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All Vests Not Equal

STL Joseph Garcia

In the 90’s we saw the introduction of stab body armor that used soft technology, brought to us by Dupont®, the leaders in fiber technology. As the years went forward we saw imitation technology that labeled their technology as soft body armor… only to discover that these vests were made of very thin sheets of metal that had limited flexibility. We discovered that the armor could not be bent without leaving a permanent crinkle in the armor.

Understanding the 0115.01 / 0115.00 Standard

Now the new standard 0115.01 has been introduced. The only change is the spike that is used so the Edge Blade standard is now renamed 0115.01 but still remains the same with tests conducted with the P1 and the S1 blades. In short, the new Spike is more penetrating than its predecessor. There is armor still available that has been certified under the old 0115.00.

0115.00 / 0115.01

The original (0115.00) Spike gave a wide variation in test results. The 0115.01 Spike provides superior consistency of sharpness and hardness. This is observed in the labs in the very consistent test results now being observed. The new 0115.01 spike also has a slower taper from the shoulder to the tip itself. The physical properties (hardness and total length) are otherwise identical to the 0115.00 Spike.

The variation in consistency with the 0115.00 Spike could have allowed a vest to certify if a batch of spikes of lower penetrative quality were used in testing. With the new Spikes superior consistency of sharpness this element of chance is eliminated.

The new protocol is not “law” per se but the need/testing protocol went into place last quarter of 2004. 0115.0 armors still have respect in the industry but NIJ has already said that the 0115.01 is the “newest” version and will be the new standard.

Confusion in the Industry

There is much confusion in the industry regarding what they call “stab” or “spike” armor which is only certifiedfor icepick and not modern/sharp edged-bladed weapons like a piece of a razorblade melted into the end of a toothbrush handle, let-alone a nasty bench made or Emerson modern folding knife which is so common these days or kitchen knives and metal sharps typically found in workshops.

Currently the Hawk Protection Body armor is the only one that has passed the new 0115.01 under independent testing at US Labs. Hawk Protections is now in the process of having its vest certified officially under the 0115.01. The delay in this certification has been the supply of the new spikes to the test labs.

Most US manufacturers of Spike-only armor have withdrawn their vests as these do not perform well with the new Spike. The Hawk 200 EBS1 and EBS2 solutions are still available.

Tomorrows’ Dream Technology Today

Currently on the market there is only one vest manufacturer that has designed a vest that is years ahead of its time in designed and technology. Some may say that this vest is extreme while other, more experienced operators that are using this vest say it should be the industry standard.

This breakthrough vest provides: Stab Knife Edge Blade Ballistic Chemical Repellent Fire Protections

It also provides stun device protection. The clincher is that this body armor is 25% lighter than its closest competition, it’s more affordable, and it’s 100% true soft body armor.

Designed for True Combat Tactical Operations

When the team over at Hawk Protection System designed this vest they took a panel of operators from corrections CERT, Police SWAT and a few federal agents and sat down over a number of days and the panel was interviewed by designers and engineers. To say the least this team went out and wanted to designed the ultimate Tactical Body armor.

Hawk Protection was the 1st in the industry to come out with a fire protection / Chemical Repellent outer shell. Based on there experience in Europe with protesters through home made petrol bomb or Molotov cocktails at Riot Police teams they quickly learn that Fire / Chemical Protections was needed as a standard.

Hawk also gleaned from the panel that many time operators have to low crawl and rub up against rough surfaces and as a result they used a material that not only has fire / chemical protection but also has a high abrasion resistance as well.

“Real Protection for Real Threats”

Over the last several years we have heard the term stab, stab, stab until it come out of our ears. The truth is that many of the manufactures did not tell you or want you to know that there is a difference between hard steal and soft steal. Most vest that are on the market will stop the average shank “Soft Steal” but you pull out the real scalpel found in most medical units or that kitchen knife that is found in almost every correctional facility in the world and now we are talking a whole new matter and every vest that we tested FAILED!

If you unit will have to respond to a kitchen in the even of riot or disturbance or if your team has to respond to the work shop or anyplace in your facility that inmates have access to hard metal then you are a risk of vest failure!

Any operator that says they will never face hard steal like a knife brought in from the outside or deal with a knife from the kitchen / medical unit has not spent much time inside a correctional facility let alone been a CO very long.

The team that developed the 0115.01 was a team of government professionals that should get a great deal of kudos and thanks. They have seen the real threats behind the walls and as a result have posted this to the manufactures to come up to the standard.

There have been a number of companies that have been leading the charge in stab technology and designed. There have been manufactures working with the Fiber Technology and Weavers to create the best technology at the best prices and kudos to them.

Spec Your Vest for Real World Ops

This is an area where many departments loose money and do a lot of second-guessing in this area. Here are a few steps that you should do if you want to develop a sound Vest Spec that you will be happy with:

Step – 1

Determine is this going to be a tactical Spec of a Line Staff Vest it is imperative that we do not have someone making a decision based on look if this is a tactical vest that you are looking for.

