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The first set of armor that I had was made from fiberglass. After a short while, I became less pleased with its appearance, and the weight of the armor was way too much to be practical for trooping. Additionally, because the shoulder straps were also fiberglass, they would not flex and I feared that they would snap in half. I went looking and found a fantastic set of ABS armor that was lightweight, and looked perfect!

This new set of armor came pre-trimmed... a big plus! The only modifications that I needed to do were to set up the shoulder straps and tiles, and mount the ABS chestbox that came with it


Shoulder Straps -
There are many different ways of setting up your shoulder strap configuration. Here's how I did mine... and there may be better ways of doing it.

First I drilled a hole through each end of my shoulder straps for a binding post screw [Fig. 5], centering the hole left-to-right on the strap and vertically centering it in the middle of the first rib.

Then I placed my front armor plate against my chest, and visually fit the shoulder straps where they looked right. My wife then used a pen and marked the hole location through the hole in the straps onto the front armor. With the holes marked, I drilled them out using the same size hole as the straps. By the way, I did have to tweak the plate hole locations a little to center them better on the plate shoulder tabs.

For the back plate, I knew that I was going to use just velcro to attach the shoulder strap in back, so I drilled my shoulder tab holes by centering them on the tabbed portion.

Next I test fit both sets of plates against my chest and back, and I had my wife measure from the front plate edge to the back plate edge [gap between plates over my shoulders]. To this measurement I added about 3" for a strap allowance to go under the plates [roughly 1-1/2" for the front and back]. I went to the hardware store and bought some black seatbelt webbing. I used this webbing to be the main weight carrying material so that my armor wasn't being supported by just the shoulder straps. I cut the webbing to the length I calculated. Once again, I placed armor plates on... and then I placed the cut strips of webbing over each shoulder and under the front and back armor shoulder tabs. After centering the webbing front and back, I had my wife mark the hole locations through the armor onto the webbing. After this was done, I hole punched the webbing and added grommets.

During all of this, I also painted the flat ends of my binding post screws gloss back... and drilled a centered hole into each of my shoulder tiles. I also added velcro to each of the back plate's shoulder tabs and onto the underside of the rear portion of my shoulder straps.

I attached the tiles to the back of each shoulder strap with a short binding post screw.

Fig. 1 is an overall assembly view. To assemble,

I attached the webbing to the underside of the back shoulder tabs with a short binding post screw [Fig. 2].

For the front plate, I put the binding post screw through the tile, with the painted flat end out. The post then went through the hole in my shoulder strap... then through the armor plate... and then though the seatbelt webbing. [Fig.s 1 and 3] From the underside, I screwed in the screw portion of the binding post screw.

Since the post portion of my screw was a tad too long, I used a flat washer and a rubber washer to take up the slack. The rubber washer was used for a little give, and to help make sure that I wouldn't overtighten the connection. [Fig. 3]

Lastly, the rear of the shoulder straps attaches to the armor with the velcro.

I used this method for attaching the shoulder straps and tiles so that I could easily take everything apart for storage. An added side benefit is should I accidentally break a shoulder strap, it will be easy to replace since none of the connections are permanent.

Chestbox Attachment -
I wanted the chestbox attachment method to be very secure, but yet have the ability to easily remove it from the front armor as necessary. Like the shoulder straps, there are several ways to go about making the connection. Some people use a large piece of industrial Velcro. I considered going this route, but I didn't like how far the chestbox sits off the armor due to the Velcro thickness. Also, if you use Velcro, it would be harder to consistently attach the chestbox to the armor so that it is centered vertically and horizontally.

After some thought, I decided to use some more binding post screws to make the chestbox attachment an easily removable, but solid, bolt-on connection. Have I mentioned what a versatile piece of hardware binding post screws are? [Fig. 5]

The first thing I did was to make a hole location template. I took a piece of scrap cardboard and cut it to the exact same size as the back of my chestbox. Next I measured in about 3/4" equally in both directions from each edge and marked a set of hole centerlines. With the centerlines marked, I drilled a hole at each intersection so that I could mark the locations on both the chestbox and the front armor plate. [Fig. 6]

I carefully centered the hole template on my chestbox, and used a red Sharpie to put a dot on the chestbox for each hole location. I used red so that the ink would show up better on the black ABS. Next, I did the same thing and marked the hole locations on my front armor plate. With the holes marked, I drilled them out using a drill bit that was 1/32" larger than the outside diameter of the binding post. I also cut a small rectangular hole in my front armor plate for the switch that turns my chestbox blinking lights on and off. I made this hole a touch longer than the length of the body of the switch so that I can rock the switch through the cut-out. The mounting tabs on each long end of the switch are longer than the cut-out, and this keeps the switch from falling back through the hole.

Because the binding post screws are made such that the screw portion is on one end only, the screw must go on the inside of the front armor so that you have access to screw it in or out. Because the clearance inside of the back chestbox opening was very tight, I didn't think that I would have enough finger room to run the binding post from the inside out on the chestbox. So, I need to put the post in from the outside, such that the flanged head of the post rested against the back surface of the chestbox. Since the binding post is designed to have the screw portion thread in from the shank side, the threads inside of the post didn't cleanly go all the way through... about a thread wrap was incomplete or had a burr. To fix this problem, I carefully screwed the binding post screw into the back end of the threaded hole by hand, and let the screw clean up and cut through the incomplete thread [like a tap drill].

I needed to permanently attach the binding posts to the chestbox. I used some 5 minute epoxy glue and ran a bead of glue around each of the holes in the chestbox. Next, I pushed the shank portion of the binding posts into each hole so that the underside of the flat head was against the back surface of the chestbox. As each post was pushed down, a little bit of glue oozed out around the outside of the post. This extra glue fillet adds strength to the glued connection. [Fig. 7]

Call it paranoia or being overly conservative, but I wanted an extra layer of insurance that the binding posts would not break loose... and allow the chestbox to fall off the armor. So, I dug through my pile of extra binding posts screws and picked out four short screws. I picked the lengths that would allow me to screw in two post screws from both ends of the same binding post. On two of the glued posts, on opposite corners, I screwed in the extra screw from the inside of the chestbox [as they would normally be used]. This way, should the glue joint fail, my chestbox cannot fall off because the head of the screw on the inside is much larger than the hole for the post in the chestbox.

To mount the chestbox onto the armor, I simply position the chestbox to the armor so that the holes in the armor line up with the binding posts on the chestbox. From here, you just screw in the screws from the back side of the front armor plate. Like the shoulder straps connection, I use a small rubber washer under the binding post screw head so that I lessen my chance of over tightening. [Fig. 8]

So far this has proven to be a very secure method of attaching the chestbox. Whenever I have needed to take the chestbox off, it has been very simple to remove and then reattach. This method also guarantees that the chestbox will always be in the same place no matter how many times I take it off and put it back on.