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Let's say in a few years a brand new material is discovered, a kevlar like fiber that is strong enough to stop any kind of bullet from a regular firearm (pistols, rifles, machine guns etc.). Anything weaker than a heavy anti-tank rifle is completely useless against it, and even these can barely pierce this new armor. Soldiers can still be killed by artillery and other heavy weaponry, like tank cannons and missiles, but anything a regular soldier can carry is pretty much useless.

For the technical part, it works just like kevlar, it's just much, much stronger.

All soldiers are equipped with it, from frontline soldiers to the tank crews and support companies .

It is fairly pricy so most civilians don't have it, but most police officer, security guards and serious criminals do.

How would this affect the way wars are fought? And how would the society as a whole react to most guns becoming pretty much useless?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Nov 6 '20 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ This question is complete nonsense. You can't avoid basic physics, if you had some super strong armor that could actually stop anti-tank rifles the person would be dead regardless because their internal organs would literally explode from the impact. $\endgroup$ – eps Nov 7 '20 at 1:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Cas_D, what would you like to happen to all the kinetic energy of the projectile hitting the armor? $\endgroup$ – theonlygusti Nov 7 '20 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ To say nothing of the momentum of something slightly smaller than an anti-tank shell $\endgroup$ – RBarryYoung Nov 7 '20 at 20:46

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This is the old armor vs weapon argument - one side invents armor, another copies it, one side invents a weapon to penetrate the armor, the other copies it and invents stronger armor. And round we go.

It happened in antiquity with personal armor starting with shields, leather and fabric and on to the fully armored knight of the late middle ages. It happened with wooden ships and gunpowder, then with ironclads and battleships. And it happened with tanks.

In fact its still happening and this new fabric would just be one more step. And the problem is the same.

And IMO there are two key issues;

  1. As other have pointed out the energy of a round fired at someone wearing your armor has to go somewhere. That 'somewhere' is the body of the person being hit. So its very likely someone wearing your armor would take serious bruising/internal hemorrhaging and broken ribs/bones etc. The big plus is they survive though.

  2. Toughen the armor and someone will step up to the challenge and build a better (bigger/faster/harder) bullet. For that matter they could possibly just weave and bond a coating of your super fabric around the tip of a conventional rifle round.

Whatever they do, at some point either the sheer impact becomes disabling, rounds are invented that penetrate or you have to wear so much of the fabric that it becomes too cumbersome/heavy and impracticable for a soldier to wear for extended periods in combat conditions. Which are the limiting factors on current body armor.

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    $\begingroup$ Using a strong electromagnetic field to ionize all atoms and bend them around your body? (Strong enough to ionize also non metals so they follow the magnetic lines). That way only part of the energy -the part that corresponds with the change in velocity) has to be absorbed by the body. $\endgroup$ – paul23 Nov 6 '20 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ @paul23 I asked about that several years ago. It's impractical. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Nov 6 '20 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ If such a material could dissipate the energy efficiently as heat, rather than transferring it to the body, you'd be okay. The actual momentum of your average round isn't very large due to the low bullet mass and whilst the kinetic energy is larger (0.5mv^2), when distributed over a heavy bit of armour it would only raise the temperature by a degree or two which would quickly radiate away. $\endgroup$ – Persistence Nov 6 '20 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ The competition between weapons and armor is indeed old and endless. But shifting from weapons having the upper hand to armor does change warfare for a while, i.e. castles and trenches led to a different style of warfare than when canons and tanks made them less effective. $\endgroup$ – Mark Nov 6 '20 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ @paul23 electromagnetic fields strong enough to ionize most atoms sound more like a weapon and less like something you want anywhere close to your body... $\endgroup$ – Mark Nov 6 '20 at 20:31
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Already obsolete

Many, if not most, of the Coalition casualties of the Iraq war were due to IEDs: improvised landmines, either anti-personnel or anti-vehicle. Other attacks were carried out with RPGs. Since Coalition forces would win almost any gunfight in which both parties could see each other, those tended not to happen so much.

