Proper wear of Hard Armor (with diagram)

This is often a misunderstood topic so I thought I should share a bit of my anatomy knowledge.

Purpose

Body armor is meant to keep you in the fight. That is, armor is meant to protect your vital organs which, if hit, would immediately take you down and prevent you from putting rounds on target. The possibility of saving your life is a secondary benefit of body armor.

What to protect

With this purpose in mind we must understand those structures we need to protect which we can realistically protect while still maintaining a high degree of mobility. Our primary concern is the heart and the large blood vessels which sprout from the top of the heart: the superior vena cava, the arch of the aorta and the pulmonary trunk. I will refer to these vessels simple as “related vessels” from here on. A hit to the heart and its immediately related vessels will very quickly take you out of the fight and kill you within a minute or two.

Second in importance to the heart is the respiratory diaphragm, the muscle which, when contracting, allows you to decrease air pressure within your lungs and thus take in air. Destroy the diaphragm and you destroy one’s ability to breath.

Protecting the vertebral column goes without saying -we wish to protect as much of this as possible without sacrificing mobility for obvious reasons.

It is important to note that a hit to the lungs may prove to eventually be lethal but is not nearly as lethal as quickly as a hit to the heart and its immediately related blood vessels. The liver and kidneys, while highly vascular, are also not immediately incapacitating.

Front/chest plate

The top of your plate should be at the level of your suprasternal notch aka jugular notch. If you follow your sternum towards your head, the soft spot you reach at the top of it is the suprasternal notch. Your plate should ride at least level with the top of your sternum while standing.

The importance of positioning the plate at the top of the SN Notch is that you have a bundle of large blood vessels which rest on top of your heart and lie behind the manubrium (the uppermost portion of your sternum), most notably the aortic arch. The aortic arch receives blood from your left ventricle and will have the highest velocity of all the blood in you systemic circulatory system. Get hit here and you will be done. So, make sure your plate is riding higher, rather than lower because protecting your aortic arch is much more important than protecting your guts.

Also, as you can clearly see with the image below, a smaller plate allows for more comfort and mobility to the shooter will not necessarily mean you will leave immediately incapacitating areas unprotected -large plates will only cover a little more of your peripheral lung tissue and guts.

Reference image (anterior view)

Red is your heart and related blood vessels
Dark Grey/Yellow is a properly positioned plate
The sternum and clavicle are white with black outline




Positioning of rear/back plate

Find the most prominent bony eminence at the base of your neck. This is your vertebral eminence. Count down two bony spinouses (or measure down about an inch) and that should be above the level of the superior aspect of your sternum. Positioning at least this high will ensure your entire heart and its immediately related blood vessels are protected.

Reference image (posterior view)

The vertebral eminence is marked in the diagram below in blue.



Side plates and shoulder plates

Side plates are intended to protect the highly vascular elements of your abdomen. Side plates were introduced to prevent troops from bleeding out in the chopper on the way to the field hospital. Side plates are not necessarily intended to protect the heart, but if you wear them high up into your armpits you can protect some of the lower portion of your heart.

Protecting your heart from a shot to side is accomplished by shoulder plates, such as the ones manufactured by Crye Precision.

To sum it up

Here are general guidelines to follow at a bare minimum. As always, the more protection you can have without sacrificing mobility the better. This is just the bare bones.

Front plate: should be even with top of the sternum while standing, extend at least 1.5 inches past the bottom of your sternum and should cover the entirety of your nipples

Rear plate: should lie no lower than an inch below your vertebral prominence

Side plates: the higher they ride the better
Original Post
I'm gonna steal this, if that's ok with you. I'm constantly fighting with other NCOs about properly fitting body armor, and the fact that it doesn't have to go so damn low, but it DOES need to ride high...

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These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. -Matthew 15:8 "What can I say? I have a piece of paper in a frame on my wall that says I paid $20,000 to be able to use that word." - Haji

Well done!

This is EXTREMELY important information that needs to be continually reinforced.

