Tag Archives: body armor

What’s the longevity of body armour like? How much abuse does it take for a stab vest, soft bulletproof vest or ceramic insert to become ineffective, and at that point is it possibe to improvise repairs or do you pretty much have to buy a new one?

Just fair warning, I don’t have any hands on experience with ballistic armor, so this is cobbled together from basic research I’ve had to do over the years.

For Kevlar, I’ve been told the rule of thumb is roughly 6 months for a vest. Moisture and UV exposure result in deterioration, so as body armor this stuff has a fairly short lifespan. (It’s worth mentioning, this might only apply to the Zylon based ballistic armor that was popular in the late 90s and early 2000s, and not Kevlar armor.)

Kevlar is just a polymer fabric, so there isn’t really anything to replace. You just need to swap out the whole vest. Soft ballistic armor is also single use. Once it’s taken a bullet, it’s time to toss it and get a fresh one.

Ceramic inserts should be good until they break. Strictly speaking, ceramic armor can refer to steel or ultra-high density polyethylene, though it’s called “ceramic.” Either way, replacement plates are available for sale, and swapping out plates is easy enough. Once the plate itself is broken, there’s basically nothing you can do with it except replacement.

With stab vests, I’m honestly a little unsure. I don’t know what’s in them. If it’s just a different Kevlar weave, or a metal mesh interwoven with a polymer fabric. Either way, you’re probably looking at another case of replace after use.


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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