Home-built suits of armor, built to survive against grizzlies or neighbors

Savor, if you will,  the lurch of latter-day suits.

Compare and contrast these two descriptions of men who scrounged materials to build suits of armor to protect them against possibly malevolent forces. First, Troy Hurtubise, 1998 Ig Nobel Prize winner, who built a suit of armor to protect him against grizzly bears. Stephen Smith wrote about him in 1997, in Outside magazine:

troy-bearIn pursuit of his off-kilter dream — creating a suit of armor that can withstand the attack of a grizzly bear — Troy Hurtubise has endured much: Slugs in the chest from a 12-gauge shotgun at a range of 20 feet. Falling, on purpose, off the edge of the 150-foot-high Niagara Escarpment. Assaults from burly friends and relatives all too willing to cuff him repeatedly with road picks, knives, bows and arrows, two-by-fours. Eighteen times he has stood in the path of a three-ton pickup doing 30 miles per hour, and 18 times the truck has knocked him from here to next week. On several occasions, he has stood at attention while a 350-pound log, winched 30 feet up in a tree, swung down broadside to topple him like a human bowling pin. In each of these encounters, Hurtubise explains over oil-slicked restaurant coffee, he was safe inside his invention: the Ursus Mark VI Bearproof Suit, 147 pounds of titanium alloy, rubber, plastic, and chain mail standing seven feet, two inches tall. [The photo here is courtesy of National Film Board of Canada, which produced a documentary film about Troy: “Project Grizzly“.]

The second is Tyler Smith, a survivalist who is the subject of a documentary by National Geographic. Craig Sailor writes about Smith, in the News Tribune:

He and his compatriots just fear what might happen if society breaks down. They plan on being survivors, not victims…. As part of his strategy, Smith and Pedrini are developing a suit of armor to wear on his foraging forays. Smith says his homemade protection will be bulletproof, lightweight and stronger than anything sold in a store…. The pair used salvaged and bought steel and aluminum. A steel grill from an old security gate makes up some of the protection. Smith wants the suit to weigh from 80 to 100 pounds. Smith used bathroom tiles wrapped in woven fiberglass and coated in roofing tar as one of the bullet-stopping layers. The suit must survive bullets from .22- and .30-06-caliber rifles and a 12-gauge shotgun, he says. In addition to those weapons Smith’s arsenal includes .270-, .30-30-, .223-caliber and AK-47 rifles and 9 mm and 45 mm handguns. On the TV show, Smith tests the suit by having Pedrini hit him with a rock, a pipe, an ax and a piece of timber. Finally, Smith has Pedrini shoot him in the chest point blank with a 12-gauge shotgun. 

BONUS: Lt. Colonel Robert Bateman gives his take on the Smith approach.

VIDEOS: Troy in the documentary “Project Grizzly”:

BONUS: Follow-up (in 2001): When Troy met a kodiak bear

BONUS: Follow-up (in 2011): Troy’s New Book of Bear (and then some) Adventures