brightness settings) and a blinking red infrared light (only visible with night vision optics aka NODs). Average price: $120.
When it comes to shooting a weapon (especially a rifle), gloves are a necessity. The reason you’ll want flame-resistant gloves, however, is because your barrel can become incredibly hot during an engagement. You don’t want to be that guy that burns your hand because you were too stubborn to wear gloves (I was that guy), it hurts.
Gloves don’t have to be uncomfortable, or too pricey for a prepper. Mechanix M-Pact Covert Tactical Gloves cost an average of $35 for a pair, and are incredibly durable. For two years as an Infantryman, I was an M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner. The M249 is a great machine gun, but takes a terrible toll on gloves. Once I got a pair of Mechanix gloves, I haven’t had to replace them since. Because of this, Mechanix gloves definitely get my stamp of approval.
While Mechanix gloves aren’t the only reliable tactical gloves on the market, they’re definitely the most affordable for their durability. Oakley Men’s Factory Pilot Gloves offer a great amount of protection, while incorporating a hard shell on the wearer’s knuckles compared to the Mechanix’s gel knuckle protection. These gloves cost on average $55-$75 for a pair, making them still affordable (however, not my first choice).
Unnecessary Body Armor
While body armor is a legitimate necessity for preppers, there are some items that you shouldn’t waste your money on. You don’t need a full juggernaut suit to cover your vital organs. If you do, you’ll look ridiculous and you’ll weight yourself down. Any added weight over a long-distance movement can seem back-breaking, so stick to the essentials. The following list consists of items that aren’t necessary for your survival needs.
- Knee, and elbow pads (unless you require them for bad joints)
- DAPS (Deltoid and Axillary Protector System)
- Groin Kevlar
- Neck Kevlar
- Expensive Ear-pro (ear protection) and Eye-pro (eye protection)
Decking yourself out in the most body armor possible is a waste of money, and energy. Some people like to buy these items to look cool, but end up being laughed at by us professionals. They’re not necessary, and will end up costing you a lot of money that you could have used for other prepping essentials. Regular body armor alone will cost you enough money, don’t spend it on items you don’t need.
While there are basics when it comes to body armor, there are also supplementary items that you can acquire that will make your kit (body armor) more efficient. Items like these are not essential. However, they can be a great help and luxury when you must wear your kit for long periods of time.
The standard combat load for a United States Infantryman’s M4 (5.56mm) is 210 rounds (seven 30-round magazines). This amount of ammunition is enough to sustain someone for a mid to long-term engagement, and I recommend it for preppers. If you train your body to carry your body armor, plus 210 rounds of whatever ammunition your rifle requires, you’ll hardly notice it when you have your kit on. Magazine pouches that have MOLLE capability allow you to attach them directly to your ATS plate carrier, or whatever rig you decide to attach them to.
This allows you quick access to your magazines when you need to reload during an engagement if necessary. I recommend the ATS 6×3 Shingle magazine pouch system, for two big reasons. The first reason, is that it’s made by ATS. They’re such a reliable manufacturer for warfighters and preppers alike, and I’ve had nothing but great experiences with them. The second reason, is their magazine capacity.
The 6×3 Shingle holds six 5.56mm magazines (you can also get the 7.62mm version), as well as three double-stack pistol magazines. This capacity allows you to localize all of your ammunition in one area, making it a great option for preppers looking for simplicity. Tip – keep loaded magazines face-down in your magazine pouch, and empty magazines face-up. This way, you can distinguish without looking what magazines are available for you to grab so you can reload your weapon.
These glorious inventions make carrying supplemental pouches a hell of a lot easier for guys like me, and I’m sure you’ll love them too. They’re simply a belt with MOLLE loops built all the way around them, making them capable of attaching any MOLLE pouch to them. This enables you to keep your kit pouch-free, and enables you to toss your belt with all your equipment on it to someone in case of an emergency. Most war belts come with suspenders as well, making them much easier to keep secured on your waist.
