Dragon Skin body armour is a type of ballistic, or bulletproof, vest. Ballistic vests are worn to protect the torso of the wearer from gun fire and fragments from explosive devices such as hand grenades. Various types of personal body armour have been developed over the last few decades, often utilising the synthetic fibre known as Kevlar. The key concept behind Dragon Skin armour was the creation of a more flexible, lightweight ballistic vest.
Dragon Skin armour is made by Pinnacle Armor, a United States armour manufacturing company based in Fresno, California. The founder of the company, Murray Neal, is an inventor and author in the field of personal ballistic armour. It was Neal's goal to develop a flexible and lightweight type of body armour capable of withstanding rifle fire. Dragon Skin armour was the result of these specific aims.
Standard modern bulletproof vests generally utilise large ceramic plates in order to protect the wearer from gun fire. Dragon Skin armour, however, uses smaller circular discs that overlap each other to form the characteristic scale armour design of the vest. The individual discs are made from ceramics similar to those used in other ballistic vests. However, these smaller discs provide greater flexibility and range of movement for the wearer; they also make for a lighter all-round unit.
Every type of body armour on the market needs to be tested in order to become certified by various bodies. Due to its innovative design, Dragon Skin armour was a high-profile addition to the range of available body armours. Various televised demonstrations were performed, including basic testing by the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and NBC News. All the results were positive. Tests by a Fresno police department also proved positive. Academic and scientific testing was also carried out in 2006. Dragon Skin body armour was found to stop all the hits that it was subjected to, with no cases of bullet penetration.
The initially successful testing of Dragon Skin armour saw it being bought by both private and public agencies. Civilian contractors working in Iraq were quick to buy the lightweight armour, followed by a number of special operations units working in both Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. Secret Service operatives and a number of U.S. Swat teams also bought the new Dragon Skin armour. Having subjected the armour to its own private testing, Dragon Skin was also purchased by the CIA.
Controversy has surrounded the testing and certification of Dragon Skin armour. In 2006, Dragon Skin armour was officially approved by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). However, tests carried out by the U.S. Army found faults with the armour, claiming that multiple failures had been found. Pinnacle Armor, the makers of Dragon Skin, strongly defended its product, as did many neutral sources. In 2007, however, NIJ retracted its approval of Dragon Skin armour. After the 2007 controversy, test data still remained a matter of contention.
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