A Light and Laser Combo For (Almost) Any Gun

The new Crimson Trace CMR-204 (green) light and laser combo.

The new Crimson Trace CMR-204 (green) light and laser combo.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a couple of “problem” guns in my safe at the moment.

Actually, the only “problem” is that they don’t lend themselves to integrated Lasergrip or trigger guard installations. My examples are the Beretta PX4 Storm and the FNS-40. Both are excellent guns and I really like them. The “problem” is putting integrated lasers and lights on them. Right now, I’ve got a Crimson Trace Rail Master light on the Beretta PX4 Storm and the FNS-40 sits naked and unlit.

Fortunately, Crimson Trace just announced a solution. While I’ve heard rumblings about the Crimson Trace CMR-204 and CMR-205 Rail Master Pros for a while, I had not yet seen a formal release. As part of the SHOT Show 2014 product announcement deluge, they’re here.

Both units are rail mounted units that contain both tactical light and laser. The difference between the CMR-204 and CMR-205 models are the color of laser light. The CMR-204 is green while the CMR-205 is red. Both models allow you to set the operating mode to laser and light, laser only, light only or strobe light and laser. Both units also feature a 100 lumen light – like the Crimson Trace Lightguard and operate for about 4 hours in a single CR2 battery.

An aluminum body provides strength and water resistance to one meter, so no worries about rain. Remember, if it ain’t raining’ you ain’t trainin’ right?

More to follow when I get my hands on one of these…

Quiet Recoil Reduction From Silencerco

And the deluge of announcements for SHOT Show 2014 begins…

Both the Silencerco Harvester and Harvester Big Bore (shown here) have a nifty and quite cool looking integrated muzzle brake.

Both the Silencerco Harvester and Harvester Big Bore (shown here) have a nifty and quite cool looking integrated muzzle brake.

From one of the most innovative companies out there comes two new silencers optimized for hunting applications. That baffle-ey thing on the front? That’s an integrated muzzle brake to help control felt recoil. The Silencerco Harvester and Harvester Big Bore will be available starting in February.

Of course, the BATFE will do everything in their power to delay you taking possession for some unreasonable amount of time. Word on the street is that Class III Trust electronic tax stamp applications are getting turned around in a couple of months, so look into that. We’ll be doing an article on Gun Trusts in the near future.

The Harvester is a .30 caliber bore with a thread mount for numerous barrel sizes using a modular thread adapter. The silencer is 8.8 inches long, but weights in at only 11 ounces. That’s light. It’ll knock 21.1 to 33.6 dB off the muzzle blast sound depending on which specific caliber you’re using.

The Harvester Big Bore features a .338 caliber bore, but more importantly adds mounting options beyond a simple thread mount. As a result, it’s heavier, weighing in at about 22 ounces. It’s also a bit longer – 10 inches total.

I’m looking forward to (hopefully) shooting these at SHOT Show Media Day next week. More on that soon…

Guns ‘n Guts: Galco Underwraps Belly Band Holster

The Galco Underwraps Belly Band holster is all about options. Which is why we use it a lot.

The Galco Underwraps Belly Band holster is loaded with pockets to carry guns, magazines, gear, cash and credit. Even handcuffs if you're into that.

The Galco Underwraps Belly Band holster is loaded with pockets to carry guns, magazines, gear, cash and credit. Even handcuffs if you’re into that.

As a belly band design, there is no required “fixed position” for mounting this holster system on your body. You can mount it low around your waist. You can mount it just a tad higher so half of the band is inside your pants and half above the belt line. You can even mount it higher on your torso, maybe around solar plexus level. The higher mount method is particularly handy for a cross draw setup where your strong hand reaches across your body to draw the gun. The gun is mounted with barrel pointed down and bottom of the grip facing forward.

Wear it high, above the belt, or low, partly under the belt line - your choice.

Wear it high, above the belt, or low, partly under the belt line – your choice.

