Justice Department drops Dragon Skin body armor recommendation
The following correction to this story was posted August 10: "The Aug. 9 story on body armor should have said that military officials from all four services prohibit any troops from using Dragon Skin and other commercially produced body armor in lieu of service-supplied gear."
WASHINGTON — Department of Justice researchers have dropped Dragon Skin body armor from their list of acceptable protective equipment for law enforcement, the latest setback for the controversial bulletproof vests.
But officials from Pinnacle Armor Inc., which makes the vests, say the move is a hasty reaction to paperwork confusion about the warranty length of the vests and believe it may have ties to the ongoing fight between the company and Army researchers over Dragon Skin’s effectiveness.
“This armor doesn’t fail any (Justice Department) ballistics tests, but they took it off the list anyway,” Pinnacle CEO Murray Neal said. “It’s something that never should have happened. We just need to get through this issue and get this armor back on these cops.”
Pinnacle officials in June squared off with military researchers in a series of congressional hearings over Dragon Skin’s effectiveness. An NBC report in May that the commercially available armor, made of layered plates similar to scales, performed better in independent ballistic tests than the Army’s Interceptor Body Armor.
Army officials testified that Dragon Skin has failed numerous tests over the years, saying the ceramic plates fall apart after exposure to extreme heat and cold. All four services have banned use of the armor for general combat use.
According to the Justice Department, Pinnacle has not supplied enough evidence to support “that the body armor model will maintain its ballistic performance over its six-year declared warranty period,” prompting its exclusion from the approved vests list.
Neal said the warranty period is longer than that of most commercial vests, and the problems arise from a dispute between company and government analysts over requirements to prove that shelf life.
He believes the company is being hampered by more red tape than other protective armor firms, in part because of the ongoing fights with military officials.
“It’s a misrepresentation of who we are, and a disservice to the men and women who need this armor,” he said.
Department of Justice officials did not provide comment on those allegations by press time.
Neal said several police forces have contacted the company to stop or delay orders of the body armor as a result of the move. Justice Department officials advised law enforcement officers to continue wearing the Dragon Skin body armor until replacements can be purchased, rather than go without armor.
Military officials from all four services prohibit any troops from using Dragon Skin and other commercially produced body armor in lieu of service-supplied gear.