|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
A gun shield is a flat (or sometimes curved) piece of armor designed to be mounted on a crew-served weapon such as a machine gun or artillery piece, or, more rarely, to be used with an assault rifle. Some law enforcement units use ballistic shields with opening to shoot a handgun through, but in this case the shield is not affixed to the weapon itself, which would make a handgun very unwieldy and difficult to aim.
Some mounted machine guns and artillery pieces are equipped with metal armor plates to protect the gunners from sniper fire and shrapnel from explosions. Salvaged metal plates can sometimes service as improvised gun shields; in the Vietnam War crews of armored fighting vehicles and patrol boats would attach metal plates to the machine guns.
Gun shields fell out of widespread use after the Vietnam war, but they have seen a resurgence in popularity during the 1990s. Israeli military analysts began urging the use of gun shields, pointing to the grave risk to soldiers exposed to fire from automatic weapons. In particular, it was noted that many casualties were hit in areas not protected by body armor or a helmet, such as the neck or face.
The U.S. began using gun shields during the 2000s-era wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The major drawback of gun shields is that they limit the visibility of the user to the front, though new designs such as the Transparent Armor Gun Shield (TAGS for short) will alleviate this without sacrificing user protection.
When tactical police squads or hostage rescue teams are approaching a heavily armed suspect or group of suspects, they are increasingly using ballistic glass or kevlar ballistic shields. These shields supplement the protection from the body armor that the officers are already wearing by protecting the exposed body areas such as the neck and face. Gun shields typically have a firing hole or port through which the officer can fire a weapon. Some police officers using gun shields use revolvers instead of semi-automatic pistols, because the slide of a semi-auto pistol tends to get caught in the firing port.