Velocity Systems: Armor Protection at the Speed of Need
ABOVE: Velocity Systems keeps in stock a variety of plate carriers as well as being capable of custom making anything a client desires.
The see-saw battle of armor protection versus armament has been going on since the first wooden shield deflected a bone or stone tipped spear. Most people associate the knights of medieval times as the epitome of armor over armament. In Europe, plate armor reached its peak in the 16th century until the evolution of firearms brought an end to plate armor ascendancy. Research & Development (R&D) in armor protection continued behind the scenes without managing to catch up to firearm effectiveness for hundreds of years. Flak jackets created for the WWII aircrews signified the return of relevance for body armor thanks to advancement in material technology. The WWII flak jacket consisted of manganese steel plates sewn into a waistcoat made of ballistic nylon engineered by the DuPont Company. The ballistic protection we are more familiar with and serves as direct descendant of current body armor was developed in the 1970s in the form of DuPont’s Kevlar fabric. The development of body armor has been going at an unprecedented rate since the 1970s with new materials and techniques discovered that can literally stop a bullet. The manufacturing and material improvements since the Vietnam War are enabling a level of armor protection with minimal added weight, so important for mobility, unmatched for centuries.
There are multiple companies involved in producing ballistic protection systems. This business competition has not only spurred R&D, but also lowered the cost of armor making it available to a wider range of clients besides the military; such as law enforcement, private security, and individual citizens. A leading armor solutions company helping equip U.S. tier one DHS (Department of Homeland Security), law enforcement, private security contractors (PSC), and military units with body armor is Velocity Systems. While military or law enforcement budgets often fixate on high end equipment procurement, it is the unspoken rule that trained personnel are the real commodity in any organization.
While not necessarily the most widely known ballistic protection company, Velocity Systems is used by many law enforcement and military units. At the present time, Velocity Systems’ niche in the market place lies with armor carriers, ballistic plates – soft and hard – and extremely responsive service. Different entities arrive at Velocity with a need in mind. If a Velocity Systems’ product is not already available, Velocity makes working products ready within weeks – not months. Velocity’s sister company, Mayflower Research & Consulting, is another asset that melds well with Velocity Systems’ body armor carriers.
In the United States, certification levels by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, are often used as the standard. The NIJ test protocol is different from all of DoD (Department of Defense) testing. The different branches of military test their armor solutions slightly differently than each other. The DoD tests are largely around perceived threats. The NIJ is strictly a minimum test protocol and is not a threat analysis, though many of the NIJ test rounds used representative of current threats. The NIJ levels are I, II-a, II, III-a, III, and IV. Based on extensive laboratory tests, researchers can classify new body-armor design into one of these categories. Level I body armor offers the lowest level of protection and Level IV offers the highest. The body armor levels are described by what sort of weaponry they guard against. The lowest-level body armor can only be relied on to protect against bullets fired from handguns with a relatively small caliber diameter, which tend to have less force on impact. Levels I through III-a body armor are generally “soft” and thus somewhat more concealable and comfortable and is designed to defend against handgun rounds. Level III is the first tier in the rating hierarchy to utilize hard or semi-rigid steel/ceramic/composite plates as does Level IV rated armor. Level III and Level IV armor is designed to stop rifle fire from rounds such as the 5.56mm, 7.62×39, 7.62x51mm, .30-06, 7.62x54R, etc. A user will need to pay specific attention to plates used to achieve a desired level of protection along with if multiple strike protection is also a requirement. The increased protection associated with Level III and Level IV armor comes at the expense of weight and greater rigidity in armor construct. Even in the best condition, this increased weight affects operator performance and efficiency; the degradation in performance is further enhanced if the individual does not utilize a properly designed armor and plate carrier system.
