10 Key Facts To Consider When Buying Bullet Resistant Vests
Written by: Robert Kaiser
Your body armour will not protect you from all ballistic threats. It is a fabric based garment, not a magical indestructible barrier. Yes, body armour can be an outstanding fabric garment, but no body armour is ‘bulletproof’ but only ‘bullet resistant’ and we are very keen to make this clear every time we engage with customers. Every body armour can be defeated by a round, subject to the weight, its velocity, speed or calibre, or the angle the shot is being fired.
A video of our high performance bullet resistant vest and me being shot by a Glock 17 from close range can be viewed here:
Different government and security agencies wear different body armour and choose different protection levels. It’s hard for you or your agency to anticipate what handgun and round represents the most realistic threat, but there’s one threat you can anticipate: Your own sidearm.
A shocking number of law enforcement and security professionals are shot with their own weapons after their gun has been grabbed or accidentally discharged, or they got hit by a round fired by their own colleagues during a ‘chaotic’ fire exchange, so your body armour should be able to defeat the rounds used by yourself and the other officers in your agency.
Stab resistant vests are a totally different type of body armour than bullet resistant vests. Every bullet resistant vest will offer some level of stab protection, but in many cases to a very minimal level. On the other side, no stab resistant vest will offer any ballistic protection!
From the manufacturing point there is a massive difference between both threats and the technology used to protect from either threat is a different too.
If there is an identifiable and realistic operational ballistic and edged weapon threat than I do suggest to issue ‘Dual Purpose Vests’ or ‘Multi-Threat Vests’. They are of course available, but they are thicker, heavier and in most cases more expensive.
The following is of equal importance to both bullet resistant vests and stab resistant vests… when being hit throw the body armour away.
We can compare it to a motorbike helmet. When you have an accident you really should get rid of your helmet, regardless if you can see a visible crack or not. There might be a structural damage to the helmet, invisible to the human eye. The level of protection is now ‘unknown.
In regards to body armour this is just the same. Only because a ‘bullet’ didn’t penetrate the body armour, the body armour might have had to work to the very best of its ability to stop that round and the internal damage the round has done to the protective layers might prevent it from offering the same level of protection in the future… do not take such risk if avoidable!
The best way to clean your ballistic panels is with a damp sponge and maybe some gentle soap. Don’t throw them in the washing machine, don’t use bleach, don’t put them in the dryer and don’t iron them.
The first viable bullet resistant material was Kevlar® made by DuPont, in fact for a long time people called bullet resistant vests, ‘Kevlar Vests’. Well, today Kevlar® might still be a reasonably popular bullet resistant material, but there are really several other high performance ballistic materials on the market, and many body armour manufacturers even use ‘systems’ that incorporate more than one single material in the same vest.
Currently, the most popular ballistic materials for body armour are Kevlar®, Twaron®, Goldflex®, Spectra Shield® and of course Dyneema®. Some of these belong to the family of aramid fibres and some to the family of polyethylene fibres… each offering unique advantages.
Ballistic panels are designed to fit into your carrier in a very specific way. For example getting it wrong after the washing of the outer cover and re-inserting the ballistic panel incorrectly can lead to the loss of life!
The strike face of the ballistic panel is designed to slow the bullet and disperse the bullet’s energy whereby the back of the panel is responsible to minimise the level of blunt force trauma.
Ballistic panels are made of many layers of bullet resistant materials. If they get bent out of shape, they simply cannot be ironed or straightened out again that easily. Also if you smash a sweaty vest into the bottom of your locker, it will dry in that shape.
If at all possible lay your body armour flat down in a dry environment e.g. office. A second option is to hang it up on a simple coat hanger, but don’t just throw it in the corner where people stamp on it etc. Remember your level of care can have an impact on the performance it will offer when you need it the most.
First of all there are numerous cases of officers who have been shot in their body armour, all of which will end up with a nasty-looking bruise caused by blunt force trauma. But it is unlikely that it will even incapacitate you. Many officers shot in their armour have been able to shot back at their attacker, and in many cases they have been able to neutralise the threat.
So what does it feel like to get shot by a 9mm or .44Mag round? Many would think it will feel like being hit by a hammer. Well, that’s not true at all. It rather is an extremely sharp and stingy and very pointed pain, which will most likely wind you for a couple of seconds. Due to the kinetic energy and deformation of the ‘bullet’ within a fraction of a second the heat will also potentially leave a small burn mark on your skin at the pint of impact.
If you have suffered from such assault you must seek immediate medical help and get checked out in case of any internal bleeding suffered due to rupture of any organs.
Many countries e.g. Germany and the UK have their own ‘body armour standard’. The one that is more or less accepted around the world is the ‘Ballistic Resistance of Body Armour NIJ Standard 0101.06’.
NIJ Standard 0101.06 establishes minimum performance requirements and test methods for the ballistic resistance of personal body armour intended to protect against gunfire. This minimum performance standard is a revision of NIJ Standard 0101.04. It is a technical document that specifies the minimum performance requirements that equipment must meet to satisfy the requirements of criminal justice agencies around the world.
The highest possible level of ballistic protection possible for soft body armour is Level IIIA. Higher levels of protection from rifle ammo is only possible with aid of additional ballistic plates.
Any questions or concerns in reference to body armour… or any support we can offer… please make contact with me and my team: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0) 845 5193 953