Monday, December 26, 2016

Favorite MajorPandemic.com AR15 Parts

Favorite MajorPandemic.com AR15 Parts

A lot of questions roll in and fill my email and social media IM about what parts I recommend/like. I have been blessed with having first hand experience with some of the most popular and custom AR15 parts in the industry. The question becomes if I was going to build an AR15 from raw parts, what parts would I select if I did not want to have any problems with the build either functionally or during the build process. These recommendations are in no way saying other parts are not great or don’t work, they are just my preference based on different intents and this or that little problem during a build.



RECEIVERS
Forged Receivers - For the price and exceptional quality I usually choose Aero Precision. They offer excellent precision extremely consistent ISO certified aerospace grade quality in each of their forged upper and lower receivers.  Some of their more innovative products are the best ambidextrous lowers on the market, the vault strength COP upper, and their strong and light integrated upper and handguard system.

Billet Receivers - The two receiver options I have had zero problems with are the San Tan Tactical and New Frontier Armory. San Tan Tactical is an insanely custom top end set of receivers with every feature imaginable. The are works of art, however all three builds I have completed with these receivers have been beautifully problem free.


New Frontier Armory actually makes receivers for a number of other companies including Joe Bob Outfitters, Outbreak Ordnance, and others. My Deadpoole and Spartan builds were both New Frontier based receivers. What I like about these cool looking beefy receivers are that they are priced around the same as standard forged receivers, but are extremely high quality receivers which feature custom extras like threaded detents and bolt release holes and upper/lower tension screws.

An amazing custom option which has everything is the Battle Arms Development Overt PDW lower. The PDW is the single most custom billet lower and includes all the BAD custom part and an integrated VERT collapsible stock. The $900 price tag does scare a few folks off.

BARRELS
High Quality - A giant leap above standard mil-spec barrels are the high quality aftermarket barrels - some of which can easily deliver sub-1”  100-yard groups with match ammo. Faxon and Ballistic Advantage both make extremely well made barrels. This are not the usual crap barrels, but are instead beautifully finished barrels based on more mainstream AR barrel profiles and sizes. Faxon offers a matched headspaced BCG and barrel combo service to assure the best performance from their barrels and Mil-Spec and Ultra-Light carriers. Ballistic Advantage is partially owned by Aero Precision and has an affordable Modern, enhanced Performance barrels then bleeds into the Premium barrel category with its ½-MOA guaranteed Premium Hansen barrel line. You cannot go wrong with either of these brands.

Premium - Black Hole Weaponry (BHW) and Feddersen will both easily deliver sub-MOA groups and both feature unique rifling all for just over $300. The polygonal rifled BHW offer all the finish and cool fluting options you could ever want and always deliver amazing accuracy. Feddersen’s Single Edged Polygonal Rifling is supremely accuracy so much so that I would argue it offers nearly the same performance as Top End Match barrels, but at this point no one retails them. Feddersen .308 and .223 blanks can be purchased from Feddersen, but you need to find a gunsmith to finish them. I am told Feddersen will be selling them directly in 2017.

Top End Match - I will never shoot to the capabilities of any super premium barrel, so for me it comes down to quality and there is nothing that is close to the stunning barrel quality of Hart. These barrels are around $600-$700 ready-to-install with custom fluting and finish, but they are museum worthy artful beauty. Just once in your life treat yourself. JP Rifles $480 SuperMatch barrel are amazing as far as accuracy with a supreme fit and finish and even match headspace bolt and barrel sets all for $200 less than the super fancy Hart barrels. The JP are more on the techie side with heat-sinked barrel options that use a lot of engineering and physics paired with supremely well made barrels to deliver a barrel that shoots accurately and very fast. Other top end match barrels blanks are Shilen, Krieger, Broughton, and Rock Creek, however usually they only available in raw blanks and need to be turned chambered and finished by someone like White Oak Precision. White Oak barrels are outstanding as well.

