Testing a bulletproof vest, 1923

By RHP | Posted on: November 23, 2013 | Updated on: June 10, 2014
This vest vest weighed 11 lb (5.0 kg), fit close to the body, and was considered more comfortable.

This vest weighed 11 lb (5.0 kg), fit close to the body, and was considered more comfortable.

The deputy firing a .38 caliber revolver straight at his chest.

The deputy firing a .38 caliber revolver straight at his chest.

The gun players are WH Murphy and his assistant, of the Protective Garment Corporation of New York. The pictures were taken during a demonstration of the company’s “bulletproof vest” for DC-area police in 1923. The live demonstration took place at the Washington city police headquarters. They are inventors and salesmen trying to convince the police force that these bulletproof vests work and save lives.

The police officers in the background (on the second photo) are all part of the Frederick County Police Department, the gun they are firing is believed to be a S&W Model 10 Revolver. Mr. Murphy stood less than ten feet (3 meters) from the firing gun and took two consecutive .38 round slugs straight to the chest, and eye witnesses claims he “didn’t bat an eye” in both cases. Later Murphy gave the deflected .38 bullet to the police officer as a souvenir. This vest weighed 11 lb (5.0 kg), fit close to the body, and was considered more comfortable than the previous types of bulletproof vests.

Here’s a beautiful colored version of the first photo (credit to: zuzahin).

Interesting fact:

  • During the late 1920s through the early 1930s, gunmen from criminal gangs in the United States began wearing less-expensive vests made from thick layers of cotton padding and cloth. These early vests could absorb the impact of handgun rounds such as .22 Long Rifle, .25 ACP, .32 S&W Long, .32 S&W, .380 ACP, .38 Special and .45 ACP traveling at speeds of up to 300 m/s (980 ft/s). To overcome these vests, law enforcement agents such as the FBI began using the newer and more powerful .38 Super, and later the .357 Magnum cartridge.

(The pictures are part of National Photo Company Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)

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