Working Knowledge; March 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by Scott; 1 Page(s)
There is no such thing as a bulletproof vest. For more than 3,000 years, soldiers have attempted to stop pointed objects from penetrating the skin. But a sharp-enough point made of a hard-enough material delivered at high-enough velocity will defeat the most intricate chain mail or a weave of the most high-technology fiber.
Polymer chemistry, however, has achieved a measure of success in making materials that can stop many of the bullets found in the most common handguns. At the same time, the wearer of garments made from such plastics no longer need feel like a knight in armor: the materials weigh little enough to be fashioned into an overcoat or a dress jacket. Until the mid-1970s, clothes that could resist bullets required so many layers of nylon, silk, leather or metallic materials that their bulkiness often caused police to avoid them.