Wednesday, February 15, 2017

DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor Review

DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor Review

At one point I though “body armor was body armor” as long as it could stop a bullet, but that was before I started to understand the balancing act every body armor manufacturer makes between features, performance, weight, stopping ability, multiple hit failure point, and thickness.  With everything from Kevlar, to Spectra, AR500 steel plates, polymers and other materials used for body armor there is a huge difference from one body armor to another.

There are a lot of people who still believe that you must to up to no good if you are a non-LEO person on US streets with armor, but that mindset is changing quickly. That is simply not the case and I am glad that the acceptance of body armor is gaining popularity for kids backpacks and as a protection option for those armed.  Europe overall is way ahead of the US on this concept simply because many people are unable to have guns so they at least protect themselves with armor. Body armor is become popular beyond the people we would typically identify as “the fringe”. Heck Amazon now has level III body armor inserts for kids backpacks. Despite the past politicians wanting us to be left totally defenseless, many people are now adding some type of body armor to their home defense toolset or daily CCW packs.

There is a perception that level III and IIIa armor lines are getting pretty inexpensive, however there is a lot that is not listed in the specs most notable is that most of that really inexpensive armor may only be single round rated, but not multi-round rated. Nothing comes for free and everything's a compromise with body armor… unless you are willing to spend the money for higher tier body armor.  The DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor is what I would term as mid-tech. It delivers everything to super expensive armor does in terms of weight and stopping power, but only at the expense of thickness. DKX of course has other options including ceramic based armor, but the focus of this article is around their more affordable NIJ Level III+ rifle rated M3 plates.

DKX is one of the companies which is well known and preferred by CIA, Secret Service, professional protection, and covert military operations. DKX offers a broad range of armor from soft, to hard, to rigid armor such as the DKX Level MAX III Lightweight Armor.  DKX has also worked directly with the Secret Service on the development of a briefcase disguised instantly deployable body armor. The company and owner also have a very long pedigree within armor dating back several decades.

The DKX Level MAX III Lightweight Armor is specifically designed to stop up to 7.62x39 Mild Steel Core AK-47 and 7.62mm x 51mm 147gr M80 FMJ rifle rounds which is quite feat considering the hard hitting AK47 round is a well know defeater of most body armor. According to DKX, “The prevalence of heavy steel hard plate armor has seen a huge growth over the last couple years, however we had a lot of professionals asking for a similar performing body armor but that was significantly lighter. The result of our development is the MAX III body armor line.” Similar performance would typically come at the cost of significantly heavier weight. Most rifle round rated plates designed to stop the same rounds would weigh in at 8-9lbs each, so if you have a carrier with front and back plates the shooter is carrying around 18lbs of rifle armor. With the DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor the same protection would only be under 5 lbs which is a huge weight savings.

The DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor plates delivers a light 20 oz rigid armor plate (weight dependent on size and shape) which is multi-hit rated for the 7.62x39 round. The sacrifice in this case is that the plate is about 1.5” thick. The M3 is a fat plate. The benefit of the thicker plate is that it dispurses a significant amount of energy over almost the entire plate which makes getting shot a lot less painful for the person wearing the armor so technically you do not need a trauma pad like you would with a steel plate.

DKX utilizes a proprietary polymer blend for the armor which uniquely makes it buoyant. If you manage to fall into a river like one of the LEO customers who is wearing DKX armor, then you will float instead of drown with 20 lbs of steel strapped to you.  All of the DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor models have a comfort curve to them so that whether they on a carrier or backpack, they will ride more comfortably.

Currently DKX offers the Level MAX III Lightweight Armor in several sizes and configurations. I tested and carried both the shooter cut and square 10”x12” plates in my small 5.11 and Drago packs. In fact the shooter cut plate fits into the extremely small sub-$50 Drago Sentry Ipad pack and still provides enough room for a blow out kit and other first responder supplies. I am part of a megachurch armed security team and have carried this DMX M3 equipped Drago Sentry pack for almost a year at this point and it is a freaking delight to carry. My total pack loaded with DKX M3 armor, ammo, and med kit is just 3lbs which delivers a huge advantage should the need arise. The sling based pack design of the Drago pack allows a left hand pack carry which does not interfere with my right hand firearm carry and allows me to slip the pack to a center of chest position for front plate protection. I have trained with the kit and it works wonderfully.  I used the second square 10”x12” plate in my larger 5.11 Moab Rush Sling pack to deliver the same protection and enough room for a short AR15 pistol.

I am not the writer who is going to take out $1200 worth of body armor and shoot into it just to prove what the manufacturer has already videoed and been officially NIJ certified. I am the writer who will tell you that carrying around a 10-lb steel body armor plate is a freaking backbreaker for humping daily in a low risk common everyday CCW back pack that already has 3-4lbs of crap in it. Carrying a 20 oz DKX Level MAX III Lightweight Armor is far more preferable from my perspective.  Sure a $100 steel plate will also stop an AK round but my bet is that you will stop carrying that 9-lb plate after a week. The DKX Level MAX III Lightweight Armor on the other hand weighs about the same as a 20 oz Coke and … Ya know it can stop up to a 7.62x39 round which for me is a doable addition to my daily CCW carry pack. Notably the DKX M3 Level MAX III Lightweight Armor plates are not cheap, they are a higher tier mid-tech plate which is an investment in your back and life. The money is well spent for those that need to have a lighter weight options.

In the US, we tend to forget that according to FBI criminal mass shooting studies, most people involved in a shooting get shot and even lowed threat rated armor would stop many fatalities. My nightmare and fear which is shared by many of our church security team is that someone will come in with a rifle. As the security team we are likely to be the first targets either from being identified as security or through engaging the attacker. At that point, everyone who thought I was a little nuts carrying a plated equipped pack will not think I am so nuts any more… but that will be a little late as bullets start ripping through the building and bodies.

My perspective is that a very small thin Drago or 5.11 pack is unobtrusive and goes unnoticed in daily life especially with my John 3:16 patch.  Isn’t it smart to have one of these packs available with a blow-out kit to address wounds and a body armor plate than can handle more than just one hit or even rifle rounds?

The DKX M3 Series ballistic plates are NIJ 0101.06 level III certified stand-alone. The M3 also stops special, non-armor piercing threats, such as the Winchester Ranger and 7.62x39 MSC. The positive buoyancy of the M3 plates provides users in waterborne or maritime environments added support and flotation, while a rigid polycarbonate backing gives superior blunt force trauma protection. Each DKX M3 Series plate comes equipped with Radio Frequency Embedded Verification (RFEV) tracking for inventory management along with an industry first 7 year warranty. Applies only to certified plate sizes.

CONSTRUCTION: Polyethylene
MODEL #: DKX MAX III (NIJ Compliance Product List)
NIJ 0101.061
Special Threat Tested*
.223 Rem 60gr Partition
7.62mm x 39mm 123gr Mild Steel Core
7.62mm x 51mm 147gr M80 FMJ

Full Size 5 x 6
Full Size 5 x 7
Full Size 6 x 8
Full Size 10 x 12 (Reviewed)
Full Size 11 x 14
Shooter 10 x 12
Shooter 11 x 14
Swimmer 10 x 12 (Reviewed)
Swimmer 11 x 14
Enhanced Swimmer 10 x 12
Enhanced Swimmer 11 x 14

MSRP Approximately $600 depending on size and shape


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