When possible, I prefer a longer plate rather than a wider one, in order to try and protect from the sternal notch to the bottom of the liver.
Great diagram, really drives home what you are actually attempting to cover. I'm going to forward this and your text to the cops in my city since we issue plate carriers.

Thanks!

_____________________________________________________________

 “If you're not going to fight intelligently, you better be strong, because you're gonna bleed”Bennie Cooley

"No matter how bad it gets, something's gotta be funny about it." - Sinister

"You can love the job, but the job won't love you back" - Pat Rogers

 

Joined: 09/20/07       Location: Seattle (Area), WA

 

quote:
Originally posted by DocGKR:

This is EXTREMELY important information that needs to be continually reinforced.

When possible, I prefer a longer plate rather than a wider one, in order to try and protect from the sternal notch to the bottom of the liver.


Damn right

A longer than wider plate would for sure be more beneficial. The liver is HIGHLY vascular and your respiratory diaphragm follows the bottom of you rib cage.

Here is a link to the full size image:
http://sixty-six.org/x_drive/thorax_anterior.jpg
quote:
Originally posted by Bryson:
Is there something similar to this for the rear? I recently started getting hassled for having a vest that was too short on the backside.


Find the most prominent bony eminence at the base of your neck. This is your vertebral eminence. Count down two bony spinouses and that should be above the level of the superior aspect of your sternum. I'll see what I can do about a diagram.
quote:
Originally posted by The Traveler:
Can you do the same with side plate placement? Great info so far.


I don't think I have the proper diagram, but one really isn't needed.

If you look at my first diagram, the anterior view, follow the top of the aortic arch across and you will see it is roughly in line with the greater tubercle of the humerus (the bony prominence at the top of your arm).

The apex of the heart is near the xiphosternal junction, so it is roughly at the bottom edge of your sternum. Find that on your body, then follow it over to your side.

You will quickly see that a side plate will only partially protect your heart & aortic arch and that is only if you wear it up in your armpit!!
It's a nasty truth about side plates, especially the way about 99% of guys wear them. If your side plates are hanging down around your waist, you may as well just drop the weight.

An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please; 
An 'Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!       -Kipling

Below is a picture that demonstrates the impossible positioning of a side plate in order to protect your heart and its immediate blood vessels.

Keep in mind that side plates were originally intended to prevent wounds that would result in eventual death from bleeding out due to an abdominal would.

Optimal positioning of a side plate would be as high as is comfortable without impeding movement. that way you will hopefully cover the lower portion of your heart, your respiratory diaphragm, part of your liver and kidneys.

quote:
Originally posted by P-Hustle:
It's a nasty truth about side plates, especially the way about 99% of guys wear them. If your side plates are hanging down around your waist, you may as well just drop the weight.


No shit. It's even worse when they are flopping around in the breeze and not vertical, thus not presenting the most surface area to the enemy.
Current side plate positioning is mainly to protect the liver/kidney/descending aorta & vena cava. If you want to protect your heart and aortic arch from a side shot, you need to have hard armor on the upper arm/deltoid area as depicted in the photo above.
quote:
Originally posted by DocGKR:
Current side plate positioning is mainly to protect the liver/kidney/descending aorta & vena cava. If you want to protect your heart and aortic arch from a side shot, you need to have hard armor on the upper arm/deltoid area as depicted in the photo above.


Yep. The liver and kidneys are HIGHLY vascular. Guys were getting shot through the guts and bleeding out on the chopper on the way to the field hospital.
quote:
Originally posted by DocGKR:
Current side plate positioning is mainly to protect the liver/kidney/descending aorta & vena cava. If you want to protect your heart and aortic arch from a side shot, you need to have hard armor on the upper arm/deltoid area as depicted in the photo above.


Does anyone have any experience with, or thoughts on, the Crye Shoulder Plate as a solution for this issue?

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"Praise be to the LORD my Rock,

who trains my hands for war,

my fingers for battle."

Psalm 144, Verse 1 (New International Version)

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