(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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Less Fabric and Fewer
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
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
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:
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
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
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.
Ed Sanow is the Editorial Director of Tactical Response, LAW and ORDER and Police Fleet Manager Magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.