How Reliable Are Stab Vests?
Written by: Robert Kaiser
Stab vests have come an essential piece of equipment for many security professionals today, but how reliable are they?
To start with, please let me highlight that no stab vests are completely ‘impenetrable’. This is one of the reasons why most companies refer to their products as ‘stab resistant vests’ or ‘stab resistant body armour’.
All bullet or stab resistant vest, or dual threat vests (offering both ballistic and edged weapon protection) can be defeated. How? The stated performance levels are simply subject to the type of edged weapon the body armour is potentially being subjected to (i.e. standard kitchen knife, combat knife, machete, meat cleaver, broken bottles etc.) the speed of the attack, and the angle the knife is heading your way.
Stab vests are made from a range of different materials, for example aramid fibres (i.e. Kevlar®), polycarbonate or if you really want to be on the safe side, carbon-fibre.
You need to know that fine variations between available models can indeed make the great difference of you coming home safely or not at all. Some body armour manufacturers will make phenomenal claims, of which many are most certainly unsustainable. Not being able to ‘read between the lines’ may well see you end up purchasing stab vests, which ultimately will not d their job the day it matters the most.
Governments all over the world have put very sensible ‘safety nets’ in place. They make mandatory that stab vests are being officially tested and consequently certified, so any body armour manufacturer can substantiate the claims they are making. All certifications should be made easily available to all potential customers or clients, so they can make the best possible and more importantly most informative decision.
Each performance level must have its specific certification. This means CAST KR1 certified stab vests are certified against this unique threat: Knives… and that means knives only!
However, CAST KR1/SP1 certified stab vests are certified against both, knifes and spikes. There is a real difference here. Not all stab vests offer spike protection, please be aware of that.
You are within your rights to ask your provider to present the appropriate certifications. In fact, you really should do so.
The following video is featuring a scientific test rig, testing a body armour against a knife:
In regard to the protection from blunt force, or also called impact protection, the situation is the very same. Only because a body armour manufacturer is utilising or incorporating a more rigid material or ‘trauma liner’, it doesn’t mean it is or will be ‘certified’. In fact, its performance remains unknown or questionable until a certification has been issued. To seek clarification, you must ask for the certification. There is in fact a dedicated certification available, the German body armour standard/certification called VPAM W1-W5.
PPSS Group’s highly acclaimed stab vests are the UK’s only model offering the highest level of blunt force or impact protection W5 (100 Joules of impact energy). Our video demo gives you an indication what level of protection this represents in ‘real life’:
In case you have any questions or wish to meet with our Technical Director Colin Mackinnon (27 years with UK Police, Counter Terrorism, Surveillance, Covert Ops and Firearms) please contact us.