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Buying a Bulletproof Vest? Here are 10 Considerations

Buying a Bulletproof Vest? Here are 10 Considerations

Here are the 10 main factors you should consider before purchasing: 

If you are thinking of buying a bulletproof vest or body armor, keep in mind that you are investing in your safety, and your choice could be the difference between life and death. In ancient times, warriors had to protect themselves from spears, arrows, and swords and they quickly realized that wearing armor made a big difference.

Today, a bulletproof vest is a serious investment which means that you must carefully weigh many different options when committing to getting a vest. It is imperative to choose only the best and highest quality body armor that will meet all your needs. Here are 10 important things to consider prior to purchasing body armor. The final decision is always yours but keeping these questions in mind will help you make the right decision. 

 

1. Cost of Body Armor

Your budget will, in many cases, be the deciding factor in which vest or type or armor you end up purchasing. Make sure to properly evaluate all the options within your budget range and also consider whether or not investing slightly more above your budget could be worth it. At the end of the day, you can’t put a price on your life and coming back home safely to your family. The average lifespan of a bulletproof vest is 5-7 years even if it isn’t used often. After that period the materials, even with proper care will be less effective or protective than when new. We carry a wide assortment of brands and types for every budget.

 

2. The Comfort of Armor is Important

One of the first things you have to keep in mind is that even though a plate carrier or body vest will definitely not feel like a soft sweater, it must be comfortable for extended periods of wear or else it can become a cause for distraction. The piece you choose must fit your body snugly without making you feel like it’s squeezing you too tightly. If you lose or gain weight after purchasing a properly sized vest it could become less effective in protecting your body. A loosely fitting vest may initially feel more comfortable but the level of protection it provides is diminished if it doesn’t fit properly.  Consider other types of ballistic wear.

While there are lots of choices when it comes to carriers, sizing is the most vital factor as far as comfort is concerned. Look for one that fits you best. Consider the amount of time you will be wearing the vest. Will you wear it daily for 8-10 hours? That is a lot of time to carry the extra weight and restrict your movements.  

 

3.  The Weight of Bulletproof Vests Will Vary

Through the years, carriers and plates have notably become lighter and much more effective. Among the biggest improvements compared to the vests of the past is that the latest ones have become lighter and more comfortable to wear like clothing. Pick a vest designed for the type of protection you will need rather than the maximum protection you can obtain. 

Always remember that the weight of the equipment you select will always have an effect on your fatigue levels and this is also impacted by armor plates or armor inserts. If you plan on wearing the vest for long periods of time, narrow your search to lighter vests.

  

4.  Mobility While Wearing a Ballistic Vest

When a vest is too large, it can impair your movement on the field; conversely, if it is too small, it can limit your range of movement. Your vest must allow for an optimum level of movement meaning you should not find it hard to rotate your torso or arms as you would normally.

During tactical situations, it is crucial for you to be able to react and move quickly.  Can you enter or exit vehicles easily?

 

5. Does Your Body Armor Need to be Hidden

Depending on the specific situation you are in, it matters a lot how your carrier fits your body. In tactical situations, when your assailant sees your vest easily, they may target those areas of your body that are not protected. When your body armor plates poke out your shirt, it can feel and look awkward.  Here are some great alternatives to the visible armor vests.

 

6. The Durability of Tactical Clothing

Carriers are usually made of either nylon or cloth. The materials used during the production can affect how they absorb moisture from sweat, the kind of maintenance required, price, and comfort level. You also need to consider what you will be wearing underneath your body armor and length of time that the armor will stay on. Be aware of the fact that certain materials can cause skin abrasion or discomfort under certain conditions.  Do you need additional accessories for your ballistic vest and clothing?

 

7. Armor Plates & Kevlar offer additional protection

These can be either hard or soft panels that slide into the front of the carrier to provide the wearer with additional protection. See to it that the panels that hold the plates are sealed with heat as the ballistic material and panels, typically Kevlar will be protected from sunlight and moisture. Be sure to consider the weather conditions you may encounter, extreme heat, rain, cold can all impact the ballistic materials used in your armor. View our packages.

