Ballistic Threats

Ballistic Threats


Some of my recent posts have brought up some concerns about a type of body armor and a specific type of round. Often when I write some of these articles I try to be brief. This means that while the general statements are researched and supported, the level of detail behind them isn’t posted. This often opens a can of worms, because to explain one thing- you often have to explain another in full detail. Since I’ve had a few replies on this subject- let’s dive into detail here. (Excuse any typos, no proofreader here but me).


Standards Based Evaluation


When it comes to life support equipment, you need to have a scientific evaluation process to it. In no way, shape, or form should you be relying on ANYONE to tell you what to buy. If an SME tells you to buy one product or another, and there isn’t validated testing to back it up- it should raise an eyebrow. While Backyard YouTube videos and local testing can be entertaining and is sometimes useful- It should NOT BE relied upon for life support equipment. This does not mean that just because you see that someone or some agency has done a test on a local range that indicates a certain level of performance, that it means that it is good to go. It can be a starting point, and it can be very useful information, but it is not the end determination.


To evaluate something, we need to have a set of conditions and standards to objectively evaluate against. These standards need to be scientifically done by accredited agencies. This removes the chance for inconsistencies and objectivity to cloud our perceptions about product capability. These standards also need to be UNIFORM. It can be detrimental to our purposes to use multiple testing standards. Isn’t more, better? The issue is, when it comes to body armor, is that many of the proponency entities that establish certification standards for ballistic resistance aren’t in the business of testing and evaluating products on the commercial market.




When it comes to body armor in the civilian and L/E community, the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Ballistic Resistance Standards are what is used. This provides the standard NIJ levels that ballistic products are sold under and gives the user a level of confidence in their product. There are other standards out there, like the DOD. However, their requirements are policed through the Contract Purchase Description testing and validation by DOD using lot testing acceptance procedures- they are not in the business policing the commercial off the shelf items that non-DOD people might buy. There are also different standards within the DOD community, specifically between the Department of the Army and the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM has one of the most difficult standards to meet). However, as much of the testing data is not publicly accessible, nor do either agency test and validate armor products for the open purchase market- it is not useful to delve into.


NIJ Threat Levels


When it comes to the Civilian and Law Enforcement world, the National Institute of Justice is the agency that sets the generally accepted standards for ballistic resistance. The NIJ’s Standard 0101.06 is the most current (at the time of this article) testing standard they have produced. This establishes the basis for evaluating the threat level of the product. The also maintain a Compliant Products List (CPL). The CPL contains all manufacturers that the NIJ certifies to comply with the NIJ protocols.


The NIJ standards are very specific about what round are acceptable to use for testing:

  • NIJ IIA- 124gr Remington 9mm FMJ RN and 180gr Remington .40 S&W FMJ
  • NIJ II- 124gr Remington 9mm FMJ RN and 158gr Remington .357 JSP
  • NIJ IIIA- 125gr Speer .357 SIG TMJ and 240gr Speer .44 Mag JHP
  • NIJ III- 147gr 7.62mm NATO FMJ – Spire PT BT
  • NIJ IV- 166gr 30.06 M2 FMJ – Spirt PT AP

So, when you buy an NIJ Level III hard armor plate, you are buying a device that will prevent a 147gr 7.62mm NATO FMJ – Spire PT BT from penetrating, that’s it. (To be exact, it will prevent multiple hits, but to limit the scope here I won’t cover the specifications for the number and locations for the standard- but it is on the internet).


The 5.56mm Threat


One of the rounds that comes up quite a bit in the body armor debate is the (X)M193. This is because it is cheap and one of the most common rounds found on the market today, the other being the (X)M855 “green tip”. You may have noticed that neither of these rounds appear on the NIJ table.


Let’s be clear about what this means: the NIJ does NOT certify ANY ballistic level vest or plate against these threats.


Now, some of people’s blood pressure probably just spiked at reading that statement. Some of you may have vests that are “certified” to level III+ or Special Type tested plates. We need to be very clear here about what we are talking about, so I’m going to unpack this a bit.


One of the reasons that there is so much talk about body armor and (X)M193, specifically “ar500” type armor is because there are many videos and home tests that show this specific round smoking a hole right through the body armor plate. Now, while home videos and tests like this are very useful- understand that the Level III plate in these tests was NOT certified against that round to begin with! I’m not saying that this information isn’t important, but we need to be objective about things. Of course, it is a completely different story if the manufacturer claimed it would stop these threats and it didn’t- more on that later here. We also need to be clear that just because you have an NIJ Level IV plate it does NOT mean that it is certified to defeat (X)M193.



