Experiment: Homemade Flak Jackets

Note: Constructing home-made ballistic armor isn't inherently dangerous, using it in actually fire fights is. I advise you not to get into fire fights.

Hardware Store Body Armor

using commercially available materials to make armor plates or flexible panels

Question: Why would you want a homemade bulletproof vest?
Answer: One, I don't claim that theses designs are "bulletproof" or even NIJ certified to any specific ballistic protection level. Two...

  1. You can't afford $300 for a brand new level 3a vest
  2. You can't afford $50-150 for a Military Surplus Kevlar vest
  3. You are a convicted felon and can not legally own body armor
  4. You live in a country that doesn't allow civilians to own body armor
  5. this is 60 layers of fiberglass that stopped multiple rounds.

    60 layers of latex laminated 6oz fiberglass stopped three types of 9mm hollow points, but not FMJ.

    this is 20 layers of fiberglass that stopped mutltiple rounds.

    20 layers of latex laminated fiberglass welding blanket was able to stop a 9mm FMJ round.

    Project goals

    In order for the "homemade flak jacket" experiment to be considered a success, it must meet the following parameters

    Based on numerous experiments in the past, I have determined that 60 layers of plain weave, 6oz fiberglass laminated with latex, as well as 20 layers of satin weave, 18oz fiberglass laminated on both sides with latex will stop a 9mm round.

    Required Materials

    Background info

    What Prompted this experiment was my research into the m1951 and m1955 fragmentation vests for the Korean war and Vietnam. Both of these vests contained 1/8" plates a type of fiberglass called Doron. Second-hand accounts indicated that m1951 vest was capable of stopping .45 ACP pistol rounds at point blank range and I wanted to see if the reports were true. After cannibalizing a M1955 from the late 70's and testing it's plates, I determined that these vests were capable of reliably stopping .38 Special FMJ. .45 ACP FMJ, .22 LR, and 9mm JHP. The samples couldn't reliably stop 9mm FMJ, although it happened a few times during testing.

    After experimenting with fiberglass plates made from 6oz fiberglass and both polyester and epoxy resin, I determined that 50-60 layers was adequate to stop most handgun rounds. Using fiberglass welding blankets from harbor freight only requires 1/3rd the number of layers as 6oz fiberglass.

    I did multiple experiments with fiberglass cloth as a ballistic fiber in a flexible panel. Unlaminated fiberglass cloth is only marginally effective because the stands of fiberglass just move out of the way on an oncoming bullet. Laminating the individual layers in duct tape improved performance but added to much weight to the finished product. Rubber cement was tried and proved only marginally better than unlaminated cloth. The best results were found by using either brush on mold making latex.

    Procedure

    For best results, a large flat area, such as a table top, recently paved driveway, or large sheet of plywood, with a fresh sheet of plastic laid down on top of it and taped in place to prevent wrinkles or air pockets from forming.

    This is a fiberglass blanket i layed out to work with.

    1. Spread a sheet of plastic over a flat surface and tape it down.

    This is what the ends look like after I have dehemmed them.
    2. If you are using the fiberglass welding blanket, carefully remove the grommets and hemming before proceeding.
    This is how you spread  the latex over the fiberglass, with a squeegee.
    3. If you are using 6oz fiberglass you only need to laminate one side, if you are using the thicker fiberglass blanket, both sides must be laminated.
    Once the latex is dry you cut the fabric with a roller or scisors.

    4. Once the latex is dry, you can cut it to shape and begin stacking the layers of fiberglass to make ballistic panels.

    This is 60 layers of fiberglass stacked to make a pannel.
    5. Rectangular panels are the easiest to cut to shape, they also leave the least amount of scrap material.
    This is the template I use to make a front pannel with added side protection.
    6. This is a close up for a more intricate panel, I drew the dimensions on it in case anyone wants to copy it.
    I use a template that overlaps to eliminate wasted material.
    7. I use square edges so that I can make a repeating pattern the minimizes gaps and wasted material.
    this is what 20 layers of fiberglass look like when they are all stacked.
    8. This is what the completed front panel looks like.
     
    this is a graphic ilistrating how diffrent interlocking templates might work.

    Pattern A. is for a concealable vest that covers the sides, while maximizing arm moment. Pattern B. is for a simple plate carrier liner or black pack/briefcase liner. Pattern C. is for a shooter cut plate carrier liner. Pattern D. is for a tactical vest with more front and side protection.

    The Fiberglass cloth should be laminated BEFORE being cut to shape for final assembly. Also, with the fiberglass blanket, BOTH sides must be laminated for the process to work properly. Wait 6 hours in between applying coats of latex to opposite sides. I recommend a squeegee to spread the liquid latex, only use in a well ventilated area as it reeks on ammonia

    Once a sufficient amount of rubber laminated fiberglass has been produced, create a template to base your ballistic panel off of. A simple 10x12 inch square would fit in most plate carrier vests, but if you want a more intricate shape consider the patterns below to maximize material used.

    After you have completed the template, you may begin tracing it onto your finished rubber laminated fiberglass. Make sure the template is running parallel to the warp and fill of the cloth (not diagonally to the grain). You may want to experiment tracing the pattern onto the material a few times first in order to figure out the most efficient pattern, minimizing the amount of material between templates that gets wasted.

    This is the template for the vest it self, sitting over the template for the outer cover.
    1. Make a new template that is 1" wider on all sides than your previous template for the ballistic panel.
    This is the emplate traced onto camouflage fabric.
    2. Trace the template onto the back side of the material you want to make a cover out of.
    this is how you attach velco to the bottom of the emplate once its cut out.
    3. Hem the bottom edge of each piece. Ignore this step if you want to just sew the bottom shut to make the vest cover non removable.
    this is how you attach velco to the bottom of the emplate once its cut out.
    4. Sew a 1/2" strip of Velcro along the bottom edge of each piece. Make sure it is on the inside edge, and you have a male and female strip on each side. Note: you can skip this step if you just want to sew the panels directly into the vest.
    sew the straps to the inside of one of the tempates.
    5. Attach straps to the outside of one of the pieces, facing inward. I recommend one strap on each shoulder, and two under each armpit (only one under each arm pictured).
    Sew both tempates together inside out with the straps on the inside.
    6. Sew both matching pieces together, 1/2" from the edges, with the straps tucked inside. Make sure the non camouflage side is facing outward on both sides.
    Once the vest is assembled, insert the cut pannels inside them.
    7. Once you have the outer cover done, turn it right side out and slide the ballistic panels inside.
    these are optional sholder pads.
    *8. Optional, you can make shoulder strap pads, and fill them with foam or with scrap ballistic material.
    These are optional possiabilities for attaching straps and velcro or fasceners.
    This graphic represents different ways of attaching the vest. 1. shows how to attach Velcro and elastic straps. 2. represents 1" nylon straps that buckles can be attached to. 3. is a modified number 2, where the straps reach all the way from back to front, and attach like seatbelt.
    This is a complete vest with me wearing it.
    complete vest w/ shoulder pads.