Retrofitting Civilian Vehicles with Ballistics Armor for Combat and IED Survival

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Retrofitting Civilian Vehicles with Ballistics Armor to Survive Firefights and IED Blasts

In light of the recent Boston Marathon Bombing our contributors have been tasked to develop terrorism counter-measures. Fortunately our readers know strategic survival and tactical operating skills is kind of our thing. In this portion of the CMF online survival manual we will outline some parameters civilians and militia members can take to retrofit their vehicles with ballistics armor.

This armor does not represent assured protection when the shit hits the fan if you don’t independently perfect your armor retrofitting techniques. That’s if you can’t get a hold of an MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected vehicle), in which case you’re relatively good to go, carry on…

Learning from the Boston Marathon Bombing

Attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing are predicted to increase in the coming years, an unfortunate result of allowing the rise of radical Islam throughout the civilized world. IED blast protection (however difficult) should rank paramount in your survival and prepper techniques…

You can install the armor discretely in your everyday vehicle but your protection would be intermediate at best. Diligent survivalists and preppers have BOVs (bug out vehicles) adequately stocked and ready for evacuation to a secondary location. However, the typical BOV isn’t adequately protected against attacks, attacks that could easily render your totally kick-ass jeep useless.

IEDs Improvised Explosive Devices

IEDs are incredibly easy to make and they are the predominant cause of death to service members serving in the Middle East. In 2012, the number of IEDs that were cleared or detonated rose to 16,554 from 15,225, an increase of 9%. For this reason you should read the Army Programmatic Environmental Assessment of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle ProgramUnclassified: Dist A Approved for Public Release.

Realistic Counter-Measures

Let’s be realistic, the average American doesn’t have much money or time to invest in a project such as this. Pool resources and share time with others in your survival group. Seek additional resources by eliminating what can be easily considered a want rather than a need. You can find most of these materials online or in scrap yards. Typically the only difference is convenience and financial cost. Most people don’t have the money to pay for FK6 (frag kit six) Armor. Improvise with time and financing. Stay within your means!

ABOVs Armored Bug Out Vehicles

ABOVs require team work; work with your survival group using older vehicles (throw away vehicles) for ballistics testing while improving upon your ABOV design.  Your design should be based on your bug out vehicle, and fortunately there are several to choose from online. You can purchase a Monster M35A2 6X6 Cargo Truck for around $10,000 on eBay. More expensive models include; the UNICAT EVS (expeditionary vehicle system) , Earth Roamer XV-LT, and vehicles retrofitted by companies like Armor Works.

In the absence of used military grade or expensive bug out vehicles, civilian SUVs (sport utility vehicles) can be converted to an ABOV. Suburbans, Tahoes, Expeditions and other SUVs are diverse with a reasonable fuel range. SUV ABOVs should have 4 wheel drive, a roof rack, aggressive tires (super swamper), locking or limited slip differentials, rising suspension, an adequate motor and a lift kit. Having a mechanic in your survival group is never a bad idea… Suggested reading: New Israeli Tactical Vehicle

ABOV Ballistics

Ideally the ABOV should be capable of accommodating layered ballistics panels constructed from the inside out. The most readily available plates include; ¼” ballistics steel capable of withstanding. 308 and 7.62 x 51 rounds, ½” ballistics steel capable of withstanding .3006 armor piercing and .30 M2 AP rounds, and ceramic plates capable of withstanding shrapnel blasts when layered appropriately.

How to Make Ballistics Plates

You can purchase ballistic steel from companies like Steel Forge, LeecoSteel (military spec a46100 armor steel plate) or you can make your own. One method includes lots of cotton sheets, polyester resin and fiberglass resin. Lay 10 sheets on top of one another and compress them using a press or a bowling ball. Once compressed, saturate the sheets with the polyester resin, and then repeat these steps until you have 50 sheets compressed to be ¾” thick.

In between each 10 compressed sheet sets you can add steel plates to create your desired thickness above ¾”.  After the materials dry, seal the plates and resin hardened fabric with the fiberglass resin, after 4 hours add an additional coat of fiberglass resin. Whether making steel plates or ordering them from a vendor, plates should be cut to size and dimension according to the SUV’s doors, frame, and floorboards.

You can use an inexpensive method to make high-carbon steel plates. Simply heat your ¾” steel plate until it becomes red hot. Dip the plate in fresh or salt water* to immediately cool (this causes a steam reaction). Clean the steel once cooled. Now, heat the steel again (this tempers the steel), now dip the plate in used motor oil or water with oil deposits to cool. Clean the steel plate. Now you have high-carbon steel.

SUV ABOV Retrofitting

The first thing you will need to do is disassemble or strip your vehicle, removing all non-essential parts such as; sound system, radio, carpet, amenities and etc.. SUV manuals are available online to assist in the disassembling process. SUV interiors and door panels can be removed relatively easy. Again, a mechanic is your friend. Steel plates will need to be spot welded or riveted in place according to predetermined placements. Weak spots or breaches in your ABOVs should be addressed with the proper application of additional plates.

