One of the greatest problems of modern life is that people are almost always on the go. This isn’t an issue just because we can’t take time to enjoy a sunset or sit on a rocking chair, but because, if you’re always on the go, you can’t be near the stuff needed to survive when the worst happens.
In other words, if you’re off at work, heading to soccer practice or even running to the store for some supplies, you’ll be away from your well-stocked, well-equipped and well-protected house and your personal safe zone. Sure, online retailers can deliver practically everything you need right to your door, but that won’t keep you from having to leave your sanctuary from time to time.
Another concern is that the best-laid plans for digging in and waiting out a disaster might change, depending on the situation. That will mean you’re going to have to get moving, and an old pickup truck probably isn’t ideal for bugging out. And, let’s face it, a surplus APC will likely draw attention from your neighbors—not to mention that it will be brutal on your wallet if fuel prices reach uncomfortable levels again.
A better option might be to consider a low-mileage, “pre-owned” SUV that has been outfitted with some not-exactly-routine accessories … namely, armor protection. If that sounds like something that won’t be easily found, think again. Companies such as The Armored Group, Conquest Vehicles and INKAS Armored Vehicle Manufacturing cater to celebrities and executives who want to have that added protection and peace of mind.
They’re not alone in the aftermarket armoring business, because companies such as Plan B Supply and Big Bug Out Trucks offer options for military-grade vehicles that could literally enable you drive through a war zone.
There are also operators in the business who provide vehicles for celebrities, politicians, business leaders and other well-heeled people who want to drive in style and also have nearly the same level of protection as the president of the United States. It isn’t just President Trump who rides around in a vehicle capable of stopping small-arms fire and other threats.
When it comes to sedans and SUVs, there is one truth about the rich folks: They don’t like to be seen in last year’s model. Even the moderately wealthy shy away from buying “used” vehicles. With that in mind, you can quite literally get into a pre-owned armored vehicle at a price many working folks can afford.
“There are always options under mid-five figures,” says Jeremy Johnson, The Armored Group’s head of sales and tactical vehicles specialist. “We regularly see trade-ins from executives who want something newer, so there are definitely used vehicles available. We have used SUVs in the $40,000 to $80,000 range, but there are options to upgrade to a new unit for under $100,000, too.”
The Armored Group offers a range of services, including providing armor protection to sedans and SUVs. This includes everything from luxury autos to a soccer mom-friendly SUV.
THE BATT MOBILE
While it might draw a lot of attention, Michigan-based The Armored Group is rather proud of its premier product, the BATT. It might not exactly have the sleek lines of the “Batmobile,” but even the Caped Crusader would be impressed by what it has to offer today’s tactical officers.
The BATT Series was actually born out of the need to provide law enforcement with a rescue vehicle that is a tactically advantageous platform to perform their missions.
At its heart, it is pure Motor City power: The BATT begins with the Ford F-550 4×4 chassis and is therefore available in both gas and diesel engine options. Onto this frame is added the curved body that maximizes available space for fully geared officers while still providing adequate space in the rear compartment for tactical medics to work in the field or as a platform for a remote HQ.
The vehicle’s curved walls were developed by The Armored Group to make sure space was maximized while providing adequate protection that can stop up to 7.62×51 NATO or .308 Winchester full-copper-jacket, steel hard-core rounds. While out of the budget for most consumers, it is something that might even impress a superhero (or a super villain, for that matter).
One key point to remember is that any bug-out vehicle is meant to do just that: get you and your loved ones, along with ample supplies, out of harm’s way quickly and safely. These vehicles aren’t meant to hold off an invasion or to fight pitched battles. They are designed so that when stuff hits the fan, you can hit the gas and get gone.
“The vehicles are designed with bullet-resistant glass, so you can’t break a window,” Johnson points out. “The armor allows these to stop rounds from handguns and other small arms.”
The type of armor is actually different from the armor the military utilizes. Toronto-based INKAS explained that it incorporates revolutionary lightweight armor that weighs half of other armored plates of the same size. Its innovative composite material increases vehicle maneuverability and speed performance.
