In 2007, local law enforcement officers asked Pete Spransy, head of research and development for Special Ops Bunker, if he could design a bunker for them to use on their ops. At the time, Spransy didn't know what they were talking about. "I quickly learned what they really wanted was a rolling ballistic shield," he says.
Over time, the company developed the SOB, a small, lightweight, and easy-to-use mobile ballistic shield. Not only is the SOB on wheels, it is also collapsible. These features allow officers to use heavy armor in situations where they never could before.
Many officers have found themselves on ops using car doors, fences, or shrubbery for coverage. These things can provide concealment but they offer little or no ballistic protection and they can't be used to safely close in on a barricaded threat. Once positioned, the SOB is free-standing, offering full body protection where an officer can calmly and safely assess a situation.
Don Thomason, VP-ballistics for Special Ops Bunker, says the goal for the product from the beginning was to give SWAT officers portable protection they could use to safely advance towards a threat. "With the SOB you are basically taking the protection of a tank into places a tank couldn't normally go," he says.
The SOB is not as heavy as a tank, but its armor does offer substantial ballistic protection. It is available in a variety of models, ranging from NIJ Level IIIA to Level IV. Thomason says the Level IV armor is most popular with agencies acquiring the SOB, and with good reason; the Level IV SOB has been tested to stop two .30-06 armor piercing (AP) rounds impacting on the same spot (shot-on-shot). Thomason says it's common for agencies to purchase the SOB with Level IV center panels and lighter detachable Level III or III-plus side panels that officers can easily remove and carry toward the threat.
The SOB can be easily transported to a scene, moved into position, and quickly deployed. When collapsed, it measures only 13 inches high by 32 inches wide by 34 inches deep, which is compact enough to fit in the trunk of a patrol car. Special Ops Bunker also offers a custom hand truck for moving the SOB up ramps and stairs. Thomason says the hand truck and SOB combination is only 18 inches wide and can go almost anywhere. It can be deployed and ready to go in 20 seconds. "Your armored vehicle gets you to the front door. The SOB takes you inside the building, up the elevator and down a narrow hallway, wherever the incident might be," he says.
Spransy says the SOB is constantly being improved based on requests and input from users. Recent enhancements to the SOB include optional wheel stops, random strobe lights, and a braking system. He said that Special Ops Bunker will be revealing several exciting new product developments at the SHOT show in January.
Special Ops Bunker has recently announced a partnership with Point Blank Enterprises, Inc. Thomason says Point Blank is now the exclusive distributor worldwide for the company's SOB products. "We are really excited about our strategic relationship with Point Blank, who ranks as the largest global supplier of ballistic armor systems in the world," he says, adding that there are strong synergies between the two companies. "Together we are developing some great new products for law enforcement."