But they have armor!

But they have armor!


While Kevin Costner is not my favorite actor by any means, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” wasn’t a bad film, at least in my memory.  During the “inspirational speech” portion of the film Robin tells the disbelieving peasants “Even a child can be taught to find the chinks in armor!”
Robin was right, all armor has weak points.

With the proliferation of body armor, commercial and surplus, it makes sense to think about defeating body armor with the tools you have.  So far only limited crime has been committed by criminals in body armor, but I can only see that number going up as it is part of the Zetas MO.  In the criminal arms race, body armor is the next step for organized crime.

Modern armor is usually a vest with ballistics inserts and a ballistic helmet.  This armor is specifically designed to protect against the “center of mass shot” that most of us train to deliver.  That being said, you don’t have to take the center of mass shot.  Specialized armor such as an EOD suit is unlikely to be used by an attacker as it is unwieldy (however improvised armor as used by the North Hollywood Bandits covered more area than standard commercial body armor).

Generally the soft portion of the vest is multi layered kevlar, a polyarylamine with very high tensile strength.  The ballistic insert can be made of ceramic, plastic, or metal (AR500 steel makes dandy inserts if you don’t mind the weight).  Each insert has pros and cons.  Ceramic is great for one or two hits.  Plastic stops hypervelocity rounds from rifles, but not always low velocity high momentum rounds from big pistols.  Metal inserts are damn heavy and interfere with a compass for dismounted movement.

A ballistic helmet is generally made of kevlar fiber stiffened with a synthetic resin although there are many more surplus “steel pots” on the market than kevlar.  The steel pots can be defeated by nearly any firearm, but the kevlar ballistic helmets require something in the centerfire rifle category.  Spider silk has been considered a future replacement for Kevlar, but despite advances in manufacturing technology it hasn’t matured as a technology.

Tools for defeating armor.


Doesn’t matter how much body armor you are wearing if a tank rolls over you.  That is why tankers call infantrymen “crunchies.”  I’m pretty sure that a soccer mom SUV will do sufficient damage to stop body armor clad criminal.  The big armored “battle wagons” that the Cartels have been making south of the border will definitely crush someone in a ballistic vest.

BOMBS: Specifically IEDs

I mention this only because it is something that has become a reality on the battlefield.  First in Iraq before being exported to Afghanistan this is a tool/tactic that will not go away.  While I don’t consider myself a jack booted thug I am plenty sure that is exactly how the goat humping jihadists see me, so their preferred method of defeating armor is a really big bang.  It works.

The drug Cartels have adopted the IED as a tactic in Central America, and Brownsville, Texas, is the first place I could find where an IED was used on US soil.


Dowsing someone in a burning fluid defeats body armor.  Molatov cocktails anyone?  It isn’t like you’ll have access to white phosphorous or napalm bombs, and surplus flame throwers are getting rare as hens teeth….


While the civilized world continually disarms itself of chemical munitions a lot of tin pot dictators are getting their grubby hands on all the chemical weapons they can find.  I don’t recommend using chemical weapons to defeat body armor.  If you you want to understand why chemical weapons are a really bad idea, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10408124

GUNS: use a RIFLE.

People have eyes, and eyes need unobstructed line of site to function.  So until they make bulletproof face shields (like the NH Bandits improvised), the triangle created by eyes and nose is a good place to aim if you can.  If your target is looking at you and you hit anywhere in that triangle then you can move on to the next target.  Disrupting the central nervous system is a good way to stop an attack, and shooting glasses aren’t designed to actually be shot.

Another thing that armor wearing criminals have is joints.  Specifically hip joints.  Shoot someone there and if you don’t kill them, then you should be able to immobilize them.  The hip area represents a sizeable target, although much smaller than “center of mass.”   The North Hollywood Shooters covered themselves in body armor, but had the police used AR-15’s with high velocity bullets against the shooters hips they could have shortened the engagement nicely.  Ballistic inserts don’t cover joints just yet, but I have some pretty good ideas on how to incorporate that feature into the next generation of body armor.

Branch arteries in the neck, legs, arms, are also good things to disrupt.  Unless you make your own armor like the NH Bandits did (or are wearing an EOD blast suit), some limbs will be exposed.  Lethality is achieved by disrupting the flow of oxygen to the brain, and cutting through an artery or two is a relatively quick way to achieve that disruption.

Another thing to consider is that a kevlar vest has holes.  A torso hole at the bottom, a neck hole at the top, and arm holes on each side.  Each of these holes is a good target if you have an angle to shoot it.  This means elevated shooting down for the neck and arms, and depressed shooting up for the torso hole.  Had the Police got off the street with a 308 caliber patrol rifle and shot down the NH Bandits neck hole from a rooftop it would have stopped the fight much more quickly.

In the extreme case of the North Hollywood Bandits, they made armor to cover their entire bodies. Good for them but in the end they still died from multiple gunshot wounds. Pistols turned out to be relatively useless, shotguns only slightly less worthless, and patrol rifles were in short supply. A 308 or 223 rifle would have punched easily through the layers of kevlar. Guess what the North Hollywood Police did not have?