BOLT CARRIER GROUPS
I would much rather have a well made black phosphated $90 BCG than a fancy poorly made chrome or Nickel Boron one. The bolt is the key to accuracy and reliability and the carrier is far less critical assuming it has a decent finish, is straight, has a chrome lining, and is within a function range. I prefer AR15 carriers because they are usually a little lighter than M16 carriers and thus allow the gas pressure to be reduced a bit more via adjustable gas blocks.

Spend the money on the absolute best bolt you can afford. In reality there are only about a dozen companies like FN, LMT, Tool-Craft, JP, and BPM in the world who make the intricate and hard-to-machine bolts - everyone else just buys them from one of these companies. Unfortunately a few un-named BCG manufacturers make total crap. Do not by a WTFIT (Who The F is That) carrier. If it does not have a lifetime warranty, do not buy it.

Mil-Spec Bolt - Just buy quality and quality does not come in a $95 complete NiBo BCG. Brownells, Fail Zero, Aero Precision, Daniel Defense, Rubber City, Tool-Craft, WMD, YHM and similar good quality BCGs will work great. NiBo Aero Precision, Fail Zero and WMD BCGs are probably my most purchased of the group.

Premium Bolt - The best BCGs are from Sharps, Young Manufacturing, FN, Barnes Precision and JP RIfles and are precision ground and then coated but these are $200-$400 complete BCGs. These are just amazing quality carriers which are tighter and will deliver the best accuracy a premium barrel will offer - if possible have the bolt headspaced to the bolt. White Oak, JP and Barnes all offer this service to assure they the best accuracy possible. One of the best deals on a premium bolt is the $140 JP Rifles EnhancedBolt Assembly Completion Groups which can plug into any standard carrier and include the JP EnhancedBolt, match firing pin, cam pin and retaining pin. Sharps Reliabolt are also exceptionally well made bolts that plug and play with any carrier.

MUZZLE DEVICES
Brakes - There are fancy looking brakes and then ones which I feel actually work. My go to favorites are the PWS FSC, Phase 5 FatMan, and Precision Armament M11 Severe Duty Brake which are all still great looking. These are freaking loud as hell, but they deliver a flat and soft shooting rifle.

Flash Hiders - Upgrading A2 flash hiders to another flash hider is a waste from my perspective. Unless you go with one of those big long prong looking things from Seekins, I just do not see you are getting a huge benefit. I have used several of the superbly made stainless A2 flash hiders from Innovative Industries which I love. Many of my loud mouthed builds are getting stainless A2 flash hiders instead simply because they are world quieter and more pleasant to shoot. The standard A2 flash hider is one of the quietest muzzle devices around.  If you have to upgrade, the cool looking flash hider upgrade is the Precision Armament Hybrid but it is louder.

AR15 Pistols/SBRs - Taming the bark - The PWS CQB is from my perspective the best PDW/AR15 pistol brake around. The CQB brake seems to almost magically reduce shooter perceived concussion. Another new little tiny brake that reduces concussion is the STD Simple Threaded Device which is great for short AR15 pistol builds. The various blast shield solutions on the market work well, but not as well as either of these solutions or just a plain old A2 flash hider.

BUFFER TUBES, BUFFERS, & SPRINGS
AR15 Buffer Springs - First off it is my opinion that buffers and buffer springs should be regular old standard Mil-Spec weight unless you really have some serious issue going on. If there is a need for heavy buffers and springs then you have too much gas pressure and need an adjustable gas system to reduce the pressure. Strike and Geissele both have “enhanced” buffer springs, however I have not tried either. JP Rifles and a couple other companies do have captured buffer spring systems which allow for a lot of tuning on competition focused guns.

AR15 Pistols Tubes - Phase 5 Tactical makes the coolest looking billet hex pistol buffer tube on the planet and they are insanely inexpensive at around $50. The Phase 5’s is offered in a full hex and partial hex profile which will accept and extend Sig Brace AR15 pistol type stabilizing braces. If you are building a less expensive pistol build with a wide open standard gas port and cheap barrel and no adjustable gas block, go ahead and add Phase 5’s extra strength buffer spring kit. It will help to equalize the overpressure out.