A couple of important things to remember about used armored vehicles are that they likely have been well maintained and typically don’t have a lot of miles, either. The type of people who depend on this level of protection often know they need reliable transportation, so the oil has been changed regularly.
“Rich people don’t buy used cars, but they sell them a lot,” Johnson adds. “We find that even unarmored vehicles from celebrities and executives can be easily upgraded, too. We can armor those, and you don’t know the difference. It will just look like a Mercedes or other SUV that is a couple of years old, but it will provide plenty of protection to the owner.”
For those who want to be even more low key and not draw any attention, older vehicles can be armored to suit a client’s need. The key in this is that looks can be deceiving.
“I’ve seen guys come in who want to add armor to a 1995 Silverado,” Johnson says. “I’m not sure it is worth the effort, but it does make it discrete, and that’s better than how some guys want their truck to look like a SWAT team vehicle. That really screams, ‘Come get me!’ I understand why law enforcement wants to advertise, but those who want to prepare are probably more likely to want to hide in plain sight. And we can make that happen.”
MILITARY SURPLUS AND ARMOR OPTIONS
Another thing to consider is that while many vehicles are offered as “military surplus,” exactly what can be owned legally varies greatly—and many armored vehicles that can be bought today aren’t exactly street legal. That might not be a problem after the breakdown of society, but simply getting the vehicle to where it needs to be is going to be an issue … not to mention finding the appropriate parts to keep it running.
“Almost all current American military surplus has to go to another police department or back to military,” Johnson explains. “It simply can’t go to public. Some can sneak their way to public, but that is the extreme case; and, in some cases, the military may come looking for items that slipped through.”
Foreign vehicles are another issue, but before you invest in a used Soviet APC, consider that finding the right parts isn’t going to be simple. In addition, unlike a used SUV owned by a former executive, most military vehicles haven’t been so lovingly maintained.
For those who want near-military-grade protection in a civilian vehicle, there are other options to “up-armor” almost anything on four wheels.
“It is still experimental, but we’re having very good results with our spray-on armor,” explains Gabriel Quartrone of Big Bug Out Trucks. “It doesn’t add much weight, and it can be applied to nearly any vehicle. It is a flexible armor that includes Kevlar membranes that are immersed with glycol and silica nano-beads that stick to fabrics and other materials, including metal.”
This spray-on armor has the potential to offer four times the ballistic protection of Kevlar, and, according to Quartrone, just four layers of this spray can be equivalent to 14 layers of traditional Kevlar.
“One inch of this material can stop a 7.62×39 (AK-47) round,” he adds. “Of course, you won’t want to apply that much to a vehicle, but this could make a good alternative for armoring a house or other structure where you can simply spray on the armor. It is really going to be a game-changer in providing almost instantaneous protection anywhere. For vehicles, even a couple of layers can make a big difference.”
In addition to the spray-on solution, Big Bug Out Trucks has another concept in the works that takes an approach not too dissimilar from airbags that were designed to protect the passengers in a vehicle during an accident.
“We’re working at developing a roof-mounted, deployable armor system,” he explains. “If you think you’re in danger, you hit the button, and Kevlar-styled shields can deploy to provide added protection that can stop up to a .308-caliber round. We are also working with bullet-resistant transparent glass that could add protection, as well.”
Many of these options are still very much being worked out and, from the sound of it, these won’t offer the same ability to “hide in plain sight” as an up-armored vehicle. Nevertheless, there are clearly multiple options for those who desire some protection in their vehicles.
“The most important thing to remember is that no armored vehicle is there to go into offensive mode,” adds The Armored Group’s Johnson. “The vehicles we make for the police and law enforcement are there to make sure the guys are protected, not to go into an attack. The same is very much true of our armored luxury vehicles. This is about getting out of harm’s way, not so you can go looking for trouble.”
The Armored Group, LLC
INKAS Armored Vehicle Manufacturing
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide.