Body armor controversy returns

posted at 12:55 pm on January 4, 2008 by Bryan

This thing is the undead of controversies: No matter how many times you kill it (with facts), it just keeps coming back. Michael Yon’s latest addresses the issue, and I agree with him on this entirely.

Pinnacle contacted me in late 2005 to offer a discounted set of Dragon Skin body armor. After buying it for about $4,000, I tried it on, tried to work with it, and quickly concluded that I had just wasted $4,000. Dragon Skin is heavier and difficult to wear. In fact, without wasting time on details here, bottom line is that I believe the wearability issues with Dragon Skin could prove lethal to many soldiers. I went back to my old Interceptor body armor, the same that many of our soldiers wear and have used the Interceptor for the better part of another year in the war.

While everyone waits for another round of tests, I’ll sell my Dragon Skin to the highest bidder.

NBC bears a huge part of the blame for keeping this manufacturer’s controversy alive: Their awful, slanted and dishonest reporting generated enough buzz to keep it viable for Pinnacle and the Democrats to hammer the Army with. But as Michael Yon notes, the Army itself wears the armor in combat, and many of the Army’s top officers’ own children are also in the military and in Iraq and they’re therefore also wearing Interceptor in combat. If there really was a problem with Interceptor, or if Dragon Skin really was superior, the Army would adopt it. But they haven’t. It comes down to trade-offs, and Dragon Skin loses to Interceptor for a variety of reasons, from weight to operational flexibility to price to real-world stopping power. But the bottom line is, Dragon Skin failed the tests and Interceptor passed them.

Tangential to that, I first became interested in the issue not because some Army brass reached out to me, but because an officer who was stationed in Baghdad was fed up with having to answer for NBC’s and Stars & Stripes bad reporting and the panic that it was causing among military families. I met that officer when I was in Baghdad myself, and had and still have every reason to trust him when he addresses this issue as well as all other issues related to the war. His name is Lt Col Steve Miska and he’s a straight shooter in the literal and figurative senses. He has been in combat multiple times and knew of comrades whose lives had been saved by Interceptor. NBC ought to, but won’t, interview people like him about Dragon Skin and this whole issue. I’ll pass them his email address if they’re interested, but I already know that they’re not. They’re invested in their emotional terrorism against US military families. Fox ought to challenge NBC’s reporting on this directly and expose it for the fraud that it is. Here’s hoping that they finally will. They have both Michael Yon’s and my email addresses.


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And Huckabee won Iowa! Do you see a trend toward abject stupidity, fueled in great part by the drive by media, growing in this country?

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 4, 2008 at 1:02 PM

Yeah but Dragon Skin sounds cooler doesn’t it?

BL@KBIRD on January 4, 2008 at 1:03 PM

This thing is the undead of controversies

Personally, I’d award that honor to the Natalie Holloway story but this one comes close.

They’re invested in their emotional terrorism against US military families. Fox ought to challenge NBC’s reporting on this directly and expose it for the fraud that it is. Here’s hoping that they finally will.

Here’s hoping! It’s really pretty sad that “respected” media has been so overt in their agenda to see America fail. Our troops deserve better from the so-called journalists and reporters.

highhopes on January 4, 2008 at 1:03 PM

There’s also a Discovery Channel special called “Future Weapons” that trumpets the praise for this as well.

But then, Discovery is owned by NBC.

Here’s their test, Part 1, and then Part 2.

They make it look perfect.

Mazztek on January 4, 2008 at 1:05 PM

Mazztek on January 4, 2008 at 1:05 PM

That’s right, and I addressed their “tests” in an earlier post. They let Pinnacle control the whole thing and then ballyhooed the result. Mail Call did the same stupid thing. And both of those shows are targeted at military members and family. It’s disgraceful.

Bryan on January 4, 2008 at 1:07 PM

Oh, and Here’s Lee Ermey’s take from Mail Call.

The History Channel is also owned by NBC.

