2023 Guide to the Best Concealable Body Armor
In search of ballistic protection so you can go about your daily business worry free? No matter if you're a police officer, paramedic, security guard, or civilian, concealable body armor is the way to go.
Available in a myriad of options, choosing the right covert gear can be a challenge. Luckily, we at Bulletproof Zone have got your six!
In this article: What is concealable body armor, and who wears it? How does it compare to overt body armor? What to look for when buying? Plus, our top picks of the latest and greatest covert body armor products on the market today!
Table of Contents
- What is Concealable Body Armor?
- What is Concealable Body Armor made of?
- What's the Difference between Concealable Vests and Overt Body Armor?
- How to Choose Concealable Body Armor?
- Who Needs Concealable Bulletproof Vests?
- Who Makes Concealable Body Armor?
- Which Concealable Body Armor should you Buy?
What is Concealable Body Armor?
With the clue in the name, covert body armor is any kind of protective gear hidden from view. So to all but the most trained eye, no-one around will be aware that you’re wearing body armor.
This provides the wearer a tactical advantage in the event of trouble. Obvious body armor would only attract attention and prompt a would-be aggressor to instead attack an area of your body which they can see is unprotected. Besides, concealing body armor avoids causing alarm in otherwise law-abiding citizens.
As an added benefit, concealable soft body armor worn under regular clothing gives the wearer the freedom to wear whatever plain clothes or uniform is most appropriate.
As a rule, concealable body armor is most suitable for those who might encounter a weapon threat or are carrying out duties that require secrecy or discretion.
Concealable body armor mostly exists as protective vests and carriers. Besides these, there’s casual as well as professional apparel from tees and singlets to hoodies and three-piece suits.
Because concealable armor is specifically engineered to avoid being detected, things like fasteners on the outside are a no-no since they’d show through outerwear and give the game away.
For the same reason, discreet body armor tends to come in lighter monochromatic colors with few to no options for patterns.
What is Concealable Body Armor made of?
Essentially, covert body armor features a carrier garment and built-in protective material.
The carrier is typically made of conventional textiles such as cotton and nylon. But because concealable body armor is normally worn directly against the body, the carrier will be lined with moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics to minimize the build-up of sweat and keep the wearer fresh and dry.
Inside the carrier, the protective material is positioned to shield the wearer’s heart, lungs, liver, kidneys as well as non-vital organs of the torso from fatal injury.
Ballistic coverage is usually on the front and back. Sometimes a wearer may add side protection or, occasionally, limit protection to the front of the carrier.
By default, protection is afforded by soft armor which is either permanently sewn into the carrier or packed within removable panels.
The soft armor inserts are usually made up of either of a para-aramid textile (for example, DuPont Kevlar® or Teijin Twaron®) or else Ultra-High Molecular Weight PolyEthylene [UHMWPE] (such as Honeywell Spectra® or DSM Dyneema™).
From 5 to 20 times stronger than steel, the protective material forms a ‘web’ of densely woven and multi-stacked fibers – tough enough, depending on the type of concealable body armor, to resist a stab from a knife, stop an incoming bullet, or even both.
Basically, the protective material works because the knife or the bullet gets caught up in the fabric mesh so it doesn’t penetrate the wearer’s body.
For a bullet specifically, the material also deadens much of the impact of the projectile and redistributes its energy across the entire armor, at the same time deforming the tip of the bullet into a far more harmless disk-like shape.
Some concealable body armor comes with add-on pockets in the front and sometimes rear and sides that can hold additional non-ballistic armor inserts known as Trauma Pads to further prevent injury.
What's the difference between Concealable Vests & Overt Body Armor?
In contrast to covert body armor, overt body armor is ordinarily worn over clothing.
Depending on the settings in which it’s used, overt body armor can be hi-viz to stand out or serve as a visible deterrent or, alternatively, distinctly colored (camo, for example) to help the wearer blend in.
It's also usually NIJ Level III or IV, handling rifle rounds.
AKA "tactical body armor," it’s typically spec’d as an external carrier vest into which is fitted a number of hard armor plates made of metal or ceramic composite.
So while overt body armor is a whole lot more protective, it’s also far bulkier and more rigid than concealable body armor. Hence, overt armor is normally only worn for relatively short periods.
It's used by those deployed to environments where’s the odds of being shot at are significant.
This includes the likes of soldiers, S.W.A.T. units, marines, and special ops; but also foreign news correspondents reporting from war-torn locations.
Lastly, more often than not, an overt body armor kit is rigged with Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment [MOLLE] which, via Pouch Attachment Ladder System [PALS] webbing, is used to mount extra tools and supplies.
