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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.