Everything you wanted to know about surplus German Flak Vests (Jackets)

For educational purposes only.  I take no responsibility for what you do with this information.

If you’re on survivalist forums, as I tend to spend a great deal of time, you will find there’s a growing number of people who recommend picking up some bullet resistant gear to help keep you from springing a leak.  Now, there’s a lot of information about bulletproofing that I don’t want to get into here; I have a free essay available for that.

Link to essay on bulletproofing:  http://www.flsgear.com/baessay.doc

What I’m here to discuss today is the bargain basement deal which has flitted in and out of the survivalist sphere of influence over the last few years: The German Flecktarn Flak Vest.

These vests are typically surplus vests which age in two stocks: late 80’s and early 90’s.  The early 90’s are preferable but the 80’s stock isn’t bad either.  These vests are exceedingly cheap (40-70 dollars) and have been tested by many to perform to a moderate ballistic level.  I personally own a few (the price is right so hey, why not!)
and can give some pretty detailed insight on them.

Now, ideally you don’t want to go as cheap as a forty dollar vest when it’s your life we’re talking about.  However, not everyone can afford a six hundred dollar vest.  I say six hundred because most of the vests that include  neck/shoulder protection start around that price for comparable coverage.

Being a flak vest, it is specifically designed for utilization against flak.  Flak is basically shrapnel from explosive ordinance.  However, the method of stopping flak is almost identical to the method for stopping bullets.  *MOST* Flak jackets do very poorly against bullets.  This is because those vests generally tend to use lower grade ballistic fiber in less plies than are needed to stop a bullet.

*NEW* Vest official specs:
PROTECTS AGAINST LEVEL IIA THREATS.This body armor protects against 9mm Full Metal
Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets, with nominal masses of 8.0 g (124 gr) impacting at
a minimum velocity of 332 m/s (1090 ft/s) or less, and .40 S&W caliber Full Metal
Jacketed (FMJ) bullets, with nominal masses of 11.7 g (180 gr) impacting at a minimum
velocity of 312 m/s (1025 ft/s) 357 MAG JSP, 158 GR at (1250 Ft/s) and all lower
ballistic threats. With complete full side, front, back, shoulder and collar coverage.
Includes one camouflage, three point, Velcro adjustable, outerwear carrier with Velcro
abdominal security strap attached inside of carrier, and six, removable, Kevlar ballistic
panels: one in the front portion; one in the back portion; one in each shoulder
attachment; and two in the collar assembly. Velcro fasteners over left shoulder, and both
sides.All panels are  manufactured with 13 layers of lightweight, high-tenacity Kevlar
129  fabric and are each enclosed in a sealed water repellent heavy nylon cover.
Conforms to EN ISO 14876-1-2002 General requirements (ISO FDIS 14876-1 2002)

The vests utilize the highly effective German woodland flecktarn (fleck) pattern. 


This pattern works exceedingly well in the forests of Pennsylvania where I am located.  It has a large pouch in the front and for this price point a very unique design that includes shoulder protection and neck protection.  I love the look of it, personally.   The large pouch in the front is utilitarian, but not really designed for any one thing.  It works well for documents, identification, a medical kit, a small survival kit, etc.


The fasteners on it are huge velcro panels and it’s definitely designed as a ‘one size fits most’, though there are subtly different sizes.  Thankfully it’s fairly forgiving and can accomodate a wide range of body types and sizes.  This includes the female figure, as was tested by my wife.

The velcro makes it extremely fast to deploy.  You can literally have this gear in place and ready to go inside of ten seconds if it’s readily accessible.  This makes it very suitable for ‘bump in the night’ duty or anything else that would require a rapid response.

If you don’t like the color, you can always dye it black like this warhammer 40k LARPer

As stated in the specs, this vest uses 13 layers of kevlar 129, which is a higher quality than traditional kevlar 29 vests.  Kevlar 29 is usually found in older American flak vests and older bulletproof vests.  It has about 20% less tensile strength than kevlar 129.  This usually equates to needing more layers to accomplish the same amount of bullet resistance vs the german vests.

Couple that with Europe’s higher standard for backface deformation and you have something that is effectively extremely overbuilt for flak and comes out to be approximately a level IIA quality vest for 40 dollars.

Things that effect ballistic Kevlar over time:
As a rule, Kevlar is very durable and ages very well.  However, there are certain things which can vastly reduce the function of Kevlar by thirty or more percent.  The first is ultraviolet damage.  If the panels were stored outdoors for an extended period (look for sun-bleached covers), you might want to discard the panels or find an alternate use for
them.  The second is water damage.  Kevlar absorbs moisture.  This absorption means that the water will stay in the fibers and reduce it’s tensile strength.  Avoid mildew-scented panels.

Luckily, the Germans considered this and built extremely heavy duty vinyl covers for the interior ballistic panels that are both water and UV resistant.  So on the whole, most of the vests I’ve seen typically have Kevlar that is very solid.

Real world testing:
Now don’t take my word for it; numerous tests have been done by members of the community which validate the properties of this armor.  Allow me to point you at a few:

 – This test shows how the thirteen panels of Kevlar from this vest stop both a 9mm /124gr and 45 ACP /230gr  bullet.

Another test:
 – This test stops numerous 9mm and 45, though has one 9mm penetration.

Please note that neither of these tests used a proper rear medium; if you place Kevlar on a hard surface and shoot at it, it tends to ‘pinch’, which greatly reduces ballistic integrity.

