Last week Tactical Tim travelled to Switzerland to meet with DuPont at their facility in Geneva. We have been assured that there was no time for skiing and eating cheese, just lots of hard work and training!
DuPont is perhaps most well known (at least in the law enforcement industry) for Kevlar, but DuPont has been responsible for many brands and advancements you may be familiar with including:
1802 – DuPont is founded by E I DuPont, manufacturing black powder. E I DuPont was renowned for his ideals of scientific advancement and his contributions to society, including causes such as poor relief, help for the blind and free education.
1923 – DuPont invent the durable, quick-drying DUCO paint which becomes the standard finish on automobiles, hardware, appliances and toys. This leads to the creation of DULUX paint.
1929 – DuPont succeed in strengthening Rayon filaments into fibres suitable for sewing threads and tire cords – CORDURA
1931 – After searching for an effective synthetic alternative to highly priced natural rubber, DuPont create NEOPRENE
1962 – DuPont perfect and commercialise LYCRA
1965 – KEVLAR is invented. Throughout the 1980’s it was incorporated into gloves and body armour. Today it is used in a huge range of products from sporting apparel to fibre optics to ballistic helmets.
1967 – DuPont introduces NOMEX in paper, felt and fabric, but it is best known for its use in fire fighting apparel.
DuPont are also involved with crop protection, water purification, X-Ray films, pharmaceuticals, and more recently technology for creating displays for devices such as cell phones, personal digital assistants, notebooks and high definition TV. Tactical Tim however had a single mission, which was to find out more about body armour.
Kevlar is 5 times stronger than steel which offers superior protection against fragmentation and ballistics. Kevlar armour has layers of woven fabric, and each layer performs a different function which ultimately help to stop and ‘catch’ a bullet or projectile. Because Kevlar is inherently flame resistant it will also provide thermal protection from blasts or fire.
It is also lightweight and flexible which makes Kevlar body armour more comfortable and allows greater mobility – unnecessary weight will cause the wearer to fatigue more quickly. DuPont has now developed Kevlar XP which will reduce the overall weight of armour by 10% and reduce back face deformation by 15%. When used in a military helmet Kevlar XP increased the ballistic performance by 20% whilst reducing the weight by 0.5 lb / 200g.
Second Chance Body Armor (part of Safariland Ballistics International) have now partnered with DuPont and GoreTex to create one of the thinnest most flexible vests available. The Kevlar provides increased protection whilst the GoreTex provides a breathable and anti-bacterial panel covering to combat germs and odour and reduce heat.
DuPont has state of the art ballistic testing facilities in America and Switzerland, and over 40 years of experience working with Kevlar. This enables them to work with companies like Second Chance to develop new armour. Most ballistic testing labs will shoot ammunition from .22 caliber to .50 caliber at specified velocities.When testing the anti-stab properties a blade is dropped from a set height at a set speed. To meet HOSDB/CAST standards Du-Pont have created a method whereby once the blade is dropped there is a second ‘push’ – this is because it mimics human mechanics where there is often a secondary push or impact immediately after the first contact is made. Alongside these standard tests DuPont use a high speed video which will show how Kevlar will behave when hit with different caliber rounds at differing velocities.
When testing armour plates the armour is usually affixed to trays of Roma Plastellina clay and then fired upon. When inspecting the results the scientists consider 2 aspects:
- How far the bullet or blade has penetrated the armour
- The back face deformation
Back face deformation is when a projectile hits the armour but does not penetrate, instead the impact of the strike leaves a depression in the clay. They then measure the depth of these depressions so they can assess the level of damage that might be inflicted on the wearer – The NIJ (National of Justice) currently considers a depression of up to 44mm allowable which is 1.25 inches. If you imagine having your sternum or spinal column depressed by 1.25 inches you can see why this is just as important a consideration as whether or not the armour is penetrated.
In the UK police and military personnel are issued with armour that meets HOSDB/CAST standards. However if you are a civilian and wish to wear body armour it must be CE marked. This means that the armour has been tested to meet European safety standards and will offer a certain level of protection. As with any protective gear, from body armour to slash resistant gloves, they will provide a level of protection but they are resistant only – no product can guarantee 100% protection from bullets or knives.
As UK distributors for Safariland, Niton can bring in HOSDB certified armour by Second Chance including the Summit ST and Xtreme SX lines made in partnership with DuPont.
After a very informative tour of the ballistic testing labs it seems that Tactical Time did manage to fit in a bit of sight seeing…..although he insists he was just delivering Niton catalogues (he had a flight to catch so didn’t have time to negotiate world peace!)