NIJ Special Type Threats


Because the NIJ Standards are limited to very specific rounds, the standards also stipulate “Special Type” threats. It is very important to understand what this is. The NIJ DOES NOT certify these in the CPL. NIJ Standard 0101.06 simply lists GUIDANCE that:


“A purchaser having a special requirement for a level of protection other than one of the above standard types and threat levels should specify the exact test round(s) and reference measurement velocities to be used and indicate that this standard shall govern all other aspects. Guidance on common special type threats and the appropriate threat velocities is provided in appendix B, along with a methodology for determining the correct reference velocity for other threats.”


So, what does this mean? It means that if an Agency has a requirement that its protective gear resist ammunition that is not on the NIJ table, or if a manufacturer wishes to produce a body armor that defeats specific ammunition-  that it should tested within the NIJ testing standard parameters to that exact round. Of course this testing should be done at a reputable laboratory that is listed as compliant with the NIJ testing protocols. The product, however will not appear on the NIJ CPL as certified for the special type threat. It should, however be listed as compliant to one of the NIJ levels though. So, if you need armor that will defeat (X)M193 then you should be looking for an armor that appears on the NIJ CPL as certified to Level III or IV and it should also have a certification form from an NIJ accredited lab for a Special Type threat, showing it successfully stopped (X)M193.


Should Law Enforcement Use Steel Plates?


This question drives a lot of emotional discussion from consumers and Subject Matter Experts. I refuse to give blanket answers to this question. In my last article, I did bring up a concern about ceramic plates with Law Enforcement. Do me a favor- go back and re-read the “AR500 vs Ceramic” paragraph in the Body Armor article I posted a couple weeks ago. Done? Good, now let’s dive into this a bit. I stated that there is not a testing lab that I know of that offers Non-Destructive Examination (NDE) for ballistic plates that is accessible for civilians or Law Enforcement. Now, there are some ingenious work arounds- like using a hospital’s equipment. Here is a decent forum thread that shows not only that you can use the equipment, but also that ceramic plates can be damaged through use:


Now, while I agree that thinking outside the box and using this kind of equipment to aid in our gear inspection is very useful- we need to be cautions here. If someone becomes injured using faulty equipment that you (as a person or agency) inspected using this method, are you absolved from liability in the case of legal suit or a line of duty investigation? I’m not saying not to do this-just some food for thought. Is the purpose of a hospital x-ray to inspect body armor? Who certifies them to do so? Where were they trained to inspect body armor? Sit back and ponder the possibilities there for a moment. Those are pretty realistic points if something bad happens. Think about the liability to the hospital as well. Not saying don’t do this, inspecting your gear regularly should be something you do- just make sure you weigh all the factors.


Again- I’m not saying LE SHOULD wear metal plates or ceramic plates. I’m also not saying that they SHOULDN’T wear one or the other. What I’m saying here is you need to make an informed choice based off of how you are going to use the product, store it, and your ability to maintain it.


Be a Requirements Driven Consumer


Seriously, stop asking SME’s what brand or type of armor you should buy (actually questions are fine, please do ask them). This is a huge red flag for me. Why? Because it tells me that you have NOT done a detailed analysis of what your purpose, requirements, and operational environment is! If you don’t know what your threats are, how can you possibly have any semblance of a training plan or know what your critical skills are? Guys like me can tell you what we used when we were operational, but it may not meet your needs. If you don’t know what your needs are, how can you evaluate if an item that JSOC uses meets your requirements? So let’s establish some steps for you:


Research your job and operational area:

Ensure you understand your job requirements and duties (or your daily life patterns). Make sure you completely understand where you are or intend to be.

Analyze the operational capabilities that you need your gear to perform in:

Based on your research, determine the size, weight, durability, etc. that your gear needs to be in order for you to effectively function.

Explore existing, possible, and emerging threats:

Be realistic here- surviving an airstrike from an A-10 may sound cool, but the requirements of defeating 30mm depleted uranium rounds isn’t going to be practical. Ensure that you look at threats that are currently in your area and those that may move into your area.

Establish a table of requirements based on these factors:

Once you have all this information, get it on paper (or digits). PRIORITIZE IT, it may be necessary to make decisions between specific needs if no solution exists for all of your requirements.

Select your gear appropriately:

Use the NIJ CPL as your baseline. As a rule of thumb, use NIJ IIIA for pistol and NIJ III for rifle as a MINIMUM. For threats beyond the ones listed by the NIJ- ensure that the manufacturer has a SUCCESSFUL Special Type report form an NIJ accredited laboratory, using NIJ standards.

