I imagine there are a few gun folks out there who walk around in a bulletproof vest all day long, but I’m not one of them.
When I was a police officer I spent far too much time in 95-degree heat wearing a vest, and I don’t plan on doing it again anytime soon. However, with that said, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my personal security, especially in places where I’m not allowed to have a gun on my hip, like the airport, the courthouse and government buildings, to name a few.
That’s why I decided that I wanted to purchase a bulletproof laptop bag or backpack of some type, something I could use to shield myself from gunfire. Now, if you’ve ever looked into a bulletproof bag, you know they are costly, upwards of $500. For that price I didn’t find anything I liked that didn’t make me look like I was wearing Rambo’s backpack, so I didn’t purchase one. Luckily, a fellow I know works for an armoring firm in Virginia called Renegade Armor. I picked up the phone and asked him if he could make me a simple 10-by-14-inch bulletproof panel that I could slip into my laptop bag or backpack. He said yes. A few days later, I had a bulletproof panel rated as Level IIIA. In other words, it was rated to stop up to a .44 Mag bullet, which is exactly what I was looking for.
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Truth be told, before using the bulletproof panel, I wanted to test it out. So I went to the shooting range and placed a watermelon behind an old laptop bag that didn’t have a panel, and then I placed a watermelon behind a laptop bag with a panel. The results spoke for themselves: The laptop bag with the panel left the watermelon completely untouched, while the other watermelon was destroyed. After getting a new panel, I have carried around a bulletproof-paneled laptop bag, including at the airport and courthouse, ever since.
The thing is that carrying around the panel is only one of the ways I use it. I ended up purchasing multiple panels so I could have one for dry-firing too. Finding a safe dry-fire location isn’t always easy, so I tacked a panel up on a wall in my house and taped a target to it. If, heaven forbid, I ever have an accidental discharge, I know it will go into the bulletproof panel and not through all of the walls of my house. What’s more, when I’m loading or unloading my guns, I keep them pointed at the panel. And when I clean my Glock 19, which requires pulling the trigger for disassembly, I make sure it’s pointed at that panel.
Now, getting a bulletproof panel may or may not be for you. Maybe you want something a little different, or maybe you want something more. Another choice is a bulletproof clipboard. Many police officers have been carrying them around for years, and if you have a job that requires you to often carry a clipboard, you may want to look into it. There are several companies that manufacture bulletproof clipboards, including Ballistic Systems Company, Impact Armor Technologies, and Ballistic Clipboard.
Now let’s say you wanted more than a simple bulletproof panel or clipboard to protect yourself and your family. What are your options? There are plenty these days. For instance, if you’re like me, you’ve designated a safe room in your house in the event of a home invasion. Hopefully, in the event of a break-in, you’ll have time to gather your family into the room, call 911 and wait in the room (with a gun pointed at the door) for the police to come and take care of the home intruder. If you want to make your safe room more secure, you could always make it bulletproof. You may be thinking that a bulletproof safe room will cost a fortune, but it’s actually not as expensive as you may think.
When I was considering making the safe room in my house bulletproof, I called up Protective Structures of Atlanta, Georgia. Tell the company the size of the room you want made bulletproof, and it will send you the required materials, which a contractor can then easily install. For example, let’s say you had a large closet or room that was 10 by 10 feet. The total cost of the necessary paneling and materials would be around $1,600. The most expensive thing is the bulletproof door, which costs around $2,500. So for around $4,100, you could have a 10-by-10-foot bulletproof safe room, which isn’t too bad a price in my opinion.
The fact is, when it comes to bulletproofing your life, price doesn’t really get out of control until you begin looking into armored cars—and yes, I’ve looked into them. One of the top armored-car firms in the country is San Antonio’s Texas Armoring. It has produced vehicles for CEOs, celebrities, athletes and over 40 heads of state. In case you or I ever hit the lottery, here is how you would go about getting your car armored.
First, Texas Armoring likes to work with vehicles with a solid V8 engine, such as a Mercedes or Cadillac Escalade. Once you’ve chosen the vehicle you want armored, you’ll need to decide on the level of protection. Do you want it proofed against handgun rounds only, or do you want protection from rifle rounds too? If you want Level IIIA protection to stop handgun rounds, the cost to armor the vehicle runs between $60,000 and $80,000. In addition to armoring the vehicle, there are plenty of accessories to choose from. Perhaps you want door handles that shock anyone who tries to get into the car without your permission, or maybe you want the smoke-screen feature or even surveillance cameras all around the vehicle. As you can see, there are a lot of options with armored cars, and if you’ve got a Mercedes right now and $60,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you can have a completely armored car that should last between seven and 10 years, all in about 60 days.
Now that I’ve given you a few options and price ranges to up-armor your life, let me touch briefly on the legal aspects of owning body armor. The good news is that the law regarding body armor is pretty simple. In short, 18 U.S.C. § 931 says, “Prohibition on purchase, ownership or possession of body armor by violent felons.” What that means is that Uncle Sam says you can own body armor as long as you’re not a felon. There are also a few states that have their own laws, so I would encourage you to investigate. For example, the state of Utah has a law saying that you will get a harsher sentence if you commit a violent felony while wearing body armor. Also, when I was thinking about getting my imaginary Mercedes armored by Texas Armoring, I asked the company if there were any laws regarding selling and owning armored vehicles. I was essentially told the same thing: The company can’t sell to felons and thus takes it upon itself to run a background check on any person bringing in a vehicle.
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I realize you may not be at the point where you want a bulletproof safe room and getting an armored car is out of the price range for many of us, but I would encourage you to take a look at a panel of some type. Even if you don’t carry the bulletproof panel around in a backpack, you can use it for dry-fire practice and for loading and unloading your gun. Plus, if you travel often like I do, it’s a lot easier to find a place to dry-fire in a hotel room when you can tack a bulletproof backstop to a wall.
For More Information
- Ballistic Clipboard: ballisticclipboard.com
- Ballistic Systems Company: ballisticsystemsco.com; 713-939-1160
- Impact Armor Technologies: impactarmortech.com; 216-906-2577
- Protective Structures: protectivestructures.com; 888-521-8666
- Renegade Armor: renegade-armor.com; 540-656-2851
- Texas Armoring: texasarmoring.com; 210-333-0211
This article is from the spring 2015 issue of Personal & Home Defense. To read more and subscribe, please visit PersonalDefenseWorld.com.