Mazztek on January 4, 2008 at 1:07 PM

Bryan, great minds sometimes think alike, and simultaneously.

Mazztek on January 4, 2008 at 1:10 PM

As tired as I am of the controversy, I am glad that it keeps coming up for the simple fact that the Dragon Skin guys have to keep bringing it up…because they never get their way. We’ve had too much useless crap foisted off on us because somebody pitched a fit or somebody had a pet project they wanted to keep alive regardless of the utility of the item in question. This time we’re doing it the right way and standing up to the temper tantrums.

As for the ‘emotional terrorism’ aspect, that’s right on…I view these periodic flareups of NBC’s with the same eye as I give to al Qaeda’s occasional video missives.

James on January 4, 2008 at 1:14 PM

Now if a reporter thinks it’s “difficult to wear” just think about someone tried to use their body properly would think.

- The Cat

MirCat on January 4, 2008 at 1:16 PM

James on January 4, 2008 at 1:14 PM

And they haven’t tried to improve or fix the design, either.

Mazztek on January 4, 2008 at 1:17 PM

Being retired Navy meself… I have seen the military do some pretty stupid things on the equipment front…

I mean… explain to me why we’re still using M-16s/M-4s when they seriously lack stopping power?

Why the 9 mmm over the 45? When they could have easily looked at the US market and updated the 45?

Gotta agree with em on the dragon armor though… even a stopped clock is right twice a day….

Romeo13 on January 4, 2008 at 1:19 PM

Romeo13 on January 4, 2008 at 1:19 PM

Former Air Force myself, so I’d be the last person to argue that the military is always right. They get a lot of things wrong and in fact they still owe me a paycheck that I’ll never ever see, due to a paperwork snafu. But they’re right on this.

Bryan on January 4, 2008 at 1:24 PM

Bryan and Romeo 13, USMC-R SSgt here.

As for the 1911, they did an improvement on it, the 1991. Excelent updating.

As for the 9mm and the M16, it’s the ammo. Underpowered NATO rounds that didn’t even penetrate the old style FLAK jackets. Here’s one good look at our ammo. I remeber some other talks about this, we aren’t allowed to use more powerful ammo due to some UN and NATO accord. (WTF??!??)

It seems that we are just being set up to fail.

Mazztek on January 4, 2008 at 1:40 PM

As for the 1911, they did an improvement on it, the 1991. Excelent updating.

7+1 rounds and still heavy as a brick is updating?

TexasDan on January 4, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Texas Dan — Not so. Very well balanced, fits well in your hand.

I get why they went with the M9. 15 rounds.

Personally, I think they should get rid of both and go with something in .40 cal. Better performing.

Mazztek on January 4, 2008 at 1:50 PM

This thing is the undead of controversies: No matter how many times you kill it (with facts), it just keeps coming back.

It was dead at Hotair until 12:55 pm January 4, 2008. Michael Yon’s article references an article about delaying tests due to industry requests. That article links to an article from July 27, 2007. Which Yon quotes. Pinnacle has not released any new accusations. Where is the controversy?

Theworldisnotenough on January 4, 2008 at 1:51 PM

TexasDan on January 4, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Personal preference… but since I can actualy shoot…

I’d rather have 8 bullets than can stop a target cold, than 16 bullets that won’t.

And with my personal 45 (Sig P220, compensated with Tritium Sights, and a reworked trigger pull), I am more accurate than with a stock 9mm.

Hit someone in the ARM with a 45 and they’ll usually go down from hydrostatic shock…. can’t do that with a 9….

Romeo13 on January 4, 2008 at 2:03 PM

Wounded soldiers suck up more enemy resources than dead ones do. That’s why we have the ammunition we do.

James on January 4, 2008 at 2:07 PM

Just because I’m a geek, I have to point out that the Army should go to a sabot-style handgun round. Unfortunately the 9mm is a poor platform for that, but they have a kajillion M9′s now, so it’s hard to do anything else.

