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I recently read Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove, the alternative history novel wherein the Confederate States get a leg up on the North, in the form of the AK-47.

At a climactic turning point, the people who have driven the plot thusfar

attempt to assassinate President-Elect Robert E. Lee

During this event, several characters are shot at close range by AK-47 rounds. These are fired from up-time AKs, using modern rounds. The characters who are shot take several rounds before going down, thanks to the modern body armor they wear (confirmed by one of them to be a flak jacket).

I find it hard to believe that, in a book with such attention to detail, there would be such a glaring mistake. Flack jackets and Kevlar vests aren't intended to stop rifle rounds - a good hit to your center of mass will still penetrate. They are proof against the larger minnie balls and springfield rounds that the Union used against them earlier, but not modern AK-47 fire.

Did Turtledove postulate that we would invent better armor, capable of stopping rifle rounds? Was it just an oversight?

Or am I just strange because THAT broke my suspension of disbelief when a time machine that could only travel 150 years backward didn't?

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  • Ah but the premise of South Africans pining for the good old days, trying to rewrite history and help the south win the Civil War is pretty darn clever!
    – geoffc
    Aug 26, 2011 at 12:20
  • @geoffc: Definitely, it was a good book, and I would read it again. That one scene just shattered my suspension of disbelief. It was rather shocking, really, as the rest of the book was fairly captivating.
    – Jeff
    Aug 26, 2011 at 12:27

1 Answer 1

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It's a bit unclear whether you are asking a general question of whether a body armor can stop AK-47 round, or specifically whichever armor Turtledove was writing about.

  1. If the former:

    Standard issue 1999 and later Interceptor OTV (as opposed to old Vietnam model flak jackets) will stop AK-47 round:

  2. The above of course does not apply to circa 1992 (Guns of the South publish date) body armor - Interceptor OTV was only introduced in 1999.

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    Impressive! I wasn't aware modern armor was able to stop rife rounds at that velocity! The men from AWB are from 2014, so it seems Turtledove postulated the existence of this armor.
    – Jeff
    Aug 26, 2011 at 13:53

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