Urban warfare would become even more of a miserable grind than it is. All room clearance would be done with explosives. Close-quarters fighting in building with guns would be rendered impossible - so either the fighting would move to building-obliterating levels of explosive, or to even more close quarters fights with blades.

Suicide bombers would be slightly more effective if there's no possibility of shooting them dead from a distance.

More civilians would get obliterated by all these explosions.

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  • $\begingroup$ Actually it would be easy to kill a suicide bomber from a distance--their explosives are usually not the most stable things, a rifle round into the vest will generally set it off. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Nov 7 '20 at 2:54
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel you are assuming suicide bombers would not adapt, and explosive stability is a solved problem. $\endgroup$ – Famous Jameis Nov 7 '20 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ @FamousJameis Suicide bombers generally have to make do with the explosives they can get. There's also the preference for TATP because normal bomb sniffers don't see it. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Nov 7 '20 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel easily producible stable explosives are a solved problem, you might stop uncoordinated partisan activity, but established groups (ISIS for instance) have the resources to adapt. $\endgroup$ – Famous Jameis Nov 8 '20 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ @FamousJameis ISIS in the territory they control. Suicide bombers that don't have a secure base are another matter. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Nov 8 '20 at 2:11
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amazing material

Some answers say it's a useless material. I think if they give it a chance, they'll see how insanely useful it is.

Yes, the impact must be spread out to prevent damage to a person. A bullet doesn't have much energy. A gun will have the same amount of energy in the recoil as the bullet will have. The advantage for the shooter is that the gun has the energy spread out slightly more over time due to acceleration than the impact of a bullet. The gun has the surface area of the hand. The arm can move more easily and deflect the energy to another direction (for how pistols and arms are build it'll go up). That is why they're fine with the same amount of energy from the recoil.

The impact of a bullet will be on a small area, in a short time, often penetrating the body for extra damage.

Armour in real life takes all this into account. Composite armour is usually used for vehicle armour, but it's certainly used on personnel. The idea is that different layers do different things to redirect the energy of the bullet. We have a material that is bulletproof, so we don't have to give one more thought to that part. Even better. The wording in this case is that we don't even need to take in account it can become weaker if it's tightly strung over metal for example. So all we need to do, is redirect the energy, while most penetrative problems are solved.

I can't do full research and I'm not an expert in these things. However, I can give some directions of what I would try. What I would do is make clothing with many folds outwards. These increase the distance the bullet has to travel to reach the body, giving more opportunity to stop a bullet. Gels, (metallic) foams and more can be inserted that become rigid on impact, further diffusing the energy over time and surface area. Especially the gels would get a lot of attention. If the gel could stop the bullet, it can go back to it's original form afterwards. As some layers can't be penetrated, none would leak out and you'll have an armour that resets itself over time. The material for clothing could also use thick round strands for deflecting purposes, so the bullet is more likely to be forced into an indirect path to the body and more of such shenanigans.

Do keep in mind that most current armours aren't a "perfect" protection. Most are unable to diffuse the energy enough, so you'll get huge bruises and might get incapacitated, yet alive. Repetitive shots can damage armour enough to penetrate, which is more easily done with automatic weapons. Even with my above example of new armour you could be fine at the first shot, but quick follow ups could still give you nasty bruises and even death if the material gets too close to the body, as many others point out.

What would happen in such a world is that guns tend to become more powerful and automatic. It'll give higher chances for lucky shots or overcoming the armour of the enemy. The bullets would get bigger with higher impact to wind them or overcome the protection. Incapacitating your opponent is a much more likely scenario, as well as that engagements will be drawn out. Interestingly hand to hand combat might become more common, but that is more wishful thinking. It's more likely other weapons would be researched more intensively to disable your opponent.