AR15 Rifles Tubes - In order to assure a proper fit between an adjustable stock, I attempt to avoid fitment issues and just purchase complete stock, buffer tube, buffer and spring kits from a single manufacturer. Mission First Tactical is usually my preference for adjustable stocks. The high end Magpul stocks are nice but really heavy. For fixed stock applications I am usually using an Ace stock which accept standard A2 buffer tubes.


TRIGGERS
MilSpec Replacements - ALG ACT, WMD, and Hiperfire EDT are by far the best drop in MilSpec duty trigger upgrades I have found. The do not offer match grade pull but they do break extremely crisp for a MilSpec replacement and are 200% better than stock triggers.


Match - There are so many outstanding triggers on the market I do not think that anyone can go wrong.  Geissele, Timney, CMC, Hiperfire, JP, and LMT are all really incredible triggers which deliver premium trigger feel. For “the look”, the flat triggers from Geissele, Timney, CMC and Hiperfire really make a build stand out, but I don’t think the flat trigger really offers a performance enhancement. I stay away from “me too” triggers that imitate the originals.


LOWER PARTS KITS
Standard - Barnes Precision, CMMG, and ALG all have high quality base kits. My preference is always Barnes Precision just because I have been in his shop and seen each of these parts being made. I do like the YHM quick pull and Strike pivot pins which are very reasonable. Strike and Seekins offer a number of fun very inexpensive add on billet parts. Strike Industries has a lot of really innovative, high quality, and fun billet add ons including Black, Blue, Red, and Grey color schemes.

Premium - KNS, Battle Arms Development, and V Seven offer top and parts. KNS have stainless options, BAD offers a ton of style and functionality and V Seven has titanium options to upgrade all the usual phosphated parts. V Seven and BAD are probably my two premium lower parts I migrate to often.  

GRIPS
Upgraded - Magpul, Strike Industries, and MFT all make excellent grips. To be perfectly honest, I use whatever I have or is on sale. I do loathe finger grooves though. Consider reduced angle grips for AR15 pistol and SBR builds for improved comfort and less pressure on the wrist.

Custom - I chop and stipple a lot of $5 standard MilSpec grips and then wrap in paracord. For me, these are the best grips on the market and cost me about $6 in parts. For AR15 pistol builds I like to chop the custom or aftermarket grips down to a very short two finger hold to make for a more compact pistol.

Billet - I have seen, handled and shot some of the billet and G10 AR15 grips, however they are really heavy and not particularly comfortable. They look amazing but are pretty parts for safe queen rifles, but for a gun to shoot stick with plastic.

BUTTSTOCKS
Fixed - Ace and Battle Arms are the only fixed buttstocks that I have tried and really like. The Ace stocks are insanely affordable, offered in Ultralight, skeleton, and heavy duty Socom versions and are easily custom wrapped with paracord.

Collapsible - Magpul, Troy, MFT, Strike and Mako are all great brands, however if I cannot get a complete kit including the buffer tube, then I know I will end up cycling through half a dozen buffer tubes to find one that actually will fit tight. The best add on buttstock on the market is the Rogers Buttstock simply because it has an adjustment nut and cam-lock which makes the lockup rock solid regardless of the buffer tube size variances.

Extra Compact - MVB is the best SBR stock on the planet. All the others are not even close from an ergonomic perspective and durability. For example - I have a Troy collapsible stock which frankly I hate and find it hard to deploy. The MVB stock delivers extreme durability with outstanding ergonomics and functionality. I have tried others and so far the MVB is the only one I would lay my own money down for.

Folding Adapter - The Law Tactical is THE accessory for the AR15 pistol. If you do not add one on a shorty AR15 pistol build then you are missing out of an amazing backpack gun and 90% of the functionality of the AR15 pistol size.


GAS BLOCKS
Adjustable - Seekins are super inexpensive and work great. A premium option are Superlative Arms venting gas block or SLR industries adjustable gas blocks.

Fixed - It really does not matter they are all the same. If I have chosen a Ballistic Advantage Hansen barrel they come with a fixed gas block and tuned gas port… just something to think about.

Retrofit Gas Piston - Syrac Ordnance was making them for a while, but I am not sure what is happening there. I do know that Superlative Arms, their patent co-owner, is making a freaking awesome Retrofit Gas Piston system which fits under nearly any standard profile handguard. I love both of the builds I have done with the Superlative Arms piston kits.