7.62×25 vs the vest?
 – please note that the panel was doubled up, effectively making 26 layers.  More on this later.
 – Why 7.62×25?  Well, this Russian pistol round is a notorious vest penetration due to it’s high velocity.
 – Also note fact that he states it was military surplus which is also well known to be higher than equivalent civilian manufactured varieties.  It hits about 1 inch of back-face deformation, which is brutal, but enough that you might not die.  In many cases the level II and IIIA vests which are higher rating will not stop this bullet at all, so I found this highly impressive.

And numerous comments support it as well at the site that sells it the cheapest:
 Excerpts from the comments:
 – Shot this with UMC 230 gr .45, and 9mm NATO loads (53428). Stopped both just fine.
 – Live fire testing: I placed 2 separate panels against ballistic clay and shot them with perhaps our most common and potent penetrating threat, fast 9mm 115 grain FMJ ball(PMC). Fired from a Beretta 92F at 21 feet (average gun fight distance). The doubled up ballistic panels stopped the round. It should be noted that the bullet did not get
through even the first ballistic panel. I then shot one panel with 147 grain 9mm Winchester Ranger ammo. The single panel stopped the round. If these ballistic panels can stop fast 9mm FMJ, they will stop slow 45 ACP, 38 special, 380, 32, 22, and shotgun buckshot.
 – Shot it with .45 ball ammo at 10 feet, and it did not even penetrate one layer of the 13 layers. Also tried Federal expanding metal jacket +P with the same results.
 – I shot these with some high performance DoubleTap Ammunition and I am impressed. These loads did not penetrate: 38SPecial+P 158gr SWC @ 975fps 45ACP 230gr. BDHP @ 1010fps 40SW 180gr BDHP @ 1100fps 9mm+P 147gr BDHP @ 1135fps Your results may be slightly different, but I hit two different vests marked “1988” with these loads and they held. Higher velocity loads like the 115gr 9mm, all 10mm, and all 357Mags went through one side at least.
 – .22LR Federal 36gr HP out of 4″ Handgun. Easily stopped.
 Please note there are many more, feel free to check it yourself to see all of them.  Some people did extensive testing and found many other rounds could be stopped.

So there you have it.  It might be a Flak vest, but it is equivalent to level IIA protection.

How to improve it:
    It is extremely easy to improve this vest: Simply put: buy another one!  The interior panels are secured with Velcro inside the shell.  You simply unzip the smaller of the two vests, remove the panels, unzip the larger of the two vests, and put the other panels inside of it.  Presto chango.  It literally takes at most twenty minutes and doesn’t even
need pictures, it’s that stupidly simple.

    To take it a step further, you can add either an external plate carrier with suitable plates (AR500 steel plates are the cheapest, though they are heavy!) or you can literally velcro in a steel plate to the interior.  Some people have sewn pouches for the plates into them.

        NOTE: I’d planned to take a pic of my own rig here, but I’m a lazy SOB. So here’s someone else’s. http://justbarkingmad.com/?p=10935

    As you can see, the recommended method is to sandwich the steel plate in between the two Kevlar panels; this is because with steel it shatters the bullet into a number of shards.  Those shards will fly everywhere including under your chin and into your neck.  The idea is that the over-layer of Kevlar will not stop a rifle bullet, but it will catch
spall from the steel plate.

    You can find AR500 steel plates very cheap, I’ve found 8×8 Level III+ SAPI plates for thirty dollars off and on.  Check Ebay – that’s a good source for them.

The full poor man’s rig:


        This kit was done for under two hundred dollars.  Breakdown of prices:
        Used PASGT helmet: $50
        2x Flecktarn flak vests: $40 ea
        Belgian flecktarn web gear: $5
        8×8 Level III+ plate: $30
        Helmet cover: $5
        Flecktarn Shirt: $10
        Total: $180


Now, I don’t sell these on my site.  But there’s a great deal of digging you have to do to find out about them and being that I have the info and the interest, I figured I’d do a write up on it.  I hope you appreciate it enough to check out http://www.flsgear.com and consider using us for your next purchases.

Michael Messina


About www.flsgear.com

We sell first-rate survival and camping supplies! "The best thing you can buy is quality."
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5 Responses to Everything you wanted to know about surplus German Flak Vests (Jackets)

  1. Pingback: My next pirchase will NOT be a gun... - Shooting Sports Forum

  2. Jimmy Kao says:

    Hi Michael,
    You did an excellent job on featuring German Flak Vest. Our company KeepShooting.com has a lot of these surplus German Flak Vests in stock and our price is probably one of the cheapest at only $59.95. We believe it can benefit your readers if they know a good place to purchase them. Would it be too much trouble for you to make a text link back to our German Flak Vest page? http://www.keepshooting.com/surplus-german-flak-jacket.html

    We have been in the business for over 10 years now. We would love to have a simple text link from you. Please let me know if it is possible. Thank you very much for your attention. Again, we love people who spend their time and effort to feature good quality surplus products especially the ones we carry!

  3. I wish we had those type of prices in the UK!

  4. Fibonacci says:

    How big do they go, do you think? XL? XXL? 3XL?

    • Pretty big. They’re 1 size fits all from what I remember (it’s been a few years) but generally speaking it’s pretty gigantic when you let it out. I had a 350+ lb friend put one on
      and it worked reasonably well. The same vest fit me extremely well.

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