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Baker Ballistics' Mobile Rifle Armor Protective Shield

Written by Jim Weiss

Baker Ballistics recently introduced the newest addition to its ballistic shield product line, the Mobile Rifle Armor Protective Shield, MRAPS™. This unique shield is constructed of high-technology, military-grade composite armor developed to protect military personnel during Close Quarter Battle operations and to defeat multiple impacts fired at muzzle velocities.

The MRAPS is designed specifically to be used with an M-4 weapon accessorized with a vertical forestock grip mounted onto a Picatinny rail system. MRAPS is also ideally suited for tactical police use during room entry clearing operations and active shooter response.

The shield offers a full 4.2 square feet of ballistic rifle protection, enough to cover the shield operator’s head, torso, groin and femoral arteries while engaging a rifle-equipped adversary, as well as more than five times greater rifle ballistic coverage than typical ceramic/polyethylene vest inserts. While other ballistic shields offering defense against rifle fire tend to be very heavy and are often wheel-mounted, the MRAPS weighs only 17.6 pounds.

The MRAPS also gives its operator excellent mobility as well as the ability to aim and fire a long gun accurately from a natural shooting position or to take to make a long shot.

Utilizing Baker Ballistics’s unique “Bungee/Lanyard,” the MRAPS can be easily and comfortably carried with less fatigue on long periods of use.

A shield operator can keep an MRAPS high up without having to muscle it, and the hands are closer to the body than with a traditional bunker shield in a Combat Shield position. (“Combat Shield” in bunker ballistic shield work and tactics is the primary fighting position command. The shield operator is completely behind the shield and the weapon-bearing hand is out in front of the view port, ready for any potential shooting. This can be fatiguing).

The MRAPS is also unique in its ability to position the shield vertically in the "low-ready" body/weapon position with zero weight placed onto the arms and hands of the shield operator. This grants full visibility across the top of the shield, and protects the user from approximately the base of the collarbone down to the knees.

The muscle groups required to raise the shield into the full "combat ready" position are rested due to the ability of the user to have the choice of using low ready position while moving through previously cleared or obviously safer areas. MRAPS also provides a stable armored shooting position since a harness system sets up with the shield operator’s own ballistic vest.

While on the move, this lightweight, innovative ballistic shield can be carried on one arm, providing the shield operator a dominating capability: delivery of accurate, center line firepower using a military/law enforcement-style long gun.

The shield can be used to provide rifle protection while its operator moves through open unprotected areas, approaching windows, buildings, vehicles, or armed individuals. If the operator decides to stop, drop to one knee and become stationary, the MRAPS becomes an instant armored “fighting position” shield, offering an excellent “bipod” solid shooting platform.

At 20 inches wide and 34 inches long, the MRAPS is well-suited for advancing through narrow hallways and up stairs in smaller buildings like houses and inside other tight quarters such as public transportation vehicles. However, the MRAPS is a bit long for a shield operator to clear a low-ceiling attic with it.

Due to its compact size, the MRAPS is also suited for waterborne operations. In fact, polyethylene armor composites, like those used in the MRAPS, are lighter than water and will not readily sink, although this depends upon the amount of hardware affixed to the shield.

In addition, the MRAPS is ideal for vehicle take-downs, especially since AK-47 and SKS-type, high-capacity military weaponry popular with gangs and their propensity for drive-by shootings/assassinations of rival gang members.

In the not too distant past, many law enforcement agencies categorized response to an active shooter as strictly a tactical/SWAT operation, dangerous for the first patrol responders. Following Columbine, active shooter response evolved into a multiple-officer formation in which the first three or four responders to an active killing joined up, gathered information, and slowly moved toward the threat.

It is now recognized that active mass killing is conducted so quickly, even the first responding officer (or two) may not have enough time to save lives unless very swift and aggressive movement towards the threat occurs. It is within this philosophy that the use of a personal shield designed to allow a quick and silent approach to an active killer, combined with the ability to deliver accurate and dominating firepower upon the threat, is an indispensable officer safety asset and a useful tool to help save the lives of innocents under attack.

In response to situations such as an active shooter, where an active shooter can kill a hostage at a rate of about one every 15 seconds, both the Baker Batsheild® and the MRAPS offer a tactical fan response instead of a stack, single-line advance. In this way, a tactical team can respond in a spread-out pattern, bringing multiple guns and ballistic shields to a problem in a hurry. This allows the MRAPS-equipped officer to close the distance between pursuing first responders and the mass-murdering assault rifle-equipped attackers.

