GEAR & TECH

This is why US troops don't use ballistic shields

Note: For the sake of brevity, I will use the term "ballistic shields" to be an all-inclusive term for III-A rated shields used by law enforcement.


Even the Ballistic Resistant Protective Materials NIJ Standard 0108.01, a publication that is used by the U.S. Department of Justice, warns of highly technical jargon that may be confusing for the uninitiated when defining a ballistic shield:

"Because this NIJ standard is designed as a procurement aid, it is necessarily highly technical. For those who seek general guidance concerning the selection and application of law enforcement equipment, user guides have also been published. The guides explain, in non-technical language, how to select equipment capable of performance required by an agency." – Lester D. Shubin, Program Manager for Standards, National Institute of Justice.

Now that that's settled...

An edge for the Thin Blue Line

Imagine, for a moment, a metropolis of crowded buildings, hours after nightfall. Strobes of red and blue paint the virtually empty streets. Police vehicles and personnel are poised with a single structure at their center. Negotiations are faltering, their demands are too ambitious, and the hostages are too far out of reach.

Your uniform declares "Special Weapons and Tactics" to the world. Your radio comes to life and the order is issued. Everyone is on high alert for what may happen next.

Leading a four-man formation with a shield and side arm, you glide, skirting the wall, right up to the front door. The second team arrives behind your stack. Protected by eyes and weapons pointed in all directions, you check the handle:

Locked.

After a moment of communication with a team member known as the breacher, he crosses to the opposite end of the door. You feel someone squeeze your arm; that's the signal. You make eye contact with the breacher and he gives you a nod. The adrenaline pumping through your veins fuels a moment of clarity: You trained for this. You are ready for this. It's time to lay down the f *cking law.

Every hallway, room, and staircase are methodically cleared using slow, but deliberate movements. Your shield never lowers, but the weight begins to take its toll on your strength.

Hostiles attempt to repel your advance by firing everything they've got. The roar of .44 magnums and 9mm pistols fill the air. Whatever your ballistic shield doesn't block impacts around you.

You return the greeting — with interest — and push forward.

The outside world holds their breath, transfixed on the live-stream broadcast. The eyes of millions scan for every flash, boom, and bust from the safety of their phones. After what feels like an eternity, your team and the hostages emerge.

This is one of countless scenarios that law enforcement faces as "the thin blue line" separating the civilized world from the savagery of gangs and terror. Ballistic shields give officers an edge against an enemy that would otherwise prey on the innocent with impunity.

Could this edge be transferable to the battlefield?

A ballistic shield loses its edge on a battlefield – and more so against an unconventional foe.

First, its cumbersome size and weight reduces a rifleman's speed and mobility — two very important traits that are not easily sacrificed by warriors. It's always better to dodge a bullet than to block it (for obvious reasons). A modern troop will be equipped with heavy gear, ammo, and a chest full of patriotism.

The ballistic shield is lightweight only in the sense that it weighs under 20 pounds.

It just becomes another thing to lug around with no comfortable method of carry. It would be another asinine piece of gear that could potentially get you killed because some congressman and a defense firm shook hands. Firefights can sometimes last hours, days, or (in some of the most brutal circumstances) months, and you can literally and metaphorically find yourself fighting single-handed.

Second, unconventional enemies use high-caliber, armor-piercing rounds. Most of what you would find when fighting communists or terror organizations would turn a ballistic shield into Swiss cheese.

You won't find the Islamic State imposing their twisted ideologies with a 9mm. An Improvised Explosive Device buried underneath the ground will effectively neutralize any benefit of that additional armor.

Third, most battles don't devolve into a "Mexican Stand-Off," sealed away from the rest of the city. If the enemy is fortified, but there are no hostages or prisoners of war, there are other options...

Ballistic shields have earned their place as a staple for law enforcement because they have a specific purpose. Those same shields offer little to no benefit in combat.

GEAR & TECH

6 of the most notable pre-M16 military guns

Throughout history, the U.S. Military has used a wide variety of guns to win its battles. Prior to the M16, there were several weapons used across the service throughout some of the most devastating wars the world has ever seen.

Here are some of those weapons:

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
International

China and the US could end up in a war – here's what would happen

It's unlikely that the U.S.-China trade dispute is going to escalate to a full-scale war any time soon — but it's not impossible. Neither side is inclined to go to war with the other, but a war of that scale is what both plan to fight. All it would take is one bungled crisis, one itchy trigger finger, one malfunctioning automated defense system and the entire region could become a war zone.

Keep reading... Show less
Lists

Here are the best military photos for the week of April 20th

The military is always evolving and new things happen every day. With each changes comes a new set of challenges and new opportunities to succeed. Thankfully, there are many talented photographers in the community that capture these struggles and triumphs.

Keep reading... Show less
History

5 ways troops accidentally 'blue falcon' the rest of the platoon

Every now and then, the pricks known as 'Blue Falcons' come and ruin things for everyone else. They break the rules and make everyone else suffer. They rat out their brothers- and sisters-in-arms. They even damage the reputation of others to make themselves look better.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

Why I'm thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.

Keep reading... Show less
History

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.

Known as "drop tanks," these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they're hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.

Keep reading... Show less

The hilarious ways Chinese police are combating jaywalkers

China is so desperate to stop jaywalkers it has turned to spraying them with water.

In Daye, in the central Hubei province, one pedestrian crossing has had a number of bright yellow bollards installed that spray wayward pedestrians' feet with water mist.

Keep reading... Show less