Step – 2

Establish a small panel of the following (CERT, Training, Uniform, Senior Admin Rep, and Line Staff)

Answer the following Question: Well this vest be a mandatory wear or is it an option. Depending on your answer you can either save money or spend a truck load!

Step – 3

Define the threat level!

Line Threat – Stab (Knife, Ice Pick, Razor, Needle, Slash) these are the real threats that your line staff will face.

Tactical Threat – (Knife, Ice Pick, Razor, Needle, Slash) If your team is responsible for High Risk Transport and Outside Operations, Fugitive Recovery then add the Ballistic. The minimum ballistic threat should be the level that your officers are carrying in their weapon

Step – 4

Submit a letter of invitation to the Manufacture to bring the following panel on a specific date to demonstrate and tell them that you will be using your own tool! THEY BRING THE CLAY or Jellotine or NIJ Back Ground Composite.

It is important that they understand that you do not need a sale show you need a technology demonstration 1st! Only after they have meet your agency standard then ask for the dog and pony show!

Step – 5

Get a hold of CERTOps.com vest committee for a list of question that should be ask of a body armor manufacture. By writing to vestcom@certops.com

Step – 6

Once you have arrived at this point this were a comprehensive interview is done with the manufacture. It is important that issues such as deliver, warranty, defects, recalls, insurance, performance, complaints are dealt with before the final spec is put out in the market! There are excellent manufacturers like Hawk Protection and others that can deliver you an excellent product.

CWS / OWSCERT / Operator Warrior System

This unique system was designed by Senior Team Leader Joseph Garcia and in development with ALD Company London Lewis. After research and study it was determined that operators are slowed down operationally when they have to stop and pass equipment to another operator during a combat operations.

This simple yet effective system is changing the way that police, correctional tactical units as well as the military is looking at there vest design.

The System

The Front real-estate of the vest belongs to the operator wearing the vest. The rear of the vest with the exception of the Gas Mask and Radio Pocket belongs to your partner.

This concept is know as the CWS / OWS CERT / Operator Warrior System. This system allows operators to work quickly in the battle zone with minimal interruption.

If you consider for a moment the real operational use of your vest you will see that if a battle the only part of your vest that gets actively used is the front. The secondary area is passive and should be set up for your partner to store his additional magazine, ammo, and whatever else that he needs. Obviously there are limits I am not going to carry a refrigerator for him or his black book. Items are going to be restricted to operational equipment.

Vest Design: What’s In and What’s Not!

Like a kid in a candy shop you tell him you can have anything you want as long as it not over a dollar! Well when you work with a manufacture you must decide what you want before you run that poor person into the ground. Remember the best way that you can design your vest to first of all see what kind of equipment you are carrying.

It does not matter how many bells and whistle the vest has if it is not designed for your operational needs you will not be happy with it. Here are some good starters that will help you designa good vest!

You pay for want you get. Want an expensive vest then design detailed pockets or ask for a lot of pockets and you see the price go up. Rule of thumb: Keep the vest simple and clean.

Modular systems are not a preferred system for CERT Unit for a number of reason.

4 Easy steps to designing your Vest

Step – 1

Determine what features are important (Hydration System, Down Office handles that right handles. In our vest we have 2 inside front and back! You might not be able to always get to one so you have an alternate one.) Pockets,

Step – 2

Officer Comfort (Internal Cooling System, Shoulder Adjustable System, Duty best Ties, Vest Cut – Low, medium, High, and much more)

Step – 3

Officer Safety – Fire Retardant or Flash Protections, Chemical Repellent, Reflectors, ID Badge Size

Step – 4

Pocket configuration – How many pockets, First Aid Pocket, ASP Pocket, Handcuffs, Spider – Ti pockets, Universal radio Pouches, Gas Mask size, FN303 Mag Pouches, General Orders Document Cover, Flash Bang Pouches (This is not a good idea. DD, IED are always kept in a thigh holster rig for safety reasons. You do not want one of those devices exploding in your face.

Active Protection Vs Protection

In this final note, it is emphasized that when selecting you vest you can shoes to have the highest stab and ballistic protection available on the market that will stop an RPG with a spike if you want. However, consider that too much protection can slow the operations down and even hinder the operators dexterity, flexibility etc.

Choosing the right vest is important that is starts with your teams operational capabilities and abilities first. Don’t let the manufactures tell you what you need and most of all don’t listen to the guys who tell you well the Police SWAT team down the street is using it! Remember our job is different and we have an unforgiving environment that we work in. Our vest needs to reflect this.

Final Note

Commanders and Administrator, I implore you that if you are in the process of selecting a vest for the first time or are changing your vest out. Please think of the areas that your officer, operators will respond to and what threats they may face. You very decision may one day save the life of your people. The flip side is also true failure to conduct proper research can in the end give you people false hope and as a result even get them killed.

There is no doubt that putting a sound vest on your people makes sense. It’s the right thing to do.


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