Patriot3 has two new innovations in the field of ballistic shield protection: the Flex Shield and Flex Field. Both offer compact, lightweight, and rapidly deployable protection with a threat level of National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level IIIA (up to and including 44 Magnum rounds).
The Patriot3 Flex Shield is the first rollup ballistic shield of its kind designed for active shooter, quick deployment situations by patrol units. Its revolutionary design allows it to be rolled into a compact, 8-inch by 24-inch package and stored in patrol or similar vehicles that have limited space. Yet, it opens to 24 inches by 45 inches. When open, it is a full-size shield that can be used in either rigid or non-rigid applications. While today's ballistic shields weigh from 20 to 35 pounds, the Flex Shield weighs only 11 pounds.
When the shield is needed, it is deployed by pulling a release tab that allows it to drop with gravity and renders it instantly usable in its Flex-Mode in which it remains flexible to conform to different surfaces. If time permits, the stiffening rods can be inserted to make it rigid for more traditional shield operations. This takes about 10 seconds.
The Flex Shield's construction uses advanced aramid technology. Kevlar® is a brand of aramid, a ballistic, synthetic fiber developed by DuPont scientists that combines high strength with light weight to dramatically improve ballistic protection. The Flex Shield comes complete with removable, Velcro® "police" or "sheriff" patches.
Use in the Field
The Guilford County, N.C. Sheriff's Office has 254 sworn deputies, including the Sheriff's Emergency Response Team (SERT). According to Lt. Randy Shepherd, in addition to the SERT, all 40 sergeants in the agency carry the Flex Shield. In the past, if there was a need for a ballistic shield, a call had to be made to the tactical team, which kept a shield in its truck.
Deputies have used the Flex Shield in felony vehicle stops and when going against armed subjects. The sheriff's office plans to use federal forfeiture funds to pay for 40 more Flex Shields for all of the corporals in the field.
Our field evaluators were trainers from Emerald Shield Tactical Concepts. The company prepares law enforcement officers to prevail in any on- or off-duty encounter through courses and tactics using non-lethal training ammunition and live-fire scenarios. It focuses its training in high liability areas, and its instructors are sworn Florida-based LE trainers who are still current law enforcement officers. Instructor backgrounds include control tactics / martial arts, SWAT, use of force, and firearms certification.
In working with the Patriot3 Flex Shield, the trainers first noted that it takes up less room than other ballistic shields like the traditional rectangular shaped, nonflexible bunker shield. It is much more compact for storage in a vehicle's trunk, and in its rolled-up configuration, it becomes a grab-and-go bag for use by uniform patrol officers.
The shield also appears to be more durable than other ballistic shields in the regard that it is made without a viewing port, so there would be none of the scratching or cracking that happens to ballistic shield ports during squad car storage, carrying, and usage. It assembles with rigid rods quickly in active shooter scenarios, something the trainers initially found takes some motor skills.
Perhaps one of the shield's greatest merits is its use in conducting rescues, something that can be accomplished with the stiffening rods in place. Another plus for the shield is that it can be used as ballistic hardener to parts of a patrol car such as the door.
Other imaginative application possibilities include beefing up low exterior walls, and using it as a ground-level horizontal shield, held in place with stakes or perhaps by using one of the stiffening rods as a stake for one side.
In regard to ballistic protection, the Flex Shield is designed to cover the shield operator's center body mass. To observe or shoot at his opponent, part of the shield operator's face and one or both of his eyes will be exposed.
The Emerald Shield trainers were concerned that in the shield's present construction, if the front was struck by one or more bullets in the area directly over the shield operator's forearm, the shot would still cause a lot of pain. They thought it would be beneficial if, in the interior area where the shield is in contact with the operator's forearm, it was beefed up with something like foam material or aramid padding.
Beefing up the forearm area might reduce the pain or tentative injury from impacting bullets; however, as it is, the Flex Shield does offer more protection than ballistic body armor and is easy to carry.