To be clear here- while NIJ Level III OR IV does NOT certify the product to defeat a round like (X)M193- it SHOULD, in my opinion, be certified AND on the NIJ CPL to one of these levels as a baseline. I’m going to directly quote the NIJ Selection & Application Guide 0101.06 to Ballistic-Resistant Body Armor, because I think they have the best advice here:


“If you plan to purchase NIJ-compliant armor, do not accept statements, written in the bid or verbally made by a salesperson, that the model shown is “just like” or “identical to” a model from the NIJ CPL or “meets the NIJ Standard.” Request a copy of the compliance letter issued by the NIJ CTP to the supplier for that model. If the supplier or bidder cannot provide this letter, use a different supplier”.


I hope this article cleared up some things. I know that I wasn’t definitive on some of the points, but I don’t think it is appropriate to be any more definitive on them. What works for one person or agency may not work for another, and this is a very much a topic that has the potential to either prevent or cause loss of life. Take it seriously and be informed on the life support equipment that you intend to use.


Stay safe and keep your head on a swivel.




The Need for a Paradigm Shift in Law Enforcement Tactics

The Need for a Paradigm Shift in Law Enforcement Tactics


After the recent attacks on police, I wanted to write a piece on something that desperately needs to evolve in today’s Law Enforcement Agencies. I have no doubt that the overall point of the piece will be very contentious, as many Americans have great fear of the over-militarization of our Law Enforcement (a point which I will address as well). Many others may get upset due to their belief in deep ingrained dogmas that have permeated our agencies due to a lack of severe threat and complacency. Change is always hard and emotional, but loss of life is usually what drives it. Until things change domestically and globally- we are at war, and is imperative for America to get ahead of the power curve.


Who should be allowed to train on tactics?


I want to first state that it is my deep belief in the United States Constitution that drives my view that all US Citizens should have access to the same training, weapons, ammunition and equipment as Military and Law Enforcement. That’s right, I said that. You either believe in the Constitution as a starting point, or you don’t believe in the principles of our Republic. Period. For many in Local, State, Federal and Military service- this is a standpoint that causes a great deal of objection and discomfort. If you can’t trust your fellow citizens in this manner, as our founders did, then we are in serious trouble. That being said- I believe that any private business owner has the right to refuse service to anyone. This means trainers in the industry as well. Many of us take this very seriously and take steps to do due diligence on clients attending courses.


The Over-Militarization of Law Enforcement


            Honest take here- there is truth to the over militarization of Law Enforcement. However, it has nothing to do with equipment. It is purely that some agencies use tactics and techniques that are not appropriate for the situation and/or operational environment. This is due to two main factors.

First- administrators are misusing their assets by placing unrealistic operational tempo on them, combined with a shortage of manpower. If a department does a “high crime day” with their SWAT team and hands them the task of serving a dozen high risk warrants in a shift- there is no way they can employ the proper techniques and have to hit houses hard (which is stupid). Administrators need to get on board to allow their assets to conduct operations with the proper amount of force, with realistic timelines and manpower.

Second- there is an impression that just because you might put on the same gear as a commando, that you need to conduct operation as a commando. Too many movies and myths have perpetuated that the cool thing to do is blow open a door and rush into a house, even though real commando units realized that this is makes no sense over a decade ago by learning hard lessons and escorting bodies home. Many of these tactics have stayed ingrained in the LE culture due to a lack of real threat. Now, I know that statement may ruffle some feathers- but, the threat that a SWAT team generally is exposed to during a no-knock raid is nothing compared to an assault force hitting a house in a combat zone. When you develop TTP’s (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures) that only work for a lower threat, they will fall apart when faced with a higher threat. But, TTP’s that work for higher threats usually do fine in lower threat environments.

We also fall into a circular development cycle with our tactics. This is because we do not capture institutional knowledge and sometimes fail to grasp the purpose for the tactic and its application. The “Call-Out” method of addressing occupied structures and vehicles is a perfect example. Many millennial veterans believe this is a new thing, but it is really a re-discovery of the older “cordon and search/knock” operations that were heavily used during peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.


The Difference Between LE and Military Tactics


There isn’t any difference. This is the biggest misunderstanding that exists in the training industry and the Law Enforcement community. We have Tactics, period. The difference is the application of tactics and levels of force.

