What You Need to Know about Body Armor

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Body armor is recommended by many survival sites and books.  Some of our readers who are further along in their preparedness journey have asked how they might have a degree of protection from bullets flying, especially since apartment dwellers cannot make changes to their walls or structures.  In terms of survival needs, this falls under the “security” category, but like choosing weapons for survival, it is strictly a personal choice.  For those preppers who are already confident in their amount of water, food, First Aid, fire and shelter supplies and are looking to improve on their security needs, it’s good to be aware of what’s available.

The last time we visited a gun show, a body armor vendor had a display and was inviting people to try them on. I wasn’t really in the market for one but was interested in finding out what it was like so I gave it a try. The seller had rifle resistant body armor which had ceramic plates inside. When I put it on, I thought I was going to keel over!  I was unprepared for how heavy it was. The whole thing weighed about 15 pounds. I was glad I tried it on though, as I realized how little I know about body armor.

Fortunately, SafeGuard Clothing has some good information on types of body armor.  With their permission, I am reprinting the following:

The Different Types of Body Armor Available

Having the right protection can mean the difference between you being able to go home to your family same and sound or you not making it out of a situation alive. It is important to be sure that you are wearing the body armor that is appropriate for the situation that you are entering. In order to be sure you have on the right body armor, you will need to take the time to learn about the different types of body armor that are available to you. Not all body armor offers the same protection and it is important to be sure that you have the level of protection that you need to stay as safe as possible.

Kevlar Stab Proof Vests

If you come into close contact with dangerous individuals, you may want to choose a stab and spike resistant vest. This type of body armor is commonly worn by law informant agents who work in prisons or detainment areas. It is also commonly worn by security guards who work the entrances to clubs, bars, or concerts. The stab and spike resistant vests will protect someone from puncture wounds that are commonly made through the use of sharp objects. Many people make the mistake of thinking that only knives are used for stabbing someone. Tools, broken bottles, and even ice picks can be used as deadly instruments if put in the wrong hands. It is important for you to be sure that you have a stab resistant vest if you are going to be facing any close contact situation. Some vests contain both ballistic and stab resistant protection. They will give you protection from most small arms fire as well as punctures caused from sharp objects.

Rifle Round Protection

Rifle resistant body armor is typically worn by individuals who will be facing a serious assault. If you work a job where you could come into contact with heavy ammunition such as rifle rounds, this type of body armor may be a great option for you. It will give you the protection you need to remain safe when under heavy assault. The rifle resistant body armor can be a bit awkward because of its weight so it is ideal to wear this type of armor when a lot of maneuvering is not required.

Kevlar Soft Armor

Kevlar soft armors vests are the type of body armor that is most commonly worn by individuals for personal and professional use. It gives protection from small arms fire and is available in an overt or covert form. Overt armor is designed to be worn over clothing. It is often a bit bulky but gives great protection from small arms fire. A covert vest is worn under clothing. It is typically worn by law enforcement offices on a daily basis. The covert bullet proof vest can be worn by anyone and is available for men and women. It is important for you to be sure that you wear the vest properly if you want it to be effective. It is also important to follow the instructions that come with the vest if you want to be sure that you are properly taking care of it so that it can last as long as possible.

Choosing the Right Body Armor for You

When choosing a ballistic or stab/spike resistant vest, we believe you should consider the following in this order:

1) What threats will you be facing? Assess your threat situation, will it be ballistic only, any threats from needles or edged weapons? What is the highest caliber weapon you will face? When you know this, simply use our NIJ Levels page to see what level vest you need.

2) Choose your cover. Do you want it to go under your clothes (covert), or over your clothes (overt), do you have any special requirements, hi-visibility, needs to be waterproof? When you know this you can then choose from our selection of vests, and pick one that fits your criteria the best.

3) Sizing: When it comes to sizing if you are between 5ft 8″ and 6ft you will be standard length, and you can just order a vest from your chest size. You can use the size chart which is at the top of every page under ‘Choosing Sizes‘. If you are below 5ft 8″, we advise perhaps thinking of purchasing a vest that is ‘short’ length, to do this one checkout, simply add a message to your order requestion a shorter length ‘Please send a short length vest’. Likewise, if you are over 6ft you may consider a longer length vest, by adding ‘Please send a longer length vest, for someone whos 6ft 3″‘. Both taller and shorter people will also use the size chart found under the ‘Choosing Sizes’ and pick the size of their chest size.

It is important when choosing a vest, that you don’t overestimate the levels of protection you need, especially if you are wearing the vest for extended periods of time, higher level vests will be heavier than lower level vests, often slightly stiffer also.

Another issue is the length of a vest, it should ideally reach your navel (belly button) area. Some people have an idea that it should reach your waist, this would not be ideal. If the vest goes past your navel, it is now protecting non-vital organs, at the cost of movement, and weight. If the vest comes past your naval it might obstruct movement when sitting down or bending over, which wouldn’t be ideal.


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  1. As a police officer, we use a IIIA vest. It is resistant to most bullets. We also have a trauma plate inserted into the chest pocket of the vest carrier to give us better protection over the heart. The vest is heavy when worn for long periods and it is cumbersome. They are constantly improving and evolving though. Our vests are good for five years and then they get replaced. The constant humidity and sweat decrease the effectiveness of the kevlar, which is probably why we replace ours every 5 years.

    1. Hey Adam, Good to hear from someone who uses the kevlar vest all the time. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Yeah most vests have a 5 year warranty as the Kevlar can weaken slightly with constant wear. If you look after the Kevlar® Panels properly Kevlar will in theory last forever. My advice is to change them every 5 years anyway to be on the safeside.

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