The MRAPS is not a device to replace all other tactical ballistic shields, however. Every shield has an ideal purpose. Heavy, windowed and wheel-equipped shields are ideal for containment, observation cover, and a slow, defensive, multiple-operator approach toward a known or potential threat. These wheeled shields are typically rated NIJ Threat Level Type IV, and protect the operators against armor-piercing ammunition rifle fire. The density of Level IV armor is eight to fourteen pounds per square foot.

The MRAPS is rated NIJ Threat Level III, protecting the shield operator against typical military-type, full metal jacket rifle ammunition using a lead core. It is capable of defeating multiple hits at muzzle velocities ranging from common 7.62mm x 39mm (AK-47/SKS) to 5.56mm ball and 7.62 NATO ball.

The MRAPS has been tested by an NIJ certified independent laboratory to fully comply with the free-standing armor test as required by NIJ Std 0108.01 for Threat Level Type III ballistic performance. In addition, the engineers at Baker Ballistics have included the ability for the MRAPS to defeat multiple impacts of the Chinese manufacture, mild steel core 7.62mm X 39mm (AK-47) ammunition, a notoriously difficult round for Level III-rated polyethylene composite armor to safely defeat at muzzle velocities.

Recently developed, military-grade polyethylene composite armor utilized within the MRAPS weighs approximately three pounds per square foot. This requires much less hardware than heavier shields, yet provides users with armor protection that will not fall out of their hands after absorbing multiple hits of center fire rifle rounds.

Ballistic protection for military use is even more of a weight problem, as weapons and body armor add about 60 pounds of weight for soldiers or marines to carry before the addition of a hand portable ballistic shield. It is a common practice for soldiers and some SWAT team members to make use of ceramic plate ballistic vest inserts, which in reality are restricted protection; a ballistic shield such as the MRAPS offers more protection. In fact, it is the only ballistic shield that offers both rifle and pistol rounds protection, while its shield operator can deploy his/her own rifle.

MRAPS comes in black, sand and green, with custom camo, and other colors are available. Identification banners such as POLICE or SHERIFF and custom decals are options. Other options include LED lighting and a left-handed version of the MRAPS. Baker Ballistics also markets ballistic leg armor—Kevlar® with foam at the knees and shins—to protect the front of the leg. With Baker Ballistics’ face armor and helmet added, the operator has head-to-toe Level IIIA ballistic protection.

The development of the MRAPS is another ballistic evolution from Baker Ballistics’ Rick Armellino and Al Baker. Al Baker is a retired (1990) lieutenant from the NYPD Emergency Service Unit (ESU). During the 1980s, Lt. Baker was in charge of ESU’s equipment and was NYPD’s in-house expert on ballistic shields.

During this time, ESU responded to 4,000 barricaded subject/hostage incidents a year, and drugs and crime were prevalent. Baker saw ballistic protection as a great priority. Boston Police Department was the first major police department to deploy both bunker shields and rolling ballistic shields. Baker developed the ballistic blanket as well as designed and built rolling ballistic shields that could have the add-ons of wings, roofs and ports, for use over rough terrain.

Rick Armellino is the Director and Chief Executive Officer of Baker Ballistics LLC., the manufacturer of the Baker Batshield® personal ballistic shield. He has more than 32 years of experience in the body armor industry, including Director of Research and Development and President of American Body Armor and Equipment Inc. His body armor designs have saved more than 40 American law enforcement officers from death or serious injury during attacks by gunfire.

Recently, Armellino partnered with Lt. Al Baker to advance the concept of Immediate Action Rapid Deployment (IARD) tactics for use by first responders in the approach to armed and hostile individuals in public places.

In the evolution of ballistic shields, the MRAPS is a huge statement of progress on the ability to deploy an actual rifle bullet-stopping shield to the needs for greater mobility and firepower to fight the likes of the active shooter. It should be considered another tool in the tactical officer's bag of tools, ready for a quick, nimble offense when speed and accurate firepower is required.

Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, OH, Police Department and a frequent contributor to LAW and ORDER. Mickey Davis is a California-based writer and author.

Published in Tactical Response, Jul/Aug 2011

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