Tag Archives: kevlar

How well would soft armor (ballistic vests, thick padded jackets, etc) fare against something like a baton or pipe? I know knives will cut through them with ease, but how well do blunt objects go through?

Honestly, the best street wear option against a blunt weapon would probably be motorcycle gear. That stuff is designed to take hitting the pavement at speed and keeping you in (more or less) one piece. Technically, it’s not “soft armor,” since it’s reinforced with solid plates. But it’s in the same general area.

That said, any padding will help against blunt force trauma. But, all a normal padded winter coat will help deal with is unarmed strikes. It won’t really protect you from a crowbar or baton. It will protect some, just not enough to matter.

With a Kevlar vest, I’m not sure how rigid those things are specifically. If you’re taking a blow directly to the chest, it should absorb some of the force, though I’m not sure exactly how much. ProRonin and Skypig would be the people to quantify that.

Except, it probably doesn’t really matter, because of how people actually use blunt weapons.

The common attacks with blunt weapons are strikes to the shoulders, arms, and head. You draw back and strike in towards the silhouette of your target. …and a Kevlar vest doesn’t protect any of those areas. It’s designed to save you when someone tries to shoot you in the chest, not when they’re swinging a baseball bat at your head.

You can perform a thrusting attack with a pipe, but, if you know someone else is wearing armor, it would make more sense to just strike around it. Incidentally, you can’t perform a thrusting attack with most telescopic batons, since you collapse them by striking against a hard surface. Incidentally, a quick thrusting strike is one of the most devastating things you can do with a baseball bat in combat. It delivers most of the force in a fast short motion that’s almost impossible to avoid. But, the kind of person that knows to do that is also probably the kind of person that would choose to strike around armor.

I would be genuinely surprised if a vest actually offers less protection against a knife than a leather jacket or shirt, but, some of the same considerations apply. Knife fights usually end based on injuries to the arm before following into a killing strike at an angle that would bypass a Kevlar vest, rather than trying to stab through it. And, while I’m not completely certain, I’m pretty sure an “aim for the kidneys” shanking from behind can be performed at an angle to bypass a vest.

Ultimately, we’re talking about trying to use the wrong kind of armor for the situation. Most riot gear won’t protect you from someone shooting at you, but it does wonders for someone coming at you with a sledgehammer.

The opposite is true of Kevlar. If someone’s shooting at you (and they’re far enough away), it should keep you breathing, but it’s just not going to help you when dealing with someone armed with a baseball bat, frying pan, or whatever else they managed to dredge up from their home.


Q&A: Sci-fi Warfare

Sorry, I didn’t want to be specific because I tried to keep it short and to the point. However, I can think of a lot of reasons why guns might fall out of favor. Mostly, it’d come as armor. Kevlar is fantastic against bullets, but has a weakness stabbing. Just take that to 11. Another might be like Dune, a sort of energy shield that stops high velocity impacts, but doesn’t stop low velocity. Anyways, I’m mostly curious what could be modern sword technology, (nano-tech and cryoforge, apparently).

With the caveat that it’s been a few years since I read Dune, a few things stand out: I wouldn’t call the year 10,000 the near future. Dune is, very much, a post apocalyptic setting; humanity is in the process of recovering from domination by autonomous AIs. I’m not sure if this was a jab at Asimov, but, regardless.

And, personal shields are very rare, very expensive, and extremely fragile pieces of equipment. House Atredies is able to afford a few of them. This is one of the most powerful members of the LANSRAD, and an incredibly wealthy family.

So, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the combat we see might not be completely representative of warfare in the setting. That said, when actual battles occur, the great houses and the Sardukar have no qualms in breaking out lasguns.

The personal shields can’t handle fire from lasguns, so ranged weapons remain preferable on the whole, and really only work against sword strikes. Hence the whole, “a slow blade penetrates,” because a normal blade strike will reflect off. I can’t remember if the shields could survive normal firearms in the setting, but they certainly didn’t change the nature of war in Dune.

The blade fighting in the novels is, almost exclusively, the purview of dueling, and while houses have “swordmasters”, the actual weapon of choice is long knives.

I will say; Warhammer 40k, Dune, and Star Wars all make for fairly reasonable uses of melee weapons in a sci fi context. Lightsabers have ways to stay effective against ranged foes (so long as they’re backed up with superpowers), 40k is loaded to the gills with things that won’t die from sustained bolter fire and ludicrously lethal melee weapons, finally; Dune has a fairly rich dueling tradition. But, I wouldn’t hold any of those up as justifications for a near future setting.

On the subject of Kevlar, it’s actually been improving at a fairly steady pace. Used to be, 9mm rounds posed a serious threat to someone, and now we’ve gotten to the point where a vest can take an intermediate rifle round at medium range.

The problem with Kevlar is one of the basic constants of the universe, entropy. While a modern Kevlar vest will stop a 5.56mm rifle round, at 50m, when you start getting closer, or taking more fire, the vest will fail.

I’ll add a primer on modern body armor, because this one can get a bit complicated, though fair warning, I’ll probably do that after I’ve done most of my firearms primers. If you want to do some research now, I’d recommend looking into Kevlar, and ceramic inserts. Also if you start feeling too cocky about body armor, look up the history of the 10mm handgun round, and steel core ammunition. If you want a setting where you can use a sword in a gunfight and live, I’d suggest Warhammer 40k. It’s comically over the top, but there’s some coherent world building, and it does present you with the kinds of things you’d need to be dealing with to see swords really return to the battlefield.


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