Bulletproof vests are necessary protective equipment for some people. They are rated for a variety arounds and have saved lives. But just how broad is that protection? Can they protect you from a sniper round?
But what is a sniper round? How likely are you to encounter a sniper round? What is a sniper? We are going to look into these questions to help you understand the protection your vest gives you.
What Bullet Proof Vests Can Stop
Bullet proof vests that feature a ceramic plate or similar level of protection can stop sniper rounds. Some rounds can defeat them but this comes down to the round. Soft armor is more likely to be defeated by rifle rounds.
Let’s look into the different factors so we see just what we’re dealing with.
Snipers, Sniper Rounds and More
Snipers are one of the more mystified combat roles. Lumped in with special forces, a sniper to the average person is anyone with a scope on their gun. But a lot more goes into what a sniper is and why they are armed with certain weapons.
Let’s look at what a sniper is and some of what they use.
What is a Sniper?
Snipers are individuals whose role varies on the battlefield. They work in teams of two and provide intelligence to the rest of their forces in the area. This might be anything from troop movement to weather changes.
Snipers can also provide fire support. This is what most people think snipers do. This is taking shots at important targets or targets of opportunity. In this role they are either very selective or are used similar to a machine gun by denying an area to enemy movement.
For these roles they tend to use heavier calibers than the more modern infantry cartridges. These can range from 7.62×51 to .300 Winchester Magnums to .50 BMG depending on the distances they are expecting to engage the enemy at.
But they are not the only medium to long range threat. This other threat is the Designated Marksman.
Designated Marksmen are not snipers. They are usually members of an infantry squad that exhibit better marksmanship than the rest. They are then given a rifle that has a little more reach and precision than their comrades rifles.
This is the role that the Dragunov “sniper” rifle was designed for. For the US this is mostly filled by a modernized/accurized M14 style rifle.
This follows the sniper role in that these individuals use different ammunition than the rest of the squad, but they are not expected to make extremely long range shots. They are there to increase the squad’s effective range.
Now let’s look at some of the rounds these two different roles use.
This term is extremely subjective. Technically anything used accurately or by a sniper can be a sniper round. But a lot of common rounds are used as sniper rounds.
These include 5.56, 7.62×39 (in some cases), and similar intermediate cartridges. However most sniper rounds tend to be 7.62×51 because of the infrastructure involved. For the Dragunov this is 7.62x54R.
Other more specialized rounds include .338 Lapua, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .50 BMG. Many of these rounds will be stopped by modern ceramic body armor. However larger lounds like the .50 BMG or some specialized rounds can defeat ceramic.
Those rounds will either defeat the ceramic by causing the plate to completely fail, allowing the projectile to pass through, or the round will impart so much energy into the plate that the energy transfer will still inflict lethal damage to the wearer.
Some bullet proof vests won’t stop any of these rounds, but this comes down to the vest being used.
What Type of Vest?
The type of vest is important if we want to protect ourselves from bullets. Most vests have a range of ammunition they are rated for. It’s a safe bet that a vest won’t stop a round that exceeds the energy rating of the rounds it’s rated for.
Soft armor is one of the more common types of body armor and is rated for most pistol rounds. It can defeat some shotgun projectiles but will be defeated by most rifle rounds.
This type of armor is not going to work against sniper rounds, but you’re also unlikely to encounter them if this is your primary armor.
Hard body armor comes in two general types, steel and ceramic. Newer composites are being developed but these two options are what we typically have now.
Steel will stop some rifle rounds. This all depends on the load, the range, and the energy of the round. However spalling still remains an issue. Spalling is when small flakes of metal, either from the plate itself or the bullet are flung in different directions. With steel plates, this usually results in the wearer being peppered with potentially lethal shrapnel.
Ceramic is better at stopping more threats. This is the armor you are more likely to have when encountering snipers. However if a round is going fast enough or is designed to defeat ceramic, a ceramic plate may not stop the bullet.
This is rare, but not out of the realm of possibility. Another issue is if the round is too powerful. The imparted energy from certain rounds, like .50 BMG might not pierce a ceramic plate but the energy it transfers through the plate might be enough to severely damage internal organs.
Sniper rounds can be any round used with enough precision. This means that modern body armor can handle most of them.
Rounds that enter the magnum range or are extremely powerful can defeat even the toughest of body armors. You best bet at survival is to use cover and concealment. This is the main tactic to use with body armor.
Body armor is worn just in case you are unlucky enough to be shot. Use tactics to avoid having to rely solely on your body armor.
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