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Bulletproof Vest Shelf Life

Discussion in 'Survival Articles' started by melbo, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Many people assume that a bulletproof vest will last forever and ever, as long as it’s structural integrity has not been compromised. That is not the case at all. A bulletproof vest will not offer the same protection twenty years after production as it would the day that it was made. Bulletproof vest manufacturers put an expiration date on the vests. The dates are clearly marked so that there is no question as to when the date is.

    stealth2. Just because the date is printed on the vest, it does not mean that they will offer no protection after that date. There are several different factors that need to be taken into consideration to determine if the bulletproof vest will still offer ample protection after an expiration date.

    The manner in which the bulletproof vest was cared for can greatly affect its shelf life. Vests are not designed to have direct exposure to the sun for extended periods of time. If a vest has been stored in direct sunlight for years, it will not offer the same protection that a vest that has been stored properly would offer.

    If the plate that is used in the bulletproof vest has been exposed to water, it will more than likely offer little to no protection. Kevlar plates are not designed to be exposed to water. If they need to be cleaned, they should only be cleaned with a damp cloth. If the plates have been soaked in water for an extended period of time, there is a good chance that they will be less protective long before the expiration date.

    It is important to never buy a used bulletproof vest from someone. You will not know what the vest has been through and it could be damaged. Just because you do not see any damage on the vest and it has not expired, that does not mean that it will offer the protection that you need. You do not want to put your life at risk just to save a small amount of money. Bulletproof vests are not overly expensive and investing in a new one will ensure that you are as protected as you can be at all times. It will also ensure that the vest will work as well as it needs to work, if the time comes when you need the protection.

    You need to be sure that you take the time to care for your vest properly, if you want it to last far past the expiration date. Most bulletproof vests come with all of the information you need to learn how to store, clean, and wear the vests properly. Failure to follow any of the recommended guidelines that the manufacturer has provided could cause the vest to become compromised. You need to be sure that you are going to be able to get the protection that you need when you need it and having the right bulletproof vest is the best way to be able to do that.
    natshare, sec_monkey and chelloveck like this.
  2. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey..... Moderator Site Supporter++

    It is a good to have a spare waterproof bag within your GHB if you have water crossings to perform, for just this reason of protecting your vest.... and anything else you are wearing. If you have your GHB properly packed with waterproofing bags, ECT, and this additional bag with your worn gear in it... you will have more than adequate flotation ability for most normal water crossings.
    sec_monkey, chelloveck and melbo like this.
  3. Leigh

    Leigh Monkey

    Good article and while I agree that "everything" degrades/deteriorates with time, my own testing of a vest proved that many factors must be present before the vest completely "expires."
    A vest was given to me by a cop friend (Safariland made in 1992). It rode in his trunk for 3 years (4 seasons a year).
    I removed the sections from its carrier and duct-taped the panels to a 55-gallon sand-filled plastic drum.
    I fired 3 rounds each from 21 feet. 9mm 124 gr. FMJ, .38 Special (standard and +P, FMJ/JHP), 40 S&W 180 gr., 45 ACP 230 gr. and 12 gauge low recoil slug and buck (#4 and #00).
    While I am not suggesting that ANYONE rely on used gear (ESPECIALLY body armor), this vest defeated every round of the above calibers fired.
    After multiple hits on both the front and back panels, I was getting bored. I decided to try a .17 HMR from a 20-inch rifle barrel. WOW...zipped through it and broke up in the blue plastic with a few tiny shards making it to the sand!
    Brokor, kellory and Yard Dart like this.
  4. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Since you have no issues with destroying the vest, try a throwing knife.
  5. NotSoSneaky

    NotSoSneaky former supporter

    I can understand the hypervelocity aspect of the .17HMR causing the penetration of the vest.

    How about .22lr from a rifle, anyone think that'd pop through ?
  6. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey

    22LR are often very effective against soft body armor, they can slip between the fibres compared to the broader aspect of a 9mm etc
  7. Leigh

    Leigh Monkey

    I never experimented with .22 LR only .17. My goal was to test those specific calibers as they related to what a IIIA vest is supposed to defeat. The .17 was more out of boredom but yes, velocity is obviously everything.

    As for throwing a knife at it? I don't throw my knives but I'm sure a fine-pointed object (i.e. an ice pick) would penetrate. Companies already produce "stab resistant" body armor so any knife testing was moot.

    My experimentation was far from scientific. I didn't (and don't) suggest someone "save a few bucks" by depending on "expired" or "outdated" body armor.

