While most people don’t need to think about wearing body armor, for the select few who are facing combat, body armor is serious business. Having the right protection can be the difference between safety and grave danger or even death. One of the most widely hyped armors in history has been Dragon Skin body armor.
It promised to stop multiple rounds, be flexible, and provide a level of protection that hadn’t been seen up to that time, but just how safe was it?
The United States Army itself tested out Dragon Skin body armor only to find that it failed miserably. In a test round of 48 shots, 13 of those managed to fully penetrate the protective layer.
The Army had already issued a safety warning to soldiers wearing Dragon Skin but this test was further proof that the body armor couldn’t stand up to real combat. Furthermore, any kind of body armor that soldiers are going to wear out on the field needs to be tested under extreme conditions.
After all, these individuals are going to be exposed to all kinds of weather as well as dangers and threats to their extremities, head, and face. Proper coverage is about protecting these areas as well as the vital organs.
While Dragon Skin seems to be a heavy-duty body armor at first glance, heavy testing reveals that its linked chain mail design can’t stand up to intense conditions such as salt water immersion and exposure to oil. The reason for this lies in the adhesive that keeps the linked ceramic plates together.
Under extreme temperatures and weather conditions, the adhesive breaks down, causing serious impairments in the body armor. It’s not just warm temperatures that compromise the integrity of the suit; colder climates can also destroy it. In fact, tests showed that the lower ceramic plates began to fall away from the armor when exposed to these temperatures. That means vital organs in full exposure for weapons and enemy forces.
Not only is Dragon Skin a disappointment in Army rigor tests but it is a heavy piece of body armor that would seriously weigh down a soldier in combat. The suit alone weighs in at 47.5 pounds; add to that any additional armor, as well as tools and weapons and soldiers, are looking at a heavy load to bear indeed.
Some individuals might be confused by the downfall of Dragon Skin, considering that it was being lauded heavily by the military before being dropped. The hype was due to marketing campaigns that exaggerated the strength and durability of the body armor. The popularity of Dragon Skin had more to do with hype than any actual valid evidence that it was capable of withstanding military-grade conditions.
The primary concern for Dragon Skin is that its second-shot performance didn’t comply with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) regulations.
Right now, ESAPI (Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert) plates are the industry standard, meeting NIJ requirements. They’re issued as Class IV armor and serve as the federal government standard. For reference, Class IV body armor protects against armor-piercing .30 bullets and provides at least single-hit protection against dangers in Class I, II, and III categories.
One alternative to Dragon Skin was the Trojan Ballistics Suit of Armor, which was developed by inventor Troy James Hurtubise. It was built for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and was lauded as the first ballistics exoskeleton body suit of armor. Unfortunately, Hurtubise died tragically in an accident so his body armor suit never reached full fruition.
Most soldiers wear a combination of an advanced combat helmet and some kind of vest composed of soft armor with level IV plates that cover vital areas. Many individuals use a variation of the popular Interceptor body armor that was used in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The variant can be paired with ESAPIs as well as deltoid and axillary protector systems (DAPS).
Dragon Skin body armor may seem like a strange topic, but it’s a question we still sometimes get so I felt it was worth addressing.
Modern body armor fielded today weighs around 30 – 35 lbs with plates. With a weapon and ammo, soldiers are carrying around 40 – 45 lbs. Still, this is better than the 47.5 pounds of the Dragon Skin alone.
was an interesting concept when it was first revealed. Unfortunately, it fell short in testing and any armor you may find for sale today would not only underperform, but it’ll also be very old.