I have a friend that is a member of AR15.com, contact me about a shoot he was involved in a while back. I will not give his name or department or even state.

His note said (paraphrased):

"Hi OP,

I am a SWAT sniper and was involved in a shooting a while back. The bad guy was a crazy guy that was hold up in a building and threatening to kill citizens and police officers. The SWAT Team was called in and I was on the rifle. We found out that he had put on three bullet-proof vests, with trauma plates, one on top of the other.

My partner and I discussed the possibility that he might exit his cover shooting and do so at a run. In that case, I might have to take a body shot. We wondered if the .308 would penetrate three vests and plates.

We were also concerned as the Entry Team was carrying .40 S&W pistols and a couple had AR15 rifles. Would these penetrate either the back of the vests (where there were no plates) or the front, where there were plates?

As it turned out, he came out of the cover at a walk and pointed a gun at some people and said he was going to kill them. I took a head shot, stopping him.

My question to you is: Would the .308 have penetrated 3 vests and plates? And what about the .40 S&W and the AR15?"

He agreed to send me some vests and plates that are similar to what the bag guy was wearing.

Here's what we will test:
  1. Would the AR15 have penetrated the vests and plates? How about the .308?
  2. Would a .40 S&W have penetrated the soft armor, without the plates? The AR15?
This is the set-up.

I rebuilt the clay Box O' Truth.

This box allows us to place modeling clay behind the vests to more closely simulate a human body.

Most vests will only work if they are backed up by either a human body or clay.

I couldn't talk Tman into wearing the vests, hence the clay.


The SWAT Sniper was set up at approximately 58 yards from the target.

So, and we set up the test at 58 yards.

We have three vests, with three plates, (2 hard and one "soft") against the box.

Here it is, ready to go.

Here it is, ready to go.​

First, the .223.

I am shooting a Hornady 55 grain TAP round.


It punches a hole through the first plate.

But did it go through?

This is the entrance of the .223 into the first plate.

This is the entrance of the .223 into the first plate.​

Nope, but it put a slight dent in the clay.

24-4Where did it stop?

24-5After punching through the second vest, it was stopped by the third vest.


Next, the .308.

We used the Federal Gold Match 168 grain bullet, same as the SWAT Sniper.

I will be using my Accuracy International AE.


It punched a big hole through the first plate.

But did it penetrate all three?

24-8No exit! But a big dent in the clay.

Here's the back of the vests.

Here's the back of the vests.​

Where did it stop?

It went through 2 plates and was stopped by the third "soft" trauma plate.

I'm glad I wasn't betting money on that shot.

I'd have lost.


What if they didn't have to go through the plates?

Could they shoot through three vests, without plates?

Let's try the .40 S&W.

A HydraShock out of my Glock.

24-11It was stopped by the first vest.

24-12Even with 3 vests, it still made a slight dent in the clay.


This is the recovered bullet.

This is the recovered bullet.​

What if they had had to use the .223 at close range without any plates, such as on the sides or rear?

This is the .223 at 7 yards. Note the piece of brass in the air.

This is the .223 at 7 yards. Note the piece of brass in the air.​

An ugly exit from the third vest.

An ugly exit from the third vest.​

An ugly exit from the third vest.


Lessons learned:
  1. A SWAT Sniper needs to know a lot of facts, even before the shot might be taken. My friend said that he was very concerned about shooting against 3 vests and plates, but if the bad guy was running, he might have had to take such a shot.
    Good thing that he didn't have to take it. It doesn't look like it would have penetrated 3 vests and 3 plates. Who'd have thought it?
    They also stopped the .223 TAP round.
  2. What about 3 vests at close range without the plates? They stopped the .40 S&W with no problem.
But the .223 went right through.

I've said it before.....rifles are rifles and pistols are pistols.

I never cease to learn things at the range. Besides, shooting stuff is fun.

Thanks to Tman for the photo help and for the use of the Truck O' Truth.