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Why PPSS Group Produce Rigid Body Armour?

Written by: Colin Mackinnon

In the past 32 years of wearing body armour, such as military grade ballistic armour with ceramic plates, overt and covert stab vests, and more recently rigid body armour produced by PPSS Group, I have seen many changes in materials, styles, designs and how a body armour is being worn.

Body armour is fundamentally produced to save lives through the protection of the torso and the vital organs contained within and can be described as protective clothing designed to absorb or deflect physical attacks. Historically used to protect military personnel, today it is also used by various types of Police, Homeland Security, Prison Services, and Private Security.

When I joined PPSS Group as Technical Director, my main experience of body armour had been with the softer vests made from Aramid fabrics i.e. Kevlar®. Additional hard ceramic plates had only been issued as part of a Tactical Firearms Unit.

Two incidents stood out for me while wearing this soft type of body armour.

  1. I got into the back of a Police van to escort a prisoner to the cells after being arrested. The person had allegedly already been searched by other officers before being placed into the small holding cage at the rear of the van. We sat face to face on small benches our knees almost meeting in the tiny cage as the van drove towards the station. As we travelled, the prisoner rolled down the sleeves of his shirt, and unbeknown to me, he removed a punch knife concealed in the folds of one of the sleeves. The prisoner jumped up and attacked me with the blade, striking me a multitude of times across the front of my vest. A violent struggle took place. I was thankfully able to restrain and disarm the prisoner as the driver of the Police van stopped and came to assist me. Afterwards, I was relieved to see that the knife had not penetrated through my vest, however I was equally surprised to find several bruises appear from the impact of the knife during the attack.
  2. I was involved with neutralising a large fight in a city centre. There were many officers in attendance and a violent group of men in a mass brawl. During the fight I was knocked to the ground and kicked in the chest breaking several ribs through the vest I had been wearing.

In my professional opinion, the protection from blunt force in each incident was not sufficient.

The initial product I was introduced to when joining PPSS Group was made from a rigid Polycarbonate. This proved to offer better levels of protection from blunt force, while maintaining a light weight.

I admit that I was a little dubious to how comfortable a hard rigid shell would be to wear but I was surprised by both the effectiveness and wearability of the armour.

Having recently retired from the Counter Terrorist Police I was more than aware that threats and weaponry had taken a turn and I believed that newer more suitable protective measures should be taken into consideration. The Board of Directors at PPSS Group ultimately decided that Polycarbonate would no longer meet these requirements (due to limited spike protection), and as I became more involved with the research and development, it became clear that the technical solution would be carbon-fibre.

So, back to the question. Why do PPSS Group use hard or rigid, over soft or flexible panels?

PPSS Group developed their technologically advanced, highly certified, lightweight, thin carbon-fibre stab vests to provide reliable protection against the current and most realistic threats encountered by front line professionals today.

BLUNT FORCE (IMPACT)

A punch, kick, elbow, knee, being pushed to the ground, or struck with something is the most realistic threat encountered by professionals. I attend literally hundreds of meetings and some people have experienced seeing knives, but if I ask who has been hit, punched, or kicked all the hands are raised. I know full well through experience that soft body armour does not offer the protection that a rigid body armour can ever offer. The Polycarbonate based stab vests PPSS Group initially offered was a step in that direction but held no official certification from this specific risk. We knew we could drastically improve on the protection we offered using carbon-fibre. The result was a lighter, thinner, stronger, body armour.

PPSS Group utilises a German certification testing Police body armour, named VPAM.  PPSS Group’s carbon-fibre based body armour were successfully tested and certified to level ‘W5’ offering astonishing 100 joules of dependable impact protection. To put this in perspective, if I wore a soft body armour and was stabbed extremely hard, it may well prevent the knife penetrating but it could fracture a rib from the impact, potentially pushing it into my lungs and subsequently causing internal bleeding. With PPSS Group’s rigid body armour that risk is zero:

KNIVES

PPSS Group’s carbon fibre vests are officially certified by the Home Office to the ‘KR1’ (Knife Resistance Level 1), which equals an impact strike of 24 Joules (force), which we believe is sufficient for security operations here in the UK. I believe our following video can support this claim:

SPIKES & NEEDLES

Most soft body armour are made from woven Aramid material (i.e. Kevlar®). However woven layers of Aramid have tiny holes and are susceptible to needles or spiked weapons finding their way through the protection via these holes. The only way this can be prevented is through inserting a thin layer of plastic or similar material between the aramid layers. This leads to additional weight, thickness, and increases the wearer risk of overheating.

Why is spike protection important? Spiked weapons are becoming more prevalent as the Criminal or Terrorist attempt to stay “under the radar” of our country’s security services, by manufacturing their own weapons. The most simplistic, concealable, but devastatingly effective of these is a spiked weapon. Do not confuse a manufacture stating “protection against improvised weapons” as spiked weapon certification. They are not the same thing and unless a body armour is specifically certified to ‘SP1’, a spiked weapon is highly likely to penetrate such body armour. PPSS Group’s carbon-fibre based stab vests are not based on woven materials. The solid construction prevents spikes, shanks, and needles from penetrating. All PPSS Group’s stab vests are officially certified by the Home Office to ‘SP1’ (Spike Protection Level 1).

Carbon-fibre is indeed world-famous for being thin, lightweight, and very, very strong. This incredible material is now being used in some of the most challenging technical environments i.e. Formula 1, Military and Aero Space.  PPSS Group’s carbon-fibre panels are only 3.6mm thick and depending on size range from 1.7 to 1.95kg in weight.

The Board of Directors include former Military, Police and Security personnel, all of whom have years of operational experience. It was very important during the R&D stage that this experience was translated into forming an operationally effective and comfortable design, offering the wearer with maximum movement.

PPSS Group’s stab vests should not be looked upon as just another “body armour”. They are much more than that. They offer the best possible protection, comfort, and operational effectiveness against the most likely threats faced by today’s security professionals. This is why we use rigid body armour!

Do you have any questions?  Please contact us, or connect with me via LinkedIn.

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