30 Things You Need to Know About Body Armor (2024)

15. If You Are Shot in Your Armor You Will Be Able to Fight Back
There are numerous cases of officers who have been shot in their body armor. Most say the experience is like being hit with a hammer. Usually, the result is a nasty-looking bruise caused by backface deformation. But no one has died from this trauma. It’s unlikely that it will even incapacitate you. Many officers shot in their armor have not missed a beat, shot back at their attacker, and neutralized the threat. And that was before the advent of the latest vest materials, which are designed to minimize the effects of blunt impact.

16. Vests Are Rigorously Tested
There is a persistent rumor in the law enforcement community that manufacturers reinforce the spots shot by the NIJ before the vests are certified. The testing protocol does not permit manufacturers to cheat in this manner.

17. How to Prevent Panel Sag
When your ballistic panels sag, your vest is not as comfortable and you may be losing protection. The best way to prevent this problem is to rotate your carriers. Most vests are sold with two carriers. Safariland recommends that you have three. By rotating carriers, you can prevent the Velcro straps from wearing out and prevent wear of the carrier fabric.

18. Stay Fit or Get New Armor
If you pack on five percent to 10 percent or more body weight than you had when the vest was fitted, you need a new vest. If you should lose weight, you may also need a new vest.

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19. Your Carrier Offers No Ballistic Protection
Never go on duty wearing just the carrier. It offers no more ballistic protection than your favorite shirt.

20. There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way
Ballistic panels are designed to fit into your carrier in a specific way. Flipping them can lead to tragedy. The strike face of the panel is designed to slow the bullet and disperse the bullet’s energy; the back of the panel is designed to minimize trauma. “It’s a one-way system,” says Safariland’s Geshay. “If you flip the panel, there’s no guarantee that the vest will stop the round.

21. Unless It Is Stab Resistant, Your Vest is Not Likely to Protect You from a Knife Attack
Stab vests are a different fiber and different weave from bullet-resistant vests. Multi-threat vests are available, but they are heavier and more expensive.

22. Your Vest Can Save Your Life In a Vehicle Accident
Each year at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference, DuPont holds a ceremony for officers saved by Kevlar body armor. A sizable portion of these cops were saved not from the bullets of bad guys but from impacts with the steering columns of their patrol cars following vehicle accidents.

23. Ladies, Your Body Armor Should Be Made for You
Women need more trauma protection for their chests, and they need real bra style cups like what you would find in a one-piece bathing suit.

24. It’s a Vest, Not a Body Suit
Your body armor should not fit like a high-tech running suit. When you are being fitted, take a deep breath and hold it. That’s the gap that you want between your body and the armor panels. This gap helps minimize trauma in case of bullet impact. It also makes it easier for you to run and fight on the job. “Armor functions better when it can move,” says U.S. Armor’s Olsen. “You want to pull on the straps and just feel some tension. A lot of new guys want to strap it on like it’s a corset or a girdle. But when you do that and you have a foot pursuit, it will feel like somebody is sitting on your chest.”

25. Duct Tape is Not a Replacement for Vest Straps
Geshay says he’s seen an officer use duct tape to fasten a vest to his body. This is a bad idea for several reasons. “When you duct tape it down, it doesn’t move properly on your body,” he says. “That can cause a coverage issue in a ballistic event. Oh, and duct tape does not add extra ballistic protection.”

26. Wearing Two Vests Will Not Double Your Protection
While it’s true that many, many layers of ballistic panels could stop an AK round, it’s unlikely that anybody could operate while burdened with that much soft armor. Lightweight Level IV and Level III plates are made of hundreds of layers of polyethylene pressed by a huge machine. You really can’t achieve that level of protection by wearing multiple vests.

27. You Need Front and Back Protection
In the summer, some cops like to wear just their front panels. This is a really bad idea.

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28. Your Trauma Pad Is There for a Reason
Some cops love that pocket on the back of their carrier that houses the trauma pad. They like to use it for a cell phone carrier, a backup gun holster, and just a great pocket. It’s there for your trauma pad; don’t use it for anything else. It’s there to minimize the bruising you will experience if you are shot in your vest.

29. Once Shot, Your Vest Is Ruined
Once a vest gets a bullet, it’s done.

30. Your Vest Can’t Save You If It’s In Your Car Trunk or Your Locker
The saddest thing in law enforcement is to hear that an officer was killed in the line of duty by a bullet that could have been stopped by a vest. Wear your vest.

David Griffith is the editor of Police Magazine. He can be reached at david.griffith@bobit.com.