The Galco Underwraps Belly Band holster has two leather pouches sewn into the wide (and comfortable) fabric band. As there are two gun holster pockets of slightly different shape, you can either carry two guns, or you can use the opposing side pockets to mount a single gun in the exact placement you want. The band also features two elastic fabric pockets sewn into the band. These are handy for just about anything — spare magazines, handcuffs (if you’re into that sort of thing), wallet, credit cards, emergency money, flashlight, pocket knife, cell phone, night vision goggles, or whatever else one might want to carry discreetly.

The Galco Underwraps Belly Band holster is also fully ambidextrous — simply flip it inside out. At time of writing, it’s available in either khaki or black.

The Galco Underwraps Belly Band holster comes in four different sizes — not only to accommodate body dimensions, but also to account for where you want to wear it. So be sure to measure your desired carry area before ordering.

Be sure to check out our book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters. It will teach you all the major methods of concealed carry and walk you through pros and cons over 100 different holster models. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

Now available in print! The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Now available in print! The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

 

Do You Like It Flat? Your AR-15 That Is…

The LaserMax Uni-Max ES offers a very low profile option for your AR-15. Mount it on the top, side or bottom.

The LaserMax Uni-Max ES offers a very low profile option for your AR-15. Mount it on the top, side or bottom.

Do you like it flat?

Meaning the front of your AR rifle? Perhaps you don’t want a vertical fore grip laser and light assembly up front. If you frequently shoot at longer ranges, from sandbags or perhaps from a prone position, a vertical grip can get in the way. If you still want a laser attachment, there’s a great alternative that won’t get in the way of that nice, clean front hand guard.

The LaserMax Uni-Max ES is technically a multi-purpose product – it can switch teams with only a little bit on tinkering. Through a little rearranging of internal (and included) parts, you can convert this from a rifle laser with a remote activation pad to a pistol rail-mounted laser.

For pistols, you install the toggle switch that enables laser on / laser off from either side. With a rifle installation, you can certainly use the toggle switch if you like, but the momentary activation switch option is even better. This is a remote pressure pad which turns the laser on as long as you squeeze it. With judicious placement of the pad according to your personal preference, it’s a very natural motion to turn the laser on and off as desired. Just to be clear, while you can reconfigure this laser, it’s not something you would want to do daily as it will take you five minutes or so. The purpose is to give you flexibility over time to move between different guns.

Let’s talk about that “flat” configuration. The laser unit itself only extends 1/2 inch from a standard picatinny rail. So even if you mount it on the bottom of your rifle hand guard, as shown here, it hardly extends downward at all. Of course, if you want zero footprint, you can mount it on either side of the barrel and keep the bottom rail completely clean.

Here’s what I prefer. I mounted the laser unit on the bottom rail so that there are no “side to side” issues between the laser dot and point of impact. On the Daniel Defense rifle shown here, the laser and bore are only about 1 1/4 inches apart, so it’s not a big deal either way. I’m just being picky. All I have to worry about is an elevation difference of just over an inch between the laser and the point of impact at short distances. That’s nuthin’ right?

I chose to mount the momentary activation pressure pad on the right side so my natural grip was right on it.

I chose to mount the momentary activation pressure pad on the right side so my natural grip was right on it.

I chose to mount the momentary activation switch pressure pad on the right side of the hand guard. I’m right-handed, so my left hand is up front. Holding the hand guard from underneath, my fingers are used to press the pressure pad. I find it to be a very natural position. Squeeze a little tighter and the laser comes on. Release a bit of pressure and the laser goes off.

LaserMax includes a MantaRail cover with the Uni-Max ES, which is 2 3/4 inch section of textured rubber rail cover with an internal slot for the cord connecting the laser unit and momentary activation switch. So the cord comes out of the laser on the bottom rail, feeds underneath the rubber MantaRail cover and bends up to the side mounted momentary activation pad. All in all, there are only two one-inch sections of cord exposed, so there aren’t loose wires hanging around to get caught up on stuff. A side benefit of the MantaRail placement on the bottom rail is that it provides a grippy and comfortable rail cover where you hand goes. Nice touch.

A view from the bottom. Note the MantaRail cover just behind the laser. It secures the cord and makes a great hand grip.

