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Point Blank Alpha Elite Series Body Armor

Written by Ed Sanow

(Ed. Note: The new Point Blank Alpha Elite™ Series soft body armor uses DSM Dyneema ballistic material. We covered the recent upgrade in this Dyneema UHMWPE ballistic material in the January 2014 issue of LAW and ORDER. See the Article Archives at www.hendonpub.com for the ballistic material.)

 

Point Blank introduced their Alpha Elite Series™ soft body armor at the 2013 IACP conference in Philadelphia and began shipping the armor in early-2014. The Alpha Elite armor uses the very latest DSM Dyneema ballistic material. Alpha Elite is among the lightest weight Level II and Level IIIA soft body armor on the market today.

Steady improvements in ballistic materials have been made over the years. Ballistic panels continue to become thinner and more flexible, making soft body armor more comfortable to wear.

However, one major area of comfort and wearability has remained almost ignored—the oft-overlooked carrier. That situation just changed. It is the brand-new design of the Alpha Elite Series carrier that sets this body armor apart.

 

Better Fabrics, Tailored Contour

The Alpha Elite Series carrier uses new sports wear fabrics and materials, new tailoring and contouring with less carrier material, fewer stitches and seams, a better shoulder strap access, and easy-to-grasp strap hook tabs. The result is more precise ballistic panel control, and a cooler, snugger, more comfortable, lower visibility fit.

The new Elite carrier is what happens when you start with an expert in active wear apparel design, give him soft body armor feedback from officers and distributors, and then a free hand in selecting the best sports wear fabrics available. 

All else equal, and ballistic materials usually are equal due to NIJ standards, it is the carrier that determines comfort. Departmental policy aside, comfort ultimately decides whether or not the officer wears the body armor.

 

Strap Suspended Panels

The Self-Suspending Ballistic System™ prevents the ballistic panels from sagging and bunching. Point Blank is the only major company to secure ballistic panels this way. The other soft-body armor systems use the straps to hold the carrier, and in turn, the carrier holds the ballistic panels. With the Alpha Elite Series, the shoulder straps are connected directly to the ballistic panels, which more securely hold the panels.

The straps suspend the ballistic panels, not the carrier that holds the ballistic panels. This allows more positional control over the ballistic panels and limits the movement of the ballistic panels inside the carrier. The panels cannot move back and forth, up and down inside the carrier. Instead, the ballistic panels stay exactly where the carrier is, and the carrier is held in place both by body fit (contour) and by multiple elastic straps.

On the shoulder strap, the “alligator mouth” hook is sewn to a 200 denier tab, which is welded and moisture sealed within the panel. The alligator mouth hook is then sewn to the ballistic panel for extra strap-to-panel strength.

 

Comfortable Shoulder Strap Access

Other body armor models made by Point Blank also use the SSBS strap suspension system. However, the Alpha Elite Series has a new, more comfortable, lower profile way to access the shoulder straps to armor connection. The carrier uses an overlapping, peel-back shoulder design. During normal wear, the soft, Active Stretch exterior fabric completely covers the strap loop and alligator-mouth twin hook.

On some other carriers, the downward-facing Velcro® hook can be slightly misplaced on the loop and then scratch or irritate the shoulder area. Completely surrounding the strap to armor connection with the exterior fabric eliminates this possible discomfort.

Some officers undo the side straps and remove the armor and carrier over their head like a pullover shirt. Other officers undo both side straps and one of the shoulder straps and remove the armor and carrier like a buttoned shirt—yes, to avoid dragging the armor over their face and hair.

 

Active Stretch, Inner Mesh

The exterior fabric is made of 85 percent polyester and 15 percent spandex. (The name “spandex” is an anagram of the word “expands.”) The exterior fabric has a memory that allows it to be peeled back to expose the shoulder strap to ballistic panel connection, and then return to fully surrounded once released.

The use of this Active Stretch sports wear, active wear fabric also results in a slightly snugger overall fit of the soft body armor. The exterior fabric is Aegis® anti-microbial treated.

The Elite carrier has a Micro-Spacer Inner Mesh insert positioned in the center of the back and the center of the front of the carrier. The anti-microbial mesh acts as a cooling spacer, to both wick away moisture and vent air between the body and the carrier.

 

Longer Straps

On the male carrier, the straps have been extended from 7 inches to 9 inches. On the female carrier, the straps have been extended from 5 inches to 7 inches. In both cases, the carrier is designed for a snip and cut to fit. The officer should put on the new vest and review the fit. If the shoulder straps are too long, remove the vest, and undo one edge of the Breathe-O-Prene® straps from the front vest ballistic panel. Cut 1 inch from each strap, being careful not to cut the carrier. Reassemble the strap to the vest, and try on again.

