By Waysun Johnny Tsai

Not all of your EDC gear goes on your belt or in your pockets, some may may require a backpack.

Maybe it has been the last couple of years’ political climate, with riots and burning cities, but the idea of a shield…a piece of ballistic armor that could just be picked up and used to save lives when seconds count, just makes sense to me.

And while there are several companies that currently make them, one recent company collaboration caught my eye with a product that fills all of the requirement that I would personally want in this type of gear. CROM USA (Rob Sotelo) and Armorer’s Choice.

CROM; Made in America

The “616” personal shield was designed for Armorer’s Choice by Rob after finishing several ballistic armor advancements together. The new carbon fiber design opened up the world to a lot of new (or in this case, very old) techniques.

Aside from being a career police officer, Rob Sotelo also has an extensive background in the martial arts and shooting, both as a competitor and as a certified instructor. He wanted to do two things with the 616.

1) Create a shield that was small and light enough to encourage use and deployment, but still of a size/shape that’s viable for carry and defensive use.

2) And, just as important, it had to be shaped and strong enough to be used as an impact weapon. People forget that the Aspis / Hoplon used by ancient Greek warriors like the Spartans, was as much a weapon as it was a defensive tool.

As militaries built bigger and bigger shields to defend against projectile attacks, we lost our way with the ballistic shield. The 616 was CRON USA’s the answer to what they considered the missing link.

The 616 ballistic shield was designed with the intent to be built up to NIJ IIIa+ standards for body armor. That means it will stop 9mm, .45 ACP, .44 mag and even 5.7×28 rounds. Rob and his team have tested the armor against 12ga 00 buck and 12ga 1oz slugs at close range.

The shield has been certified by an independent lab and will come with the appropriate documentation. The base model comes with a forearm strap for a MSRP price of $405. The shield can be also equipped with an extremely powerful B70 Taker light from Fox Fury and the armor rating can be increased up to NIJ IV (at an additional cost and increased weight).

Each shield is made to order, so that you know you are getting the most recent model and the maximum amount of life span from your product.

Designed for cops and civilians alike

Rob has been a police officer for nearly 20 years. In his career he has served as a field training officer, defensive tactics instructor, impact weapons instructor, less than lethal instructor, patrol rifle instructor, pistol instructor and shotgun instructor.

During his time on patrol, Rob was assigned to the motorcycle unit for 15 years. It was during that time that he came up with the idea of a small shield that could be mounted on the motorcycle and easily deployed during a higher risk vehicle stop. He also wanted something that a mom could carry in a backpack, a large diaper bag, on the back of a baby stroller.


CROM started out as a firearms manufacturer and still makes a range of gun parts. The company set out to design new firearms with enhanced ergonomics and employ new technology in materials.

Rob says that he absolutely loves the design phase of making new firearms. He also has a handful of prototypes that are in different phases of construction. The most notable prototype is an AR platform .50 BMG that weighs only19 lbs. That sounds like a lot, but it’s almost 10 lbs. less than the competition.


One of the cool things about making cool products is that cool people tend to take notice. Retired professional MMA fighter and actor Cung Le has been getting more and more involved in the gun industry.

CROM supplied Cung with his own personal 616 shield. Cung Le liked the 616 so much that he has not only incorporated it into his own firearms training regimen, but he is featuring it in an upcoming zombie film that he will be starring in.


A Chicago native, Sijo Waysun Johnny Tsai is an internationally recognized combatives and survival instructor. He is a published book and DVD personality with over 35 years experience in teaching practical street defense and combatives to the military, law enforcement agencies and civilians alike. SIJO is also the founder of the C.U.M.A. Survival School.

When not teaching classes, writing, or doing crazy thing with knives, SIJO likes to enjoy his downtime with his wife and three children. He also likes drinking beer.



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