30 Things You Need to Know About Body Armor (2024)


What to know about buying body armor? ›

In the end, the type of body armor you buy greatly depends on the threat level you are trying to protect yourself from. If you're in law enforcement or likely to encounter higher caliber rounds, then a greater threat level of protection for your body armor system may be the way to go.

What is level 7 body armor? ›

UL 752 Level 7 Specifications

Most commonly used as a protection barrier against multiple shots from a military assault rifle, such as the M-16, and the like, with muzzle energy of 1158-1402 foot-pounds (1570-1901J).

Is there level 5 body armor? ›

As defined by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), there are five distinct body armor ballistic levels: Level IIA, Level II, Level IIIA, Level III, and Level IV.

Can an AR-15 penetrate a bulletproof vest? ›

An AR-15 fires a . 223 caliber round which can penetrate some types of body armor. Typically, only Level III and IV armor can stop rifle rounds like those fired by an AR-15.

Is level 4 body armor legal? ›

Is Level 4 armor illegal? No. Level 4 armor is legal to own in all 50 states if you are an American citizen with no prior felony convictions.

What will level 4 plates stop? ›

LEVEL IV. Level IV is the highest rifle plate rating under the NIJ personal body armor specs at this time. A level IV must stop a single hit of 7.62MM AP “Black Tip”, which is effectively a . 30-06 Armor Piercing bullet.

Can a .22 go through body armor? ›

Protection: defeats 22LR, . 380, 9mm, . 40, . 45 ACP, and .

Do level 4 helmets exist? ›

Helmets are rated from I-III depending on what size rounds they can stop completely. An NIJ Level IV helmet would theoretically provide protection up against rounds as powerful as . 30 caliber armor-piercing bullets. However, there are no true level IV helmets that have been tested according to NIJ standards.

Do armor plates expire? ›

Expiration dates are a necessity for ballistic protection gear. They are necessary because the protection provided by the body armor plates will degrade over time. Without body armor expiration dates, the equipment would be ineffective.

What level vest do police wear? ›

Level IIIa is the most common type of body armour for regular law enforcement officers, while Level IV is only used in Special Forces such as SWAT teams.

What armor can stop a 50 cal? ›

Hard armor systems “strikeface” along with a composite blend can be the perfect armor against calibers up to 50 caliber ball and armor-piercing rounds. These products can absorb up to 72 to 75% of the energy from most rounds in the ball format and 68 to 78% of the kinetic energy from armor-piercing rounds.

Is it legal for a civilian to own body armor? ›

California. In California, civilians can purchase and use a bulletproof vest, unless he or she has been convicted of a felony. Bulletproof vests and all other body armor can be purchased online or face-to-face.

Can a vest stop AK-47? ›

If a particular vest can stop a round from a Galil, it'll stop a round from an AK-47 just as well. The appended “x39” to the AK-47's ammo designation is important to distinguish it from the 7.62x51mm NATO and the 7.62x54mm Russian rounds.

Can Kevlar stop a sniper bullet? ›

A body armour vest containing multiple layers of Kevlar should be able to stop conventional hand-gun bullets but if you want to stop a high powered rifle bullet (800 m/s or more), you will need something more than layers of Kevlar.

Can a .223 go through body armor? ›

Common rifle rounds, like the . 223 Remington or 7.62x39mm, are known to penetrate lower levels of body armor. Their increased velocity and energy give them a higher chance of overcoming the armor's resistance, leading to potential penetration.

Is body armor actually healthy? ›

Doctors don't recommend sports drinks to most, as they're typically loaded with sugar and questionable additives. Though Bodyarmor is technically healthier than its competitors, water is the god-tier hydration option.

What are the disadvantages of body armor? ›

First, steel plates tend to be heavier than other materials such as ceramic or aramid fibers. This can be a significant disadvantage for individuals who require agility and mobility in their line of work. Also, steel body armor is susceptible to spalling.

How much should you spend on body armor? ›

In general, good quality body armor will cost between $300 - $1,000. Kevlar armor, for instance, is a popular material used in soft armor, as it's known for being highly durable and effective against stopping bullets. But, Kevlar can be more expensive than other materials due to the higher quality.

Does body armor actually protect you? ›

The reality is that bullet resistant vests don't protect the wearer from every threat. Nothing is bulletproof, not even a manhole cover. In an extremely minute percentage of cases, a bullet can get through a vest that's been rated to stop them. The bullet could have a serrated edge or something similar to it.

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