Part 1 - Ballistic vest with level IIIA soft armour  

Part 1 - Ballistic vest with level IIIA soft armour

Soft armour: kevlar or similar fabric

Difficulty level to create: HARD (it is suggested that you buy this item)

A ballistic vest comes in many shapes and forms. Some are created for covert (concealed) use, others for overt (visible) use. Obviously, overt ballistic armour is created for “certain” confrontation where you do not care if others identity the fact that you are wearing armour, while covert armour is worn when it is essential to hide the fact that you are wearing armour, for tactical reasons.

In any case, a solid level IIIA vest is and will be the backbone of your “armour system”.

Search words: ballistic vest, bullet resistant vest, bullet proof vest, tactical vest, assault vest)

Suppliers: European-, US-, Israeli- or Chinese companies.

Restrictions: certain countries have implemented restrictions relating to ownership of armour such as Italy and Australia (and the US for convicted criminals). It is likely that several countries will implement bans on the ownership of armour in the future in an effort to halt conservative freedom fighters or Islamic terrorists. However, you can still buy or import suitable covert or military grade ballistic vest in more or less all European countries.

How to create a military grade ballistic vest - requirement: level IIIA soft armour (30-34 thin layers of Kevlar fabric sewn in an internal pocket (or 12-15 thick Kevlar layers), which is then put inside the exterior cordura nylon “shell/pouch”) with pockets for level III to IV SAPI/ESAPI plates – size M to XL and optimally two side pockets for ESBI plates (side plates 10 x 15 cm usually). I would not recommend creating your own military grade ballistic vest due to the fact that they are readily available with few restrictions. However, I will include a schematic on how to cut Kevlar, and which cutting form you can use. I prefer vests with maximum coverage surface and which contains extra Kevlar layers (34+) so I ended up buying the IDF vest which offers excellent coverage. It even adds coverage for neck, axillary (arm pit) and offers extra protection above your frontal ESAPI plate. The weight is 4,5 kg. I added an extra modular plate carrier (2 frontal and 2 for side) with attachments for molle/modular pouches.

Part 2 - Ballistic vest – Armour plates (2 ESAPI plates, front back, 2 side plates)

Hard armour

Difficulty level to create: HARD (it is suggested that you buy this item)

Coverage area: covers your most essential inner organs and the most likely place to be targeted. The Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) is a ceramic plate fielded by the US military. It was first used in the Interceptor body armor, a ballistic vest. It is now also used in the Improved Outer Tactical Vest as well as the Modular Tactical Vest, in addition to commercially available "plate carriers". The kevlar Interceptor vest itself is designed to stop projectiles up to and including 9x19mm Parabellum submachine gun rounds, in addition to fragmentation. To protect against higher velocity rifle rounds, SAPI plates are needed.

Armour plates are always hard plates made from either hardened steel, ceramic or the newer and lighter dyneema plates.

Sizes and weights

SAPI plates meant for body armor come in front and back plates which are identical and smaller side plates. The front and back plates come in five sizes. Their dimensions are the following:

Front and back SAPI plates:

* Extra Small - 1.27 kg (2.8 lb) | 184 x 292 mm (7¼ x 11½ in)

* Small - 1.59 kg (3.5 lb) | 222 x 298 mm (8¾ x 11¾ in)

* Medium - 1.82 kg (4.0 lb) | 241 x 318 mm (9½ x 12½ in)

* Large - 2.09 kg (4.6 lb) | 260 x 337 mm (10⅛ x 13¼ in)

* Extra Large 2.40 kg (5.3 lb) | 280 x 356 mm (11 x 14 in)

ESAPI plates are the same size but slightly greater in weight.

* Extra Small - 1.70 kg (3.75 lb)

* Small - 2.08 kg (4.60 lb)

* Medium - 2.50 kg (5.50 lb)

* Large - 2.85 kg (6.30 lb)

* Extra Large - 3.25 kg (7.20 lb)

Torso side plates are as follows:

* 1 kg (2.3 lb) | 150 x 200 mm (6 x 8 in)

Materials and capabilities

The standard plate for the Interceptor body armor is made of boron carbide or silicon carbide ceramic. New ESAPI plates are also made of boron carbide. A SAPI is able to stop up to three rifle bullets of a caliber up to 7.62x51mm NATO M80 ball and of a muzzle velocity up to 2,750 ft/s (840 m/s). The ceramic plate is backed with a shield made of Spectra, a material up to 40% stronger than Kevlar.

The standard plates are rated as NIJ III when used alone and NIJ IV when backed by the soft armor of the OTV.


The mechanism of effect lies in absorbing and dissipating the projectile's kinetic energy in local shattering of the ceramic plate and blunting the bullet material on the hard ceramic. The Spectra backing then spreads the energy of the impact to larger area and stops the fragments, preventing injury to the wearer.

