Understanding Your Choices in Modern Body Armor
Body armor is certainly not a new invention - it's been around in one form or another since the dawn of humanity. However, modern body armor is far, far different from anything that was available in the past. This is largely due to the difference in threats in the modern world.
Where ancient armor had to withstand the force of club, mace, sword, pike or arrows, modern armor must withstand the force of firearms, which is far greater than any other weapons used in the past. Choosing the right armor solution for your needs is imperative. How do you do it, though?
Dispelling a Myth
First, it is important to understand that there is no such thing as a bullet proof vest. Body armor is designed to resist the force of bullets, by dissipating the impact force through the fibers of the vest material (or by deflection in the case of hard body armor). Vests and other lightweight armor options still deform with the force of a bullet, and that deformation affects the body of the wearer. The amount of deformation to the wearer's skin is called backface deformation.
Hard or Soft?
are two primary options in protective armor today. Hard and soft armor
systems are available, but both serve very different needs. For
instance, a soft vest is more easily worn, not as cumbersome and far
more comfortable than hard armor. This makes it the best choice for
everyday use by police officers
Hard armor is designed more for battle and other conditions, where high-powered rifles are the more common threats (soft armor is better for resisting handguns). There is also a third option, semi-rigid body armor, which comes in between soft and hard armor options in comfort and protection.
Choosing the correct body armor is important, but can be difficult. There are seven classifications for bullet proof vests and other armor solutions, all of which are based on the caliber, bullet weight and impact velocity they can withstand.
There are vest available that offer both comfort and protection. A level III-A vest which is the highest rating in a soft armor will protect you against most hand gun threats that an officer, body guard or security personnel would be faced with while still being mobile. Note that the higher the protective rating, your mobility decreases little by little. These vest generally will also have an additional pocket on the inside of the front of the vest to insert a trauma plate which is six by eight inches in size and covers the area in the center of your chest for additional protection and impact dispersion.
Selecting the best option is vital, but it can be complicated. Most police departments choose bullet resistant vest that can withstand the caliber of handgun used by their officers, though some choose higher protection. The choice needs to be based on comfort, wearability, the need for concealment and other important factors. However, the level of protection afforded the wearer is the paramount consideration and should trump all others.
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