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No matter how skilled you are, there's still a large element of luck and randomness in terms of the outcome of any armed encounter you experience.

Swing the odds in your favor by equipping yourself with body armor.  It could save your life.

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The Need for a Ballistic (Bullet Proof) Vest part 2

It could save your life

This is a NOT recommended example of body armor.

See the gaps on the sides?  Especially if you're in some type of Weaver stance when facing your adversary, you're presenting your unprotected side directly to any incoming fire.

Part 2 of a new series on body armor.  See links to additional parts of the series on the right.



Life is unpredictable, and never more so than when you're in a potentially deadly confrontation with an adversary in your own home.

You can't rely on the usual concepts of logic and common sense to predict what your opponent will do, and no matter how well trained you are, he might be similarly well trained, and willing to use deadly force if necessary to complete his burglary and to make good his escape.

Or he might just get lucky, and shoot a round that hits you first, disabling or potentially killing you.

Unless, that is - unless you are wearing a bullet proof vest.

Your Chances of Getting Shot

If there is to be an exchange of fire between you and a single bad guy, statistically it seems you're about 50% likely to be hit yourself.

Statistics can be misleading - the average family in the US has 2.5 children, but have you ever seen a half child?

In your specific case, the 50% chance of being shot will go up or down based on how tactically skilled you are and how tactically skilled the other person is, the type of cover you are sheltering behind (what's that - your pistol class didn't include any courses on shooting from behind cover?) and the actual scenario in which the confrontation takes place.

You can control your own skills, but you have no control over the other guy's skills, and only a little control over the scenario in which the confrontation occurs.  In addition there will also be a massive random factor of simple good luck or bad luck (depending on your perspective).

If you're going prepared to confront a bad guy, you have to be prepared to accept the reality that he may be armed too and that he may start shooting at you as soon as he sees you (and he might even see you before you see him).

The bad guy might not surrender

We touched on this before, but it is a vital consideration to keep in mind, so it is worth repeating.

If you 'get the drop' on the bad guy and order him to 'Drop Your Weapon!' he is as likely to shoot at you as he is to drop it.  If you order him to 'Freeze! Don't Move' he is as likely to leap to cover/concealment, or spin around and again start shooting, or rush at you with a knife or even bare hands.

Do not relax just because you think you've got the bad guy at a disadvantage.  Just because you think he is at a disadvantage does not mean he also thinks the same way, and even if he does, he may or may not act rationally in response.

Just because you shoot at (and maybe hit) the bad guy doesn't mean he won't (continue to) shoot back at you

Even if you fire off the first shot, you might miss.  If you do hit, your round very likely will not take him out of the fight.

Even if you shoot him square in the heart, it will take about 20 seconds for the blood pressure to drop to a point of incapacitating him and his fighting effectiveness will slowly decline rather than stop instantly.

If he is high on drugs, his body's response to a bullet wound will be even less - sure, after the 20-30 seconds or however long and loss of blood and blood pressure, he'll lose consciousness the same way as if he were completely normal, but 20 seconds is an eternity when he is across the room from you, with either a gun, knife, or even just his bare hands.

Some criminals will surrender as soon as they see your gun.  Some will flee.  But some will choose to fight it out.  If they choose to fight it out with you, expect incoming rounds in your direction, and expect to be hit.

'Heroic' responses once hit

When hit, some criminals (and some good guys too) will panic and faint from the terror of being shot.  Others will respond 'rationally' as a doctor would anticipate.

But others will ignore their wounds, even if mortally wounded, and continue to fight until the last drop of blood drains from their body.

If a good guy, such actions brand him a hero, and in wartime, will win him a medal.

But if a bad guy, it instead makes him a nightmare 'zombie' and makes you appreciate your choice of a 17 round semi-auto rather than a 5 round revolver.  Hopefully you can get most of those rounds effectively in his direction before he in turn somehow neutralizes you.

Murphy's Law Increases the Randomness Factor Further

What say the bad guy has a partner with him - that is a far from uncommon occurrence.  Your odds of coming out the other end of the fight, unscathed, have just nose-dived.

Add further to that another random roll of the dice, caused by probably operating at night, and the fact you are mobile, moving around your house, rather than stationary, behind cover and concealment, in a preferred location.  It is hard to know, for sure, who will end up ambushing (or at least surprising) who in such a night-time encounter.

An instructor at Front Sight makes an interesting and eye opening suggestion.  He suggests you invite in a neighborhood kid and tell him to hide anywhere in your house at night.  His job is to surprise you before you surprise him. You then go looking for him, and see if you can find him before he surprises you.

Even though it is your house, and you are familiar with it, the chances are that the neighborhood kid will end up surprising you every time.

There's a very ugly bottom line here which most of us don't consider carefully enough :  If you choose to go roaming around your house at night in pursuit of intruders, you need to accept there is a 50% chance you'll get shot.  Hopefully you'll just be wounded, but you could be killed.

How to Respond to these Risks

The best way to respond to these risks is to not put yourself in harm's way.

If you live in your residence either alone or with only a partner who sleeps in the same room as you, harden your bedroom door and protect your bedroom windows, and keep a cell phone in your bedroom with you.

If you hear something in the rest of the house, call the police and have them come and investigate.  Take up a defensive position so that shots fired through the door are unlikely to reach you, and of course, equip yourself with a defensive weapon in turn with which to repel any attempt to break into your bedroom/fortress/safe room.

Hopefully the police will be at your place long before the bad guys are battling to enter your bedroom (ask your local police what sort of typical response time you should expect).

If circumstances mandate you have no choice but to leave your bedroom, then if you have a partner in your bedroom with you, make sure they are similarly skilled and both of you go together.  Two people have a much better chance of survival than only one.

And now, at last, we get to the theme of this article - equip yourselves with bullet proof vests.

Please read on to the next and subsequent parts of this series for detailed information about what body armor is, the different types available, how to shop for it, what to look for, and how to care for it.

Part of a multi-part series

Please click the links at the top right of this page to read through other parts of this extensive series on body armor and the protection it offers.


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Originally published 10 Jan 2011, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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Body Armor Series
1.  Do You Need Body Armor
2.  The Need for Body Armor
3.  The Evolution of Body Armor.
Extra parts in this series coming shortly

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Traveling and Flying with Firearms and Ammunition


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