There is an argument to be made that guns would just get more powerful to overcome the resistance of the armour. There's handguns that still fire incredibly heavy, powerful rounds. Though these might become more widespread, they do get more recoil, making aiming and firing much more difficult and tiresome, as well as the guns heavier so more weight to carry all the time. Although weapon escalation is a thing, it's not as clear cut as that. Each advancement in armour can have many detrimental effects on the weapons to keep up the battle.

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    $\begingroup$ "A gun will have the same amount of energy in the recoil as the bullet will have" is false. A bullet has equal and opposite momentum to the recoil, but since the energy is proportional to the square of velocity, the bullet carries far more energy. A bullet that's 1/100th the mass of a gun will be fired with 100x the velocity of the recoil, and carry 100x as much energy as the recoiling gun, even though they both have the same momentum. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Nov 6 '20 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearHoagie can you fact check before you try to correct me? I appreciate the thought. Maybe it helps if you substitute my word energy with force. The force of the explosion doesn't push harder on the bullet or the gun. That is why they get equal force. It's Newton's third law. Acceleration gets more difficult the faster you go. It's not a linear function even in a vacuum, otherwise you can go faster than light or have no terminal velocity. So velocity can't be 1/100th the velocity of the recoil. $\endgroup$ – Trioxidane Nov 7 '20 at 5:23
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearHoagie Kinetic energy=0.5*m*v^2 is what you are referring to. If the weapon has a weight of 10 kilo's and is pushed back by the recoil at 5m/s, the KE=125 (imaginary numbers ofcourse). A bullet of 100 gram being expelled would then still a KE of 125. So you turn the formula around to calculate its velocity: 125=0.5*0.1*v^2. Now you calculate V. V=square root(125/0.05). V=50m/s. The KE hasnt changed, so Trioxidane's words that the bullet and weapon recoil are the same energy is correct. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Nov 8 '20 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Demigan This is incorrect. The weapon and the bullet do NOT have the same energy. They experience an equal and opposite force, from which it's trivial to show that they acquire equal and opposite momentum (since momentum is simply the integral of force over time, and assuming an efficient weapon that doesn't waste too much momentum in propellant exhaust). A 10-kg weapon recoiling at 5m/s has momentum of 50 kg*m/s. To match this momentum, a 100-gram bullet must have a speed of 500 m/s, which gives an energy of 0.1*(500^2)/2 = 12500 joules, i.e. 100 x the energy of the recoiling gun. $\endgroup$ – Geoffrey Brent Nov 8 '20 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Trioxidane Nuclear Hoagie is correct here. The kind of relativistic considerations you're raising are important when dealing with particle accelerators and suchlike, but they're negligible at the kind of speeds involved with RL projectile weapons. Weapon and projectile experience equal and opposite force, which leads to equal and opposite momentum, but not equal energy. (If it were otherwise, firing a weapon would be almost as harmful to the user as to the target!) $\endgroup$ – Geoffrey Brent Nov 9 '20 at 0:01
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3 words - Armor-piercing Bullets

Warfare would likely change very little. Currently, most first world countries use drones when possible, and missions are carried out by highly-trained specialized teams. Whatever new armor, kevlar or otherwise, is created, the other side can always increase the speed and weight (and thus force) of the bullet to overcome the latest body armor.

The game changer would be civilians having access, as most casualties in modern wars are civilians

Consider the Iraq war. Most estimates place civilian casualties in the hundreds of thousands. This is orders of magnitude larger than either allied forces (U.S./Europe/Canada/Etc) and Iraqi military forces. While some deaths can be attributed to lack of access to food and medical care, civilians having the ability to protect themselves from the cross-fire would likely be a game-changer.

