The term ‘ballistic’ means to get very angry or upset. However, that doesn’t quite fit in with the current scenario. The term ballistic as it relates to a ‘ballistic vest’ means: “Of or relating to projectiles or their flight” or “moving under the force of gravity alone.” Thus ‘ballistic’ pertains to the actual protection afforded from said projectiles.
What are Ballistic Vests?
Ballistic vests, otherwise more commonly referred to as bulletproof vests, are de-signed in such a way as to afford protection to the wearer’s vital organs (not every ‘vital’ organ is protected) when under fire from a firearm projectile.
To many of those in the trade, ballistic vest or bulletproof vest is in fact a misno-mer since the wearer is not entirely safe from a bullet’s impact. Thus, the preferred term is a “ballistic – or bullet – resistant vest.”
A quick History of the Ballistic Vest
Though effective armor protection against gunfire dates way back to the 16th century B.C. when the Mycenaeans were said to have used it during battle, it was not until the advent of the revolution in plastics production in the 1940s that truly effective ballistic vests were available to military personnel, law enforcers, and others.
At that time, the vests were manufactured using ballistic nylon, then supplemented using plates of steel, titanium, ceramic, fiberglass, Doron, and various fiberglass and ceramic composites. Until 1970s, ballistic nylon continued to be the mainstay for ballistic vest production, though in 1965, a chemist at the DuPont chemical company – Stephanie Kwolek – invented Kevlar. Kevlar, which is the trademark name for poly-para-phenylene terephthalamide, was – is – a liquid polymer which can be spun around various fibers and then woven into cloth.
The original development for Kevlar was for use in tires, and a little down the line in rope production, gaskets, and for parts in boats and planes. However, in 1971, a member of the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Crimi-nal Justice – Lester Shubin – suggested it would be a valid alternative to bulky ballistic nylon within ballistic vests.
To date, Kevlar in addition to a product named Spectra, which was developed in 1989 as a competitor to Kevlar, still prevails in the manufacture of ballistic vests.
Manufacturing the Ballistic Vest
In order to produce Kevlar cloth, Kevlar yarns are woven to create a plain or tabby weave. Spectra, which is also utilized in today’s ballistic vest production, is not woven but spun into fibers. The fibers are laid parallel to each other, coated with resin, and thus sealed together to form Spectra cloth.
A non-woven fabric is generated from two sheets of Spectra cloth which are bonded together, then sandwiched in between polyethylene film. The shape for the vest is cut from this material. Cutting and sewing of the ballistic panels follows, and shells are created, at which point the panels are placed inside the shells and accessories such as vest straps are added. And there you have it – one completed ballistic vest all ready for shipping.