In a perfect world, armor would stop every bullet and weigh nothing. In today’s world, the soft body armor that stops bullets is heavy, bulky, and uncomfortable for the officer who needs to wear it every day. Armor saves lives, but it also adds the burden of weight and extra profile to SWAT, tactical and military officers that are already doing one of the most physically demanding jobs in the world.
This is all about to change. Hardwire Armor Systems, a designer and manufacturer of armor and protective systems, has developed a new soft body armor that is so light, so thin, it floats. “The key is in shockwave physics,” says George Tunis, Chairman and CEO of Hardwire.
“As a bullet impacts armor, the key is to spread the impact energy out laterally as quickly as possible. This means you are left with a bruise and not a hole.”
“The faster that energy can travel in the armor material,” says Tunis, “the faster the shock can be spread over a large area, and the faster the bullet can be flattened and stopped. The Hardwire armor dissipates the bullet’s energy faster and more efficiently than other armor, meaning less material is needed, and the armor can weigh less.”
The Hardwire Advantage Is In The Process
The reason Hardwire’s armor is different from other soft armor is the manufacturing process. At Hardwire’s head office in Pokomoke City, Maryland, the manufacturer utilizes massive, five-story tall machines to press together individual layers of Dyneema® fibres under 25 million pounds of force at precise temperatures, to turn the multiple layers of material into a single system.
“Fibers are strongest when they all act as one, when they all act together,” says Tunis, “and the key to that is pressure.” While other manufacturers take individual layers of material and sew or place them together, Hardwire uses extremely high pressure to build a micro mechanical structure within the armor. The results are millions of fibers that once acted independently, now act as one.
After the rigid body armor plate is created, it undergoes a softening process. “It’s similar to leather when you dry a hide,” says Tunis. “Once it goes through the softening process, it stays soft.” By applying the most advanced techniques of making military hard armor to manufacturing soft armor, Hardwire has created the undisputed thinnest and lightest Level IIIA body armor on the market.
A Partnership Dedicated To Saving Lives
Safariland is now partnering with Hardwire to be the exclusive distributor of their soft armor ballistic panels for law enforcement in North America and Australia. The Hardwire panels will be offered in two weights, with an areal density of 0.69 lbs/ft² and 0.74 lbs/ft² respectively, and are NIJ 0101.06 Level IIIA compliant. Since the ballistic panels can be shaped to any contour and pattern, the armor will be available for all of Safariland’s current and new carriers.
What does this mean for the law enforcement officer who wears it? “The words we hear on the live demonstrations is, ‘It shoots like no other,’” says Tunis. When a bullet encounters the Hardwire ballistic panel, it stops sooner in the package and farther away from the body. “In doing that you buy time, to spread the energy more effectively, over a wider area. It stops better, because it stops it differently, that’s the most important thing.”
The Value Of Weight
Why does weight matter so much? When you’re an athlete, every ounce you carry makes a difference. Officer and soldier athletes are no different from any other type of athlete, and the weight of the gear they wear and carry affects performance. “As a police officer athlete or a warrior athlete these guys have to wear it not just for a game but for hours on end,” says Tunis. “They cover most of their body with it, especially for SWAT officers, tactical officers, and soldier athletes. Every ounce matters. It matters to their physical performance, their comfort and their ability to carry additional weight, whether it’s water, batteries, ammunition, and other tools of the trade.”
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the ballistic panel is its positive buoyancy. With a density that is lower than water, the panels are light enough to float. “It’s the only armor in the world that’s less dense that water,” says Tunis. For those officers and military that have a high probability they will find themselves in water, it’s critical the armor doesn’t drag them down.
Hardwire is not only redefining lightweight soft ballistic armor, they’re reinventing it. “This has set a new standard in shock dissipation physics, momentum transfer efficiency, and ballistic processes,” says Tunis. The science translates into an evolutionary moment, making Hardwire’s soft ballistics armor the lightest, thinnest armor in the world, and ultimately, more comfortable for the user—the officer that has to wear it every day.
For more information about the revolution in ballistic panel technology from Safariland® Armor and Hardwire Armor Systems click here.