 

8. Armor Ratings: I, II-A, II, III-A, III, and IV

The National Institute of Justice or NIJ provides the official ratings for bulletproof body armor. Without proper specifications or any indicators of quality, it can be difficult to find that piece of gear tailored for your needs. In many cases, people do not know exactly what type of body armor they really need. This can lead to bad decision making which can negatively impact any given tactical situation.


Each bulletproof vest or piece of body armor is classified under 6 protection levels.

Level I, which protects against small caliber, low-velocity rounds. These levels have an A alternate that cycle upwards to Level IV, the highest protection level.

Knowing the protection level you will need is going to be one of the most crucial deciding factors of which vest you get as everything else will be determined by it whether it is the cost of the vest or if the size of the vest is comfortable to wear with that protection level.

Besides just round stopping power, you may want to consider additional properties that any given vest has to offer such as the material composition, shape, and shock distribution as they may be helpful in determining which vest will specifically suit your needs better.

 

9. Bulletproof Vest Quality & Warranties

Check to see which of the vests you’re considering offers warranties if any on their products. Because body armor is a large investment, it is something you want to be able to rely on for a long time. Warranties can add to that peace of mind that if anything should happen to your gear, there is the support to get it fixed. Can you return the vest or is there a price match guarantee?

 

10. Maintaining Your Bulletproof Vest

Buying body armor is an investment so you’re going to want to properly maintain your armor and a ballistic vest. Make certain that you keep up with a regular maintenance schedule. You should also do some research regarding cleaning and caring for your tactical gear. The US NIJ is a good resource to take advantage of.

Make sure to carefully consider these things when deciding on the bulletproof vest or plate carrier that will protect you in whatever situation you may need it. Before you purchase, do some research our you can ask one of our Bulletproof Zone support team to figure out exactly what it is you’re looking for. That extra time spent just might save your life one day.

Complete Guide to Police Body Armor and Protective Gear

Complete Guide to Police Body Armor and Protective Gear

Policemen are deployed to all types of environments including possibly hostile ones, constantly putting their lives on the line. In such a dangerous lines of work, it is imperative to protect yourself in every way possible to ensure you return home to your family every night. This requires being prepared with the proper equipment and body armor so you can fulfill your duties safely and efficiently. There are many varieties of bullet proof vests and other protective gear that suit a large number of needs as well as budgets.

When selecting your equipment, it is important for you as an officer to understand the details of what you bring with you into the field. Not all police departments have the resources or availability for the gear that would best suit you and your personal safety is too important to settle for less. For your protective gear specifically, it is imperative to know what exactly you will be protected against and to what level of effectiveness they possess. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider your next investment.

Assessing Your Risk Potential

Based on the area of your PD's jurisdiction and the type of people you come into contact with on a daily basis, the first thing is to assess the possible threats that you could face. Aside from specialized gear for very specific situations, your day to day gear should be enough to protect you from any potential threat that you could face, but also not be detrimental to your mobility or cause you to unnecessarily go over your budget. 

What Protection Level Do You Need

After determining what possible threats you may face, you can properly assess any equipment you come across and determine whether or not it will be a worthwhile investment. When looking at protective vests there are a number of factors to consider. Primarily the first thing you will look for is the vest’s protection level. These levels are set by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and range from Level I, which protects the wearer from the most basic of small caliber rounds, through levels III and IV, the highest levels of protection short of specialized armor which protects from high caliber rounds and armor piercing rounds.

Generally Level I is not considered as fulfilling NIJ standards and is not very effective in most expected situations. Levels II through IIIA are designed to be effective against small caliber rounds, the higher levels being more effective at higher velocities and at closer range. Vests of these levels are typically composed of soft armor plate consisting of kevlar or other soft materials. Vests at Levels III and IV are additionally effective against larger rounds from firearms such as assault rifles or marksman rifles. They can be composed of either soft or hard armor plates. For more detailed information on NIJ’s standards and what types of rounds at what velocities each level is effective against, you can read our more in depth article here or visit the NIJ’s Website here.

You will also want to consider whether you need a body vest or plate carrier. They both have distinctive advantages that you should look for. Depending on the situations you are involved in, law enforcement usually use body vests which are easier to move in, fit under uniforms with minimal issue but also do not provide as much protection as larger vests. Plate carriers have slots for various plates allowing you to change your level of protection when necessary. They can be more bulky and more difficult to move in sometimes, but overall they provide more complete protection and allow for various attachments and other features. 