Let me make an example here: US Army Battle Drill 1A is the tactic a squad uses to advance on an enemy position. It consists of the lead element establishing a base and the trail moving to flank. This allows the element to focus fire on the enemy, without them being able to focus fire on you. It also aids in defeating cover, which often only works well in one direction. Sounds like way too much for a Law Enforcement unit to use in an urban setting right? Why? Because they don’t understand that the way you apply the tactic depends on the operational environment. Sure, in direct combat and in a no kidding combat zone, soldiers will lay down suppressive fire- often at known, suspected, and likely enemy positions. What about in a peacekeeping scenario, like in Kosovo (my first Army deployment) where we acted more as police than infantry? We still used the same tactics. We just lowered the application of force. If we approached a town to meet someone that wasn’t friendly with us, we still moved in with a base and a flanking element. We just didn’t point our weapons at people and had smiles on our faces. This allowed us to soften our appearance, while still staying prepared and in the proper position to deal with threats. Were we still following the tactics of Battle Drill 1A? Can this be applied to a vehicle stop or serving a warrant? Can officers still engage with citizens in a non-threatening manner, while still maintaining the ability to escalate if needed? The answer is yes to all of these questions. This isn’t a difficult concept once you separate tactics from application.

Another point is Individual Movement Techniques (IMT). The days of saying “IMT doesn’t apply to me when I stop a vehicle” are over. When you get ambushed by some BLM extremist while making a traffic stop is not the time to learn that “I’m up, he sees me, I’m down”, and high crawl/ low crawl is actually a thing that works. Just as well, you can follow IMT techniques without doing a 3-5 second rush and dropping to the prone. Once you understand basic fundamentals of the technique, you can apply it to more permissive environments by following the principles.

What I’m saying here is that the LE community and especially their administrators need to shed the “military stuff doesn’t apply to us” mentality. Take the tactics and techniques that the military has perfected over our recent almost 2 decades of constant combat operations and adapt it to your operational environment. Start separating tactics from how you apply them.


Force Posture


Let me give you a question- picture a Law Enforcement Officer pulling you over at night. When he approaches the window, you see he is wearing a ballistic helmet with NVGs, body armor, and is carrying a rifle. Does the thought of that scare or threaten you? Why? If you saw those items laying on a table by themselves, would you feel the same way? What part of the thought of this causes so many fears? I would content that pre-conceived notions is a large part. The other part is DEMEANOR. Your demeanor shouldn’t change based on what you are wearing, it changes based on the situation and the need for it to change in order to affect an outcome. This situation could be easily reversed to have the occupant of the vehicle as the one kitted out. Many LE Officers would react strongly to this sight, something that I do not believe is the correct answer either. In either situation, you could tell the officer or occupant “Nice helmet, how’s it going today?” and judge the threat based on demeanor and body language. Now- I know that some officers reading this may be throwing a bullshit flag on the field right now because they are riding solo. Just wait, I’ll address that later. What I am saying here is that we need our Law Enforcement Officers to be properly equipped to protect themselves and to deal with threats. Being well and properly equipped in stressful situations will make officers much more confident and reduce fear. It can also reduce the need to escalate a situation in the name of officer safety because they are not adequately protected.


Force Multiplication


Law Enforcement has a great opportunity to take a piece of the Special Forces playbook in the form of Internal Defense. Notwithstanding local and state laws, Law Enforcement agencies should be (and some are) heavily engaging neighborhood watch groups. Proper training for these groups, to include what their legal authority and limitations are need to be provided. There needs to also be a vetting process that will enable the ability for shared communication methods. To ensure that the groups are responsible and to instill confidence in the partnership, they should be required to obtain background checks for all members on their rolls. With proper training, these groups could provide many capabilities beyond neighborhood patrols (again, depending on local laws)- manning outer cordons, traffic management, first responder medical coverage, surveillance for warrants, etc. The more agencies engage with and enable these groups, the more they will feel a part of the process and stay invested in the security of their neighborhoods. A byproduct of an initiative like this is that the local community will become more attune to the needs of the department, something that could drive pressure on elected officials to properly fund and support them.


Medical Training


All Law Enforcement Officers need to have full TCCC training. Period, end of story. There is no excuse for departments to not have their officers trained in TCCC. Some departments do, some are still running around with tampons in their kit and think tourniquets are bad. If you carry with you the ability to take a life as your domestic profession or lifestyle, then it is incumbent on you to have the skill and ability to save it.

There should also be no such thing as a “Tac Medic”. You are either a medical professional that works in a hospital/clinic or you work in the field. If you work in the field, you should be capable of operating in the field. Now, I’m not talking about medics as shooters. But, I am talking about medics that do have the ability to defend themselves and have the knowledge to follow officers into a scene. This doesn’t mean they are clearing rooms with the first 3-4 man group that shows up on an active scene. This means they are wearing the properly gear and know how and where to creep up the casualty collection point as the officers progressively gain ground at the scene, not waiting blocks back while officers and citizens are bleeding out in the streets because the scene isn’t secure.


Warrior Mindset


Stop using this term. Seriously. It has been overused and misapplied to the extent that mentioning it to a police administrator or to a citizen elicits a negative response. It also conveys the wrong purpose. Law Enforcement Officers (and citizens) need to have an alert mindset, a situationally aware mindset. We shouldn’t be thinking of where we CAN apply force, we need to have an analytical thought process of SHOULD we apply force. It is not the default.

