Why would any normal person need soft body armor? That’s actually a question many in leadership positions in government have posed of late. Modern conscientious Americans need body armor for the same reasons an aerobatic airplane pilot needs a parachute. You never actually expect to use it, but if you do, it suddenly becomes a really big deal. So, vests like the BulletSafe VP3 will be a really big deal if you suddenly need them.
The Bulletsafe VP3 Vest
I met BulletSafe at the recent Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous. These guys have a long history of providing quality body armor to law enforcement and civilian customers. They offer a bewildering array of products for any and all applications. BulletSafe can outfit the cop on the beat or the concerned citizen who has to traverse sketchy spaces.
They offer both soft body armor and hard plates. BulletSafe even makes bulletproof backpack panels that can keep your kid’s company at school. I hate that we are even having that conversation, but we live in an undeniably lost and dying world.
The new BulletSafe Vital Protection 3 (VP3) vest is made in the USA and offers legit NIJ-certified Level IIIA protection in a package that is lightweight and built for comfort. The VP3 comes in eight different sizes and provides reliable protection against most handgun bullets up to and including .44 Magnum. The VP3 also includes pouches that allow the addition of rigid plates if enhanced protection is required.
A friend’s grandfather served during World War II with the 2nd Armored Division—Hell on Wheels. He landed on Omaha Beach 10 days after D-Day and fought all the way across Europe as the driver of an M4 Sherman tank.
During his nearly one year in combat, he participated in five major campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge. He had three Shermans shot out from under him and was badly wounded in his final engagement near the end of the war.
In July of 1944, this man’s M4 was maneuvering through the bocage country in France, pushing the Wehrmacht back inexorably toward Germany. Visibility in the armored vehicles of the day was suboptimal, to say the least. So, his tank commander had his hatch open, guiding the fight with his top half exposed outside the turret. This unfortunate man was hit center of mass by a German sniper and died on the spot.
On June 15, 2005, Sergeant Jason Glasscock of Shreveport, Louisiana, was manning an American M1A1 Abrams tank assigned to the 1st Battalion, 156th Armor, operating in and around Baghdad, Iraq.
This particular mission was short notice, and Glasscock had not had the opportunity to get chow before hitting the line of departure. By now, it was 1400 hours, and the young NCO was hungry.
Modern tanks are a lot of different things, but they are not comfortable. Sgt. Glasscock and his crew sweltered within the confines of their 146,000-pound war machine. There is very little extraneous space inside a tank, so the crew’s MREs were strapped to the outside of the turret.
The Power of Protection
SGT Glasscock pulled himself out of his hatch and reached for the nearest case of MREs. His plan was to retrieve himself a roast beef meal—his favorite—and eat it in the safety of the big, armored vehicle.
As he sorted through the case, he was suddenly thrown bodily backward. He later described the sensation as having been hit in the belly with an iron pipe. In the chaos that ensued, his buddies pulled him back into the tank and checked him for wounds.
Sgt. Glasscock had been hit in the torso by an insurgent sniper. He was so sweaty that his buddies initially mistook the soaking perspiration for blood. They tore his uniform open to find a bruise the size of a grapefruit growing on his belly. Sgt. Glasscock’s body armor had stopped the insurgent round and left nothing more sinister than this painful hematoma.
So, what was the difference between this nameless tank commander in France and Sgt. Glasscock some six decades later? Sgt. Glasscock got to go home to his family, while the WW2 tank commander ended up in a French cemetery.
The sole difference was that Sgt. Glasscock was wearing the finest body armor mankind could produce when he got shot. When life goes pear-shaped, body armor can make the difference between going home to momma or going home in a bag.
There is a very real place for body armor in the loadout of the typical responsible American citizen. Modern soft body armor is surprisingly comfortable and shockingly effective. It is quick to don and does not interfere with strenuous movement.
Whether you are traversing a dangerous space or getting up to investigate why the dog won’t shut up at 2 o’clock in the morning, a quality armored vest like the BulletSafe VP3 is a real combat multiplier.