The Alpha Elite armor comes standard with two, 2-inch-wide straps per side. An optional setup is one, 4-inch-wide strap per side. Using four 2-inch straps gives the wearer eight attachment points, i.e., two per strap. This is ideal for those who are particular about where they like to place their attachment point(s). The two 4-inch straps offer four attachment points, again two per strap. This is a more simple method of attaching the side straps since there is only one strap per side to pull forward.

Since the shoulder straps come into contact with the under garment over the shoulder, they are different material than the standard elastic side straps that only touch the carrier. The shoulder straps are made from softer, smoother Breath-O-Prene®

 

Loop and Hook with PVC Tabs

The entire front of the Alpha Elite Series carrier is covered with a soft, Velcro® brand loop fastener. That means the officer can wrap the side straps up, down or straight across to fit his/her exact body shape…and his/her shape as it may change over the next five years. The Alpha Elite Series carrier has more surface area of loop—for a wider flexibility of strap adjustments—than any other Point Blank carrier.

Some officers find the flat tabs on standard carriers difficult to grasp, so they grab the elastic strap near the tab and pull the Velcro® the wrong direction. The molded PVC tabs with sewn hook on the Elite carrier solve this. The PVC tabs are themselves easy to grasp. Even more, the PVC tabs have notches making it easier yet to pull the elastic by the tab. The PVC tabs are sewn to elastic, which slides into a channel. These straps are available in standard 2-inch versions, as well as a specially created molded 4-inch version.

 

Less Fabric and Fewer Seams

One of the design goals for the Elite carrier was to eliminate fabric and material wherever possible. The Alpha Elite Series carrier is streamlined—the edge of the carrier exactly follows the edge of the ballistic panels. There is no excess carrier material. Eliminating fabric makes the carrier—and the overall body armor—lighter, cooler and less visible. A more tailored, form-fitting carrier also controls the placement of the ballistic panels.

Another design goal in making the carrier was to eliminate as much stitching as possible. Stitches and seams cause visible ridges, bumps and gathers; it also causes rubs and skin irritation. Eliminating stitches and seams increases comfort.

 

Panel and Plate Access

For routine care of both the carrier and the ballistic panels, the panels can be easily removed through a zippered closure at the bottom of the carrier exterior. PowerNet Stretch Combo Plate Pockets in the carrier accept 5-inch x 8-inch, 6-inch x 8-inch or 8-inch x 10-inch trauma plates in both the front and the back. These bottom-loading internal plate pockets are made from 90-percent nylon and 10-percent spandex and the folded design eliminates yet another seam in the carrier.

The Alpha Elite Series carrier uses a removable cummerbund, which is an inner belly band that wraps from back to front. Some officers like the fit, feel and stability from an elastic cummerbund; some don’t—it can easily be removed.

The typical leadtime for the Alpha Elite body armor, from order entry with the properly measured size to shipping is three weeks, which is about half the leadtime typical of the soft-body armor industry. The carriers are available in Black, Navy, Light Tan, White and one new color: Ranger Green.

 

Level II and Level IIIA

At the product launch in early-2014, the Alpha Elite body armor with Dyneema ballistic panels is available in NIJ Level II and NIJ Level IIIA for men, and in NIJ Level IIIA for women. The Level II for women will be available in late-May.

While the Alpha Elite Level IIIA ballistic material is 38 percent heavier than Alpha Elite Level II ballistic material, it is just 0.02-inch thicker. Not that the Alpha Elite Level IIIA is heavy, in fact, it is 26 percent lighter than the industry average for this level of protection.

Greatly simplified, Level II is rated to stop most 9mm and 357 Magnum loads, while Level IIIA is rated to stop most of the more powerful 357 SIG and 44 Magnum loads. The rule in selecting body armor is to pick at least the Threat Level that stops loads from your own duty gun in the event of a disarm.

 

State-of-the-Art Comfort

The comfort of the soft body armor often determines whether or not the officer actually wears the armor. The Active Stretch sports wear fabric that makes up most of the carrier, the Micro-Spacer mesh netting, the easy-to-pull PVC hook tabs and the fully covered should strap connection make the Alpha Elite carrier arguably the most comfortable body armor carrier available.

This active wear-based carrier teamed with the thinner and lighter DSM Dyneema ballistic panels may make the Point Blank’s Alpha Elite Series the current state-of-the-art in soft body armor.

 

Sgt. Ed Sanow is the Editorial Director of LAW and ORDER, Tactical Response and Police Fleet Manager Magazines. He can be reached at esanow@hendonpub.com.


Published in Law and Order, May 2014

Rating : Not Yet Rated


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Point Blank Body ArmorPoint Blank Enterprises
 

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Ballistic PanelsBody ArmorDyneemaPoint Blank Alpha Elite Body Armor PolyesterPVC TabsSoft Body ArmorSpandex
 

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