A view from the bottom. Note the MantaRail cover just behind the laser. It secures the cord and makes a great hand grip.

The laser body itself also has a single-slot picatinny rail section on the bottom, so you can hang something else, like a light, just below the laser if you like. The laser unit is small and light, weighing just 2.5 ounces, so there is virtually no bulk up front on your rifle. It’s powered by two Silver Oxide 357 batteries and will run continuously for about an hour and a half.

I’m digging the LaserMax Uni-Max ES setup on a Daniel Defense DDM4V5 300 AAC Blackout rifle. A traditional optic is up top for longer ranges. I have the laser zeroed for 10 yards, but shorter and longer distances work just fine as the laser is so close to the bore line. So, in one package, you can have it all. A laser for home defense (or perhaps night hog hunting use) that’s preset for shorter distances and optics for reaching out.

The best part? Your laser configuration is pretty much out of the way when you want to use the rifle outdoors.

A Comfortable Holster For Big Guns: Blackhawk! 3 Slot Pancake Holster

The Blackhawk! 3 Slot Leather Pancake Holster features not 2, or 4, but 3 belt slots. Tricky huh?

It’s for good reason. The placement of the belt slots allow for side, behind-the-hip, appendix or cross draw positioning.

The Blackhawk! 3-slot pancake holster spreads out the weight of a large gun like this Springfield Armory 1911.

The Blackhawk! 3-slot pancake holster spreads out the weight of a large gun like this Springfield Armory 1911.

The holster backing is large and does a great job of distributing the weight of even large and heavy pistols. We’ve been using one with a full sized Springfield Armory TRP 1911 for quite some time and it makes a perfectly comfortable all day carry option.

The 3-slot belt loops allow a variety of traditional and cross-draw placement.

The 3-slot belt loops allow a variety of traditional and cross-draw placement.

The holster, especially the trigger guard area, is nicely molded to the specific gun model so we found fit to be excellent. There is a thumb-break snap at the top to aid gun retention. We found releasing the snap to be, well, a snap, with a natural draw motion.

It’s a nice holster — especially for larger guns.

 

Be sure to check out our book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters. It will teach you all the major methods of concealed carry and walk you through pros and cons over 100 different holster models. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

Now available in print! The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Now available in print! The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Vanquest MOLLE Sticks: They Will Save Your Sanity

At a recent Gunsite event hosted by my friends at LaserMax, I met Alex. He’s a gear head from Vanquest. But he doesn’t have greasy fingernails or smell like brake fluid, because his gear specialty is packs, bags, totes, backpacks and cases of all sorts.

Anyway, Alex showed me a sooper-dooper nifty little invention that it sure to save your sanity: MOLLE Sticks.

Two five-inch MOLLE Sticks. Shown here not hooking anything up so you can actually see them.

Two five-inch MOLLE Sticks. Shown here not hooking anything up so you can actually see them.

If you own a bag with all sorts of canvas straps all over it, it’s most likely MOLLE compatible. I’m pretty sure MOLLE stands for Militaristic Odor-eaters for Linsday Lohan Lawn tractor Excursions.

Or maybe it’s MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. You see, as cool as they are, our military Department of Namers-of-things always cheats on acronyms. There’s no “O” word in there, they just shamelessly borrow the one in “modular.”

Anyway, if you have a backpack, briefcase, camera bag, medical kit, bug out bag or MK-19 Automatic Grenade Launcher case with all these MOLLE straps, then maybe you’ve tried to hook some other pouch, canteen or perhaps a stuffed lemming to your bag. If you have, then you know it’s more annoying than all those home-made cartoons popping up all over Facebook.

Enter the sticks.

As opposed to a canvas strap that you have to wind through all those MOLLE loops, when there is no space whatsoever between the two surfaces, the MOLLE Sticks are made from slippery polymer. You simply push them through, in and out of the loops. When you hit the end, just push down the snap on the end to lock the stick in place.

Here I've used two MOLLE sticks to attach a Vanquest ISOPOD fold up pouch to my Vanquest Javelin VSlinger pack. Two other MOLLE sticks are shown beside.