HANDGUARDS
Billet - Credit where credit is deserved, Barnes Precision Machine invented/Innovated the long non-indexing barrel nut for billet free-float handguards which pretty much everyone making a good highly rigid handguard imitates to some degree. 

The extended barrel nut provides more surface area and strength once the handguard is attached. The only handguard which is as strong as the Barnes handguard system is the Geissele Super Modular Rail. SLR, Geissele, ALG, and a few other companies make handguards with long non-indexing barrel nuts. The price is awesome on the ALG, but if you can afford it, the Geissele and Barnes are the top and in my opinion. One of the coolest looking Billet Hanguards are the Apex Gatorgrips.

Fancy - Brigand Arms and Clark are what I go for when I want over-the-top looks paired with extremely light weight. If you want Thor-like strength in a carbon fiber handguard then the only option is the combat proven Primary Weapons offerings which is designed for high strength to leverage the heat wicking capabilities of carbon fiber.

OPTICS
Optics are both tough and easy. Finding a awesome optic cheap is tough and conversely if you have money to spend, top optics are easy to come by. In that $200-$400 range there are plenty of Leupolds, Hi-Lux Leatherwood, Millet, Nikon, Burris, Bushnell, Lucid, and Vortex optics to choose from. From a features and optic clarity perspective I think Nikon’s AR line and Primary Arms scopes are an extremely great value, but I plenty of all the other noted brands as well.

On the high tier, my perspective is that you get what you pay for from the big optics names. I will say the top end Vortex, Sig, Bushnell and Burris are very impressive. One of the single most impressive optics I have ever used is the $4400 Tangent Theta 5-25. If you have money the quality can be easily found.

Best inexpensive Red Dots are - well there are a couple. Primary Arms, Hi-Lux, Vortex, and Holosun are all great options. Primary Arms MicroDot at $169 is truly and exceptional 50K hour red dot. The Bushnell TRS-25 and Primary Arms standard $90 red dots are fantastic for the price. The Hi-Lux, Vortex and Holosun offer upgraded features and quality.

OPTIC MAGNIFICATION
My consistent advice is for a 1-4 magnification on AR15 builds which delivers everything realistically a shooter will use a rifle for. Now that I am aging and my eyes need a little help, I love 1X prism sights from Burris and Vortex since the ocular can be tuned to my marginally out of focus eyes - a simple red dot will not deliver this feature.

OPTICS MOUNTS
Since we are talking about AR15s, I will omit the rather lengthy list of precision rings prefered for my bolt action precision rifles in favor of more typical AR15 mounts.

Fixed Mount - There are a lot of ring options out there, but I believe the single integrated Aero Precision mounts are strong, precision and stunning when paired to an AR15 flattop receiver.  The AP scope mounts are so well designed that they actually give the appearance of a monolithic upper integrated mount. Really beautiful. The other similar high strength mounts are the Geissele Super Precision mounts.
QD Mount - For a hard use re-zeroable optics mount there is no other equal other than American Defense Manufacturing (ADM). They even make these mounts for many other red dot optics as well. A nice QD mount option for the price is are Sampson QD mounts which are all under $200. For a bit less money, the Samson QD mounts offer excellent Aimpoint T1 Micro compatible mounts that will work on most red dot optics.

High Precision Mounts - American Precision Arms or the new line of Geissele Super Precision Mounts would really be my only choices if I was consumed with accuracy.

MAGAZINES
Metal - I know most people feel aluminum or stainless mags have been superseded in every way by polymer, however I like the retro look of the old style metal mags on a lot of builds. The $40+ E-Lander are the Cadillac of metal mags, but the Brownells or OKAY mags are also on the premium side and function flawlessly.