Other Features To Look For

Based on the level of protection that you decide is adequate, the other criteria for the gear you need will start to fall into place. You will want to look for a number of features in vests that will become extremely helpful in performing your daily duties. The most important of these features is comfort. Do not use a vest that is not comfortable as you will be wearing it for a majority of if not for the entire day. It also needs to allow you to utilize your entire range of motion and also not be overly heavy for instances where you are required to run, move over obstacles, or engage in close quarters combat.

Other features which are not as vital but can prove useful can also become deciding factors in that particular vest that you’ve been eyeing. Adjustable fits are always welcome as the other gear you carry or whatever else you may be wearing can change. Most vests come with MOLLE systems, a series of velcro straps, that allow you to attach a wide variety of other gear that you need to carry such as first aid materials, firearm or ammo pouches, and other specialized gear. One particular feature that is often overlooked is the quick release system, which allows you to quickly remove the vest in an emergency situation. In the event your vest gets caught on something potentially dangerous such as a moving car, which will hopefully never happen in your career, the quick release system can become the difference between life and death.

The Bottom Line

The last influencing factor in your gear of choice is usually budget. If you've found a vest at the right protection level and has most if not all of the features that you're looking for, the price will usually be worth the investment. There is nothing worth more than your life and the ability to return home at the end of your shift. Whether you're looking for a concealed vest or a plate carrier, you can try communicating with your police department and seeing if they have gear that you may be looking for or if there are any programs available to help you procure the gear you need. 

 

What Do The NIJ Protection Levels Mean?

What Do The NIJ Protection Levels Mean?

For many centuries, warriors and soldiers have continuously searched for better and more feasible methods to protect themselves from oncoming attacks and deadly weapons.

From the knights of the medieval age in their shining armor to Japanese samurai and their softer body armor, personal protection has always been a priority of people who go into battle. Steel, chainmail, and leather are examples of past armor materials, which served as adequate in a time of blades and arrows.

Fast forward to several decades, and large-scale melee warfare has become obsolete. Now firearms and artillery reign on the battlefield. The heavy, bulky, and rigid materials of the past are replaced with much lighter and more rigid synthetic fibers, sewn together to form ballistic vests worn over clothing or even concealed.

How does a body armor work and how much force is required to stop a bullet?

The body armor’s interior is where the stopping force takes action. The exterior is primarily meant to either try to first deflect or impair the direction of the round and secondarily focuses on aesthetic features to match uniforms of the Military/PMC or also act as camo. Then the interior, composed of a variety of synthetic fibers work together to absorb and then spread the impact over the surface area of the entire vest.

There are many types of body armor that you can find today, and while many police departments or military divisions issue bulletproof vests, they don’t necessarily make for the perfect fit. There are organizations that allow their operatives to personally select their own body armor and there are others who are firearms enthusiasts looking to safely and responsibly enjoy their hobby in the wild or at the range. Whatever your reason might be, below is a quick description of the different levels of body armor.

Level I Body Armor

Level I protection is the lowest available level in terms of bulletproof vests. At this level, a vest is rated for 2 types of small caliber rounds, .38 and .22 caliber rounds to be precise. Due to higher caliber rounds being very common, Level I vests are not considered up to NIJ standards.

Level IIA Body Armor

Level IIA is the next tier up. At this level, protection is slightly more flexible additionally protecting the body from 9 mm rounds as well as .40 Smith and Wesson rounds. The “A” distinction refers to having similar properties as Level II vests but somewhat weaker.

Level II Body Armor

Level II vests provide the same level of protection as IIA but can sustain damage from 9 mm rounds at higher traveling speeds (up to 1245 ft/s) and additionally protects against the .357 magnum rounds.

Level IIIA Body Armor

Level IIIA protection covers all previous protection levels as well as 9 mm rounds traveling at speeds of up to 1400 ft/s. IIIA vests also protect against .44 magnum and .44 caliber rounds.

There are suppliers that offer level IIIA+ vests that protect against shotgun rounds, 9 mm Civil Defense rounds, and FN 5.7. While such vests are not officially certified by the NIJ, it is an exploratory option for additional firearm resistance.

Level III Body Armor

Level III body armor is the first level that protects against rifle rounds. These vests usually consist of hard metal plates as opposed to soft plates. Vests must be able to withstand six shots from a 7.62x51 NATO round traveling up to 2780 ft/s to be considered as Level III.