Here I’ve used two MOLLE sticks to attach a Vanquest ISOPOD fold up pouch to my Vanquest Javelin VSlinger pack. Two other MOLLE sticks are shown beside.

It’s crazy easy to attach your MOLLE gear however you want – no matter how tight the loops are. And with these, the tighter the better, so your gear doesn’t jingle around.

The even better part is the instant removal. Whatever your reasons – simple pack reconfiguration, or maybe something really important like removing a modular medical kit – just unsnap the MOLLE Stick and it slides right out. The gear can be removed instantly.

Love, love, love these. You can get them from Vanquest here.

You don’t have to thank me, just consider this tip one of the many free benefits of Obamacare.

By the way, the pack and pouch shown here are two other nifty Vanquest products – the Vanquest Javelin VSlinger pack and the Vanquest ISOPOD fold up pouch. We’ll be reviewing those over at Bearing Arms.

A Slim, Yet Effective, Concealed Carry Combo

Researching my forthcoming book, The Rookie’s Guide to the Springfield Armory XD-S, I’ve been doing quite a bit of experimenting. As a result, I’ve stumbled on some pretty fantastic concealed carry combinations, one of which is the Springfield Armory XD-S, a Crimson Trace LG-469 Laserguard and the CrossBreed SnapSlide outside-the-waistband holster.

One of the really nice things about the Springfield Armory XD-S is that it’s thin and “short” enough to easily conceal using an outside the waistband holster. And it doesn’t matter if you prefer fewer (5+1) big and fat .45 ACP rounds or more (7+1) slimmer yet faster 9mm rounds. The exterior dimensions of the gun and laser combination are exactly the same.

For OWB carry, I particularly like the CrossBreed SnapSlide holster for a few of different reasons.

The CrossBreed SnapSlide shown here with a .45 ACP Springfield Armory XD-S with a Crimson Trace LG-469 Laserguard and CrossBreed SnapSlide holster.

The CrossBreed SnapSlide shown here with a .45 ACP Springfield Armory XD-S with a Crimson Trace LG-469 Laserguard and CrossBreed SnapSlide holster.

Like the IWB counterparts, the leather back and kydex holster pouch give a great combination of “thin” yet comfortable. The portion of the holster on the outside of the gun simply cannot be thinner with any other material than Kydex.

The generous leather panel and widely-spaced belt loops offer great comfort and stability with a 1 ½ inch or 1 ¼ inch gun belt. I had no problem adjusting the carry position from anywhere between 3 and  5:30 positions, assuming a right-handed configuration.

Note how high the gun rides with the CrossBreed SnapSlide holsters. Hardly anything extends below your belt.

Note how high the gun rides with the CrossBreed SnapSlide holsters. Hardly anything extends below your belt.

The SnapSlide holds the XD-S high relative to the belt level which aids in concealment. This high positioning and short barrel of the Springfield Armory XD-S mean that hardly any of the gun extends below belt level, so an untucked shirt or blouse easily covers your gun.

The three together make an outstanding concealed carry package that’s light, trim, comfortable and functional.

23 Things You Can Do With A Leatherman Rail Tool For AR-15s

Today’s gift idea for you or your favorite gunnie is the Leatherman Rail tool for AR-15s and lots of other stuff.

The Leatherman Rail holds a lot of tools per square inch.

The Leatherman Rail holds a lot of tools per square inch.

The Leatherman Rail is a nearly flat tool that is nowhere near flat when it comes to versatility. Just under 5 inches long, 1 ½ inches wide and ½ inch thick, it packs a lot of uses for space taken in or on your range bag. You can even clip it on the outside of your bag, pack or belt using the built-in carabiner.

A ⅜" will allow you to drive a standard socket. It's a bit awkward, but will work in a crunch.

The ⅜” open-ended wrench will allow you to drive a standard socket. It’s a bit awkward, but will work in a crunch. And of course it’s a handy open-end ⅜” wrench.