It is easier to run toward the sounds of battle if you know on a visceral level that your vital organs are encased in HTSP (High Tensile Strength Polyethylene), the generic version of Spectra. Nowadays, we train to square off against our targets while shooting. Optimizing your chances of survival in an armed encounter turns on proper body armor.
The VP3 strikes that sweet spot between effectiveness, comfort, and affordability. Sizes range from XS to 4XL, with an average weight of around 5 pounds. There are eight different adjustment points, and the liner is formed from breathable mesh for comfortable wear all day. The wraparound design offers serious protection to the heart, lungs, and associated vital spaces.
The VP3 is purpose-designed to be affordable for normal folk. At $300, this vest offers professional quality for roughly half the cost of a decent plastic handgun. The unisex design accommodates all body types, while the wide array of sizes will allow you to fit all members of the family.
Folks like us typically take our survival preparations fairly seriously. The details of bugout vehicles, weapon selection, shelf stable food, and disaster planning are both pertinent and fun. If your situation and budget allow, being able to drop the family into body armor before you strike out amidst the next big calamity brings some proper peace of mind.
Level IIA armor will reliably stop 9mm, and .40 S&W rounds fired from short-barreled handguns. Level IIIA armor like the BulletSafe VP3 will stop .357 Sig, and .44 Magnum fired from longer-barreled weapons. Specifically, this means a 240-grain .44 Magnum round traveling at 1,400 fps or a 124-grain 9mm at the same velocity.
Level III armor will defeat 7.62mm FMJ lead core ammunition, while Level IV plates will stop .30-caliber steel core armor-piercing rounds. Like most things, selecting body armor represents a compromise between performance and weight/bulk.
Level IIIA is generally considering the most effective body armor that might reasonably be worn concealed during a typical duty day. Level III and IV armor will generally be so heavy and bulky as to be impractical for daily wear. The VP3 does a simply spanking job defending against stabbing attacks as well.
Shooting the BulletSafe VP3
I placed my BulletSafe VP3 vest on a Rubber Dummies target and shot it center of mass with a 115-grain 9mm FMJ round fired from an HK VP9L OR handgun. As expected, the front half of the vest stopped this bullet without difficulty. I then repeated the exercise with a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle with the same results. Now it was time to take it to the next level.
It is safe to assume that if somebody is actually shooting at you, the typical responsible citizen will take measures to get out of the line of fire. Well, what if you were being shot at a lot? This was the highly unlikely scenario we thought we might explore.
I loaded several magazines with 10 rounds each and proceeded to shoot my VP3 vest sequentially with a full-auto MP5 submachine gun. In between each magazine, I took the vest down to verify that nothing made it through. This reflected abuse that well exceeded the design parameters of the equipment.
After 21 rounds of full metal jacket 9mm parabellum and the one .44 Magnum, the vest still retained its structural integrity. Three of the next ten penetrated. The blunt force energy transferred into the target would clearly have sucked. However, the VP3 shrugged off those 29 bullets like Superman.
I left the range convinced that the BulletSafe VP3 vest would indeed offer reliable protection against most anything one might encounter outside a war zone.
Anyone who feels body armor is silly clearly hasn’t kept up with the news over the past year. Unprecedented social chaos transformed Minneapolis into Mogadishu. We are never more than one headline away from burning neighborhoods and rampaging mobs.
I wish body armor was not something I had to take into consideration in my planning for unpleasant eventualities. However, I wish I started each day pooping out gold nuggets as well. Lamentably, life isn’t always the way we would like it to be.
The BulletSafe VP3 is guaranteed for five years. But if treated with even the slightest modicum of respect, it should easily outlive you. As we have seen with a little gratuitous destructive testing, the BulletSafe VP3 is proof against any reasonable threats as well as most of the unreasonable sorts as well.
The Vital Protection 3 vest is the combat multiplier for the Common Man.
For more information, please visit BulletSafe.com.
BulletSafe VP3 Specs
Size Tested: Large
Threat Rating: Level IIIA
Weight: 4.9 pounds
Panel Width: 19.75 inches
Panel Height: 15 inches
Protection Area: 215 square inches
This article originally appeared in the March-April 2022 issue of Tactical Life. Get your copy today at OutdoorGroupStore.com.