The FN 5.7 is a light, armor-piercing platform. If the Army went with a .45 or 10mm platform (either 10mm or 40 cal), they could use something like the .224 Bozz (on the 10mm platform) that has performance not too far away from the .223 rifle round. It’s not common, but it is in use.

I think a lot of troops would like to have the Mk. 14 or something similar become standard issue, but that.308 ammo is genuinely heavy (and so’s the Mk. 14). It’s a whole different mindset to conserve ammunition or fight primarily on single-fire.

The AR- / M-16 platform was designed for a different kind of battle than we’re fighting today. It’s adequate, but adequate ain’t great. I love the platform, it’s just not what I’d want to counter the enemy we’re facing now.

As to the armor, troops generally value lightness and mobility, and are mostly ignored. We can only hope that sci-fi powered armor arrives soon.

Merovign on January 4, 2008 at 2:08 PM

As for the 1911, they did an improvement on it, the 1991. Excelent updating.

As for the 9mm and the M16, it’s the ammo. Underpowered NATO rounds that didn’t even penetrate the old style FLAK jackets. Here’s one good look at our ammo. I remeber some other talks about this, we aren’t allowed to use more powerful ammo due to some UN and NATO accord. (WTF??!??)

You’re kidding, right?

The 1991 is the 1911, with no major modifications. It carries all the pluses of the original, but all the age (and faults) of a design almost 100 years old. It is single action only, has a low magazine capacity, and weighs a ton… and I speak as a 1911 shooter that happens to like my pistol very much.

I like the .45 ACP cartridge, but there are many fine handguns that are chambered in that caliber (or perhaps better calibers) that are far superior in most respects, with better ergonomics, higher capacity magazines, and at a lighter weight and less manufacturing cost.

As for the 5.56 NATO rounds stopping power issues, it is a combination of both weapon and cartridge that are the problem. The cartridge was developed for optimal use in the 20″ tube, and suffers from lack of velocity regardless of bullet weight or design because of the popularity of the short 14.5″ barrel of the M4. Even with a full 20″ tube and the “better” 77-grain bullets, you’re still lacking stopping power compared to more recent cartridge designs (and some older designs).

If I had a hand at pushing for next-generation features, I’d suggest the Army abandon the 5.56 (yes that will make NATO upset, so what?) in favor of something in the line of the the .250-.280 class with 90-140-grain bullets–probably not too different that the 6.5 Grendal. I’d push for a bullpup weapons design with a 18″-20″ barrel, and a far more reliable gas piston operating system.

The Brits weren’t too far off the mark conceptually 60 years ago with the EM-2 even if the design was far from perfect.

I guess my point is that it isn’t just the bullet or cartridge that needs updating.

Bob Owens on January 4, 2008 at 2:16 PM

Good post, Bryan! You’re very perceptive on this issue.

I was present for the second round of testing on this gear at Camp Lejeune, NC. I didn’t see the ballistics tests, but a group of Marines ran an infiltration course wearing the armor, and the feedback was universally negative.
The armor has two side flaps which are designed to be “quick-realease”, meaning it can be ripped off quickly in the event that a Marine needs medical treatment. These flaps make it virtually impossible to tighten the flak jacket to your body. As the Marines low-crawled through a good portion of the course, the jackets hung down in front of them and filled with dirt. They also frequenty caught on the barbed wire.

In the end, the Marines chose not to sacrifice mobility.

joewm315 on January 4, 2008 at 2:22 PM

James on January 4, 2008 at 2:07 PM

Only if you are fighting a Western Civilized enemy, who puts a great weight on human suffering.

Japan, with their suicide charges.
N. Korea with mass waves.
Iran vs Iraq with their mass charges…
Even Russia in WWII with many of their attacks… (they didn’t stop for casulties).

Not to mention, Islamic ideas which lead to “martydom”…

Make that a totaly false arguement (although one often heard).

Romeo13 on January 4, 2008 at 2:25 PM

I’d rather have 8 bullets than can stop a target cold, than 16 bullets that won’t.

