How to Choose Soft Body Armor
Soft Body armor is something that has moved way beyond strictly being used by the police and other branches of armed security forces. Many citizens feel the need to have a good set of armored vests for their own personal safety. Choosing the right kind of armor is as important as even making the decision to purchase them. There are many types of armored vests available, and you might not need all the features or cover that, say a SWAT officer or Military personal will need. Here are a few things that can help you make an informed decision before you lay down money for it.
There are three points that you should take into consideration before selecting body armor.
- Ballistic protection
Law enforcement considers it important to have a vest that will protect them from the gun they are carrying. The NIJ has set requirements that vests CAN comply with. Not all vests are certified by the NIJ. i.e. Level IIA, II, IIIA, III. Reading and understanding a test data sheet is critical in knowing the depths of ballistic protection. The next consideration will be towards what you are likely to face, and this should include knives. A suburban or city dwelling person is likely to face weapons that are different from say a person living in a remote town or a rural area. Likewise a prison guard needs protection from knives and other sharp object as opposed to the threat from a gun.
Comfort is the single most important factor used when Law Enforcement is purchasing a vest. There is really no point in having a vest with great performance in terms of stopping power if you are not comfortable in it. When purchasing a vest get one that can be worn at least for a few hours. Custom tailored fit is ideal. However not always practical. Purchase a vest that you are at least able to try on. Get it made to fit your body type and weight. You should be able to slip in and out of it with relative ease.
Like most anything, the more you pay the more you get. However the safety standards set by the NIJ have assured buyers of at least a certain level of protection. (To understand more about the NIJ safety protocols and how to read a test data sheet please see are other posts) Therefore if a vest is rated by the NIJ to stop the round you want protection from, this may be all you need. Typically you will get better performance if you pay more, but ultimately, it comes down to what you need, more than anything else. All vest comes with a set service life, so, make sure your cost benefit is balanced. Do research, weigh performance with cost.
Again, The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the body responsible for setting standards on the level of ballistic protection levels and other quality standards, so make sure you have a look at the rating that they have given for any armor you choose.