The same principle is used for the ceramic tiles used for the armored cockpits of some military airplanes, and the anti-spallation liners used in modern armored personnel carriers.

How to aquire SAPI/ESAPI plates

I would not recommend creating your own ESAPI plates unless you have access to hardened steel plates. Forget about ordering armour from US companies as all US companies have strict export restrictions even to other NATO countries. Your best bet of acquiring ESAPI plates are purchasing them from European, Israeli or Chinese companies. They are readily available online as they are considered “legal armour components” and not “illegal military grade armour”. Alternatively, you may have a US friend buy them for you or travel to the US yourself, use a proxy buyer and physically smuggle them to Europe yourself. You will get a fine if caught but nothing more as far as I know. So, what type of material do you go for? Steel is obviously the heaviest of materials but is superior when it comes to multi-hit capabilities. The newer generation SAPI ceramic is also a good alternative although it is difficult to aquire ESAPI plates especially in size XL. I was “lucky” and managed to order mine of Ebay (in despite of the Ebay ban on mil spec body armour) after only 2 months of monitoring. Ebay is not the best place to look as it is mostly civilian body armour available. But now and then, some inexperienced sellers simply make a mistake and list high grade mil spec armour and some times, Ebay is unable to stop the auction in time, which allows you to “swoop in and pick it up” with a winning bid. I finally managed to buy 2000 USD worth of plates, ESAPI XL level IV and a similar set of ESBI (side plates) for only 600 Euro after monitoring Ebay closely for 3 months! Luck favours the dedicated and patient so never give up!;) My armour acquisition phase lasted 3-4 months and it took time to learn the proper search words and techniques in order to successfully locate the right suppliers. Ill share my suppliers in another chapter.


Part 3 - Ballistic helmet level IIIA with ballistic level IIIA visor (face shield)

Hard armour: composite helmet + visor; the visor is made of 2-3 cm thick polycarbonate plastic (may also be known under the brand name; lexan.

Difficulty level to create: HARD (it is suggested that you buy this item)

Coverage area: head and face. This will be the hardest component of your armour system to aquire (not the helmet but the visor). Several European suppliers sell it but it is more or less always limited to law enforcement agencies or the military. European suppliers will usually ask for various documentation showing that you are a police officer. I managed to order one of these helmets from an Israeli company.

It is more or less impossible for you to create a ballistic visor so start looking for those suppliers.

Search terms: ballistic vizor (visor), ballistic face shield, ballistic helmet, bullet proof helmet, bullet resistant helmet, bullet proof vizor, bullet proof face shield

Part 4 – Ballistic Deltoid Protectors (1 of 2 pieces of the DAPS system)

Soft armour: layers of Kevlar or similar fabric

Difficulty level to create: EASY (it is suggested that you create these as they are relatively hard to acquire on the open market)

These two pieces protect your deltoids (upper arms) and are attached to your vest. I managed to buy two from an American Ebay seller which mistakenly listed them for international sale. In any case; “deltoid protector pouches”, without the soft armour inserts (34 layers of Kevlar fabric) is readily available which makes creating these a simple task. Simply buy enough ballistic Kevlar fabric, strong Kevlar fabric scissors and start cutting. When done with the 34 (15) layers, insert them in the interior pouch, which then is inserted in the exterior pouch which is made from the harder 500-1000 denimer cordura nylon fabric. If you are unable to order these premade exterior pouches (without the actual soft armour inserts) you can still sew your own. Just order mil spec cordura nylon (or any tough nylon fabric) from any supplier and start sewing. You will need nylon straps with hook and loop material (Velcro). Sew the hook and loop material on to the nylon strap, which then allows you to properly use the deltoid protectors. Also, see my illustration/blue print and measurements.

Search terms: DAPS, deltoid protector, ballistic arm protector etc.

Aproximate cost: 60-120 Euro

Hours of labour required: 7 full hours of cutting/sewing/dying (not including time it takes to order Kevlar fabric and other material)

Part 5 – Ballistic Axillary Protectors (2 of 2 pieces of the DAPS system)

Soft armour: layers of Kevlar or similar fabric

Difficulty level to create: EASY (it is suggested that you create these as they are relatively hard to acquire on the open market)

Coverage area: From your side ESBI plates up to your armpit. As with part 1; these are hard to acquire, but very easy to create. Simply follow the above steps and use the axillary illustration/blue print and measurements. Also, depending on your vest, you don’t necessarily need additional axillary protectors. A majority of vests however offer little protection in the armpit area above your ESBI plates.

Aproximate cost: 60-120 Euro

Hours of labour required: 7 full hours of cutting/sewing/dying (not including time it takes to order Kevlar fabric and other material)