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A Sad Sign of the Times: NPS Promotes Body Armor Options To Rangers


The well-armored 21st Century Park Ranger?

Is it just me, or is it really a sad sign of the times when the National Park Service is promoting "factory direct" body armor to its rangers, body armor that not only stops most bullets but which is "a great choice for active rangers"?

Heck, there's even a women-specific line: One of the reasons that Savvy Armor for Women fits so well is that the company requires that each officer be personally fitted by one of their technicians.

And is it merely coincidence that the following release comes as top Interior Department officials are moving to allow more guns in the national parks?

The WASO Division of Law Enforcement, Security and Emergency Services is pleased to announce the establishment of a new partnership with BAE Systems, a major government contractor and manufacturer of body armor.

BAE Systems (formerly known as Armor Holdings) has provided the NPS with special factory-direct pricing (less than GSA pricing) on soft body armor. Their products represent an exceptional value to the NPS while providing maximum safety to officers. Please note, however, that the NPS has not contracted to purchase these products and that law enforcement personnel may purchase appropriate body armor from any vendor.

RM-9 requires that all commissioned employees be provided with soft body armor. These body armor options meet or exceed minimum performance levels for ballistic protection. Two choices are available:

ABA – Xtreme HP level IIIa vest with soft trauma plate and carrier. The cost is $423.50. The new Xtreme HP soft body armor provides high performance level IIIa stopping power in a flexible, lightweight vest. Offering the latest in ballistic and fabric technology, this product is a great choice for active rangers.

Savvy Armor for Women – Flair PST level IIIa with soft trauma plate and two carriers. The cost is $696. This is a new women-run company offering an exceptionally comfortable product designed just for women. The division has been very impressed with this new company and its products. Two NPS rangers have been wearing their products for over six months and have nothing but positive remarks about the women-specific fit and comfort. One of the reasons that Savvy Armor for Women fits so well is that the company requires that each officer be personally fitted by one of their technicians. At this time, the only technician is at FLETC. They are working on establishing a road show with additionally fitting locations at various cities throughout the year. A notice will appear when this happens.



The governor is fretting over nothing. As for the fees, if the $10 renewal fee isn't covering the state's cost of processing the renewal apps then they could certainly increase the fees to cover costs. Here in Washington I believe it runs about $33 for a 5 year renewal.

As for monitoring, they run criminal records checks through NCIC, just like any other state.

Testing of proficiency is another red herring. Here in Washington and a number of other states there's no proficiency testing either, there's no problem now or in the past. Utah's mandatory minimum testing requirements are more rigorous than in many states with proficiency testing but less rigorous than in a few states.

Ken Grubb
Puyallup, WA

For what it's worth, the governor of Utah wants to revise his state's concealed weapon permitting system because too many out-of-staters have been applying for them and Utah officials have no means of monitoring those individuals, let alone testing their proficiency. Indeed, apparently the state of Nevada has decided not to reciprocate with Utah on its CCW permits because Utah doesn't require applicants to demonstrate proficiency on a shooting range.


Actually, in some states, a license is not required to openly carry a firearm. There is no provision that one must have a license to carry in the National Parks, but only Vermont and Alaska allow one to carry concealed without a license.

The provisions of Public Law 111-24 that address firearms in National Parks reads:

[color=blue]The Secretary of the Interior shall not promulgate or enforce any regulation that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm including an assembled or functional firearm in any unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System if—
(1) the individual is not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing the firearm; and
(2) the possession of the firearm is in compliance with the law of the State in which the unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System is located.

Here in Washington state, one can openly carry a firearm without a license. There is a provision for someone who is not a U.S. citizen to obtain an Alien Firearm License from the Washington State Department of Licensing. With that, one can get a license to carry a concealed pistol.

Ken Grubb
Puyallup, WA

Anonymous, the only way you legally can carry weapons in the parks is if you're licensed to do so. My guess is that since you live abroad you'd have a hard time qualifying.

As for going "deep" into the Rockies and Yellowstone, I've been doing it for three-plus decades and have never needed a weapon.

I am british, so I won't get in to this discussion as I have no right to discuss what happens in you're country.
I was attacked in my tent by a group of men whilst I was camping in a national park in England. I was badly beaten & had a lot of gear stolen, fortunately I'm male, I think it would have turned out much worse if I'd been female.
We have practically no right to defend ourselves, with the victim getting harsher punishment than the criminal if they try to defend themselves.
We have no 2nd Amendment, so only the criminals are armed.
I work as an outdoor instructor & spend most of my free time in the outdoors, so I will not let this incident ruin my life. So in not wanting it to happen again I must break the law, by carrying a hunting knife & a trench mace. ( Normal people don't have access to firearms.)
If this has happened to you, then it makes no difference what the laws are because it has'nt happened to the people that made those laws, they just can't understand & I definately don't want it to happen to me again.
By the way, if you are allowed to carry a firearm in your national parks, would that apply to foreigners too?
I want to take a trip deep into the Rockies & Yellowstone, but would worry about 2 legged critters if I can't carry. (Probably 2 barrel shot gun as its easier to get a licence for.)