Polymer - There are a ton of mags on the market and a lot of newcomers in the polymer market and I am happy to say most are outstanding. That said based solely on those brands I had a problem with and those brand I didn’t, my choice has to be Magpul or MFT. If I have a problem, I slip in one of these mags to assure the mag is not the issue since I have proven their reliability in across all builds.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are so many products out there and most are really quite great, however over the years you get a bit jaded and start picking favorites based on what makes things easy, reliable, full featured, and delivers “the look”. Hope this helps you make some decisions for future problem-free AR15 builds and upgrades.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Should I Upgrade my Stock Glock Barrel

ZEV Dimpled Barrel
Should I Upgrade my Stock Glock Barrel?

Glock has been, and I sure will continue to be, a perennial favorite handgun to run and customize for competitions. The Glock format has also become a favorite for customization with no other tool than a punch.  One of the most popular upgrades is to switch barrels to increase accuracy and add the ability to shoot non-jacketed bullets for practice.

There is a huge variety of aftermarket barrels available for the Glock formats including Wilson, Lone Wolf, KKM, and ZEV, notable with KKM and ZEV being the most revered replacement barrels within the 3Gun crowd.


The first thing to get out of the way in this review is that swapping barrels on a Glock is something your average Glock owner could do in a pitch black room. Disassemble the Glock as you would for cleaning, by clearing the gun, dry firing, pull down on the slide releases, remove the slide, pull out the spring and the barrel drops out. Drop in the new upgraded KKM barrel and reassemble - Done!

Glock 19 Upgraded - Deus Ex Machina trigger, PWS billet slide, Trijicon sights, KKM barrel, and Vickers slide & mag release all riding on a limited edition tan frame.

While working on a comprehensive Glock parts upgrade article for Grandview media, I ended up with a pretty tricked out Glock 19 that I have beat on enough to carry as my daily CCW pistol. The gun features a Deus Ex Machina trigger, PWS billet slide, Trijicon sights, KKM barrel, and Vickers slide & mag release all riding on a limited edition tan frame. After 1000s of rounds the upgraded G19 has proven to be just as reliable as a factory G19, but with some improved features and accuracy. Notably the KKM barrel, PWS slide and DEM trigger really have improved accuracy… with the right premium ammo. This brings me to the point on whether you should upgrade your factory Glock barrel.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL WITH AFTERMARKET MATCH BARRELS?
Aftermarket “Match grade” barrels such as ZEV and KKM dimensionally have a tighter fit than the Glock barrels which delivers a tighter lockup than the stock barrel. The chamber itself is also a little tighter and is button rifled vs Glock's normal hex rifling.  The later two features deliver improved accuracy with the right ammo (is there an echo in here), however there is a trade off.

From a dependability level, the KKM barrels are still very reliable and function perfectly within factory spec rounds, however I noted with the 9mm barrel used in this build that the KKM barrel would not feed some of my 9mm “turds” (sloppy reloads) where the stock barrel chews through them just fine.

The button rifling  also delivers a trade off.  The primary reason Hex rifling was developed was to deliver consistent performance and reliability across a huge variety of ammo, however that all around rifling flexibility does not produce the best accuracy with tight toleranced ammo.

The higher precision button rifling  allows shooters to practice with inexpensive cast bullets, where the stock Hex rifling begins to clog/lead up and is therefore not recommended by Glock. Personally I have never seen great groups from cast bullet with my KKM or ZEV barrels. These match grade barrels like premium jacketed bullets made or reloaded to a high level of craftsmanship. Generally I have found that the not especially cheap premium 147gr XTP bullets are what my ZEV and KKM barrels really like and perform best with. With those premium rounds the button rifling deliver the improved accuracy you were hoping for.

Another reason for the performance difference with different ammo is that the Glock Factory barrel uses roughly a 1:10 twist rate compared to a very slow 1:16 and 1:20 twist rates of aftermarket barrels. KKMs twist rate is a very slow 1:20 which means that light and very cheap non-concentric rounds are likely to shoot very badly with the KKM barrels.


Cast and inexpensive low tolerance jacketed bullets actually delivered worse groups for me than the stock barrel, but you can at least practice with them. On the other hand, high quality jacketed 147gr bullets, such as those from Hornady and Sierra delivered the best groups I have ever seen out of any Glock. Think of the KKM barrel as a high end sports car. Sure you can go fast running E85, but the engine is designed for premium fuel and delivers big rewards when fed high test fuel. Feed the KKM barrel with great ammo and you get outstanding groups.

