The first development of Soviet body armor (Topic)

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The first development of Soviet body armor


Body armor in modern conditions is one of the most important parts of military uniforms. It wasn't always this way, though.

Body armor hidden under outerwear provides safety and can save lives. This type of protection is made of special materials that dampen or disperse the bullet impulse. These can be metal, kevlar or ceramic elements.


For the first time in the USSR, the development was started in 1954, and three years later the ready-made equipment was adopted by the army. The 6B1 model was produced in an amount of about 1500 units and left in the warehouse until the onset of military events.


The 6B1 protective structure consisted of six-sided aluminum elements. They were arranged in a mosaic pattern. Behind them was a layer of nylon material and a wadding lining. Such protection protected from shrapnel and bullets of 7.62 caliber, which were fired from a distance of half a meter during test trials.

The design of the body armor turned out to be rather complicated, a large number of individual hexagonal plates gave a lot of weight, the level of protection still remained at a low level. For a while, the Soviet authorities abandoned attempts to create domestic high-quality protective armor.


The existence of body armor was remembered about 10 years later. The initiative was taken by the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs, which tried to resolve the issue - to develop its own or purchase foreign samples. The choice settled on its own production. Research Institute of Steel was engaged in the development, as a result, after a year of their work, a vest was created under the classifier ZhZT-71. The protection level of this model significantly exceeded the previous development due to the presence of high strength titanium elements in its composition. On its basis, several more modifications appeared: ZhZT-71M, ZhZL-74 (protection against edged weapons). The ZhZT-71M model can be called innovative for that era, since the vest also protected from rifle charges, the energy of which was almost 5-6 times higher than pistol bullets.


For ZhZT-71M, a method of special processing of metal (titanium) was specially developed, which provided the required protective characteristics. Also, a rather impressive shock absorber was built into the model. His task was to reduce the number of behind-the-bar damages, that is, those that occur when the protective armor is not penetrated. Plates were placed in the vest according to a "scaly" or "tiled" pattern.

Among the shortcomings of the development, one can single out a large number of joints of individual elements, which ultimately increased the likelihood of a bullet or knife passing. To level this flaw, individual pieces of armor were not completely connected, and in their upper boundaries there were special protrusions that held a bullet or a cold weapon blade between the rows. In the ZHZL-74 modification, this problem was solved a little differently. In this model, the individual parts were overlaid in two layers, with the parts oriented to different sides. This improved the protective properties of the armor.

If we compare Soviet bulletproof vests with modern samples, their structure can be considered overly complex and far from perfect.

This can be explained by the little experience of their developers, the lack of materials that are used now, as well as the high requirements for protection specifically from edged weapons. Most of the security forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the mid-70s used this particular ammunition, and until the middle of the next decade, ZhZT-71M, in fact, remained the only defenders of the Soviet police.

The Topic of Article: The first development of Soviet body armor.
Author: Jake Pinkman