Velocity Systems offers a variety of armor solutions for a wide array of situations — situations that weren’t conceived of some 30 years ago. Body armor has become just as crucial a part of an operator’s equipment as sidearm, rifle, and ammunition. Velocity manufactures “soft armor” at their factory with most hard armor plates made to their specifications offsite. Velocity Systems maintains QAQC standards that meet or exceed industry standards. All ballistic materials are pre-tested to specification before received into the factory, and all ballistic solutions are Lot Tested after manufacturing. The individual soft armor packs are counted no less than three (3) times and are weighed to meet weight specification, as well as a final visual inspection before shipping to a customer. Velocity’s material welders are serviced every twenty (20) hours of service and are re-calibrated as needed. In recent years, Velocity has started increasing its automation in order to maintain consistency through increasingly larger production runs. Velocity’s customers require the highest standards of ballistic performance so all the industry standards – NIJ, FBI, DEA, DoD – are given consideration; Velocity also builds armor solutions to specific threats as needed or required by customers. Velocity maintains ability to provide different ballistic solutions for different market segments albeit law enforcement, security contractor, or military.
To articulate what separates Velocity Systems from other armor companies, their tag line is, “At the Speed of Need.” Velocity Systems is a specialty/custom house that provides custom armor solutions rapidly, while maintaining no volume constraints. Velocity’s lead designer maintains over 20 years of experience designing armor carrier platforms and ballistic solutions. A “typical” Velocity procurement process involves meeting with a customer to discuss mission profile for armor. A working prototype is then manufactured with the customer encouraged to run the kit for a couple weeks proofing the design criteria in field environment. Once the feedback is given, Velocity is generally 30 to 45 days in standard production for the final product. Obviously, people/agencies that have short suspense times and are going down range have the right-of-way and will get put on the fast track. Velocity’s commitment in being a “solutions provider” also involves Velocity, through industry contacts or other means, regularly acquiring non-Velocity items to help support customers. The relationship between Velocity Systems and Mayflower Research tactical gear is a good example of this “solutions provider” mentality. The principal owner of Mayflower is good friends with one of the Velocity owners. In 2008, Velocity was approached to help support the increasing manufacturing needs of Mayflower. Velocity Systems agreed to OEM manufacture Mayflower chest rigs and other kit. In 2010, Velocity owners acquired a minority share of Mayflower and starting sharing manufacturing assets, distribution outlets, and contacts. Velocity Systems and Mayflower operate as two different companies, but at times this close relationship has design cues and material choices creeping across the factory floor to the mutual benefit of both companies.
While familiar with Velocity Systems and Mayflower products thanks to usage in the last couple years in firearms training courses and other activities, a colleague and friend, Shannon Campbell, was turned to for further insight. With several sojourns overseas as a private security contractor using Velocity Systems products, Shannon is a worthy opinion source. Shannon Campbell is co-founder of Norone Corporate. Norone Corporate is a weapons and security applications training entity that began as a collaboration of former Federal contractors, U.S. military personnel, and active competitors who gathered a vast amount of tactical experience to bring to bare and share to specific clientele. Norone Corporate provides tactical weapons training for protection teams of Federal contractors and law enforcement as well as for some of the largest global private security providers. Of late, Norone has narrowed its focus to stay at mid-level and provide specific training to enhance individual skill development making an individual operator an asset to any team for any environment.
When asked why he chooses to use Velocity Systems plate carriers and hard armor plates versus other options on the market, Shannon responded with, “….the biggest problems operators have with their body armor “kit” is it hindering or competing against efficient employment of their weapons i.e. stock placement, sling snag, cheek weld, sluggish movement drawing a pistol.” Shannon continued, “You need to set your rig to run your guns. All else is secondary. We have all experienced our plates and magazines pulling our whole rig down and exposing us to more problems. The armor also shifts due to accessory weight and lack of shoulder movement. I (Shannon) have personally seen guys in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Indonesia strip their gear down and run it dangerously loose to promote better offensive movement. After all, “The essence of fighting is mobility” as stated by Bruce Lee.” Shannon feels Velocity Systems has found the cures to these ailments and more. Velocity fully realizes one size does not fit all. Velocity Systems’ experience and attention to detail allows them to set up a full armor rig within the confines of an agency/department’s uniformity requirements; yet tailor the armor to the individual at the same time. Velocity Systems’ has the ability to make armor “kit” ready for any mission and accessorize it with minimal changes to suit any environment or specification.
