Body Armor Guide

Body Armor Guide

Uses of body armor today go well beyond the battlefield or war. If you’re new to the body armor world, there is a lot you might not know, but you might be wondering. Luckily for you, we have put together a beginner’s guide to body armor. We will explain the different types of body armor, give you a basic understanding of threat levels, as well as how to differentiate between body armor vests.

What Is Body Armor?

Body armor is protective clothing that someone wears to absorb or defect from physical attacks which might otherwise harm them. Originally being used in the military by soldiers in war, it has many uses today to protect people in different professions. Riot police, private bodyguards, or ordinary citizens are among the most popular types of people who wear body armor on a regular basis.

Body armor is typically split into 2 categories: soft and hard body armor. Choosing between the 2 depends on the type of protection you require. There are also different types of body armor for different levels of protection against different threats. Knowing what you want to be protected against is key to choosing the right body armor for you.

Is It Illegal To Wear Body Armor In Public?

In the US, it is legal for anyone to purchase body armor, whether online or in person, and there is no need for background checks or needing an ID. However, it is important to note that each individual state has individual laws as too when and why someone can wear body armor. Most states allow for anyone to buy and wear body armor except those with felony convictions. However, some states have stricter laws, such as Connecticut, where residents cannot buy body armor online and cannot have body armor shipped from outside Connecticut. In New York laws prohibit the sale of "bullet-resistant soft body armor" but allow for plate carrier vests with hard plates.

Other countries vary. Australia, for example, prohibits anyone from possessing body armor without granted authorization in specific territories. In the UK, there aren’t any restrictions on buying or owning body armor. In Canada, you need to have a license to wear body armor, and in the EU, body armor that’s used for military usage is forbidden to be used by citizens.

Each country will have its own specific laws and regulations. It is vital to research your own countries/state laws before purchasing any body armor to ensure you aren’t breaking any laws.

Different Types Of Body Armor

Body Armor Vest

Bulletproof Vest

Also known as a bulletproof or ballistic vest, this is an item of body armor that helps absorb and reduce the impact to the torso from fragmentation from explosions and firearm-fired projectiles. This is usually worn by police officers, correctional officers, security guards, and some regular citizens. Depending on what you need protection from, there are different types of vests, for different levels of protection.

Soft Armor Plates

Soft armor plate inserts

Soft armor plates are flexible and soft, but still extremely strong and protective. They are light and not bulky and are usually worn as a concealed body armor vest or plate carrier.


Hard Armor Plates

Hard body armor plates provide the highest level of protection possible but are not as comfortable or light as soft armor plates. They can be inserted into plate carriers or body armor vests.

Concealed Vest

Concealed Body Armor

Concealed body armor vests are designed to be worn under street clothes, or uniforms. Due to soft armor panels, they are designed not to be seen, but to provide full protection from bullet and stab threats. They provide protection at the front, back, and sides of the torso.

Full Body Tactical Armor

Body Armor or Bulletproof vest

The military usually wears full body armor. It consists of front, side, and back protection in a vest, which can be joined with armor that covers the majority of the body such as a helmet and protection for the arms and legs. This is intended to be worn on show above clothes, as opposed to the concealed vest.

Bulletproof Military Plate Carrier

Plate carriers are another type of bulletproof vest, but which are lighter and more comfortable than the full-body armor vests. They can hold soft or hard armor plates to provide different levels of protection required. As they are lighter options yet still provide very strong protection, they are a popular choice for the military and police services.

Edge-Blade and Spike Protection

Edge-blade refers to commercial knives that do not come to a fine point. Protection against this blade is against slashing or stabbing of such an instrument. Spike weapons refer to any harmful instrument that has a fine-pointed tip. This does not include shrapnel that is projected from an explosive. Spike weapons could refer to a syringe or anything that has a sharp-tipped edge.

Protection against stabbings may be slightly different to ballistic protection. The stab vest may have fibers woven tighter and more layers to prevent an edge-blade or spike from penetrating the skin. 

Multi Armor Threat

Multi-threat armor provides protection against multiple different types of weapons and attacks. This type of armor is useful if someone is facing multiple threats or does not know what weapons their attackers may have. This type of armor is beneficial for people working in Law Enforcement, who are required to have complete protection against a wide variety of threats. The types of body armor could be to have stab-proof vests, which are also spike-proof at the same time.

Body Armor For Women

female specific body armor

Whilst we have gone through several types of body armor, all of these are primarily designed for men. However, body armor for women has more recently undergone a transformation and new unique designs have taken into account the women who need to wear body armor. Source’s BarCurve insert allows for better protection and wearability for female staff. This insert can be placed into some of Source’s body armor to adapt it for women’s wearability. Source also has torso modeling according to the cup size of women. 

Different NIJ Certification Threat Levels

The U.S. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has established different performance levels of body armor to ensure that users know what their body armor will protect them from. It is split into 5 different threat levels:

  • Level IIA
  • Level II
  • Level IIIA
  • Level III
  • Level IV

Level IIA, Level II, and Level IIIA are typically soft armor. However, hard armor plates can sometimes be found with a Level IIIA rating. 

Level III and Level IV are typically hard armor plates. However, each body armor varies in what they were designed to protect you from and it is important to research what level of threat you are aiming to be protected from, and what type of body armor can provide you with this type of protection.

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