Situational awareness should be a lifestyle for citizens, but more so for Law Enforcement officers. Too many years of safety have allowed complacency. As an officer on foot patrol, how often are you exercising normal patrolling techniques? In addition to observing people and patterns, are you frequently identifying positions of cover? Are you progressively scanning intersections before moving into them? Are you analyzing what your actions on near or far contact will be? Why aren’t you? Other than effort, there is no downside to doing these things. You can accomplish all these tasks without anyone knowing that is what you’re doing. You are increasing your situational awareness, while decreasing the chance that someone is going to get the drop on you. Thinking about things before they happen – mentally preparing yourself, will decrease the amount of thought required to solve complex and dangerous situations when they happen and allow you to act sooner, decisively, and with sound judgement.


A Failure of Leadership


This part is going to sting some a little. Law Enforcement Administrators and City/Town councils are failing their officers. Other than the few departments doing things right, if you fall into this category- ask yourself these questions:

To the Administrator: Which day per week have I set aside for each individual officer to conduct in-service training, where it is his/her paid place of duty? Which days per month have I coordinated mutual support agreements with neighboring departments so that I can train collective tasks with my officers? Do I have a no kidding training plan for each officer and the entire department? (And I don’t mean just going to the range to qualify). In addition to this plan, do I have a matrix to track and analyze each individual officer’s competency and progress in each of their job related skills? Do I plan and conduct bi-annual interdepartmental/agency collective training scenarios (like mass casualty, active shooter, natural disaster, etc)? Do you know what each officer’s hit probability is, with each of their weapons, in a realistic scenario and variable distance?

To the City/Town Council (or funding and policy authority): Have you mandated all of the previous to your department administrators? Have you properly funded them to do so? Have you established manpower requirements adequate so that no officer is solo, that they always are able to travel with a minimum of two officers while covering their areas? Are you purchasing (as you should be) proper equipment for your officers, like body armor and rifles, or are they having to pay out of pocket? Do you mandate high proficiency levels for your officers AND FUND IT?

Many cities and counties that I have encountered would have a “NO” answer to almost every question I posed if they answered it honestly. And it is a disgrace. Our Law Enforcement Officers choose to perform a very hard, dangerous, and at times- thankless job so that citizens can life in a safe society. They need to be supported properly. You can have “community policing” initiatives and all the social welfare programs you want to promote your idea of some liberal utopia, but without law and order- you will never get there. If, as a council or mayor, you want to improve your inner cities- make them safe. If a disadvantaged child in a poor neighborhood drops out of school because it appears to them to be safer to join a gang instead of go to school, it isn’t a cry for social programs- it is a cry for help because you failed ensure a safe environment through enforcement of laws. You failed to properly fund your departments at adequate manpower levels. You failed to adequately train and equip your officers. You failed to support your officers and instill in them the confidence that you will stand behind them. You have failed your community. Fix that.


The Training Problem


One of the most daunting tasks to Law Enforcement, when it comes to implementing new training, is how to get departments trained up. Most of the issue can be solved by fixing funding, manpower levels, and in-service training like I previously stated. Even if you have an enormous metro department- an aggressive modular training plan, mutually supported by adjacent departments can accomplish the task.

To avoid staying in a constant re-training cycle, the police academies have to evolve. Critical tactics and techniques have to be trained at that level. Combat Shooting Techniques, movement under fire, Tactical Medicine, room entry, all need to be trained at the entry level. This may raise a lot of eyebrows, but it may very well be a new officer that is the first to arrive at the scene of an Active Shooter and all of those skills will immediately be needed. To clarify- “trained” does not mean you spent 2 or 3 days running around with Simmunitions and role players. I mean you spent adequate time training basic fundamentals in each category with LIVE ROUNDS. Simms and UTM are great tools for training collective tasks and contingencies once fundamentals are properly trained, but it DOES NOT train you to employ tactics with live rounds- only using live rounds does that. If the first time you perform CQB with live ammunition is arriving on the scene of an active shooter, then I’m sorry- your training pipeline needs to be fixed. I have heard the excuse that there isn’t enough time in the academy and there are many other tasks that must be trained. That is an invalid excuse. The timeline doesn’t dictate the tasks and standards. The standards and tasks dictate the timeline. If you disagree, maybe you need to factor in the time required to train replacements for dead or incapacitated officers into your mental calculus. Or maybe just move on to a career field where your way of thinking won’t endanger yourself, fellow officers, and the citizens of this country.

