Ballistic Trauma and Body Armor, by J. Nash

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We are committed to supporting promising writers in the field of survival, and today we publish an article by Joshua Nash for Josh uses his extensive knowledge of body armor and ballistics to help provide explanations and informative research on a wide variety of topics.Protection against trauma is an important medical consideration, whether it’s body armor in hostile settings or hand and eye protection for activities of daily survival, like chopping wood for fuel.

the “bulletproof vest”

And now, Josh Nash’s article on ballistic trauma and body armor:

Ballistic trauma is something that can be mitigated with the correct use of a bullet proof vest. However, just as bullet proof vests are often referred to as bullet resistant because they cannot guarantee 100% protection against a bullet, they also cannot mitigate 100% of the threat of blunt force trauma.

Ballistic trauma without a bullet proof vest can prove to be deadly. A bullet causes a lot more damage than simply the hole it creates, as the shock wave caused by the bullet damages the surrounding tissue, and this is further compounded by ammunition that deforms like hollow points, or spins like short, high velocity ammunition often does.

(Dr. Alton says: For more basics in ballistic trauma, see my article on the subject).

Even while wearing a bullet proof vest there is the danger of ‘Back Face Deformation’, which refers to the indentation caused in the side of the vest closest to the body. Bullet proof vests work by ‘trapping’ a bullet in protective fibers and dispersing the energy across the vest, thereby slowing and flattening the bullet. However, the bullet may still cause some indentation in the vest which can injure the wearer. While the protective capabilities of the vest ensure that the danger of serious injury is almost completely removed, Back Face Deformation (BFD) is still an issue many body armor manufacturers are keen to address.

Deaths caused by BFD are very rare, and are only becoming rarer as manufacturers continue to make stronger vests. All body armor is tested and graded in compliance with the US National Institute of Justice’s standards (NIJ Levels), which allows for a maximum BFD of 1.75 inches (44 mm). Manufacturers regularly decrease this however, and modern body armor can be purchased that offers very low rates of BFD.

There are alternative solutions to blunt force trauma offered by some, including protective plates that can be inserted behind the plates of Kevlar or Dyneema found in body armor. Another interesting solution is the use of foam which hardens on impact, which can help reduce the impact of BFD. However, both these options dramatically increase weight and heat insulation in armor, and can make vests much more uncomfortable to wear.

The best solution for blunt trauma is in creating thicker and stronger bullet proof vests that use multiple layers of increasingly strong fabric, like Kevlar. Bullet resistant vests cannot guarantee 100% protection against bullets, and vests cannot claim to reduce 100% of Back Face Deformation. Nevertheless, as manufacturers create lighter and stronger materials, the likelihood of injury from these threats will only decrease.

(Dr. Alton says:  Thanks to Joshua Nash and Safeguard Armor for their contribution. SafeGuard ARMOR™ Are Premium Manufacturers, Designers and Suppliers Of Body Armor In The U.S.)

Hey, don’t forget to check out our entire line of quality medical kits and individual supplies at Also, our Book Excellence Award-winning 700-page SURVIVAL MEDICINE HANDBOOK: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR WHEN HELP IS NOT ON THE WAY is now available in black and white on Amazon and in color and color spiral-bound versions at

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