Here are just a few things you can do with it:

  1. Adjust the front sight on an AR-15 or similar rifle.
  2. Change grips on your 1911.
  3. Remove the bottom of pistol magazines using the pin removal tool.
  4. Open taped ammo boxes. The AR-15 front sight adjustment tool is sharp and pointy like that.
  5. Lovingly and gently encourage stubborn push pins to move.
  6. Measure group sizes – the center of the tool is *exactly* 1 inch wide; the front sight adjustment prongs are 5/16 inches apart and there are ¼ and ⅜ inch drivers. With all those, you can estimate a lot of measurements.
  7. Mount Magpul Back Up Sights on your AR-15 using the flathead screwdriver tool.
  8. Remove the carrying handle on an AR-15 A3 model.
  9. Check / tighten / loosen your scope rings.
  10. Dig a bullet out of a log. While not listed on the Leatherman web site, I find this a valuable feature.
  11. Uncap a bottle. After the shooting is done, you can use the carabiner hook to open a cold one. It’s a little tricky, but if you tackle that, you can also…
  12. Shotgun a beer. Remember that sharp and pointy front sight tool? It’ll go through an aluminum can like butter.
  13. Open and close an oxygen tank valve. If you really choked on that last Steel Challenge stage, take a few hits of O2 and compose yourself.
  14. Tighten or loosen anything you have a ¼” Hex bit for. The hex driver is universal for all sorts of bits.
  15. Remove staples from a target backer.
  16. Remove an AR-15 firing pin retaining pin when cleaning the bolt and carrier.
  17. Pull a nail out of a target stand.
  18. You can open an AR-15 ejection port cover when the bolt is already open – without tearing off your thumbnail.
  19. Remove your AR-15 trigger group.
  20. Peel a banana when the top doesn’t want to separate.
  21. Easily remove the bottom from a PMag
  22. Scrape carbon from your AR bolt in the field.
  23. Use it as an emergency toothpick. Yep, done that. I’m not proud. Just resourceful.

You can buy the Leatherman Rail here for less than 30 bucks.

The rail includes a phillips and flat head screwdrivers, a Torx #15 bit, pin punch and 7/64" drivers. Those fit in a special slot in the compression handle.

The rail includes a phillips and flat head screwdrivers, a Torx #15 bit, pin punch and 7/64″ drivers. Those fit in a special slot in the compression handle.

Ammo Review: Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain

Since it’s the giving season, I decided to bring a pile of different ammo types to the range for some quick and dirty testing. Ammo makes great gunny gifts by the way. In these times of scarcity, your giftee will know you worked for it!

First up is a .45 ACP load I had high hopes for – the Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain hollow point.

The Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain load still offers weight, but with more velocity.

The Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain load still offers weight, but with more velocity.

Speer Gold Dot ammunition features bonded construction, meaning the lead core is surrounded by a chemically “stapled-on” jacket. This means two things. First, the jacket and inner core stay together which helps penetration. Second, expansion is almost always even and predictable. You can shoot most any Speer Gold Dot ammo into water or ballistic gelatin and it will expand perfectly. Where things get a little weird is when bullets have to pass through barriers – especially heavy clothing. Any type of hollow point ammo can clog up and inhibit expansion.

I was keen to try this .45 ACP 200 grain +P load because I’ve had mixed success with standard pressure .45 ACP 230 grain hollow points when exposed to heavy clothing barriers. The lower velocity of the full 230 grain projectiles tends to make expansion an iffy proposition. This load is not only lighter, and therefore can be loaded to faster velocity, it’s a +P load which gives it a little more energy boost.

I measured the velocity of this ammunition at an average of 1,047.7 feet per second with a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet from the muzzle. Not shabby at all for a .45 load, right?

To provide some challenge to test expansion, I shot through two layers of thick leather and four layers of fabric. Two out of three projectiles expanded properly. The third got all cloggified with leather and barely started to expand. The largest expansion measured .748 inches in across – nearly 1.7 times original diameter.

The loads shot to point of aim and recoil was not perceptibly different than the 185 grain loads I normally shoot.

