Humans throughout recorded history have used various typesof materials as body armour to protect themselves from injury in combat andother dangerous situations. The first protective clothing and shields were madefrom animal skins. As civilizations become more advanced, wooden shields andthen metal shields came into use. Eventually, metal was also used as bodyarmour, what we now refer to as the suit of armour associated with the knightsof the Middle Ages. However, with the invention of firearms around 1500, metalbody armour became ineffective. Then only real protection available againstfirearms was stonewalls or natural barriers such as rocks, trees, and ditches.
It was not until the late 19th century that the first useof soft body armour in the United States was recorded. At that time, themilitary explored the possibility of using soft body armour manufactured fromsilk. The project even attracted congressional attention after theassassination of President William McKinley in 1901. While the garments wereshown to be effective against low-velocity bullets, those travelling at 400feet per second or less, they did not offer protection against the newgeneration of handgun ammunition which travelled at a velocity of 600 feet persecond, being introduced at that time. This, along with the prohibitive cost ofsilk made the concept unacceptable. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office listsrecords dating back to 1919 for various designs of bulletproof vests and bodyarmour type garments..