Another issue with training in some (not all) departments are training associations. Training associations and programs like we have in Texas in the form of TCOLE and TTPOA are a great thing. The problem comes in where department completely abdicate their responsibility to monitor their officer’s training to them. What do I mean here? Some departments level of concern as to how much training their officers get is if they got their 40hrs this year. But what does that 40hrs mean? Do the tasks trained in those 40hrs match your end state for that individual officer’s progression? Some can’t answer this because they aren’t tracking each officer’s proficiency level in critical skills and planning a training roadmap for the officer. If during an administrator’s regular skill checks they have determined and officer to need more training in medical, then that officer should be directed to prioritize their training association training as such. Then after the training has concluded, the skills should be re-checked to confirm retention and progression. Is this time intensive? Yes. Is it extra effort? Sure. Is it your duty? Absolutely.




I know this piece has been very general and critical. I am not saying that all LE departments are bad, nor are there officers. But, I hear form way too many officers that are fighting an uphill battle in their departments. Most officers want to get ahead of emerging threats, especially with the recent and constant attacks against them. Many are scared, their loved ones are terrified to see them put on their uniform and walk out the door every day. As administrators, you must enable them. As town/city councils, you must fund them. And as United States Citizens, you must support them.


EMS Body Armor

Yesterday’s article I wrote about body armor has sparked a lot of questions and conversation. I have been receiving constant Facebook messages and emails about it. It is obvious that there is a great amount of fear and concern with our Law Enforcement Agencies right now, and they are not being supported and equipped properly by those who are in charge of them and especially the City Councils. But one topic that came up really got my blood boiling. Although it lined up with a planned article on LE tactics, it is weighing on me this morning and I feel it merits its own post. Should EMS be wearing Body Armor?


Emerging Threats

            The simple answer is yes. We are at war right now and people need to wrap their heads around that. While Congress makes an official declaration of war, we do not get to choose whether we are at war. The ENEMY does, period. Both Radical Islam and Radical Socialists groups have declared war on America. Everyone is a valid target in their eyes. Departments and Agencies need to get proactive on their posture and tactics fast. City Councils need to shift funding to support their first responders or they won’t have a society that can use the social welfare they are funding. Believe it or not, the Dallas City council STILL has not funded a fence and barrier for their parking lot after last year’s attack and has not funded body armor for their officers. That’s right, people who are targets for attacks while making a teacher’s salary have to pay for their own body armor and rifles. I have had conversations with officers whose wives are begging them to transfer to a rural area because they aren’t being supported. It is absolutely sickening. What does this have to do with EMS? Beyond the fact that they respond, often alone, to very dangerous scenes on a daily basis- it is only a matter of time before we encounter secondary ambushes against first responders. We are already seeing baited ambushes against officers. And yes, I know the difference between a tactical medic and regular EMS. If that came to your mind, you are part of the problem. If you think you have enough tactical medics to cover a coordinated attack in a metro area in multiple geographic locations, you’re kidding yourself. If you are an administrator that thinks EMS in body armor “makes you a target”, retire- you are not fit to be in a position to manage first responders in our current threat environment and you are placing those in your charge in danger. /Rant over.


Stab Resistance Vs Ballistic Protection

One of the big concerns that EMS has is protection from edged weapons while responding to a scene or treating patients. I previously wrote that when you try to make one piece of equipment do everything- it does nothing well. This is one of those cases. The NIJ testing protocol for stab resistance is separate from the ballistic testing. In order to protect against the force of an adult male’s stab, you need a NIJ SP3 level vest. These are commonly specialized vests that are designed for corrections officers conducting cell extractions. While there are stab resistant inserts for vests, they can often restrict movement much more than ballistic plates because they wrap around the sides of the body. Medical personnel have a constant need for torso mobility while working on a patient, because they are often reaching around the patient and their trauma bag. There are slash resistant shirts and pants that you can wear to mitigate glancing blows, but it is not going to be a 100% solution.

Tactics as Protection

I would submit that tactics will be your best protection. Have a partner that isn’t “patient focused” that can monitor for external threats. Approach the subject and position yourself to control the patient’s hands with your legs (BJJ is a great training solution here). Move into a dual purpose secondary survey as soon as possible, don’t just feel for blood and injury- check for weapons and threats. Do it out of habit even when it isn’t necessary, for the one instance where it matters. Weigh the security of the scene Vs the need to stabilize before moving. This can be a tough one, but consider the threat to yourself and to the patient if you continue packaging the patient on the scene- moving the patient off the “x” may do more to save them and yourself.