If you’re looking for a little extra zip for more predictable expansion performance, check out the Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P 200 Grain load. It’s still heavy, but a couple hundred feet per second faster than a standard pressure 230 grain alternative.

Nice ammo

What Happens When You Shoot A Bullet Proof Vest? We Test Engarde Body Armor

Did any of these penetrate the Engarde Body Armor? Read on to see...

Did any of these penetrate the Engarde Body Armor? Read on to find out…

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don't know, but either way he's protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don’t know, but either way he’s protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Did I mention we’re giving away a set of FREE body armor? Thanks to the good folks at Engarde, we are. You can get full contest details here, but in short, it’s simple to win. Just like our Facebook page and you’re entered.

The Engarde folks sent us two sets of body armor. One to give away and the other to shoot to pieces. After all, we wouldn’t want to give our readers any untested gear, right?

Since we couldn’t find any willing, and breathing, human volunteers, we dressed up Plastic Saddam with some Engarde Exterior Body Armor and took him to the range. Most of the folks at our local shooting range thought he was a 1970s era porn star, but we knew he was a bona-fide, genuine, evil dictator that really needed to be shot. Either way, with that hairdo and cheesy mustache, dispensing of him was a service to humanity.

A quick look at Engarde Body Armor

This specific model is similar to the Engarde Patrol. It’s an external setup with soft panels that are inserted into the carrier front and rear. The sides overlap so there is full coverage around the body. The carrier also features external pockets which are sized to house optional ceramic plates for protection against rifle and machine gun rounds. The soft panels included with the system are intended to stop pistol calibers only.

The Dyneema soft panels fill the entire space of the carrier. Soft panels insert via a full-width Velcro closure across the bottom of the vest.

The Dyneema soft panels fill the entire space of the carrier. Soft panels insert via a full-width Velcro closure across the bottom of the vest.

The material inside the panels is genuine Dyneema SB-21. While I didn’t count exactly, there are about 40 layers of Dyneema material in each ballistic soft panel. Each layer of Dyneema feels somewhat like a cross between wax paper and plastic tarp material. It’s got a slick and waxy feel to it with a “crinkly” texture. And it’s very, very lightweight.

This specific product is rated National Institute of Justice (NIJ) IIIa. The simple description of the NIJ IIIa rating is that it’s intended to stop most pistol rounds in calibers ranging from .32 through .44 Magnum. Previous certification definitions like NIJ II would not necessarily stop .357 Sig full metal jacket or hard jacketed .44 magnum rounds.

I won’t go into NIJ specifications here, but levels are carefully documented for different type of projectiles, i.e. full metal jacket, moving at specific maximum velocities.

Strength is achieved via layering. While I didn't count, there must have been at least 50 layers of Dyneema material on each side.

Strength is achieved via layering. While I didn’t count, there must have been about 40 layers of Dyneema material on each side.

The vest we tested is rated for up to four straight-on, zero-degree angle hits per panel and two thirty-degree oblique hits. As I did not want to worry about deflected shots, I only tested zero-degree deflection scenarios, so perfect performance would be defined by four stops per panel.

Did it stop bullets?

For no specific reason other than some weird OCD tendency, I decided to shoot the front of the vest with smaller caliber pistol rounds including .32 ACP, 9mm and .357 Sig. The back vest panel I reserved for the slow and fat heavies like .40 S&W, .45 ACP and .44 Magnum.

After being shot several times, the Engarde vest puffed up like Michael Moore at free pizza night at CiCi's. The layers of Dyneema separate while absorbing energy of the incoming projectiles.

After being shot several times, the Engarde vest puffed up like Michael Moore at free pizza night at CiCi’s. The layers of Dyneema separate while absorbing energy of the incoming projectiles.

Being me, I was a bit curious about two things. First, I wanted to verify the vest met manufacturer claims. Would it stop handgun projectiles in the rated bullet type and velocity parameters? Second, could I exceed those parameters and possibly make it break? And by “break” I mean at what point would a round be able to penetrate the vest?

During the vest destruction, I was careful to move shot placement around so that no two impacts were closer than three or four inches to each other.

