Bulletproof vests are typically worn by the military, law enforcement professionals, and security personnel, and nowadays companies like BulletSafe offer the same protection to ordinary civilians. However, in some places, people who needed ballistic protection either couldn’t access it or took one look at professionally-made bulletproof vests and thought “eh, I can do better.”
Homemade bulletproof armor is typically unwieldly, ugly, and of questionable effectiveness. Usually created by people with a mix of ingenuity, desperation, insanity, and a great amount of faith, homemade bulletproof vests should never be relied on if there are professional-grade products readily available.
The definition of “bulletproof”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “bulletproof” as “impenetrable to bullets,” but fails to mention that there is some nuance to this term. A vest capable of withstanding a direct hit with a .22LR will not be able to survive being hit by a .50 BMG. When it comes to bulletproof materials, composition matters.
Bulletproof armor comes in four general levels defined by the National Institute of Justice or NIJ. With Level IIA (handgun protection up to .40 S&W) at the low end and Level IV (large caliber rifle protection up to .30-06 AP) at the highest level, NIJ certified armor undergoes rigorous testing to determine its safety. Homemade armor, obviously, is not held to the same standards. Some of it could even fall apart after vigorous jumping before it even gets hit by the first bullet, just like…
Egyptian Mosireen Soda Can Armor
Mosireen (Arabic for “Insistent”) is a volunteer activist group formed during the Egyptian Revolt of 2011. Dedicated to the dissemination of truth and exposing the horrors and violence perpetrated by their oppressive government, the group has frequently found itself on the receiving end of violent crackdowns by Egypt’s National Security Agency.
In 2013, a thousand protesters were gunned down near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo to end a peaceful sit-in. Unfortunately, in a nation where the people have no weapons to fight back, anti-government protesters have had to rely on jury-rigged homemade solutions for their own protection, such as this “bulletproof” vest made from soda cans and glue.
With materials easily obtainable from local hardware stores and restaurants, anyone can make the Mosireen soda can vest by gluing together 6-10 sheets of aluminum and duct taping them to an undershirt.
Mosireen Soda Can Armor
The question is, of course, if it’ll actually stop bullets. According to Mosireen, the answer is maybe… sometimes… and only at distances of 8 yards or greater. The Mosireen vest is primarily designed to stop birdshot and nonlethal rounds, which wouldn’t even meet Level IIA standards on the NIJ scale. Unfortunately for Mosireen protesters, Egyptian security forces frequently pack AK-47s and sidearms along with their 12 gauges so the practicality of this armor is questionable at best.
Clint Emerson’s Book Armor
In contrast to the Egyptians, former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson created something with substantially more survivability that can be made with a fraction of the materials and the effort. Made of nothing but copies of his moderately thick “100 Deadly Skills” books, ceramic pool tiles, and duct tape, Emerson’s makeshift armor is surprisingly effective against 9mm rounds, but shouldn’t be relied on to stop anything heavier.
By making a double-layered ceramic tile sandwich between two books and duct tape, Emerson created armor that can assembled in a hurry or in an emergency situation by anyone with access to common household items. Even without the ceramic tiles, the books can be moderately effective at stopping smaller calibers like .22LR and 9mm at long ranges. Ceramic tiles or not, it should still not be trusted to stop anything beyond small caliber pistol rounds.
704 Tactical’s Ceramic Tile Armor
The YouTuber 704 Tactical took the pool tile armor concept and made it slightly more professional-looking. His $6 DIY armor made out of three layers of pool tiles, 0.3 inches worth of copy paper, and a layer of duct tape, this DIY plate weighs 8.5lbs and is strong enough to stop 9mm rounds and 12ga buckshot.
However, the armor comes with an unfortunate caveat. In 704 Tactical’s own words, “don’t rely on it, you’ll definitely die.” While some companies rely on ceramic plates for their bulletproof materials, professionally-made armor is always augmented with some form of ballistic fiber, and copy paper just doesn’t provide the same level of protection.
Trojan Ballistics Armor
Troy Hurtubise's Trojan Armor
While the “Trojan” looks semi-professional, it’s actually the brainchild of one man. Troy Hurtubise, the Canadian inventor of the bear suit, was famous for testing his homemade heavy armor while wearing it himself. The aforementioned bear suit, for example, was hit by a 300lb log.
Around the time of the War in Iraq, Mr. Hurtubise grew concerned about IED attacks on Canadian soldiers, so he put his efforts into creating a new suit rated to stop bullets and shrapnel. He described his Trojan Ballistics Armor as the “first ballistic, full exoskeleton body suit of armor.” The full body armor was capable of stopping 9mm, .357 Magnum, and 12ga buckshot at close range. Hurtubise even made the bold claim it could stop a round from an elephant gun (loosely defined as any large caliber centerfire chambered in .400 or greater) but no evidence was found to prove this. The suit was never tested against IEDs.
Based on the modifications he made to the suit, Hurtubise probably intended to create a real-life Iron Man suit for special operations use. Weighing a mere 50lbs, the suit was equipped with magnetic holsters, helmet-mounted headlights, a solar-powered air conditioning system, a recording device, a pepper spray capsule, and a compartment for emergency morphine and salt.
While the product seemed top notch on paper, Hurtubise’s marketing for government contracts was less so. In 2010, his research and development drove him to bankruptcy and later divorce. Tragically, Hurtubise died in a freak highway accident in 2018 when his car collided with a gasoline truck which resulted in a fiery explosion. He was not wearing his armor at the time.
Hurtubise was confident that its bullet-resistant foam, a material of his own design, would be able to stop even the largest calibers of ammo, and he proved it to be at least Level IIIA resistant, but sadly the suit’s true capabilities may never truly be tested.
BulletSafe VP3 vest
Unlike these other examples of bulletproof armor, BulletSafe vests and plates are NIJ tested and approved. The VP3 vest is affordable, durable, and lightweight Level IIIA armor capable of stopping rounds up to Level IIIA, and BulletSafe Level IV plates have been shown to be capable of defeating .30-06 armor piercing ammunition.
If you decide you need bulletproof protection at home, there’s no need to improvise. BulletSafe’s vests are sold at just $299.99 and are worn by security and law enforcement professionals all over the world.