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    $\begingroup$ Alternatively, if the material is expensive so civilians don't have it, it could increase the number of civilian casualties as the higher energy weapons used to overcome it would have more collateral damage. $\endgroup$ – user1937198 Nov 6 '20 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ @user1937198 "We needed new ideas; they came in the form of old ideas" $\endgroup$ – UIDAlexD Nov 6 '20 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ Huh. I thought it was the other way round - armies efficiently target enemy armies/strategic locations and leave civilians mostly alone. $\endgroup$ – Vilx- Nov 6 '20 at 7:24
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    $\begingroup$ @user1937198 on the other hand, it can be advantageous. Using armour piercing on an unarmoured target is more likely the bullet will go through the body, leaving much of it's energy unspent. While armoured targets will get the full power of a bullet against them, or at least more even when it's fully penetrating. So it can be relatively safer in some cases to be shot unarmoured than armoured. $\endgroup$ – Trioxidane Nov 6 '20 at 9:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Vilx- Sadly I think you are overestimating the desire of any commander to leave enemy civilians "mostly alone". One could argue that was a rare occasional advantage of previous territorial wars - if the enemy civilians of today are your taxpaying citizens of tomorrow, there is indeed more incentive to keep infrastructure and non-combatants intact. Of course even then this rarely actually happened. $\endgroup$ – xLeitix Nov 6 '20 at 11:25
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Frame Challenge!

Armor must spread and diffuse impact, not just not be pierced.

For instance,

let’s say that you have a shirt, as you specified, that was bulletproof. The bullet would hit the shirt, then push the shirt through your body and out the other side until it hits the back of the shirt. The bullet would not pierce the shirt, but you would still be dead.

In conclusion, the material would be completely useless.

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  • $\begingroup$ If it's stiff enough to act like current Kevlar armor, it won't be entirely useless. It will still only protect you from small arms. Somewhere above some threshold it will still cause you to "bounce" inside the armor. First bruising, then with more energy more damage. Eventually, the different density of different parts of you (bones vs lungs for example) causes displacement of one relative to the other, which eventually gets bad enough to kill you. It will increase the projectile energy you can live through, that's about it. $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Nov 6 '20 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but it will not make you invincible to all projectiles but high-powered missiles, as the OP intended... $\endgroup$ – fartgeek Nov 6 '20 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ That's what I said. Exactly what caliber you could live through is tough to say. A normal rifle bullet, almost for sure. An RPG, probably not. $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Nov 6 '20 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @puppetsock if it's stiff enough to diffuse the force, chances are it won't be at all ccomfortable to wear and doesn't really qualify as "clothing" $\endgroup$ – Tristan Nov 6 '20 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ @fartgeek your answer is invalid because the OP says stop the bullet, NOT keep it from going through the shirt $\endgroup$ – Topcode Nov 7 '20 at 16:07
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Since the invention of guns the humanity asked one question - how I can be more sure that the killing thing kill for sure?

The answer? Baïonnette. If shooting people is problematic stop shooting them.
Stab them, impale them, maybe try cutting.

When using small firearms make no sense hit them hard. A shotgun is just a hammer blow in repeatable form. Because you don't need to penetrate anything to brake, maul or smash bones and organs. Regular clothing is very unpenetrable by punches but I've seen people getting their ribs broken and kidneys damaged by a fist.

There is also sci-fi microwave gun that can use the protective cage soldiers are wearing to boil them.

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You mention it is only effective against small arms. So even assuming it works flawlessly the answer to better armor is more dakka. After all, if brute force can't solve a problem, you haven't applied enough of it.

There's a ripple effect from there that you can follow, and I'll sum my trek through it that way:

Bigger guns means heavier guns (a .50cal ain't light). You offset that with the generalisation of passive exoskeleton and the development of powered exoskeletons for a few heavy units. At the same time you can use highly mobile troops with little to no armor to leverage that mobility in tight urban environments vs bulky juggernauts. You don't need much firepower to kill a turtle if you apply it well, so a pistol to the face, or a simple explosive, incendiary or chemical device of some kind would be enough for them.

You might see mixed unit develop, with frontliners wearing powered heavy armor and big guns, a second line with conventional armor and a bit higher power rifles and/or explosives, and then a third/support line of specialists which may including free running soldiers for quick and precise flanking maneuvers.