So let’s take a closer look at results by ammunition type.

.32 ACP

Just for variety, I shot the vest with three different .32 ACP rounds with a Walther PP: Fiocchi 73 grain full metal jacket, Hornady 60 grain XTP and Cor-Bon 60 grain JHP. I thought perhaps the small diameter round nose of a .32 ACP FMJ might stand a better chance of sneaking through the vest undetected so to speak.

A .32 FMJ (left) and .32 hollow point (right)

A Fiocchi .32 FMJ (left) and Cor-Bon .32 jacketed hollow point (right)

No such luck.

This .32 ACP hollow point flattened to about 20% of its original length. And yes, it stopped immediately on impact - I did not remove any layers of Dyneema in this photo.

This Hornady .32 ACP hollow point flattened to about 20% of its original length. And yes, it stopped immediately on impact – I did not remove any layers of Dyneema in this photo.

The full metal jacket projectile flattened like a spoon, one hollow point somewhat self-destructed and the other flattened to about .125 inches top to bottom. If you’re covered head to toe in this material, and attacked by a horde of Walther PPK wielding evil dudes, you don’t have much to worry about, except bruises.

9mm

Since I was feeling ornery, I decided to use 9mm ammunition that was designed to penetrate – Hornady’s Critical Duty. It’s a 135 grain 9mm load that is designed not to expand as easily as the standard Critical Defense load. It’s intended for law enforcement use where barriers like car doors and windshields might be encountered. And it travels at about 1,115 feet per second, so considering the heavier than average weight for 9mm, it’s moving right along. I’ve even tested this load against a giant pile of BS – The New York Times – and it performed superbly. To make sure velocity was up to par, I shot it from a Glock 17 Gen 4.

This Hornady Critical Duty round hit within ½ inch of the edges, yet still was stopped in the first five to eight layers (of 40)

This Hornady Critical Duty round hit within ½ inch of the edge, yet still was stopped in the first five to eight layers (of 40) of Dyneema

Again, no luck. And I noticed something really interesting that would appear a few shots later with the .357 Sig testing. All giddy with excitement and curiosity, I yanked one of my shots a bit off target, so it hit within ½ inch of the right hand side of the vest. I expected the projectile to take the path of least resistance and deflect away from the vest altogether. Contrary to my assumption, the round traveled inwards towards the center of the best and got tangled up in the Dyneema material. It’s almost as if the edge hit encountered more resistance than less.

.357 Sig

Keep in mind, by this point, the front panel had been shot 5 times, or one more than it’s rating. As the panels are shot, the Dyneema sheets start to separate as projectiles dump energy into the vest. As the layers separate, penetration is more likely.

Although I didn’t really plan to be unfair from the start, that’s kind of what happened. Shots six through eight, or double the vests rated capacity, were done with a smoking hot round – the .357 Sig. The projectiles are the same diameter as 9mm at .355 inches, but velocity is cranked way up. The two rounds I shot, Georgia Arms Gold Dot and Winchester PDX1 Defender both use 125 grain bonded projectiles at 1,400 and 1,350 feet per second, respectively. I used a Glock 31 with a 4 ½ inch barrel to get every possible bit of velocity advantage.

The .357 Sig Georgia Arms Gold Dot flattened completely - even though it was the 6th shot at the front vest panel - two over rated capacity.

The .357 Sig Georgia Arms Gold Dot flattened completely – even though it was the 6th shot at the front vest panel – two over rated capacity.

Shot six was the Georgia Arms Gold dot. It flattened completely into a nickel-sized blob of lead. Like the previous projectiles, it was stopped cold in the first ten layers of Dyneema material.

Next up were shots seven and eight, which exactly doubled rated capacity of the vest. These were both Winchester PDX1 Defender .357 Sig rounds. The seventh shot didn’t flatten, but tumbled and got caught up about half way through the vest panel – another complete stop.

The eight shot, or double the rated capacity of the vest, passed through the front panel, but didn't even penetrate the mesh of the back panel. It was clearly out of gas.

