A Look Back into the History of Body Armor
As long as there have been humans, there has been a need for body armor. Initially, body armor was little more than leather and hides. Over time, this was improved by attaching metal plates or rivets to leather.
Modern Body Armor
Modern armor can be classified into two distinct categories: hard and soft. Hard armor is quite similar to what was worn by knights - it is basically a system of metal or ceramic plates, and is worn by police officers and others only when there is a high chance of an attack. Soft armor, on the other hand, is ideal for everyday use by those who are at risk of being attacked. Soft armor can be worn like clothing, and is available in a variety of different types, including concealable body armor, and vests that are made to be worn over other clothing.
Differences in Soft and Hard Body Armor
As mentioned, hard armor is a system of ceramic or metal plates. Soft armor, on the other hand, is a cloth-like material designed to capture a bullet and dissipate the impact force through a netting material across the entire surface of the armor. The most common example of soft body armor is the modern bullet proof vest worn by most police officers, either beneath or over their clothing.
Hard armor is cumbersome and heavy. Even ceramic plates, which are far lighter than their metallic counterparts, can be heavy if a full suit of armor is worn. Ceramic plates generally weigh close to six pounds each. It is also bulky, and makes doing things like driving difficult, which is why officers only wear it when there is a specific threat that needs to be protected against (such as during riot protection and similar actions).
The Testing Process for Body Armor
In order for any type of armor to be certified as bullet resistant (no armor is technically bulletproof), it must undergo rigorous testing by the National Institute of Justice and their laboratories. This is especially important for new designs - Kevlar is not the only material used to create bullet proof vests. There is also Spectra, Twaron, and Gold Shield also known as Gold Flex. All these different fibers have incredible ballistic abilities.
According to the National Institute of Justus, more than 3000 Police officer's lives have been saved by wearing their armor and bullet proof vest since the mid 70's when the N.I.J. started testing and developing performance standards for ballistic resistance. Ballistic-resistant body armor has been widely available for use by law enforcement personnel for more than 30 years. The dramatic reduction in officer homicides following the introduction of armored vest attests to the protection it provides.
This success story extends far beyond protection from handguns-more than 3,000 lives have been spared, including cases in which these vest have prevented serious injuries to officers from other types of assaults or accidents. Many of these cases have prevented officers from serious injury in automobile accidents protecting the chest area and protection from side impact accidents.
The rigorous testing process ensures that all armor styles and types are fully tested and their resistance to different caliber bullets and different impact velocities is fully known, allowing them to be rated for specific uses.
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