Level IV Body Armor

Level IV body armor is the highest basic level which protects against armor piercing rounds. They also consist of hard plates as opposed to Level IIIA plates and below.

NIJ Ballistic Level Wheel

Special Level Armor

Special type body armor can go beyond the standard protection rating. Level IIIA+ falls under this classification for example. Special type armor usually has very specific protection ratings in terms of caliber and traveling speed of the round.

NIJ Standards

The threat levels for ballistic vests are set by the NIJ (National Institute of Justice). If you like to know more about the particular threat levels, you can visit the NIJ’s website for more information.

With this information, you can now browse through various types of bulletproof vests with an idea of the level of protection you want in mind. Be aware that the highest rating possible is not necessarily the best choice due to factors like the cost and the weight or maneuverability of the vest.

Take note of the conditions that you operate in and make the best decision that would cover your needs without breaking your budget or rendering you immobile out on the field.

What are the Different Types of Body Armor?

plate carrier bullet proof vest body armor type

Body armor is an essential piece of safety equipment that provides protection against various dangerous threats such as penetrating attacks by weapons, slashing, bludgeoning, etc. It is commonly known to be used by military personnel, police, security guards, and bodyguards, however, it is now being used by private citizens who also need protection against said threats. If you are a private citizen who wants body armor for your personal protection, you should have a better understanding about body armor before you actually buy one. This article will provide you relevant information about the different types of body armor so that you can choose the appropriate armor for your needs.

Ballistic Protection

Hard plate armorBallistic protection is the most common type of body armor and is also popularly known as ‘bulletproof vest’ or ‘bullet resistant armor’. This type of body armor provides resistance to bullets, though exactly what types of bullets to resist depends on the level the armor is categorized at. Ballistic protection levels are assigned based on the ammunition the body armor can stop, with higher levels capable of resisting stronger ammunition.

Bulletproof armors can be categorized as Level IIA, Level II, Level IIIA, Level III, or Level IV armors. Levels IIA to Level IIIA armors are designed to offer protection against most of the commonly available firearms such as 9mm, .357 magnum, and .44 magnum firearms. Bulletproof vests at these levels use soft materials like Kevlar, which is strong and can trap and slow bullets to a complete stop. These levels of armor are also referred to as ‘soft armors’.

On the other hand, higher ballistic armors of levels III and IV are designed to provide protection against large, high-velocity bullets such as from rifles and submachine guns. Body armors at these levels are in a form of hard rigid plates made from materials like ceramics, polyethylene, steel or titanium. That’s why they are also referred to as ‘hard armors’ or ‘hard plated armors’. The plates are incorporated to the vests or plate carriers.

If you intend to buy ballistic body armor, you have to determine the ballistic threat level you might encounter. It is unnecessary to buy a higher level armor if you are not in the military or if you will not go into dangerous places such as in a war zone. Contrariwise, if you’re in the military or any special action units, lower level armors are not appropriate for the job. Aside from that, there are other criteria to consider such as cost, comfort, and weight of the body armor. For more factors you can refer to our guide about the 10 Things to Consider when Buying a Bullet Proof Vest.

Edged Blade Protection

Commonly referred to as stab protection or stab proof, this type of body armor provides protection against attacks using cutting tools or weapons such as knives, swords, axes, broken bottles, etc. This type of armor differs from bulletproof armor in the way it was designed and made. Many may think that a bulletproof vest is capable of stopping edged blade attacks when in fact it was the contrary. An edged blade weapon, like a knife, cuts through the protective fabric of the vest instead of getting trapped within the fibers like a bullet does so there is still the possibility to be injured. Aside from Kevlar or similar materials used for bulletproof vests, material like chain mail or laminate is being applied to stop edged weapons from cutting the protective fibers.

Spike Protection

Some may interchangeably use the words spike and stab to refer to any sharp objects that may cause a threat, the terms are actually not significantly different. Spike refers to objects like long nails, needles, ice picks, screwdrivers and stilettos which can penetrate or pierce through the tiny spaces between the threads in the fabric of the body armor. So spike protection in a body armor has been developed to stop or to resist those sharp objects.

