What Body Armor Is Right for You?

body armor

Body armor comes in a wide variety of types, sizes and shapes. To make sure you get the right fit for your needs, it’s important to understand the basics of body armor selection. Here are some tips that will help you decide what body armor is right for you.

What Threats Are You Likely to Face?

When choosing body armor, your top priority should be to protect yourself against likely threats. So the first thing you should do is identify the threats you’re most likely to face, and choose body armor that protects against those threats. For example, if you’re a prison officer, the threats you face will likely be different from the threats military personnel face, and vice versa. The latter requires the highest level of bullet protection available in body armor, while the former will probably want stab and spike protection.

Here are the basic levels of body armor, based on threats likely to be encountered:

  • Level II: This level of body armor is typically soft armor. This means it’s composed of fibrous or woven materials such as Dyneema, Kevlar and others. It’s designed to stop a 9x19MM FMJ that’s traveling at a speed of 1,175 feet per second. It’s one of the most comfortable levels of body armor, but not the most protective.
  • Level III-A: This level is one step up from level II and can stop a .44 magnum jacketed hollow point that’s traveling at a speed of 1,400 feet per second. Level III-A armor is lightweight and usually considered soft armor, but it may also contain rigid armor plates.
  • Level III: This level is where hard inserts come into play. Level III body armor is designed to stop six spaced hits of full metal jacket 7.62X51MM NATO, traveling at a speed of 2,750 feet per second. Bullet velocity and round size play huge roles in the rate of penetration into this armor.
  • Level III: This is the highest rated rifle plate available at the time of this writing. It is designed to stop a single hit from a “Black Tip” 7.62MM AP, which is basically an armor piercing bullet.

It’s important to note that one level of armor isn’t automatically better than any of the others. For example, level III armor is designed to stop six 7.62X51MM NATO full metal jackets, while level III armor is designed to stop a single 7.62MM AP “Black Tip.” You must take shot count certification into account when choosing body armor.

Do You Want Overt or Covert Protection?

Body armor comes in two primary styles: covert and overt. Covert vests are designed to be thin and discreet. They also tend to come in light colors that are not noticeable when worn underneath clothing Undercover operatives, door supervisors and other similar professions may not want others to know they are wearing body armor and may prefer covert options.

Overt vests are designed to be worn over the top of your clothing. They are usually black, but may be manufactured in other colors as well. Overt vests are commonly worn by members of the military, police officers and security guards. If you don’t need your protection to be discreet, covert body armor may be the right choice for your situation.

Is a Plate Backer a Good Choice?

No matter what variety of hard insert you choose for your body armor, you may wish to wear a soft armor backer as well. This adds extra weight, but will help prevent blunt force trauma and reduce injuries that can occur even when a plate stops the actual bullet. It’s a well-known fact that enough energy can be transferred from a protective plate into the wearer’s body to cause injury. A plate backer is helpful for minimizing this risk.

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H.Frank Hazelwood - June 4, 2020 Reply


Steven Ward - June 11, 2020 Reply

There is listed two entries for Level three armor, each providing different information. Is there a distinction, or is one just mislabeled?
Thank you.
Steve Ward

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