How to choose Concealable Body Armor
There are three key factors to take into account when selecting a concealable bulletproof vest:
1. Protection Level
Above all, decide the level of protection needed by assessing the type(s) of weapons you most expect to face:
Personal body armor is rated for ballistic resistance by the United States National Institute of Justice according to the latest NIJ Standard 0101.06. In ascending order of protection from firearms:
Level IIA – largely out of date, but still protects against a .9mm Full Metal Jacket Round Nose [FMJ RN]
Level II – can defeat all handgun rounds, up to and including .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point [JSP]
Level IIIA – the highest grade of soft armor available today, capable of stopping at least six hits from a .44 Magnum Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point [SJHP]
It's advisable not to opt for concealable body armor with a higher or lower NIJ rating than you need.
By doing so, you’ll either end up bogged down with unnecessary bulk or unprotected from the one bullet that could very well end your life.
Also bear in mind that, generally, the lower the NIJ protection level, the more lightweight, slim, flexible, and concealable the body armor.
Personal body armor is rated for stab resistance by the United States National Institute of Justice according to the current NIJ-STD 0115.00. In increasing order of protection from stabs/slashes/cuts:
Level 1 - around 24 joules of force and offers good protection against penetration beyond a few millimeters from most normal knives and spikes (like a syringe needle or an ice pick)
Level 2 – around 33 joules of force
Level 3 – around 43 joules of force
Strictly, this pertains to combination armor containing separate layers of materials which protects equally well against both handguns and edged blades/spikes.
Do note too, that the IIIA+ designation isn’t an official NIJ protection level and it doesn't necessarily mean "multi-threat."
Instead, it's sometimes used by makers of body armor to signify Level IIIA bullet resistance with added protection against the likes of shotgun shells and Five-seveN [FN] 5.7 semi-automatic pistol ammo.
• Stun Gun/Taser
It's important to be aware that most concealable body armor products don’t protect from a discharge from a Conducted Energy Weapon.
Ensuring a proper fit of concealable body armor is critical. It should be snug and secure against the body. If it's too small, large, or heavy, not only comfort but also coverage and protectability will be compromised.
Hence, it's important to get your individual measurements spot on. Generally, covert body armor comes in a range of alpha sizes. Failing that, some concealable body armor can be custom-fit.
Also, always consider the weight of the item. The lighter it is, the easier it'll be to wear for longer and the less it'll impact agility and maneuverability.
And, of course, with concealable body armor designed as innerwear, choosing the right clothing to go over the top also matters – a chest hugging tee, for example, wouldn't be a smart idea, but a loose fitting shirt would.
Good concealable body armor will set you back more money because more effort goes into making them as discreet yet effective as possible.
The cost is determined mainly by level of protection and weight/comfortability – the higher the NIJ Level and the more wearable the armor, the greater the price tag.
Decent quality concealable vests have a broad range of costs starting from about US$100 to upwards of US$2000.
Naturally, you have to factor in your budget, but when it comes to body armor, it's wise not to prioritize cost over the protection level and your individual needs.
Remember: body armor of any description should be regarded as an investment, a potentially life saving one at that.
Who needs Concealable Bulletproof Vests?
You’d be forgiven for thinking only folks engaged in high-risk occupations like police officers would ever wear bullet resistant gear.
As it happens, people from all walks of life can and do routinely use covert body armor. Here's just a few examples:
- those with immediate access to cash/valuables such as bank tellers, convenience and jewelry store clerks, ATM repairmen, mail couriers, and gas station attendants
- those employed in law and order such as federal patrol and undercover officers, correctional staff, coastguards, bail bond agents, bounty hunters, and private investigators
- those who engage in close-quarter security detail such as door supervisors and bodyguards
- high-profile individuals such as government officials, visiting dignitaries, judges, business executives, and of course the president and his secret service entourage
- those readying for some kind of national disaster such as urban preppers
- concerned citizens who live or travel through a sketchy neighborhood, or perhaps live off grid where response time from emergency services is too long
Who makes Concealable Body Armor?
There are scores of manufacturers, even more brands, and literally hundreds of concealable body armor products up for grabs these days. Not all are equally serviceable, though.
At Bulletproof Zone, we only supply covert vests, concealed carriers, and bullet/stab-resistant clothing from the most reputable body armor manufacturers on the planet. So more to the point...
Which Concealable Body Armor should you buy?
That depends on your budget and why you need it. By all means, scour the Bulletproof Zone concealable body armor collection. Alternatively, we’ve rounded up what we feel are the ultimate covert body armor products in 2022:
Suitable for Law Enforcement Officers (≤ $300)
Spartan Armor Systems DL Concealment Plate Carrier & Flex Fused Core Soft Body Armor
- Our best selling concealable body armor
- Low-profile ultra-minimalist bottom-loading carrier with integrated soft Mag Pouches, and 2 10”x12” NIJ Level IIIA ballistic panels
Suitable for Law Enforcement Officers ($301 -$700)
Protection Group Denmark Ultra Stab/Spike Proof & Bulletproof Vest
- Vest a mere 11mm thin, and utilizes Outlast Phase Change Materials [PCM] thermo-technology that adapts to the wearer’s body temperature
- Soft armor composed of unidirectional aramid fibers rated at NIJ Level IIIA and Level 1 anti-stab/spike protection up to 36 joules.