It might be effective against an enemy that doesn't have your budget, but then again it might not be soluble in asymmetric warfare and guerilla tactics. At the very least, guns won't become useless, at worst they'll become more situational but it won't be that hard of a puzzle to figure.


But the actual answer is that ultimately this would change very little because this is all just ground units doing ground warfare. Modern warfare is about multi-domain operations. There are 6 domains of military interest which are sea, land, air, space, and cyber.

Your new equipment won't save you from a Tomahawk missile or drone strike. It won't do you good against a cyberattack. It might increase your ability to project force on the ground, but I can't say it would be by a significant amount.

Now your eyes didn't deceive you and you can count well. Sea, land, air, space and cyber makes 5. The sixth is the human domain, arguably the most important one.

Nothing is free, and that fancy new armor would lead to increased military spending. That means less money for education, healthcare, justice, infrastructure, you know, secondary stuff. The exact political consequences of that are hard to predict, but you can imagine popular support for spending obscene amounts of money on fancy new equipment to fight some people you've never met in a country you've never heard of may be lukewarm. They might become downright riotous if it's to arm the police against your own people.

Even if all your soldiers are unkillable, you can't win a war if your people don't support you.

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Reinessance of the knights.

The time you might want to reference is the age when the armor was so good, that the arrows were not effective most of the time. Apart from a few selected examples(usually a result of a poor tactics) the knights were able to ignore the downpour of projectiles.

The archers did little damage to the heavily-armoured knights, but inflicted heavy casualties on their horses and on the unarmoured foot soldiers. Wikipedia

So if we use this as a basis, we might be getting somewhere. Another thing to consider is that the handheld weapons are not comparable to modern firearms in regards to the kinetic energy: if the armor stops a sniper rifle bullet without killing the person wearing it, it will most likely stop any kind of impact-based weapon such as a hammer.(not to mention fists) One notable difference though is that the modern firearms will deepen the rift between the poorly equipped peasants and the properly equipped knights.

That being said, let's just ignore the "more artillery route" and focus on the soldier vs soldier combat, as the other aspects were already covered in other answers. Also, you might blow the town to the smithereens all you want, but unless you then send in the guys to wave the flag, you can't control it.

That being said, let's get going:

  • Grappling and other means of immobilization(nets, snares etc.): Since you can't reasonably injure the soldier, tire him out(or just break his limbs) and capture him.
  • Chemical warfare: if one side decides to ignore the conventions, this will be devastating against unprepared opponent. Tear gas(or something similar) in case that we want to follow the rules. Might be unreliable. Wearing a gas mask imposes further requirements on the physical capabilities of the soldier.
  • Heat based weapons: Let's get cooking. If we can't get them out of the armor, let's bake them within. Not sure if there is anything usable in today's arsenal though.
  • Sound based weapons?
  • Slash resistance is also a question however the option was already mentioned in one of the previous answers.

So to sum up we are getting close up and personal once more because the shield is once more stronger than the spear. (gas being an exception as it doesn't discriminate and is hard to manipulate)

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Just use more gun

Okay, so bullets aren't piercing armor or flesh anymore. Big whoop. Bullets still carry a lot of energy and getting hit is still, at the very least, going to hurt. A lot. Much like real life, where bulletproof vests don't make it suddenly not suck to get shot- it only improves your chances of survival when getting shot.

Keep in mind Newton's second law. Stopping a bullet means the energy has to go somewhere.

Enough bullets to the chest is going to cause severe blunt-force trauma and this is nothing to shake a stick at. No soldier is going to want to run into the middle of the line of fire if they're going to suffer a myriad of potentially fatal bruises and the resulting internal bleeding. Maybe even burns due to friction and deformation of both bullets and the bulletproof material.

Imagine death by a thousand paintballs. That's what war just became.