Feed these top and barrels low grade ammo and they will likely deliver accuracy which is far worse than you stock Glock barrel. So… with the right ammo the KKM and ZEV barrels can do their job, with cheap ammo and reloads you will be disappointed.

A WORKING EXAMPLE OF ACCURACY
At a recent range session I was working through some precision slow firing drills and was appalled at the groups I was seeing even at the 7-yard range with my KKM barrel and very inexpensive steel cased MaxxTech 9mm ammo (hey don’t judge, it was really cheap). It appeared that the ammo may have actually been keyholing. Super crappy ammo indeed - I will never buy this stuff again.

Generally with my stock barrel can deliver a single ragged hole from a full magazine of any ammo regardless of quality, but my KKM barrel was printing a 3”+ group. Pushing out to the 25-yard range with cheap MaxxTech ammo and the KKM barrel I would easily fail a standard police qualification test.  I slipped in a magazine full of Hornady 147gr XTP rounds and I was rewarded with a index finger sized 7-yard ragged hole and an unsupported 4” A-Zone 25-yard group - there is the accuracy I was looking for.

I reached into my range pack and pulled out my stock Glock 19 barrel, did the barrel swap, and feed it the same diet of cheap MaxxTech ammo for the first magazine and XTP rounds on the second magazine. The results were stunning. The factory barrel shot a good 1” ragged hole with the junk ammo and a marginally smaller hole with the premium ammo - that is the magic of the faster twist hex rifling of the factory Glock barrel leveling out everything. The Match Grade Glock barrels are definitely pickier and demand high quality match grade ammo even for practice if you expect to get any advantage out of them. This is just one example and experiment - I have proven this fact over and over to myself that the factory Glock hex rifled barrel is actually pretty freaking awesome with all types of ammo.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The KKM barrel is designed to offer the shooter running premium ammo or premium reloads, the best accuracy one can hope for in a Glock format. Yes, with the right ammo (there it is again), your Glock can consistently deliver 1"-ish 25-yard groups off a rest with a KKM or ZEV barrel. I freaking love my KKM and ZEV barrels and highly recommend them, but don’t feed then cheap ammo and don't sell your stock barrel.

Would I run a KKM barrel in a defensive pistol? Long ago I said no, but that has changed assuming financially you commit to actually practicing with your CCW carry rounds.  Personally I carry a factory Glock barrel now in the above pictured G19. So there you have it, if you can swing shooting top and ammo all the time or suffer through poor groups with cheap ammo to occasionally reward yourself with tiny little groups the KKM and ZEV barrels are for you. If you plan on shooting whatever is the least expensive, don’t bother with the upgrade, you are kidding yourself that the upgrade with deliver better accuracy.

SPECS
KKM Precision
$285 Including Shipping

ZEV Technologies
Starting at $250

SOURCES


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Safeguard Armor Ghost Body Armor Review

Safeguard Armor Ghost Body Armor Review

A few years ago I reviewed Safeguard’s Stealth armor and it has been a great set of light armor to wear when the need arises.  The Ghost model is a bit lighter, but many people wonder whether they should invest in body armor.

Most of us would like to believe that bad and evil will only attempt to do us harm when we are home with our AR15 slung over our shoulder with one in the chamber, the Vortex sight on, and two insane dobermans to prevent any surprises. As we have seen over and over, “it” happens anytime and anywhere and you need to be prepared and trained to save yourself and your loved ones. Part of that is the realization that the bad and evil shoot back or attack with edge weapons while you fight for your life and this is where Safeguard Armor Ghost makes perfect sense as a layer of protection for both ballistic and stabbing threats. For me, I wanted to know that I had an acceptable concealed armor option for home use even outside the home in a high risk situation such some security work.

From a survival perspective, body armor is making more and more sense statistically to survival a violent attack. In fact statically 75% of all gun related deaths could be prevented with just Level II body armor. It may become the best firearm accessory you have ever purchased. I ordered the lightweight Ghost in level IIIA would up the protection level a bit for this concealed armor for my wife because she is on the security team as well.


