Body armor is key to your protection, and it's vital that you choose the right one for your needs. For some people, maneuverability is essential, while maximum protection trumps everything. Plus, there may be slight nuances between the armor systems necessary for military personnel, private security, and police officers, as they all see different risks that would necessitate different levels of protection. But with all the different types out there, which one do you choose?
Key Considerations for Body Armor
While there are many innovative designs for armor plates and ballistic vests, there are several limitations to the type of protection offered. Body armor is always a trade-off between:
The heavier the armor you choose, the more protection it typically offers. However, even if you are extremely physically fit, it's going to affect what you can do and how far you can travel. Many opt for lightweight body armor options since they can be much more discreet, but the major fallback is the reduced protection from rifle rounds.
The National Institute of Justice publishes standards for body armor. These are:
- Level IIA
- Level II
- Level IIIA
- Level IV
Body armor plates certified at NIJ Level IIA offer the least protection. However, Level IIIA armor can handle six shots with standard 7.62x51 NATO rounds, while Level IV only has to handle a single round, but this one is a 7.62 armor-piercing round (30-06 AP). As a result, Level IIIA may offer more protection and stopping power than Level IV.
Ultimately, the type of body armor you decide to go with depends on the use and what qualities you find to be the most important. With these factors in mind, there are a few different styles of armor and vests that you can select from to keep yourself protected no matter what you are being faced with.
Hard Ballistic Plate
This is the ultimate body armor for those who expect to see some combat. It's tough, rugged, and reliable.
The Improved Outer Tactical Vest, typically used by the United States Army, is an example of hard ballistic plate armor. It consists of a tactical vest that can hold four ballistic plates and soft armor panel inserts. However, all that protection comes with a weight penalty: it adds 30 pounds to your loadout. The same applies to the Marines' Modular Tactical Vest.
In addition, armor designed for men is sometimes uncomfortable for women to wear due to their shorter torso sizes. Plates tend to dig in, and the chest area is usually less protected. If you choose a hard ballistic plate type of body armor, make sure it conforms to your body type.
Kevlar Soft Armor
Kevlar is made from dense, strong fibers, and Kevlar soft armor is lightweight and comfortable; however, it offers limited protection against bullets. Typically, it's worn by law enforcement in situations when small-caliber fire is more likely, such as handgun rounds.
This isn't to say that Kevlar vests aren’t effective — they can save your life and minimize damage. In addition, they are much easier to wear discreetly. However, if you’re going into a situation where you may be going up against more substantial firepower, you may want to opt for something on a higher protection level.
Spike-Proof and Stab-Proof Vests
These often offer the least amount of ballistic protection, but they are highly resistant to knives, syringes, and other blades. They are typically worn by those who deal with potentially dangerous individuals who do not have access to guns. Some stab-proof vests do offer ballistic protection against small arms fire, however, and they also provide outstanding comfort and are usually extremely lightweight.
When you require reliable protection, you can always find what you’re looking for at Gear Up. We have a vast range of body armor and military surplus survival gear to meet your precise needs, and our prices are great, too. Browse through our inventory and contact our team today to get started on your order.