“If this works it could save a thousand men in the next ten years. If it doesn’t, they will die as I will.”
After the incident Richard began researching different materials and found high tenacity nylon (aka ballistic nylon) which was used in flak jackets during the Vietnam era. Flak jackets were never designed to stop direct fire from handguns. Instead, they were used to mitigate the deadly effects of shrapnel from hand grenades and explosions. Flak jackets often included the use of steel plates which were sewn into the garments making them too heavy for everyday wear.
But in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s cops weren’t dying from shrapnel, they were dying primarily from low cost, readily available, small caliber handguns known as Saturday Night Specials. With this realization, Richard set out to see if ballistic nylon would be effective against these lower caliber threats. To his great satisfaction, it worked. He found that the right fabric and layer count was very successful in stopping .22s, .25s, .32s, .38s and even the deadly .357 magnum. The design of his first vests were basic. They consisted of two rectangular panels covering the front and back torso with straps to go over the shoulders and around the sides.
His next challenge was convincing law enforcement to accept the product. He began visiting local departments to show them his product. Would-be customers were quick to reject the idea from disbelief or machismo. He took the skeptics to the range and shot the armor in front of them. Yes, it stopped the bullet, but the dent left in the clay block caused them to think that their hearts would explode or that their ribs would shatter sending bone fragments into their lungs. He realized that the only way to truly prove the effectiveness of his invention would be to put a vest on and shoot himself in the chest.