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  • $\begingroup$ It depends on how spread-out the force is. The person shooting the gun experiences the exact same forces as the person getting hit by the bullet, only because of the weapon being bigger, with more surface area of contact and harder to accelerate/decellerate it wont be bruising or hurting you just yet. So a focus on spreading the force could theoretically make the bullet less harmful than the gun's recoil. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Nov 8 '20 at 14:20
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Other answers have looked at the larger picture, but nothing has looked at what the changes would be like on a tactical level.

Assumtions for this answer: The magic material provides a light way of immediatly stopping up to .50 caliber bullets. So it is equivalent to 15mm of solid armour.

IFVs and unarmoured transports merge

One of the main purposes of IFVs like the M2 Bradley is to defend troops against small arms. Our new magic material means that an infantry man outside the vehicle is better protected than the vehicle. If instead of metal armour, we replace the metal with a thin sheet of the magic material we get a lighter vehicle.

Far more use of 'armoured' cars

With a sheet of this material, you can armour a Humvee or a toyota pickup against small arms, and provides the smallest practical mobile platform that can mount a weapon that can attack infantry and opponents light vehicles. This then becomes your lightest weapons platform, so you need them in far higher numbers.

Use in aircraft

Since this armour is light, it make sense to deploy in aircraft to gain a significant survivability increase. Its not quite the level of an A-10s cockpit, but its not far from it.

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Its effect would be immense.

Modern armor needs to do two things: prevent penetration and spread the force of impact. Most of our current body armor is focused on preventing penetration. Composite armors are just that: several layers of materials with a specific purpose to stop a bullet.

The first layer is often a cloth or Kevlar layer that holds the composite material.

The second layer is a hard material designed to absorb the most impact and spread the force. Such hard materials are hard but brittle and shatter while doing its job. That isn't ideal against repeat hits but it works. This is also why just dropping the composite plates on the ground a few times can already degrade the quality enough that you might have to discard the entire armor plate, which seems counter-intuitive for a material supposed to stop a bullet.

The last layer that is always there is a softer more ductile material. This is designed to "catch" the bullet and any shrapnel created by the shattering of the hard layers. As this layer catches the material the force of the bullet is transferred to the body. If the topmost materials have done their job this has spread the force across a larger area on your body.

With that basic understanding of modern body armor you can see that most of the problems are centered around preventing penetration. Your magic material erases that problem and allows you to focus on spreading the force.

If you drape the material over two studs a few millimeters away from the surface below (basic armor plates are between 8 to 25mm thick before you add the Kevlar and shirts and whatever else is worn to it), any force between those studs is spread between them. Make sure the material doesn't have the elasticity to bent far enough and hit the body and you are set. Now create a studded body armor of a lightweight material and stretch the magic material over the studs. The studs are extremely squad, having a small point at the top and broad at the base. Some room needs to be left so you can still bend and move. Any bullet landing anywhere on the armor will A: stretch the magic material and slow down and B: spread the force over the studs, who in turn spread it over the body (or spread it over a harness beneath that before it really touches the body). You use at least two layers of this, for example with 10mm high studs for a thickness of 20mm of this armor.

Q: but won't the studs reduce maneuverability?

A: it might reduce maneuverability, but never as much as a modern solid armor plate does right now. It also offers more coverage under the arms for example. Studs can also have more space in between them at places where more maneuverability is needed to still provide protection. Ergonomic designs would mean you then increase the amount of studs nearby places that don't need as much maneuverability and can handle the shock. Since joints for example are usually also more susceptible to damage it reduces the chance of incapacitation. Example for the spine: studs are placed over the ribs on either side, making sure that wherever the bullet hits at least 4 studs are involved in taking the force.

Q: the material needs to stretch when you move, a few millimeters movement would mean you can barely move!

A: The distance between the studs is important here. If the distance between the stud tips is less than the maximum elasticity in mm when your movement causes those tips to be furthest apart you have no repercussions to your movement. It is likely that in some places you need more distance between the stud tips, at those places you can increase the distance between the studs while increasing the height of the studs to more than 10mm.

