A Quick History on Bulleproofing

The term bulletproof is somewhat common these days, often used to describe something that is invincible.  This could be a physical type of Troy Armoring resistance or it could refer to an emotional or psychological state.  The reality, of course, is that nothing is actually impervious to bullets or, as is often implied, entirely invincible. Still, the term stands today as a means to describe something that is exactly that.

The Origins of Bulletproofing

Perhaps the term is so commonplace because the process of making something capable of stopping high-velocity projectiles (known as “bulletproofing”) began in the late 19th century.  In the Arizona Territory of Tombstone, in the year 1887, Dr. George E. Goodfellow documented three test cases in which bullets failed to penetrate articles of silk clothing. Goodfellow describes that while gambler Luke Short did, in fact, shoot (and kill) Charlie Storms in the heart, the bullet did not manage to penetrate the silk handkerchief Storms was wearing.  

Obviously, in this case, the result was still fatal damage but it raised serious questions a about the potential for developing other bulletproof materials. Goodfellow documented similar mysterious findings in two other fatal shooting cases.  While these findings did not conclude, necessarily, how much silk could potentially stop a bullet, silk vests—selling for nearly $1,000—became popular among gangsters at the turn of the 20th century.

The Origins of Bullet-Resistant Armor

These days, it is regarded as poor practice and generally frowned upon to call anything “bulletproof” as this implies that a material could stop all bullets all the time.  A more appropriate term is “bullet-resistant;” and armor of this caliber has been in wide use since the mid-1980s.  Of course, law enforcement personnel were the very first to adopt such use en masse, resulting in 3,000 fewer deaths in that first year.  Now, the National lnstitute of Justice had first developed ballistic-resistant body armor standards in the 1970s; and since 1984 they have revised these standards about a half a dozen times.  

Classifications and Uses of Bullet-Resistant Armor

Anti-ballistic materials tend to be rigid but some can actually be quite supple.   They can also be complex or simple.  For example, Kevlar is the standard for anti-ballistic vests used by law enforcement while steel and titanium might be a base material for less intensive applications.  Lexan is a type of plastic—commonly used in industrial kitchens and restaurants for storing both raw and prepared foods—which also carries a “bulletproof” description.