The current law only allows guns if they are secured and the ammo is secured separately I can have gun just not on my person or concealed or easily available. That may be a problem in the back coutry since iti s hard to secure the ammo and gun separatly in a back pack or in a campground.
I look forward to the time I can have can easily with me without it being concealed but that time is going to a long time away. The current injuction will probably stand.

The body armor is not a reaction to the proposed rule but to the fact that park rangers have a higher rate of assaults than FBI and the danger in particular parks is acute.

Body armor is not a new development in the NPS. It's been around for years - and should have been made widely available to rangers even earlier. Improvements in armor continue to be made, and the equipment provided to rangers should be upgraded at intervals.

The previous comment by "Anonymous" is well stated. The least the NPS can do is properly equip and train rangers for an often difficult and sometime dangerous job.

As to some previous comments - there is a significant difference between risks to visitors and risks to rangers by criminals who happen to be in parks - which is why the rangers who have been selected and trained to perform law enforcement duties should be armed.

As has been covered on multiple posts on a variety of articles on this site, the number of park visitors who are victims of violent crime is extremely low. Even bad people who are either passing through or intentionally visiting parks don't usually accost visitors, because they don't want to attract undue attention and end up in the slammer.

However, sometimes these bozos do attract the attention of a ranger by doing something stupid - often a traffic violation. In that case, when the individual who may be wanted for another offense realizes that he is now at risk of being identified and arrested, the situation is much different, and the risk to the ranger is sometimes very real. In other cases, the person may not be wanted for a previous crime, but is simply a dangerous idiot who decides he doesn't want to be arrested.

Park visitors aren't expected to confront drunk or reckless drivers to keep them from harming innocent motorists on park roads, and visitors aren't expected to confront poachers, or drug smugglers, or dope dealers, or .... That's one reason visitors are very rarely at risk in parks - because rangers are dealing with those individuals.

There's absolutely no way to know how many rangers lives have been saved because the ranger was armed, and the criminal decided not to press his luck, or the ranger was able to keep the upper hand due to training and equipment - including body armor and weapons. However, if they are expected to perform law enforcement duties, rangers should certainly be properly equipped for the job.

A different "Anonymous" a few comments earlier said

"The police and law enforcement groups have gotten out of control in this country feeding us all crap "we are being outgunned by the criminals!" they say. Oh yeah? Has ANYONE seen any credible increase in the criminals using, carrying and killing with automatic weapons?

Since you asked, and obviously need a little information:

1. Ranger Kris Eggle was shot and killed in 2002 at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. The murderer was a criminal fleeing Mexican authorities. He reportedly used an AK-47 against the ranger.

2. Ranger Joe Kolodski was shot from ambush and killed by man reportedly armed with a .308 rifle. The incident occurred on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1998. Perhaps not an automatic weapon, but clearly superior, long-distance firepower as compared to the ranger's handgun or shotgun.

Other ranger deaths illustrate the risk of "routine car stops" or other "routine duties."

3. Ranger Robert McGhee was shot and killed after making a traffic stop at Gulf Islands National Seashore in 1998.

4. Steve Renard Makuakane-Jarrell was killed in a small park in Hawaii in 1999. Reports said he was contacted by visitors who complained that a man had several large dogs running loose which may have been threatening other visitors. The ranger was shot and killed during the contact with this individual.

5. Ranger Ken Patrick was shot and killed at Point Reyes National Seashore in 1973. Reports indicate he made a car stop on 3 men suspected of being poachers. They turned out to be violent members of the Black Panther group and opened fire when the ranger approached their vehicle.

To those who object to the sight of a ranger wearing a firearm - at least one report of the murder of Ranger Patrick states that he never had a chance to draw his weapon in self-defense. Why? He was wearing it out of sight, under his uniform coat. A L.A. Times story about the incident said, "At the time, it was common for rangers to keep their weapons out of sight so as not to frighten park visitors."

Although everyone still doesn't agree, I'm thankful that policies no longer put that needless burden on rangers.

To be quite honest, I was only on the computer looking for a site that showed a measurement sheet for my own body armor since I am about to go work in a National Park. I believe that one comment above stated "minimalist gear" that the early park rangers wore, and it made me laugh. People have this idea that rangers have always been the nature loving man in the woods. Up until the 1970's, any person who worked for a park could carry a firearm (that would be your friendly park maintenance worker too.) That didn't work out so well in Yosemite, and now only trained LE rangers can carry firearms. Imagine a park where any untrained yahoo can carry a firearm! Oh wait...2nd amendment...not yet.

I understand how people believe they have a right to their public lands- I agree. However, the park service, much like other land agencies, has a duty to more than one mission. There will always be different groups with different opinions on how they should be allowed to use their land, and there will always be groups that do not use their land appropriately. I myself would like all the protection I can get- if I am going into a drug grow/Domestic/felony car stop/etc....(insert any crime that happens in a city because those parks can be like little cities) I want to be sure that I am protected. I am appointed to protect myself, others, and my park- and I should be given all the equipment I need to accomplish that task. So, I’ll continue to look for that dang body armor measuring sheet.

Just remember...criminals recreate too.

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