EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


September 9, 2012

Going ballistic

US body armor business grows even in recession


The company’s biggest endorsement came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in December 2006, when the agency signed a five-year, $50 million deal with U.S. Armor that was touted as “the largest nonmilitary concealable body armor contract ever awarded in this country.”

Under the contract, U.S. Armor would fill the primary armor needs of 10 federal forces, including the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Federal Air Marshals and Secret Service.

Lance Ishmael, armor and weapons instructor for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, wasn’t surprised.

“Our agency has used them for about 14 years,” he said. “We test them ballistically even after their time in the field, when they should be destroyed. We’ve shot them with various types of firearms, and I have yet to have one fail.”

Armellino followed in the footsteps of his father, Richard, a pioneer in the field of body armor. In 1969 the elder Armellino founded a company called American Body Armor & Equipment on Long Island, N.Y.

Armellino started working at his father’s business at age 16 and remembers his dad startling the neighbors by shooting at vests to test them _ against an oak tree in their front yard.

The son’s true calling appeared to be design. One of his creations, a haunting bullet-resistant mask for a SWAT team, made it into the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

“I never took any courses in it,” Armellino said, “but I just had an ability to design vests. I revamped the whole production facility for my father, made it more productive.”

His talent comes in handy with his current employees.

“If you are going to teach somebody else how to sew a vest, you better know how to do it yourself,” said Armellino, whose earliest vest designs for his father’s company hang in the U.S. Armor factory.

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