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How do Bullet-Proof Jackets Resist the Bullets?

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Farzan Alam Piya

1Bullet-Proof or Bullet-Resistant clothing is an item of personal armor which is specially designed to protect the wearer from the impact of firearm bullets on his vital organs. Absorbing the impact of projectile bullets & small fragments from explosives, this piece of clothing prevents the penetration within the wearer’s body. Bulletproof jackets, bulletproof vests, ballistic vests or bullet-resistant vests, also known as safety textile, are generally worn on the torso by police forces, security guards, bodyguards, combat soldiers, and private citizens of eminence etc.

Behind the Scene

2The idea of bulletproof vests came in the 1500s, when the Italian & the Roman empires built first body amours with metal layers for repelling bullets, though they were not so effective against firearms. Later in the 1800s, Japanese developed body armors made of soft silk, which were more effective but expensive. In 1901, the US military was forced to explore the idea of soft body armors as the idea of silk armors couldn’t sustain with new generation’s modern artillery. During the World War II, Flak Jackets were discovered, which were bulky & made of ballistic nylon fibers. Despite of being not so effective, they were used widely due to providing a better sense of security for the soldiers. Later in the 1960s, the concept of bulletproofing became possible with discovering new fibers. In the early 1970s, the DuPont’s Kevlar ballistic fabric was invented which used to be used in tire manufacturing. In addition with fabric layers, Kevlar fabric ensures extra strength & waterproofing and thus finally the bulletproof fabric came into image.

3Inside the Bulletproof Jacket   

 Bulletproof Jacket mainly consists of 2 parts —   Vest Shaped Ballistic Panel & Fabric Shell/Carrier.

Vest Shaped Ballistic Panel 

The Vest-Shaped Panel of a Bulletproof Jacket is made of a number of sheets. And the sheets are made of multiple layers of Ballistic fibers or filaments which are the same time very lightweight & strong. Kevlar, Dyneema, Spectra Shield, Twaron, Bynema are most commonly used Ballistic fibers or filaments for Bulletproof Jackets.  In case of woven Ballistic fibers, the layers are sewn together using Ballistic thread, such as – the layers of Kevlar fibers are sewn together using Kevlar thread. On the other hand, the layers of nonwoven Ballistic filaments are coated & bonded with resins, such as the layers of Spectra Shield are coated & bonded with resins. Later the committed layers of Ballistic Material are put into a protective envelope, made of polyethylene films and then the envelope is heated & sealed. Thus the ballistic panel is created and then placed inside the fabric shell.  This Vest Shaped Panel provides bullet resistance to the Bulletproof Jacket.

Fabric Shell/Carrier

The Fabric shell of Bulletproof Jackets is made from nylon or a blend of polyester/cotton fiber. The body facing side of the fabric shell is sewn with a sheet made of absorbent material (such as Kumax), to provide more comfort. The outer side of the fabric shell may have nylon padding for extra protection. Multiple cloth/elastic straps, with metallic buckles or Velcro closures, are also attached with the fabric shell to secure the Bulletproof Jacket with body.

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What Happens When Bullet Strikes the Bullet-Proof Jacket

When a handgun bullet strikes the Bullet-Proof Jacket, the bullet gets caught in the “web” of Ballistic fibers of the jacket. Absorbing & spreading all the impact energy from the bullet, Ballistic fibers lowers the speed of the bullet through friction until bullet stops and finally cause it to deform & get into “mushroom” shape. Thus, Bullet Proof Jacket absorbs the projectile bullets & small fragments from explosives and prevent the body of user from getting injured seriously.4

The word “Bulletproof” is a relative term because most of the Bullet-Proof or Bullet-Resistant cloths are designed to survive specific types of bullets & calibers and so they cannot protect the wearer from every single threat existing. Besides that, the vests have a lifespan (mostly 5 to 10 years) which gets voided after a bullet or stab impact. So it is very important to know about Bullet-Proof or Bullet-Resistant clothing and chose the right one, considering carefully about the type of threats need to be protected from. So, take the best care of your “Bulletproof” cloth so that it can take the best care of your safety.