Body Bunker Basics

Handheld portable bullet-resistant shield designed to augment an officer's vest.

A Body bunker basics Firearms tactics body bunker, often called a ballistic shield or ballistic blanket, is a handheld portable bullet-resistant shield designed to augment an officer's vest. Body bunkers come in various shapes, sizes and levels of protection in two categories. There are rigid body bunkers, which resemble the shields carried by Roman foot soldiers, and flexible body bunkers, which essentially are ballistic blankets with handles.

When most law enforcement professionals think of body bunkers, they think of warrant service, tactical teams, dynamic entries, special enforcement and major incidents. Actually, the most logical application of a body bunker is at the patrol level.

Every patrol car needs a ballistic shield. Because the patrol officer is the first responder he is the most likely to arrive while an incident is still in progress. The best deployment of the product is where it will do the most good. It is the patrol officer who establishes and maintains perimeters, enters scenes with sketchy information and delivers intelligence so arriving officers can arrange their assets. The patrol officer is the one who makes contact with the suspect who has not yet been identified.

Ballistic products are constructed of layers of fiber or material that efficiently disperses the energy of a bullet. Although the majority of ballistic products built for the patrol officer are Level IIIA, they can be purchased in almost every level of ballistic protection. Level IIIA products are generally effective against standard law enforcement handgun calibers. Some companies have created additional pockets for additional plates and layers that raise the protection level. Combined with the officer's vest, the body bunker/vest equipped officer has an increased margin of protection.

When choosing a body bunker style, agencies must consider whether to choose a rigid or flexible body bunker.

Rigid body bunkers can be propped into a position or set down where a flexible shield would have to be held in place. The rigid bunker can be especially handy when two officers, instead of one, are required to stabilize and rescue a casualty in a hostile area.

Aside from ballistic protection, rigid bunkers may be utilized for other uses. If first responders do not have their (nonballistic) riot shields on hand, a rigid bunker will work in their stead. Another alternative use is that some rigid shields can be used for climbing by leaning the shield against a wall and using the crossbar as a step to get over a fence.

The flexible body bunker is perfect for vehicular use. Most officers have enough training and experience to understand that only a small percentage of a vehicle is cover — the rest is merely concealment. A patrol car's passenger compartment is mostly vinyl and plastic surrounded by sheet metal. Most studies will include that the car body is not effective against bullets, even bullets fired from pocket guns.

In high-risk stops where it is believed that one or more subjects in the vehicle are armed, the flexible ballistic shield is ideal. of Austin, Texas, recognized this need for vehicle use and created a flexible shield that officers can sit on in their patrol car. When it comes time to deploy, the officer simply picks the flexible armor off the seat and holds it up.

It is common for officers to stand in their vehicle's open doorway during a traffic stop. The patrol car should be idling while offset from the suspect car. Ideally, the officer has placed his engine block between himself and the suspect vehicle. The engine block of a patrol car is cover.

The primary vehicle in a high-risk stop is strategically placed to protect the primary officer from hazards in the suspect vehicle and the area of the traffic stop from traffic hazards. The arriving cover officer, however, may be at a loss of ballistic protection and create a strategic hazard for pursuit when and if needed.

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