ABOUT SAFEGUARD ARMOR
Founded in 1986 SafeGuard ARMOR is a world-leading premium body armor designer with manufacturing operations in U.S. and Europe.  The company has have been selling body armor to thousands of individuals and companies across the world and has grown from a small operation selling bullet proof vests to local companies, to being one of the largest body armor companies in the world providing body armor to military, law enforcement and civilians worldwide.

Safeguard has distribution centers around the world including all over Europe, Canada, and of course the United States so it is easier to purchase within your own country. That noted They ship to the US from pretty much everywhere and my order was fulfilled through their European operations.

THE LEGALITY OF BODY ARMOR IN THE US & IMPORTATION
Contrary to common belief, purchasing and owning ballistic and edged threat body armor is not illegal in all but a very few select states.  Check with your state and local state's attorney or police office and if they "claim" it is illegal have them provide the state or local statute that limits/outlaws it. Referencing a specific statute prevents the officer or paralegal from mis-stating the law. In my state there is no legislation limiting the possession or use of body armor, other than the Federal mandate that no felon own body armor. In the US, a non-felon in a free state can purchase hard or soft body armor, however only soft armor can be legally imported without working for law enforcement or military. If a US citizen attempts to import hard body armor, you will get into some hot water though unless the armor is hard steel there is some flexibility in that interpretation.

Not being a felon, I placed my order with SafeGuard without hesitation. Although Safeguard has operations all over the world including the US, my order was fulfilled via their UK headquarter location, cleared customs, and was delivered via FedEx to my doorstep.  I purchased the SafeGuard Ghost, a soft body armor vest with 360 degree Level IIIa ballistic protection.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, FEATURES, & FUNCTIONS
Following the fitment chart on the site I selected the appropriate size for my wife. When worn, my wife was surprised how thin the Ghost armor was under a jacket, sweater, or secondary long cover shirt.  It does make you look like you put on 10 lbs, but it does not stand out like the thick "overt amor" life preserver look the cops are wearing around.  The vest was also very lightweight compared to other vests I have worn and handled which just adds to the overall comfort of the vest. The Ghost’s liner is also features a washable CoolMax. The washable liner part I would say is key because the liner stunk upon arrival. Not sure whether this was an effect of the the shipping process or manifacturing, however the chemical order was extremely strong until the liner was washed.

Liners will need to get washed from time to time and the Ghost Coolmax liner is hand washable. Remove the ballistic plates via the Velcro closures and then hand was the liner in a sink with mild detergent such as Woolite. Care should be taken with the Velcro while washing or it will catch on everything. CoolMax has is not the most durable of fabrics so care should be taken while hand washing. Safeguard does offers replacement liners if you do manager to wear out a liner.

The CoolMax liner does somewhat negate the need for wearing a Coolmax t-shirt under the vest to improve comfort when temps heat up, however my wife likes to wear a very thin silky t-shirt underneath to improve overall seasonal comfort.  The SafeGuard Ghost  was specifically designed for covert/concealed use and offer white or black options and is available in S-XL sizes and even Long sizes.  To drop weight, Safeguard uses the thinnest materials they can combined with an overall more conservative cut compared to the full coverage Stealth armor I have reviewed before. Though I ordered a “Long” size for my 6’ 1” wife, the overall cut was still pretty short but did cover all vitals well. The Ghost design strives to deliver a compromise of concealment, light weight, and coverage which is a tough thing to do with full IIIA ballistic and an edged weapon Level I rated body armor. The full coverage Safeguard Stealth offers good concealment, the Ghost takes it a step further with even less bulk and a thinner vest.

Thick and heavy is easy to do when it comes to body armor, however thin, comfortable and light is a tough mix to get right. SafeGuard hit the mix with the development of the Ghost delivering on all those goals to maximize comfort, protection and concealability.

SafeGuard has a variety of body armor options available from the very light Ghost model to the heavy full groin, shoulder, and arm Military models. The Stealth is ideal for users who want to hide the fact they are wearing a piece of body armor, such as door supervisors and close protection officers, the Ghost is more of an every protection that only sacrifices a little coverage for a bit more comfort and concealment.