And with my personal 45 (Sig P220, compensated with Tritium Sights, and a reworked trigger pull), I am more accurate than with a stock 9mm.

Hit someone in the ARM with a 45 and they’ll usually go down from hydrostatic shock…. can’t do that with a 9….

Romeo13 on January 4, 2008 at 2:03 PM

I couldn’t agree more. I love my Sig P220, she’s always at my side!

SAM 1X on January 4, 2008 at 2:33 PM

Romeo13 on January 4, 2008 at 2:25 PM

I didn’t say the reason why was appropriate or applied in any conflict…I merely said that was the reason why.

James on January 4, 2008 at 2:35 PM

The vest that provides mobility, comfort and protection is the one issued. Democrats scream we went to war unprepared, we need armored Humvees and more body armor. Yet they are the ones responsible, paying for abortions and other social programs by decimating military spending. Just another dirty political ploy using our troops for party gain. If the democrats really supported our troops they would increase military spending.

infidel on January 4, 2008 at 3:01 PM

Pinnacle is actually suing the DoJ for yanking their NIJ rating. I had emailed that in Brian, I figured you would’ve got it.

Here…

Bryan, how about Hot Air buys Michael Yon’s old armor and conduct your own independent tests? I would if I had the scratch.

liquidflorian on January 4, 2008 at 3:01 PM

Part of it is that the idea of Dragon Skin is good – it’s just that they currently have a sub-optimal implementation.

If they’d make a version where the disks don’t fall off at typical desert heat levels, that could actually be fitted to the soliders, and that was light enough to wear for more than 10 minutes then I’d be all for it.

But the current heavy, loose, rapidly deteriorating version — not so much.

KCSteve on January 4, 2008 at 3:06 PM

I get why they went with the M9. 15 rounds.

Mazztek on January 4, 2008 at 1:50 PM

Not entirely true, the main reason why they went to the M9 was because it was female friendly when it came to recoil.

ViperPilot on January 4, 2008 at 3:19 PM

I believe there are several contributing factors in favor of the 9mm
1. Weight
2. Recoil
3. Space
4. Logistics related to compatibility with metric allies.
Maybe more.

infidel on January 4, 2008 at 3:24 PM

If the armor weighs more, then something else will have to go by the wayside. And 15 pounds is alot of something else.

Canadian Imperialist Running Dog on January 4, 2008 at 3:46 PM

I guess this is a danger of posting on conservative blogs. You never know when the 9mm vs. .45 debate is going to rear it ugly head. Its like the Spanish inquisition, no one expects it.

liquidflorian on January 4, 2008 at 3:47 PM

liquidflorian on January 4, 2008 at 3:47 PM

LOL…. yep..

and Pirates ARE Way cooler than Ninjas!

Romeo13 on January 4, 2008 at 4:27 PM

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition? Is this Monty Python time?

Have to agree with KCSteve’s opinion. Dragon Skin is a great idea with a lousy implementation.

Snidely Whiplash on January 4, 2008 at 4:41 PM

Why the 9 mmm over the 45?

Let’s not open up that can of worms. The 9mm vs 45 debate makes conservatives and liberals seem like bosom buddies.

flenser on January 4, 2008 at 6:16 PM

the main reason why they went to the M9 was because it was female friendly when it came to recoil.

I’ve never noticed any difference between an M9 and a 1911 when it comes to recoil. Both are pretty mild.

In fact, the M9 was panned because its reach to the trigger was harder for those with small hands than the 1911.

flenser on January 4, 2008 at 6:20 PM

So, Pinnacle, with the help of corrupt NBC, is trying to shove Dragon Skin down the throats of our military. And now corrupt democraps are in control of the appropriations process. And we all know how persistent corrupt democraps are. Good luck to our military.

PS- I love my Browning Hi-Powers but I carry my HK mk23 .45

Zorro on January 4, 2008 at 9:14 PM