    What my experimentation did reveal was that a 10+ year old vest did not fail.
  8. Airborne Monkey

    Airborne Monkey Gorilla Survivalpithecus

    Pen knife or pocket knife? Which blade? Or one of those Crocodile Dundee type knives? Or one of those deadly Rambo: First Blood knives? Or how abouts a G.I. Joe knife? They've gotta penetrate an out of date bullet-proof vest, amirite?

  9. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    This is the one I had in mind.... IMG_20150203_161442532.
  10. vvpinkmonkay

    vvpinkmonkay Neophyte Monkey

    wow i had no clue about that, no one really knows too much about bullet proof vests these days lol
  11. paraclete

    paraclete Monkey

    3a vests are reasonably priced these days. Why a person owns one today is a question I'd ask, what is the purpose? If it is for a WROL situation occurring after SHTF? If so, 3a is not what I would use, people like me know how to quickly defeat it as well as level 3 armor. Level IV takes more work but it is defeatable as well. Velocity is the killer of all. For what it is worth, don't cheap out and buy used.

    Added thought,
    Also just like keeping your firearms lubed and clean, carriers, vests, etc need to be cleaned. the body oils are you worst enemy since they allow funk to grown (the stink) and they breakdown the materials. Also good layer management is imperative for protective gear.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2016
    Ura-Ki and Witch Doctor 01 like this.
  12. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    Direct sunlight over a period of time will also kill a vest...
    Ura-Ki likes this.
  13. Tempstar

    Tempstar Losing Patience Site Supporter+

    Sweat. Working in the South, we only ran vests 2 seasons for outdoor personnel, 5 years indoors. Not only wou;d the carriers deteriorate, but the kevlar would stink to high heaven.
    Witch Doctor 01, Ura-Ki and paraclete like this.
  14. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grudge Monkey

    This is the main reason I switched to L4 Plates and a good hand made plate carrier. The plates never go bad ( unless you have the carbon/ceramic type) and the carrier can be washed and repaired with out ill effect. I also use soft armor for the areas left un protected by plates. Finally, I Constructed a Gorget using level 4 plate that was added to the carrier for particle deflection. I was offered level 4 plates that were used as demo's and I was able to cut them with a plasma cutter to be able to construct additional parts to add in to my set up! Looks kind of mid evil, but it really works well!
    paraclete and Yard Dart like this.
  15. Tempstar

    Tempstar Losing Patience Site Supporter+

    Just wondering....how you know it works well....
  16. rockriver

    rockriver Monkey

    great thread. thanks guys.
    someone mentioned layering.. more info/recommendation would be appreciated.
    I understand the recommendation about not buying used.
    the thought occurs to me, that a person should go new for he, bride etc...
    and if a used set becomes available cheap, then maybe go for it...
    in a bad situation getting a loaner that had been "used" would be better than nothing.
    or as a little extra protection in a truck, (along the door or seat back)
    AD1 likes this.
  17. avagdu

    avagdu Monkey

    I'd say if you're using it in conjunction with plates go for it even if it's used. It should provide some protection from trauma caused by the shock of a bullet at least.
  18. Tempstar

    Tempstar Losing Patience Site Supporter+

    I had a Crown Vic that came with ballistic panels in the doors and the seat back. These were level III in a plastic bag affixed to the inner door panel. They now live in my Bronco :)
    I have since found another set in a junkyard, and was charged $20 for all three pieces. Would I go into a gunfight depending on them? No. But for the price they're an added level of security. Now, anyone have any bullet resistant glass lying around for a '96 Bronco?
    Brokor likes this.
  19. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    There are plenty of tests on old vests more than 10 years old that have all stopped bullets. When it comes to kevlar aramid protection, no manufacturer or reseller for that matter is going to tell you it's "absolutely bulletproof" due to liability reasons. The folks at BulletProof ME Body Armor - Police Surplus Bullet proof Vests at a Discount, $ 190 & up --whom I have actually purchased from and have great respect for, do test their reconditioned vests and have the experience and professional background to soundly sell to the consumer.

    When it comes to your life, it's your choice. Buy new if it makes you feel safer. Just know that the deterioration factor for kevlar is based on liability concerns, and it's often going to be moisture, folding, and UV radiation that will weaken the vest over time. If it's sitting in your storage flat and isn't all bundled in a heap or damp or sitting in the sunlight, I don't see any reason why it won't work as intended.
    avagdu and Yard Dart like this.
  20. svjoe

    svjoe Angry Monkey

    My 2 vest are not soft, but rather utilize Lvl IV stand alone plates. They are stored in an airtight footlocker away from any sun damage. Will be G2G for years to come.

    Also be advised while most people worry about the Kevlar lining deteriorating, it also needs to be said the fabric shell will dry rot rather quickly if exposed to excessive water and/or sunlight.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016
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