If you’ve seen the John Wick movies, you’ve probably had to suspend your disbelief about many things, but the bulletproof suits are perhaps the hardest thing to swallow. They look like stylish suits but are impervious to just about anything at any range. What’s more is when you are hit, they seem to absorb all impact with no effect on the wearer at all.
You can keep running, firing, or karate kicking while the suit takes all of the bullets. You can even pull your jacket up over your face if you want to protect that million-dollar smile. Physics, of course, tells us that a suit like this is pretty much impossible. Except that they actually exist. Granted, the real-life suits don’t have the magic physics-defying powers of Mr. Wick’s suit, but if you have the cash, you can get a smart-looking suit that protects you from getting killed by a bullet.
Real Life, Part I
In the movies, the suits supposedly have Kevlar in them just like a real piece of ballistic body armor. The problem is, Kevlar is bulky. However, most of the real body armor you see — like a vest on a SWAT team operative — is made from Kevlar or similar ballistic fibers like Twaron, Goldflex, or Dyneema. They also have plates made of metal or ceramic.
People who deal with these don’t like to call them “bulletproof” vests because they are actually “bullet resistant.” A variety of factors can combine to put a hole in the user of even the best armor. It helps to have slower and softer bullets. Ballistic fibers make something akin to a net that absorbs the bullet’s impact and spreads it out.
People who have taken a bullet wearing one of these vests equate it to getting hit with a hammer. They also get a really bad bruise. But you will likely be able to continue whatever you were doing subject to the impact of that imaginary hammer. Of course, a hammer could knock you down, which could cause other injuries or knock the wind out of you. Users report a large round causes extremely sharp pain and will probably stun you for a few seconds. The heat will also sometimes leave a small burn mark, and it is possible to have ruptured internal organs from such a shot. The closer the range, the worse it is for you, as you might expect. You can see some testing on a fake body full of ballistic gel in the video below.
Oddly enough, most bulletproof vests don’t do much against knives. They do make “stab vests,” and if you don’t mind bulk and expense, you can get special “multi-thread” vests. On the other hand, it will protect someone in a car wreck from the steering column.
That’s No Suit!
The problem is, those vests don’t look like Mr. Wick’s wardrobe at all. There are, however, options. The Hacksmith – Hackaday alum [James Hobson] — has a prototype Kevlar suit that supposedly cost a little under $100,000 to produce. It isn’t certified but it appears to work, as you can see in the video below.
If you actually want to buy something, you have to give up on Kevlar and go with carbon nanotubes from Garrison. We have a feeling if you have to ask the price of this, you probably aren’t going to get one.
I Cannot Change the Laws of Physics, Captain!
The laws of physics don’t change no matter how inconvenient they are. While you might be able to dress like John Wick, we don’t think you are going to take the hailstorm of bullets, blades, and falls that he does in the movies without some serious damage. And if you decide to hold your bulletproof lapel over your face, don’t blame us when the fabric is ripped violently out of your hand on impact.
We aren’t sure if the Garrison tech is 3D printed, but we have seen 3D-printed carbon ballistic shielding. If you think Kevlar only protects against bullets, ask [Dan Maloney] about that.