Once again, ATS wins my vote for the war belt. The ATS War Belt is extremely durable (I’ve proven this with rigorous use), and reliable. I’ve put ATS’s lifetime warranty to the test when I accidentally tore my war belt while getting off a Blackhawk. I sent it into ATS, and they sent me a brand-new belt that hasn’t had any issues since. The only downside to this belt, is you’ll need to buy an inner belt (which you can also purchase off their website) in order to secure it around your waist. I recommend getting an inner belt with a buckle for quick-release, however it’s not necessary.
Utility and Dump Pouches
These pouches are designed with simplicity in mind. While they’re not necessary for survival, they can be of great use if you plan on wearing your kit for long periods of time. Utility pouches (AKA sustainment pouches) are pouches that you can attach to your kit to carry small, necessary items (like maps, markers, etc.). Another great use for utility pouches is to keep an energy bar inside of it, trust me it comes in handy.
ATS offers a great selection of affordable utility pouches, but my favorite is the ATS Small Utility Pouch. I know I mention ATS a lot in my articles, but it’s for a good reason. They’re the only brand that I’ve heard of that make such great quality gear and offer a lifetime warranty (even if you’re not the original buyer) on their items. If you like another brand, that’s fine. Just don’t get “Condor”, they make terrible, unreliable gear.
Dump pouches are pouches that you can attach to your kit, or war belt in order to store your expended magazines in. While you can just place your expended magazines back in your magazine pouch, dump pouches offer a faster way of doing this so you can get back in the fight faster. Magazines may be hard to come by post-collapse, so conserving them is of utmost importance so that you can reload them later. You can find ATS dump pouches here.
IFAK (Improvised First Aid Kit)
If you buy any pouch for your kit, make sure the IFAK is the first one you buy. When SHTF and you end up getting shot (or injured by some other means), you don’t want to be wasting precious time by digging in your BOB looking for medical supplies. An IFAK enables you to carry essential items that could save your life (sold separately) while keeping them within reach at all times. If you want to look at the one I personally use (which is obviously ATS), click here.
Ear-Pro and Eye-Pro
You definitely don’t need to spend an arm and a leg when it comes to protecting your ears from loud noises, and eyes from debris and shrapnel. The best eye-pro I’ve ever had was a pair of ESS Crossbow ballistic eye-pro. A sturdy carrying-case, two frames, and two lenses (tinted for daytime and clear for nighttime) come with the package for $105 off of their website, but can be sold for less at most army surplus stores (if you can find them).
For ear-pro, any basic ear plugs will work. However, I recommend getting a pair with a string keeping them together, along with a carrying case to keep them clean when you’re not using them. You can find a pair like this for less than $5 at Walmart, and they should last you a long time. Although, I recommend getting at least three or four pairs of ear-pro per person. Sometimes, ear-pro can get lost or damaged while in a firefight or a long movement.
Body armor is a vital necessity for preppers, that fact is not up for debate. Whatever brands you decide to buy, however, is up to you.
For those of you who are new to my articles, I stress a lot on the fact that whatever you buy is on you. I’m only here to help guide you in the right direction if you have little experience in my area of expertise.
With this being said, please don’t try to go make your own body armor. If you take a round to homemade body armor, you’re probably going to die wondering why you didn’t leave the body armor making up to the professionals.
Shooting with body armor on can be difficult at first. However, with practice (and lots of it) you’ll start to get used to it, and eventually it will become second-nature to you.
Remember, the added weight from body armor can be a nuisance when moving long distances. Make sure you practice hiking long distances with this added weight, so you’re not sucking when you have to do it when SHTF.
Never underestimate how helpful extra pouches can be for your kit. While you don’t want to be carrying everything you can think of on your kit, the added availability of some items will prove to be useful in bad situations.
Even if you decide to get the bare minimum for body armor, make sure you at least get a plate carrier with SAPI plates and soft armor, and some ear and eye-pro.
With these basic items, you’ll stand a chance against another trained enemy. You know what they say, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun”.
I’m an active-duty infantryman with the U.S. Army, and I’ve served a combined-service of over 5 years. Throughout my career, I’ve learned various survival techniques, as well as self-defense techniques. I specialize in weapons, long-range reconnaissance, distance shooting, and long-term isolation survival. I’m a very conservative, very “to the point” kind of person.