- ESAPI hard armor plates an add-on for front and back
Suitable for Law Enforcement Officers ($701 - $1000)
EnGarde DeLuxe Concealable Carrier & Bulletproof and Stab Proof MT-PRO panel
- Carrier lined with MicroFresh for excellent comfort even during extended wear in hot climates
- Single MT-PRO soft armor panel combines NIJ Level IIIA Dyneema with EnGarde’s TitanSkin anti-stab tech for superior ballistic and stab performance
Suitable for Security Personnel (≤ $300)
BulletSafe Vital Protection3 [VP3] Bulletproof Vest
- The best value concealable body armor out there, no question
- NIJ Level IIIA certified wrap-around front and rear ballistic panels, and except for XS, can accommodate Level IV hard armor plates through its extra plate pockets to protect against rifle and machine gun rounds
Suitable for Security Personnel ($301 - $700)
Safeguard Armor Ghost Concealed Bulletproof Vest Body Armor
- 100% Coolmax carrier with fully adjustable shoulder and waist straps for an optimum fit
- Customizable with NIJ Level II or IIIA ballistic protection, Level 1 or 2 edged blade protection, as well as Level 1 or 2 spike protection
Suitable for Security Personnel ($701 - $1000)
PPSS Group Covert Stab Resistant Body Armor
- Ergonomically-cast carrier with 2 Universal Radio Docks fitted as standard
- Detachable soft armor panels protect against knife attacks and stabbings plus spikes, improvised weapons, and blunt force trauma
Suitable for Emergency Medical Services (≤ $300)
Legacy Safety & Security EMS Vest
- One size vest with upper and lower reflective stripes and trio of side adjusters for accurate fit
- Front-only NIJ Level IIIA soft armor, but connecting front and back pockets can each carry Legacy’s own Dual Threat armor panel for added ballistic and stab resistance
Suitable for Emergency Medical Services ($301 - $700)
AR500 AR Concealment Plate Carrier & Soft Armor
- 4-way stretch capability that moves with the wearer to improve comfort and make it extremely concealable
- Comes in medium (10”x12” plates) or large (11”x14” plates) sizes, and can be paired with IIIA Rimelig, Slim, or Hybrid soft body armor, plus trauma pads
Suitable for Civilians (≤ $300)
Armor Express T-shirt Armor Carrier
- Among the top ten body armor manufacturers in the U.S.
- Constructed with anti-microbial polyester/spandex
- Front of shirt contains 5”×8” plate pocket for additional soft armor inserts
Suitable for Civilians ($301 - $700)
Israel Catalog Concealed Civilian Bullet Proof Vest VIP Model
- Waist and shoulder straps can be adjusted up to three sizes bigger and one size smaller than chosen carrier size
- NIJ Level IIIA ballistic protection front and back
Suitable for Civilians ($701 - $1000)
BulletBlocker Bulletproof Flight Jacket
- Inspired by the original MA-1 bomber jacket, classic style coat offered in standard coverage or full wrap
- Removable NIJ Level IIIA Kevlar® XP interior liner
Suitable for Everyday Wear (≤ $300)
CompassArmor Ultra Thin Bulletproof Singlet
- Extra lightweight, shock absorbing, and adjustable; close-fitting design
- NIJ Level IIIA Kevlar panels front and back
Suitable for Everyday Wear ($301 - $700)
UARM Covert Armored T-shirt [CAT]
- Coolmax-lined, weight-balanced, and positively buoyant tee
- Armor types IIA, II, or IIIA UHMWPE panels front and back with covert dual side zippers for easy armor installation and fast dressing/undressing
Suitable for Everyday Wear ($701 - $1000)
MC Armor Perfect Tank Top with Side Protection
- Reddot design award winner 2016 and available in his and hers
- NIJ Level IIIA certified front, back, and sides
To defeat rifle and machine gun rounds, there’s always the Level IV Concealed Bulletproof and Stab Proof Vest with Polyethylene Boron Carbide Plates!
When you need discreet, lightweight, comfortable ballistic protection, Bulletproof Zone has you covered. We offer bulletproof vests and other concealable armor to suit every purpose and budget.
To help soften the blow (no pun intended) in these economically lean times, we let you spread the cost of concealable body armor with several financing options.
Plus, every order over $100 from Bulletproof Zone qualifies for free shipping anywhere in the continental United States and is backed by our price match guarantee.
Why are you interested in a concealable bulletproof vest? Let us know below!