Layers of laminated plastic are being applied to create a solid surface. Spike proof vests will usually have Kevlar and probably chain mail beneath this plastic laminate, which helps absorb the impact of an attack.

Multi-threat Armor

We have already identified the different types of body armor that provide protection against specific threats, however, those body armors cannot possibly provide protection against the other threats. A bulletproof vest does not guarantee resistance against spike weapons, same goes to stab proof vest which cannot prevent bullets.

Fortunately, it is now possible to purchase multi-threat armor that provides protection against other types of weapons. For example, it is possible to have the Kevlar plates in stab proof vests laminated to make them spike proof. Of course, this setup is expected to be costly, however, a life that will be saved by this armor system cannot be compared to any price. The multi-threat armor will be helpful for those who will be facing multiple threats, or those who may not know what weapons their attackers will use against them. For the people in the law enforcement, it is necessary to have complete protection against a wide variety of threats that’s why a multi-threat vest is a must-have.

No matter what type of body armor you choose to use, you must always remember to be safe because no other things can guarantee your safety but yourself.

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Bullet Proof Vests: Then and Now

Bullet Proof Vests: Then and Now

Conflict has marked history many times each with its own weapons whether it be the swords and spears of the past, to the rifles and vehicles that are used in modern warfare. Ballistics and anti-ballistics technology have both come a very long way since their ancient predecessors.    

New Armor for a New Threat

chinesehandcannonThe first recorded use of firearms began in the 1100’s in China which consisted of small handheld cannons known as firelances, filled with gunpowder and occasionally shrapnel. This technology would soon start to spread through the Middle East and eventually to Europe via the Silk Road.

By the 1300’s firearms would become commonplace in the form of gunpowder rifles or even smaller hand cannons. It was not until the 1500’s that bullet repelling armor would start to be actively developed. In 1538, Francesco Maria I della Rovere, the Italian Duke of Urbino, commissioned a Milan armorer by the name of Fillipo Negroli to create a piece of armor that would protect him from gunfire. The result was the first “bulletproof vest” made most likely of Damascus steel that could repel the bullets of that time. This vest saw no use as the duke would die of poisoning, but it would become the first recorded attempt in anti ballistic technology also giving rise to the term “bulletproof” by the late 1500’s as awareness and discussion on the subject grew.

A Growing Need

As firearms became a staple of warfare, the need to respond with proper protection arose and the culmination of multiple civilizations’ development would slowly lead to the bulletproof vests and plate carriers so commonly used now. During the English Civil War from 1642 to 1645, Oliver Cromwell’s troops were fitted with double layered metal vests intended to stop bullets. Meanwhile records from Japan and Korea in the 1800’s reveal that their soldiers were fitted with the first soft body armor made from silk, effective against low velocity bullets.

nedkellyarmorIn 1870’s Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang would become infamous in Australia for a string of murders and bank robberies, but they are most well known for their final standoff in 1880. On the run from the police, Ned Kelly would take over a hotel in Glenrowan, Victoria with about 60 hostages and have his crew fitted with suits made entirely of metal which were extremely heavy but effective against firearms. These suits unfortunately did not protect the arms or legs and Ned Kelly was injured and captured.

 


The Turning Point

The 20th century would mark the beginning of modern ballistic protection beginning in 1901 with President William McKinley’s assassination. This would cause the US to begin investigating soft body armor but would quickly be abandoned due to rising expenses despite the fact that they were ineffective against modern firearms.

World Wars I and II would come and go with their own take on anti-ballistics with the Brewster Body Shield, a fairly heavy vest made of nickel chrome steel in 1914 and the Flak Jacket in 1939 which was difficult to wear and not very effective yet offered a sense of protection, raising morale amongst the ranks.

The biggest innovation came in 1960 with the discovery of synthetic aramid fibers which made for a light yet strong material, perfect for bulletproof protection without sacrificing mobility. A number of various manufacturers would develop these fibers, the most notable being Kevlar created in 1965 and they continue to be used in today’s bulletproof vests.   


Today and the Future

futurearmorToday there is a large variety of anti ballistic gear available for military as well as commercial use. Manufacturers and developers however are constantly searching for new materials or new methods to create. At Bulletproof Zone we hope to do the same and partner with progressive manufacturers so that you have access to only the best available bulletproof vests and plate carriers on the market.