SafeGuard's protection ratings conform to NIJ ballistic protection standards. The Stealth is offered in a variety of protection options including ballistic protection II - stopping handgun fired 9mm 124gr Remington and .357 158gr SJSP Remington rounds or Level IIIa - stopping  up to .44 Magnum rounds. You can find  more about each of the specific threat rating on their site. The Stealth armor is also offered in several Stab and Spike protection levels. Both vests I have purchases from them have been rated to Level I stab protection.

THREAT LEVEL VS STATISTICS
Both the Virginia Department of Justice and Pennsylvania Medical Center studies of their respective state homicides found that roughly 80% of all firearm related homicides were from handguns. Of those homicides both of their data indicated that over 98% of handgun deaths would have been prevented by a NIJ Threat Level II protection stopping handgun fired 9mm 124gr Remington and .357 158gr SJSP Remington rounds.

With every extra layer of protection comes more weight and bulk, so I opted for the Level II ballistic protection and Level 1 stab protection which is designed to protect the user from the vast majority of ballistic and edged threats. The protection thickness to threat curve it non-linear which means that each extra level of protection provides an incrementally smaller increase in protection but a noticeably increasing thickness of the vest. There is always a compromise however based on the very rare situation that I may actually find myself being shot at and pairing that with a my Stealth Level II armor can stop 90% typical threats, I feel well protected unless I suddenly found myself in a war zone. For my wife, I upped that protection level to IIIA since the Ghost has an overall less thick. I am not sure how Safeguard did it, but the Level IIIA rated Ghost is actually thinner than my Level II rather Stealth.

Those that are uber paranoid may want to opt for an armored personnel carrier, just bump up to the next threat level rating, or pick up a supplemental hard armor plate to tuck into the vest. Safeguard has a rather interested and very lightweight 2.5lb AlphaCore Poly Level III Plate I hope to review in a month or so.



FINAL THOUGHTS
For covert discreet and concealable armor the Safeguard Ghost is of the best and thinnest I have seen. Generally my wife and I do not live, work, shop, or play in high risk homicide ridden areas, however bad things happen everywhere. We are both on a security team which unfortunately does require us to be armed and sometimes compelled to don ballistic armor due to the odd threats. There have been situations what I feel safer with an added layer of protection. Both my wife and I love the ability to slip on the vest when investigating that random bump in the night. In my rural neighborhood we have a 40 minute police response time and the ambulance is not much better… any extra chance I can give myself while defending myself during an encounter or surviving it after the fact is a great investment from my perspective for home defense all for less than my insurance deductible it priceless in my opinion.

SPECS
NIJ Level IIIA Ballistic Protection
NIJ Level I Edged Blade Protection
Delivered in 1-2 working days
Armor worth over $470 when new
Weight: Approx. 5.4lbs
Made from DuPont Kevlar

Stay discrete and protected with our Ghost™ covert armour. The lightest, thinnest carrier on the market, this vest is the benchmark for concealable armour.


The Ghost™ is breathable thanks to a 100% CoolMax® carrier, and features fully adjustable shoulder and waist straps for a perfect fit. With multi-threat capabilities, this vest can be worn comfortably for long periods and leaves you free to move. No-one will know you’re protected but you , thanks to our Ghost™ armour.

Warranty Info
This product comes with a 5 Year Warranty. All SafeGuard ARMOR™ products are tested in full compliance with the US National Institute of Justice (NIJ) 0101.03/04 standards. If any SafeGuard ARMOR™ products under warranty are deemed to be defective or faulty then SafeGuard ARMOR™ will replace or repair it free of charge. This is done at our own discretion.
Care
Do not fully immerse the vest in water.
Do not dry in direct sunlight.
Store body armor flat at all times.
Do not put DuPont™ Kevlar® panel inserts through the wash (can be lightly sponged with warm, soapy water if necessary).
Inspect armor for damage or defects prior to every use - NEVER WEAR DAMAGED ARMOR.
Always ensure DuPont™ Kevlar® panels are inserted the correct way (instructions on the panels).

SOURCES