According to Shannon and supported by article research, a crucial Velocity Systems advantage is their constant innovations in the body armor they create. Velocity Systems has an extensive and continual development program for armoring solutions. The combo of R&D on plate performance and Velocity’s employment of professional fashion designers makes for a functional protection system for any shooter on any mission. Velocity Systems recognizes the mission evolution that has occurred over the last decade. A lowering of ones presence, regardless of threat level, for a lower “print” related to smaller team and less obtrusive behavior, is the new norm in when operating in country. Velocity Systems has developed the applicable body armor kits to accommodate that type of mission without compromising safety or security. Shannon states, “…guys think that all that MOLLE rigging on a chest carrier has to be used. They have items all over the place. Tons of crap to look cool I can only suppose. This type of set up is not conducive to my work or to those war fighters who need a functional load out that allows them speed, agility, and protection simultaneously.”
Shannon went on to expand on his ideal body armor set up is, “… No MOLLE at all, yet still carry over six AR mags with minimal and optional retention. Front and rear armor plate is Level 4 multi-hit protection and doesn’t sag at all due to excessive weight, fully adjustable everywhere, doesn’t restrict a waist pistol draw or a carbine shoulder cheek weld at all even with a high plate. The kit fits under any garment and so rounded that there is no print at all. Velocity Systems not only had one for me to buy, but it was already made without asking for it. They already knew – that is impressive!” It is worth allowing Shannon to describe in more detail what he was looking for in a body armor set up. “For me, I do not want unknown persons in austere environments I operate to know anything about my kit and capabilities.” Shannon conceals in various ways using non-military cover garments that do not interfere with natural movements. In a basic Velocity Systems configuration, Shannon can hold nine (9) AR mags and two (2) Level 4 plates and still button up a jacket over it with no weight shifts and great ease getting in and out of positions. He explained how a persons gait gives away so much information so gear has to be comfortable and balanced.
The adaptability of the Velocity Systems body armor is accentuated by the patent pending SwiftClip attachment system. Velocity’s SwiftClip allows auxiliary equipment such as Mayflower chest rigs, med and E&E bags to quickly clip on or off base component whether it is Velocity Systems Armor Vest, Plate Carrier, LBV, etc. The SwiftClip system allows for a stable load versus the excessive movement of simply wearing an “H-harness” over your existing armor. The SwiftClip system is a much faster way of adding gear than tediously weaving MOLLE tabs, especially if multiple mission requirements are present during deployment. A Mayflower Research and Consulting UW Chest Rig Gen IV is a good example of how Mayflower chest rigs can be married to a Velocity Systems plate carrier. The UW Chest Rig is a low-profile mission focused vest built to be ambidextrous and designed to carry the following: four (4) AR 5.56mm magazines, two (2) pistol magazines, up to two (2) small radios (PRC-152/MBITR types) as well as two general purpose pockets. The H style harness features loops and elastic to route antennas, communication wires and hydration bladder tubing. The UW Chest Rig is removable via four (4) one inch ITW-Nexus side release buckles (SwiftClip) and designed to be mounted to the front of the Velocity Systems armor carrier. The body of the chest rig has a built in map pocket with a Velcro closure. Elastic is provided for cable management and antenna relocation. The Mayflower chest rig is 100% made in the USA – as is the Velocity Systems components.
Velocity Systems is at the forefront of making body armor more comfortable and effective in stopping a wider range of projectiles. The increased comfort eases the operator’s chore of maintaining self discipline in wearing their armor. Body armor can be characterized as a contingency, a “what if” plan if you will. It’s worn for the same reasons that we put on seat belts. It doesn’t matter how tactically sound we are, we may run into an individual who’s willing to shoot us no matter the cost to them in terms of their own well being. It doesn’t matter if we are a Tier One highly trained soldier, because we can never control all of the variables in a gun battle. The most important thing is making sure the body armor is worn for the chance it is needed. As stated at the beginning of the article, trained personnel are the real commodity in any organization. Velocity Systems’ products aid in making sure personnel wear their armor with its quality and comfort once put on.
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