Daily use or family vehicles should be equipped with enough steel plating while not restricting the installation of interior panels. This is important for the vehicle to blend in with other civilian vehicles. In addition, you can laminate daily use vehicles’ windows with ballistic resistant laminates purchased from companies like Norva Plastics. It should be stated this does not afford daily use vehicles with true IED protection but it’s definitely an improvement.

Suggested reading:

Note: There is no one way to develop your armored vehicle. If you have a question or suggestion fill out the comment form below to discuss with CMF Contributors and our Readers.



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About Administrator Ryan

Administrator Ryan has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Emergency Administration and Management from the University of Kentucky, and has been the primary handler for since it's founding. Professional background includes over a decade's experience in survival and preparedness, graphic design, computer programming, website coding, and asset management. Personal background in mountaineering, climbing, rappelling, combat training, and big game hunting.

16 thoughts on “Retrofitting Civilian Vehicles with Ballistics Armor for Combat and IED Survival

  1. That is not how to heat treat or make high carbon steel. Mild steel does not become high carbon steel simple by heating it and quenching it, it must be done at the steel mill or in small batches by a blacksmith who can case harden and repeatedly fold and weld the steel to distribute carbon.

    • It’s called a sand cat all protected combat vehicle, I don’t remember who makes it though.

  2. Given the weight concerns it would be interesting to see an article on DIY ceramic armor – if such a thing is possible.

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  5. I think retrofitting an armored vehicle is practical job to done. Its not difficult if you know what to install for armoring your vehicle. You know right techniques and right materials.


  7. I would encourage anyone who is seriously thinking about doing this to any of their vehicles to estimate the total weight of the armor you intend to put on or in your vehicle then with your “bug out load” in and estimated weight of occupants in it. Load your estimated armor weight in sand bags and load that in. Then drive that vehicle, put one full take of fuel though it and see the major decrease in your fuel mileage. The reason these organization get a butt load of money to retro fit civilian cars with effect armor is they re build the car from the ground up. At the end of the retro fit the owner has an entirely new vehicle from the ground up.

    I am not a Mechanic; I am a good enough shade tree mechanic to keep my vehicles running and that is about it. But I have first hand experience when it comes to armoring vehicles that were not designed with Armor in mind and the issues, catastrophic issues in a SHTF situations, that it can cause.

    When we got to Bosnia we had M1025’s, M1026’s, and M998’s for the most part. I was in a Military Police Unit at that time, so we patrolled allot. Our organic vehicles were parked and replaced with XM1114’s the first long term iteration of Armored HMMWVs for the Army. Because these were built on M1025 and M1026 frames with armor added the added weight caused many mechanical and operational problems.

    First were the breaks, the added weight and the constant need to slow on steep grades caused brakes to fail, brake pads and shoes to wear well before their normal wear life. Next were lug bolts, there was not a mission where due to the added weight the weight shifting from side to side and increasing or decreasing that lug bolts would not snap off. Every mission cost at least one lug bolt to snap and need to be replaced. That on a HMMWV is ok in the short term one lug bolt out of 7 snaps but when 2 or more per truck break that is an issue. Break Master cylinders would give out increasing vehicle issues.

    Power steering pumps and components were another frequent item to give out trying to work that extra weight and it would cause failures.

    Tire failures, I could see being an issue. We did not have that issue with the XM1114’s because they had the inner tire but you need to think about how hard your BOV will be to drive with all that added weight and a flat running on a rim that is being destroyed every foot you drive and if you have to keep driving to get out of a contact zone you will need an extra wheel. Now you have to be able to jack that very heavy BOV up.

    Last was a marked loss of performance hills and mountain travel was slow and laborious, we lost more engines in the 8 months in Bosnia then I saw in my entire 20 years in the Army.

    So a good strong cost analysis of what it will cost you, your team, or group needs to be done. You need to make sure the people you have in mind for you mechanical up keep have the skill and spare parts for the job. After your look at cost it may be less cost effective that it’s worth.

    These are all consideration that need to be taken into account.

    As I said I am not a Mechanic so these are just my observations. I don’t want anyone thinking I am sharpshooting their work. That is not my intent just giving food for thought from lessons learned.

  8. There is a cheap yet effective solution… Sandbags. Rum Runners during prohibition used to line the hulls of their boats with sand to avoid the Coast Guard from disabling them with the Ma Deuce. Before the up armored hummer arrived in Iraq, guys would place sand bags on the floor.

    Also place nets around your windows and your exterior equipment. This prevents hasty theft and hand grenades being thrown into your vehicle.

    If it looks stupid and it works… then it isn’t stupid.

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