Today I’m going to talk about improvised armor, or maybe in some circumstances “augmentation armor”. Most body armor on the market today (including ours) is geared for shooting situations. Not surprising, since they are designed to withstand bullets. Some styles however, are also knife resistant.
This is the only short-fall I have come up with for our soft plate, as they are not rated against knives at all. The steel plates, obviously, will stop a bladed weapon.
However, in *most* shooting situations, the attacker is most likely to place his shots in the “center mass”, or chest. Several reason for this, such as when a person who is lacking in training and/or experience in a firefight starts pumping adrenaline, he aims at the person.
Not any particular point on that person, and that means (usually) the torso. Most of our vital organs are contained in the top 12 inches or so, which is why the standard plate size is 10X12.
Would a hit below your plate still be lethal? Could be, but with medical help available, it’s much more likely to be survivable then a hit to the chest. All this to explain why most body armor is confined to the upper torso.
Now, if you’re planning for a firefight, that’s all well and good. If what you’re trying to be prepared for is a situation where you may need protection for a trip to the grocery store, maybe a street fight setting, there is (in my mind) a glaring short-fall.
A common weapon in street fights is a knife, and most knife fighters don’t thrust at the top 12 inches of your chest. They aim for the lower torso, where there are no ribs to hinder their blade, or they slash at your face and arms.
So what do we do about that?
Well, there are a whole host of knife resistant materials out there, some of which I’m looking into for manufacturing a line of knife protection. Still in the works though.
But let’s assume for a moment that you don’t have any of this protective gear. Maybe it’s too expensive, maybe you just didn’t think you’d need it, or whatever reason you may have.
Now we’re in a situation where you’re worried about being knifed on the way to work for the contents of your lunch box, or for the gas in your car, the shoes on your feet, or whatever.
Use your imagination.
What can you do? In it’s earliest forms, armor was designed to repel bladed objects. All of our modern stuff is really just designed to match the threat of advancing fire-arm technology.
You want to protect against a blade, just get back to basics.
The basics of blocking a knife, is that you just need enough between it and your skin to absorb the force of the attack. And let’s face it, in this sort of scenario, if your attacker suddenly finds his best weapon in-effective and you show a bit of resistance yourself, he’ll probably move on for a “softer” target.
So what can you use? Well, as I said, one of the most vulnerable places in your abdomen. So put something under your shirt. Got a piece of wood? No? Go take the fronts off your kitchen drawers, they’ll work nicely.
Appropriately sized cookie sheet? Nice place to start, although some of them are a bit thin. We’ll come back to that.
How about doggy chews? I mean the real raw hide ones?
Some of the earliest armors were made of leather or raw hide, depending on the goal of that particular piece. I have a pit bull. He likes the big raw hide rolls that are roughly 8 inches across. If you soak one of these in water, unroll it, maybe form it a bit of you want to get fancy and let it dry.
If you really want to be sure of it, go for multiple layers, but there’s some serious stopping power in raw hide. Regular leather works well too, but it needs to be thicker, since it’s softer. If you have a way to layer the tanned leather with the raw hide, with an adhesive, then you’re really gonna be talkin’.
Another thing that you probably have in abundance: Paper. Yes, I said use paper to thwart a knife attack. The ancient Greeks used linen, and they had to stop spear thrusts, from trained warriors. Not just a knife jab from a street tough. The key is layers.
If you don’t trust me, go get your phone book (if you have one) and try to stab through it.
Back when I was young and… Ok, youngER and MORE foolish, some friends and I were messing around with a Dirk, trying to stab it into a ream of paper. I can attest to paper’s resistance to stabs. And you don’t even need a whole ream of paper under your shirt.
Grab a couple issues of Southern Living, maybe tape them together.
At the VERY least, you’re talking about reducing the energy from a knife thrust so you get very limited penetration in your wound. Best idea yet? Get a composite put together, using paper, leather, raw hide, whatever you can come up with.
Get yourself a knife and to some experimenting. Now, briefly (since I’ve covered the different materials already) let’s talk about other areas of your body you might want to “harden”.
First one that comes to my mind is your fore-arms. Face it, someone slashes at you, a pretty good instinct is to block it with your fore-arm. Even with no armor, you’re better off taking a slice to the arm than to the neck or face. Better yet is if you’ve had a bit of defense training and can avoid the blade all together. But sometimes you get cut, and you don’t need to.
Especially if you have reason to prepare for trouble ahead of time. All of the materials I listed above for your abdomen can be used on your arm. Ok, the drawer fronts might be pushing it… Drawer sides are a bit less awkward… Laugh all you want, but a board strapped to the outside of your fore-arm will protect you, awkward or not.
Obviously though, if you expect trouble, less awkward is better.
None the less, samurai used wooden bracers for their armor. Smaller pieces, strapped together so they can form around your arm. They don’t have to be as thick as a piece on your belly, we’re not talking about the same amount of force being applied.
Slashing attacks are quick and not intended to penetrate deep into the victim. Raw hide would work well here, and could be formed to your arm very well indeed.
Anybody seen World War Z?
That’s when Brad Pitt wraps the magazine around his wrist to protect against zombie bites? Yeah, works here too.
Really desperate? If you can get away with it without the wife taking your head off (kinda defeats the purpose of what we’re talking about here…) You can use the flat-ware, taped our bound together in some fashion around your arm.
Odd? Yeah. Ugly? Yep.
Stop a knife slice and keep you alive? Sure will.
The bottom line is, your imagination is really your only limit in this endeavor. If you’re really serious about it, create a system and test it, just like any other emergency prep skill. Best learned and tried BEFORE you need it.
Oh, just don’t test it while you’re wearing it. Please? I don’t want angry letters blaming someone’s injuries on me cause I told them to test their armor. But that’s the basics of “hardening” your body against knife attacks.
Hopefully next week I can start talking about hardening your house!