Bottom Line

My current advice to EMS is this: wear a Level IIIA ballistic rated and Level 1 or 2 stab resistance rated vest daily. Have an EMS specific plate carrier, like the one pictured in this article, in your vehicle along with a ballistic helmet. These do not need to be Multicam or whatever. A blue or red vest will raise less of an eyebrow with the standard idiot that thinks you don’t need them. You don’t need to throw it on for every call. A grandmother who has fallen or a heart attack in the suburbs are examples of this (maybe). But anytime you respond to a weapons related call, put it on. Mark my words, secondary ambushes on first responders IS coming and someone is going to be the first victim. If it is you- be prepared.





(Yet. Read this first. Then buy it, right away).


With the recent terror attacks on civilians and police in America, there is a rush on a piece of equipment that you should have owned to begin with- Body Armor. In the recent days, I have been flooded with people contacting me asking for guidance. Here it is:


Where to start?

I will always tell people that they need to establish the operational need first. This goes for anyone, no matter if you are a Civilian, Law Enforcement Officer, or Military. Make sure you fully analyze the piece of equipment’s possible uses, the environment it will be used in, and the capabilities it will need. Be realistic with that last one- we have the tendency to want one piece of gear to do everything under the sun. If a gear does everything, it probably doesn’t do individual things really well. We need to balance our capabilities between being too specialized or too generalized.

Start Comparing Carriers

Now that we have an initial set of requirements, it is time to start looking around. Start with reputable manufacturers that the professionals use. Crye, LBT, Eagle, etc should be your first stop. The items that these companies make will be more expensive, but they will last and they will be comfortable. The Crye JPC is usually what I steer guys to. While it isn’t a “Cadillac” vest it is very inexpensive, light, and durable. Be careful about a “cheap deal” from a company that doesn’t sell to SOF or major Agencies- you’ll probably get what you pay for.


Protection vs Mobility

Less is more here guys. I see waaaay too many Law Enforcement Officers wearing vests that are enormous. The point of a ballistic vest is not to be able to wear your cover, it is to give you a chance to survive first contact and GET to cover. When you do get to that cover, you actually need to be able to get behind it. As in the prone. If you can’t do that easily, you’re wearing too much. You should be able to climb over a wall, through a vehicle passenger compartment, or vehicle window without turning it into and epic drama. Forget your admin pouches, massive dump bags, deltoid and throat protectors, etc. Get minimalistic, carry the essentials. Every ounce you carry, is an ounce that will be dragging you down when you have to sprint to that next piece of cover under fire.


Hard Armor Plates

The first thing we need to understand is NIJ Threat Level. Many people don’t understand this. I’ve run into people who thought level IIIA was better than level III. Your base level should be NIJ Level III certification; this will protect you from rifle threats up to 7.62/.308 FMJ. Level IV adds 7.62/.308 Armor Piercing, but adds a bit of weight and cost. You should weight this against your established capability needs carefully when selecting level III or IV. Now you need to find a manufacturer for the plates. Ensure that any manufacturer you consider is listed on the NIJ website as compliant with the testing protocol. YouTube videos that show them doing their own “NIJ” testing don’t count- if they aren’t on the list- DO NOT BUY FROM THEM. Then, this is a game of simple comparison. Within your selected threat level, it is purely $$$ vs Pounds.  You can currently get 4lb level IV stand-alone plates, but expect to pay a boatload.


AR500 vs Ceramic

This is often a contentious subject. Each has its disadvantages and advantages. One thing I’m going to throw at you for consideration it the durability. Ceramic body armor must be periodically x-ray inspected for cracks. I have yet to find any lab that offers this service to civilian or LE departments (if you do know of one, let me know). Many people think this isn’t a big deal, but there is a reason the Army does this annually (we did it more frequently in SOF). Ceramics will offer higher protection at a lower weight, but you need to be aware of this consideration. I’m not saying don’t buy it. I’m saying, that if it is going to live 90% of its life in the trunk of your patrol cruiser during Texas summers, take care how you stow it. Make sure it is secured and stored properly. Take the plates out regularly and inspect them for soft spots or ridges. If you don’t have the ability to keep your body armor somewhat protected from becoming a trunk projectile, you may consider AR500 steel plates with a good anti-spall build up.



Right now, there is a huge run on demand with all manufacturers. The advice I give to LE is this: don’t wait 6 months to get a Crye JPC and NIJ Level IV stand-alone plates. If all you can get right now is some piece of crap Condor vest and steel plates- then GET it. When your preferred gear arrives, then rotate out or sell the less preferred gear. Which brings me to my next point- don’t buy used life support equipment. Parachutes, dive gear, climbing ropes, body armor, etc. (you get the idea).

Also, get a helmet. Follow the same process as above. You should have these, seriously. I’m not at all sympathetic to any LE Officer who says “it is too heavy to wear everyday on my shifts”. I did it, just like every other soldier, in combat zones daily. Suck it up and wear it. It is quite obvious that the threat is there.



