By Andrew Betts
It could be the recent growth in interest in “prepper” shows or it could be the more general trend toward self-reliance and a DIY attitude, but for some reason making homemade body armor has become a popular thing to do. It may sound sketchy, like a homemade parachute or homemade aqualung, but one guy is taking a somewhat unique approach to the task.
Rather than simply slapping some tiles together to see what happens, The Chopping Block channel is taking a systematic approach to developing a dependable and repeatable design. The goal is to use experimentation and specific metrics to create a design that anyone can build, regardless of skill level. The other unique facet of his open source armor project is his insistence on leveraging the ingenuity of the community as a whole.
But why would someone want to build a homemade plate of dubious quality when quality professionally built body armor is readily available and affordable? While armor is available in most US states, it is not legal for civilians to purchase everywhere and it is always possible that future legislation could restrict the purchase of body armor. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to regulate body armor at the federal level over the last decade. It is also worth noting that while an entry level plate may not exactly require a second mortgage, the $65 price tag is more than the $10-$20 that some of these home built projects cost. Is your life worth more than $65? Of course it is, but when you add the cost of a carrier, it can start getting far more expensive to outfit a family of four with Level III plates, especially if you wanted to keep a set in more than one vehicle. The point is not that a homemade solution is better than a professionally made plate, but that the homemade solution is better than having nothing at all due to cost or legal hurdles. If you have the ability to purchase quality, professionally built armor, you should do so. It still might be handy to know how to build a field expedient rifle plate from a few dollars of home improvement supplies. Aside from any practical application, though, projects like these are fun and fascinating. The project has some interesting challenges to overcome and it will be exciting to see how they address them.