Patriot3 responded to the padding concern by saying if the padding were made thicker, it would become more difficult to roll up the system. The main purpose of the shield is to have something the officer can use to respond quickly to active shooter situations.
While the padding may not be as thick as a rigid entry shield, it will still save a life, which counters the shield operator receiving a forearm injury. Shields are made to save lives just like a vest, even though there could still be bodily damage in some way if hit in the wrong spot.
Since the Flex Shield is flexible, the lip of the shield cannot be used to tap and rack a handgun. An alternative tap / racking technique would have to be used, such as using the shield operator's holster. In addition, transitioning immediately from one arm to the other by the shield operator was somewhat awkward, but something that could be done more efficiently with practice.
Stances with the Flex Shield
In a "shoulder shield" stance modified for Flex Shield, the shield is held at the shoulder on the support side of the officer's body using the shield's hand and forearm system. The shield should be straight up and down, or at a slight cant to facilitate the shield operator's field of view. The operator should be able to turn his / her body as needed to look over the handgun side or lip of the shield.
This position provides some protection to the support side of the body, and allows the operator of the shield to scan left, right and down range for threats. At shoulder shield, the handgun is unholstered and brought to a ready gun position. Basically, this is a modification of Shoulder Shield originally taught by Lieutenant (NYPD, ESU retired) Al Baker and others for bunker shield commands. Using a Shoulder Shield stance, the shield operator can move to Combat Shield and is ready for any potential shooting engagement with bad guys.
In the "combat shield" stance, the Flex Shield can be used in making limited penetrations, where the shield covers about ¼ of the shield operator's face. In making limited penetrations, the combat shield stance is again a modification of the traditional stance originally taught by Al Baker and others for use with ballistic (bunker) shields with ports (windows), something the Flex Shield does not have.
In this primary fighting position, the operator is behind the shield and the weapon-bearing hand is out in front, as are portions of the operator's head and eyes, observing and engaging any threats by looking from that side of the shield. The handgun bearing hand is up at the shield operator's eye level.
Like a battle tank, the shield operator can rotate with his shield in place, viewing the threat. The shield is held straight up and down, although there can be a cant or slant to it when the threat calls for a change in tactics. The handgun is held in a canted grip, with the top of the gun leaning toward the center of the shield, rear sight up. Practice helps to develop the stance, weapon stability and movement, which is heel to toe.
In adapting the Flex Shield to the "close quarters" stance, the shield is held straight up and down or at a slight cant to facilitate the shield operator's vision and close quarters positioning of the handgun. This is also used when rounding corners, doors, etc. It is similar to Flex Shield's Combat Shield, except the shield operator's gun-side elbow is locked in to his side, as it is in close quarters point shooting. From the trigger guard onward, the barrel of the handgun protrudes beyond the lip of the Flex Shield.
Flex Field Barrier
Patriot3 has also introduced its new Flex Field Articulating Ballistic / Fragmentation Barrier. This highly mobile, adjustable barrier can be used in different configurations as well as in both rigid and non-rigid states. At 65 pounds and 98 inches by 48 inches, the Flex Field Barrier protects against the NIJ Level IIIA ballistic threats. The Flex Field is also available in NIJ Level III (rifle ammunition).
Out of the case, the Flex Field offers immediate protection from ballistic threats and blast fragmentation. It comes with adjustable poles that can be fitted into place to create a rigid, protective, mobile wall barrier. The Flex Field is built with numerous handles on each side for quick and easy pickup and carry. When the shield is opened, these handles face the shield operators.
In worst case scenarios, it can be used as a liter for carrying the wounded or injured. The Flex Field can also be handled in Flex-Mode by an officer, or placed over a patrol vehicle door or windshield where it conforms to the vehicle's surface for more complete coverage.
Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, Ohio, Police Department and a frequent contributor to LAW and ORDER. Mickey Davis is a California-based writer and author.