Q: with such a small surface area between the tips a bullet would just ram the studs through your body!

A: even if a bullet lands perfectly in the middle of two studs, any studs to the sides will also help. On top of that the studs could be placed on their own material to spread the force. An example of the two layer setup: one layer of magic material, thin studs that support the magic material, another layer of magic material the studs rest on and then another layer of studs but with a thicker base. Each individual stud in the first layer would be placed exactly between four studs on the second layer, meaning a perfectly placed bullet would be spread over a minimum of 8 studs in the second layer ignoring the fact that a portion of the force would be carried by two more topside studs to the side.

Q: what if I hit a stud dead-on? Now you are dead!

A: the studs would likely be made of the magic material itself, but rolled up and compressed to create hardness. If you hit a stud dead-on it would be suppressed and cause the studs around it to take a portion of the force. Even if that somehow doesn't happen you still spread the force over 4 studs below. If the magic material isn't useful enough to act as studs and you use a metal instead, then you'll likely lose that stud. However your opponents would need to break a lot of studs by hitting them dead-on before the armor degrades enough to falter, especially if you go for more than 2 layers.

On top of all of that: shields are useful again! A handheld shield with a similar setup would easily help protect that person. And you would naturally use a few hundred layers of this stuff on tanks and other vehicles. It would instantly mean that any weapon you bring needs to be a lot bigger than before. The unfortunate consequence is that alternatives to kinetic projectiles will be sought. Chemical warfare would likely rise up quickly.

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Puncturing armor is just one of many ways to kill it's inhabitant. You could do that if bullets become hollow shape explosive charges regularly. Those form a metal spike and accelerate it to vast speeds. At the point of impact, the pressure is so high that all involved materials behave as if they were liquids, and that spike goes in like a drop milk into a can of water.

In fact, simple bullets are the most "human" way to wage war. Everything else is worse.

Back to your question. How to fight a wearer of your vest.

  • Squish your enemy. Bigger rounds break bones, so do hammers, cars, suicide drones with a massive tip, buses, collapsing houses.
  • Chop your enemy, or as Silas said: "Killing zombies is just like killing chickens. First, you cut off the head, then you just continue to chop."
  • Rip your enemy apart: If it makes boom, it doesn't necessarily puncture but squish and rip appendages off. It's also usable for a film franchise then. Other than me, they like boom. If you ask Tarantino, at least half the soldier would land on the camera each time.
  • Poison Gas or radioactive stuff. We don't want it, Geneva convention.
  • White Phosphor, Napalm and the like. We don't want it. Geneva convention.
  • Microwave radiation. Goes in like 2 cm, then hurts. A lot. Not yet forbidden, but, you know...
  • Bright light to blind your enemy. We don't want it. Geneva convention.
  • AI minidrones which explode in your face. Not yet banned. The discussion is on, though.

To protect you from all those effects, you need your material, you need something hard underneath, and armor parts would need to be connected strongly to prevent ripping. Then an inner soft layer to protect the squishy inhabitant against hammer effects. Faraday cage for the microwave. Electronic night goggles with eye protection for the light. Gas mask.

Well. If they can still move, they can probably try to wear a gun. Or a mini drone launcher.

civil deaths

Many of the effects above are area effects which will attack an entire street block or at least some square meters. Civil collateral deaths would yet rise again, and they are really bad today already.

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I think Niven postulated a suit that when subjected to flexing at more than some small rate, the entire suit goes rigid. If the suit fits well, then the energy is essentially equivalent to a belly flop.

A .30-06 bullet depending on combination of bullet and powder load has muzzle energy of 3000-4000 ft pounds. A 150 pound man would have 3000 ft-lbs of potential energy at 20 feet off the ground. So such a suit would be roughly equivalent of a 20 foot belly flop into water. Extremely painful, but not fatal

Energy drops off fairly quickly as the bullet slows.

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