Finally, there is a tactic that I have never personally used, but some hunters have called “breaking down” an animal.  Bullets are shot not to kill the animal but immobilize it, aiming for the knees, hips, spine.  If your bullets cannot penetrate the armor, they can at least transfer kinetic shock through it to crack bones, burst blood vessels.  This is the only way to really describe what happened to the North Hollywood Bandits, the police just shot them until enough armor was damaged that bullets started getting through.

The great thing about direct fires, if you aren’t achieving the effect you desire, just pour on more.  It worked for the North Hollywood Police.

The slow collapse into the soft dark ages….

This is a long winded and winding post.  Sorry there isn’t more spit and polish on it but sometimes I write just to put thoughts down before they flit away like butterflies at dusk.

The veneer of civilization is pretty thin.  However like all veneers, it is also pretty broad so if a piece gets scratched away it isn’t too hard to fill in the gaps again.  I’ve been pondering the quesiton “what is civilization?” quite a bit lately.  Is it roads?  Is it agriculture?  Is is book learning, such as engineering?  Or is it culture such as sculpture?

Here in Afghanistan they have a sort of a civilization.  They could have more and better everything if they decided that they wanted more and better.  Often times they are simply content with what they have and don’t see the benefits of drip irrigation instead of flood irrigation.  In Iraq they had plenty of roads, plenty of relatively modern agriculture, but still have horrendous corruption and tribal conflicts.  So civilization isn’t just any sort of infrastructure, or any sort of art or culture, it is the appropriate mix of infrastructure, legal standardization, and social culture.

Infrastructure allows economic mobility.  Legal standardization combined with a culture that respects honesty minimizes the corruption that eventually hurts everyone.  China is a good example of a “civalization” that is rapidly turning from agriculture to industry.  However, because of the social climate of corruption corners are cut, contractors pay party officials to look the other way, and next thing you know a major earthquake flattens substandard housing.  But the corruption continues, because it is good for business in the Chinese culture.  And the Chinese know that business is good for China.

So what frightens me most about the United States is the death of Rule of Law.  When the Administration breaks contract law to support the UAW in the GMC Bankruptcy, when MF Global is legally allowed to raid customer accounts to pay off debt in total violation of established practice and law, when “Recess Appointments” fail to meet recognized legal standards, we have POWER unconstrained by our Laws.  Our civilization is falling apart.  Rule of Law is good for business in America, and the only replacement for rule of law is corruption.  However multinational corporations have learned how easy it is to operate in a corrupt society like China, do you think they will have any compunction of applying those lessons to a corrupt American Government?

It isn’t our “crumbling infrastructure” that makes economic powerhouses like China, India, and Brazil drool with envy that is causing our civilization to fail.  It is our rising culture of corruption.  Corruption allowing a modern Cesaer to turn the Republic into a Dictatorship.

Now, I believe that you should never assign bad intent to an action when simple incompetence will do.

But right now Americans are worse off economically than any time since the Great Depression.  This is creating a culture of reliance on Uncle Sugar.  A culture of reliance that is tolerating the obliteration of the Rule of Law one piece at a time.

Of course this time the Barbarians won’t invade in a horde from the north.  They will emerge from the underbelly of our society.  The Crips and the Bloods, the Mafia, the Cartels, each will do their best to attach themselves like life sucking tics to the bloated imobilized behemoth that our society will become.  In turn the bloated behemoth will turn into a rotting carcass and the tics will keep order in order to keep the money flowing.

The real losers are the people.  Would Cesar have killed himself if he knew his actions would cause the downfall of the Roman Empire?  No, in the history of the world very few men seize power only to serve the people.  Hate Pinochet all you want, but once he was done putting the country back on course he let go the reins.

The old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” also has a corrolary “Rome didn’t fall in a day” either.  The UAW was protected because they had “their man” in power.  So far everyone has lost, and the only “redistribution” that has gone on is the spread of poverty to an ever growing population of “the underclass.”  But we have our bread and circuses.  Or as we like to call it “foodstamps and Kardashians.”

There are those who believe, with plenty of anecdotal evidence to back their claims, that this collapse has been engineered by those who want to “take all the worlds wealth.”  I don’t believe that.  I believe that we are in an death spiral of our own creating.  Congress buys votes with social programs.  Social programs start costing more than Congress can cover.  We borrow from China.  Social program spending increases.  More votes for bread and circuses.  The public coffers are dry, and the only question now is will their be real cannibalism as a result of the inevitable collapse?

Our civilization is ending by all the measures that I can see.  I cannot see any avenue of saving it that will fly under the current system (we have too many people voting to keep Uncle Sugar handing out the dole).  So the question remains, what will replace the current system?  If we are smart and put the pieces in place now, we will plant the idea of a Republic and Individual Rights and Responsibilities so deeply in the American psyche that we won’t fall into a worse sort of despotism that always seems to follow the fall of an Empire (Rome to Cesaer, France to Napoleon, Russia to Lenin, Germany to Hitler, China to Mao, etc).

This isn’t exactly cause for alarm.  Many Empires have rebuilt themselves and maintained a national identity and character.  The Germans got rid of a Monarchy, built a Republic, turned it into a Dictatorship, then into a Democracy all in the last 120 years.  History does march on, even when you are in the middle of making it.


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