Whether you’re purchasing body armour for yourself, your team or organisation, it should not be a quick or hasty decision. The primary function of body armour or stab vests is to protect the wearer from serious threats. So therefore, serious consideration is needed before purchasing, you need to get it right the first time, or there could be serious consequences.
Having worn body armour for most of my life and working for PPSS Group now for several years, and with talking to our valued customers at different levels. I’ve really learned a lot about body armour and the threats individuals in the security industry face.
Opinions vary, however, I would recommend 8 factors you should take into consideration before purchasing body armour, I’m going to through them in no particular order.
- Level of Protection: Body armour is typically rated based on protection levels, in the UK the protection levels were up until 2018 produced by the Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) who then was amalgamated into the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). In the US the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has produced their set of standards. The best body armour for a particular user depends on the threat levels they face. It’s important to choose armour that provides adequate protection for the specific threats most likely to be encountered.
- Comfort and Mobility: Effective body armour should allow the wearer to move freely and comfortably, especially for those in roles that require agility and flexibility.
- Durability and Longevity: Quality body armour should be durable and able to withstand wear and tear over time. It should maintain its protective capabilities through repeated use. A lot of factors can come into play which may affect the body armours longevity, such as environmental factors like moisture, heat, cold, and UV radiation. Over time, exposure to these elements can cause materials to degrade and weaken. Proper care and maintenance can extend the life of body armour, you should familiarise yourself with the care and maintenance instructions that come with body armour. For body armour such as ours that meets UKCA and CE standards, care and maintenance instructions must be provided.
- Weight: The weight of body armour can significantly impact user comfort and mobility. The best body armour balances protection with a reasonable weight and ergonomic design.
- Material and Technology: Advances in materials and technology can lead to innovations in body armour. The use of lightweight and high-strength materials such as carbon fibre like we use, as well as advanced manufacturing techniques, can enhance performance. I would suggest looking at your potential body armour provider and observing how they’ve evolved their products to meet new advances in technology and materials, if they haven’t, then for me that would be a sign of not wanting to embrace change and improve their products.
- Customisation: The ability to customise body armour to fit the specific needs and preferences of the wearer can be a crucial factor in determining its suitability. Some body armour systems offer modular components that can be added or removed based on the user’s requirements. This flexibility allows individuals or organisations to adapt their protective gear to different situations. Depending on the user’s or team’s environment and role, they may prefer body armour that matches their uniform Or which is more appropriate for their environments such as high-visibility colours for individuals likely to operate in low lit areas or that need to stand out from a crowd.
- Cost: The ‘best’ body armour for one user may not be the best for another if it is not within their budget. Cost considerations are essential when selecting body armour, its an expensive piece of equipment or even an expensive investment for organisations supplying their teams. Is our body armour expensive? Yes, it is, but the flip side to that is; I would rather make that investment and have a set of body armour that offers unrivalled protection levels than something cheaper that does not. This could also cause further financial issues down the line if it hasn’t performed when needed the most. Knowing that you or your teams have top-notch protection can boost you and your teams confidence and overall sense of security, which can positively impact your mental well-being.
- Testing and Certifications: Look for body armour that has been tested and certified to meet relevant standards. This ensures that it performs as advertised. Most stab vest providers I see are happy to offer or settle at KR1 (knife resistance) standards, which in our research tells us is not good enough. We know from our extensive research, which we back up in our whitepaper, that blunt force trauma is the number 1 threat faced by security professionals, and you need body armour that will offer you certified protection from that. Spiked weapons are another serious threat, I think there may be a common misconception in some, that if a stab vest will stop a knife, then surely it will stop a spike. This is not the case; spikes pass through the micro spaces between threads of some materials much more easily than an edged blade can. I would strongly suggest when choosing body armour, you take this into consideration. Our body for example offers 3 certifications: KR1 (knife), SP1 (spike) and VPAM W5 certification for blunt force trauma. Although the UK Home Office standards are very good, they only test up to 24 joules of impact for blunt force trauma. VPAM in Germany test to a standard called W5, which is equivalent to 100 joules of impact, four times that of the UK Home Office testing.
In summary, all the above points are very important. If I was to single out any in particular; durability and longevity are critical because they ensure that body armour remains effective and reliable throughout its intended service life. High-quality, durable body armour should be able to withstand the rigors of use, environmental conditions, and regular maintenance, providing consistent protection for those who rely on it for their safety. When selecting body armour, it’s important to consider its durability as an essential factor in ensuring its long-term effectiveness.
At PPSS Group we take great pride and dedication in delivering what we believe is the best body armour out there. We strive to improve wherever we can and listen to our valued customers. If you’d like to know more about our body armour, get some advice, or would like to arrange a business meeting, you can speak to our team.
Speak to our team