Operator Fundamentals Part 1

Equipment Selection


“You don’t need a $2,500 rifle, you need a $700 rifle and $1,800 in training”. This is a popular quote or meme that has been floating around the internet for some time and while there is truth in it, it is also misleading.

I always recommend to clients, that they get the best possible rifle and optics- if they are serious about training. Why? Because of fundamentals training. A $700 rifle will be “good enough” for your standard “tactical” course that requires 1,000 rounds and SWAT rolls around vehicles, but if you really want to make gains in your fundamentals- “good enough” won’t cut it. Let me break this down a bit. Actual Operators don’t become great combat shooters because they spend one range session zeroing, call it “good enough”, and then hop right into burying themselves in brass at 25yds. They do it on a flat range. In the prone supported, prone unsupported, seated, kneeling and standing- at 100, 200, 300 and even 400 meters. We do it by grouping over and over again. By evaluating our shot groups and looking for errors, then confirming them by shooting again and correcting them. By building a firm grasp of how sight picture affects our marksmanship. By becoming intimate with fundamentals and ingraining them into our subconscious. This process takes weeks of constant repetition, every day and thousands of rounds. By the end of a standard range day, your eyes hurt, you have difficulty focusing, and you are mentally exhausted. How does this relate to equipment?

Poor equipment complicates and frustrates the learning process. Let’s unpack that and relate it to the previous paragraph. They key task of marksmanship fundamentals training is shot group analysis, building up to self-diagnosis. What happens on paper is a direct result of something that happened at the shooter. You fired while breathing, your natural point of aim was off, you had inconsistent sight placement, etc. These are all non-deterministic shooting errors. These are errors that cannot be accurately predicted or measured before shooting. We must go through a troubleshooting process to track down what caused them by analyzing our shot group or having self-awareness through reading our sights during the firing process. This task in and of itself can be extremely frustrating to shooters, because many will focus on one thing to correct a problem and forget about others, which then cause a separate error. This is where good equipment comes in.

First, Barrels and Ammo. The performance of your rifle and ammunition determines the base size and consistency of your shot group. If we are shooting a rifle with a barrel that is not capable of a level of precision, then we will have more inconsistency and a wider spread in our shot group. When we combine that with standard ammunition, like XM193 (because match grade ammo can easily outprice a match barrel with a day’s training), we add more inconsistency to our groups. If we run a cheaper, non-free floated barrel we can create shooting error when we impart force on the handgrips through grip pressure or sling tension.

Next Optics. One of the most difficult tasks in marksmanship is seeing the target. If you have an optic that has glass with a tint in it, it may make seeing the target center in variable lighting conditions difficult. If your optic has irregular parallax movement, it will cause you to group differently each time you change head positions. If you have a large MOA dot (more than 1 moa)- maintaining a consistent and precise point of aim on the target will be difficult, especially at distance. Shot placement error can be difficult for an instructor to diagnose, because the only one that can truly confirm it is the person that was looking through the optic at the time the weapon was fired. Of course the instructor can hypothesize that it is the cause with a level of confidence, through process of elimination- but this isn’t ideal.

Finally, the trigger. In order to fire the weapon, there is a part of the weapon that we must actually move. In order to do that, we must impart force on the weapon. Some stock triggers have trigger weights that actually exceed the weight of the weapon. The more force we impart on the weapon and the more we have to move the part, the more chance we have to move the weapon during the firing process and create error. This is where having a good quality, single stage match trigger helps. This keeps the distance of trigger travel and force required to a minimum.

When we take all of these equipment factors into account it equals a magnification of error. If we have a barrel that is only capable of 2 MOA groups, ammo that is only capable of 2 MOA, and a 2 MOA dot, that does not equal 2 MOA accuracy, it can mean 6 MOA accuracy at its worst and that isn’t even accounting for your fundamentals errors when your 5 MOA meat grippers touch the rifle. Using the most precise equipment possible, for your application, will de-complicate the shot group feedback process and allow the shooter to focus on their fundamentals training with greater confidence and faster progression.

To close this article, I do want to make sure that everyone understands that I am not saying to stay off the range or out of courses if all you can afford is a cheap rifle and optics. The country would be a better place if everyone is armed and trained, and not everyone has the budget for high end equipment. What I am saying is that with good equipment, your training sessions will be much more productive and you will get more for your money out of a training course than you will with marginal equipment. But, if all you can afford is a $700 rifle, $150 optics and Tula ammo- then get out there and train with it. But, understand that and accept the level of precision you have and don’t allow it to frustrate you when you are trying to correct your error.