The eight shot, or double the rated capacity of the vest, passed through the front panel, but didn’t even penetrate the mesh of the back panel. It was clearly out of gas.

The eight shot found how much punishment the vest could take, as it passed through and was immediately stopped by the back panel. At this point, having absorbed eight hits, the vest was done. It had blimped up to approximately eight inches thick as the panels expanded more and more with each subsequent hit.

As the rated standards call for up to four “straight on” hits, I would certainly say it did it’s job absorbing eight – three of which were from very hot .357 Sig rounds. Now let’s look at the back panel, where I tested the ”heavier” and larger caliber rounds.

.40 Smith & Wesson

I had no doubt the Engarde vest would stop a relatively slow 180 grain .40 S&W projectile, so I decided to try a lighter weight and higher velocity round – the Speer Gold Dot 155 grain bonded hollow point. I clocked this specific round at 1,168 feet per second from a Beretta PX4 Storm.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

I’ll let you guess what happened. With the first hit on a fresh Engarde panel, I observed full “splat” with virtually no penetration into the vest.

.357 Magnum

Next up was .357 Magnum shot from a Ruger LCR. I used Hornady’s Critical Defense 125 grain FTX round. As expected, the second shot on the fresh back panel yielded the same result – a flattened bullet caught in the first several layers of material.

.45 ACP

Getting bored by all these stopped bullets, I decided to try a couple of different things. First, I had to try one of my favorite carry loads for my Springfield Armory TRP 1911Remington Golden Saber 185 grain +P. It’s a jacketed hollow point that I’ve choreographed at 1,167 feet per second from this particular pistol.

It penetrated exactly two of the 40 Dyneema layers before flattening completely. Yes, two.

So it was time to try a different option. I recently picked up a box of DoubleTap .45 ACP +P hard cast ammunition. It features a solid lead, semi-wadcutter projectile that’s designed for hunting thick-skinned critters like wild boar. Surely this would do something dramatic right? It was also the fourth shot at the back panel – the last shot within the performance rating of the vest.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

The DoubleTap 255 grain hard cast and Remington Golden Saber 185 grain +P .45 ACP projectiles.

Well, the 255 grain hard cast projectile did manage to penetrate a bit further. One layer. That one passed through two and stopped at the third, making a small tear in layer three. Only 37 more layers and it would have gone right through.

.44 Magnum

I know, there aren’t many .44 Magnums on the streets, so testing body armor against that isn’t really practical. But it did sound entertaining. So I dug out a box of Magtech 240 grain semi-jacketed soft point ammunition and launched one from a Ruger Super Blackhawk.

.44 Magnum versus Engarde Body Armor

.44 Magnum versus Engarde Body Armor

The result? Yet another deformed bullet, this one caught in the first four layers of the vest’s material. Add “magnum” to the mix and you get one more layer of penetration. Only 36 to go!

Closing Arguments

This was enlightening and a little bit shocking. After shooting each side of the vest, I cut it open to examine the results. As described earlier, the Dyneema material somewhat resembles wax paper. Heavier and stiffer, but not something you would think capable of stopping a bullet. Even though I understand the science behind it, it’s still mind-boggling when you feel how light the panels are.

This vest worked beyond what is advertised. I had to shoot the front panel to double the specification before it failed. The rear panel was shot five times – all with some insanely powerful handgun loads and never failed.

A slew of really messed up bullets.

A slew of really messed up bullets.

There was no deflection. All bullets were caught up in the material and stopped cold. Two shots hit on the very edge of the vest, yet were still trapped.

Watching the target stand and vest “jump” with each shot, I quickly decided I would prefer never to be shot, vest or not. While these have saved hundreds and maybe thousands of lives, getting hit with a supersonic projectile will still leave a mark. Ouch.

The model tested, identical to the one we’re giving away, is a great “emergency” option for civilian use. It slips over your head, outside of your clothing, and can be put on in seconds. Engarde makes lots of other models with some designed to be concealed, so check them out.

Don’t forget, we’re giving an identical set to this one away free! All you have to do is like our Facebook page. Or you can get full details here.

Did you like this?

Then be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

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