Body armor is a good thing to have in general, and for some jobs and activities, it even might be necessary. But, sometimes it might be difficult to choose the correct type of body armor for your needs. Overestimating or underestimating the protection level you should take can get you into trouble, or prevent you from doing your job correctly.
Generally, there are three ways to pick out a set of body armor, depending on which factor is the most important to you:
- National Institute of Justice Protection Level
- Weight and Volume Requirements
- Covertness and Presentation
Each of these ways has its benefits for some tasks and jobs, and drawbacks in others. Ideally, you will want to take all four into consideration and pick the type of armor that you rank the best in the categories that mean the most to you.
#1 Looking at the NIJ Level
This is probably the first thing everyone tries, and it is generally not a bad way to select body armor.
The separation is fairly simple. On one side you have soft body armor that will protect you from handgun rounds and all sorts of explosives, and on the other, you have hard plate armor that is designed to stop rifle rounds.
But, hard plates are also heavy. Even if you need protection from anti-personnel rounds it is usually much better to go with something like the AU3U™ Level III+ which is made from relatively light UHMWPE and is much more manageable than the heavy Level IV armor.
#2 Accessing by Weight
Once people understand how heavy hard plates can get, especially when it comes to something like alumina plates, then weight comes into consideration.
The distinction that you might need here is also fairly straightforward. Soft armor is used for patrols and everyday use, especially when it comes to domestic situations where handgun attacks are prevalent.
But, when you are on a strike mission and will only be carrying hard plates for a couple of hours, they are a much safer option if you come into contact with rifle rounds.
#4 Levels of Covertness
This is a tough one because we are often not the ones who decide how the company should be presented. For police officers and much of the security sector, discrete and covert armor is preferable for political reasons.
Thankfully, there are now options of covert armored clothing, where you can both protect yourself and stay completely incognito with something like an APJ™ Armored Puffer Jacket.
Finally, don’t forget the price. Investing in a good piece of armor is not a bad idea, but you shouldn’t overpay for the plate and slack on the rest of your tactical gear.
Finding good deals where you can have as big of tactical advantage and be as protected as possible is important. Having a good plate is excellent, but not if you lack a good plate carrier to go with it.