By Chris Taylor, SafeGuardArmor.com
The importance of security and self-defence is one of the main driving forces behind preparation. By preparing for difficult and unforeseen situations, an individual can stay safe and maintain her or his liberty and security. Building food stores, keeping well-stocked caches and maintaining one’s own skill set and knowledge all goes towards one’s security and self-defence. However, all too many see these factors- self-defence in particular- as a matter solved by guns. Stocking up on weapons appears to be the be-all and end-all of security and self-defence for many, and even the most knowledgeable prepper may forgo any other measures in favour of several assault rifles.
However, as any reasonable person will tell you, it is very easy to be injured or even killed by a firearm. Moreover, even without considering the danger of facing someone else with a firearm, accidents will always happen no matter how careful one is. Therefore, you cannot simply fight fire with fire, and self-defence has to involve more than weapons. You need to ensure you are protected, particularly against firearms. You need a bullet proof vest.
There is really no reason not to consider body armor, and anyone even remotely interested in their own safety should be open to all options. AS noted above, however, far too few are. If for no other reason therefore, wearing a bullet proof vest can give you the upper hand over other heavily armed individuals, and can mean the difference between life and death.
The first thing to know about bullet proof vests is that they are available in a variety of styles, models, and fits, not to mention different levels of protection. This variety means that it can be difficult to know which bullet proof vest is most appropriate for your situation. However, ensuring you have the right fit is a good start. This has been of particular interest to women, who have for too long not had sizes available for them. It is important that body armor fits your body properly, as an ill-fitting vest may have gaps in protection. Women have traditionally had to make do with vests designed for male figures, meaning their protection cannot be guaranteed. Thankfully, manufacturers are increasingly offering vests designed for women, as part of an effort to provide a better range of sizes for everyone.
The most important aspect of body armor to be aware of however is the protection it can offer. As already mentioned, there are a variety of protection levels available according to the ammunition it can protect against. Ballistic protection is regulated by the US National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is widely recognized as the world leader in ballistics testing. This testing is then applied to levels, which it ascribes to body armor. This allows anyone to know what their armor can protect against at a glance.
While all bullet proof vests will most likely use soft fabrics like Kevlar, higher levels of protection require hard materials. Armor that only uses fabric is known as ‘Soft Armor’, and is available up to and including NIJ Level IIIa, providing protection against high velocity 9mm full metal jacketed round nose bullets, as well as .44 Magnum jacketed hollow points, in addition to all the ammunition provided by lower levels.
Each level of protection can stop the ammunition listed at lower levels. Level IIa armor is considered the minimum recommend protection for all armor, and is capable of protecting against 9mm full metal jacketed round nose and .40 S&W full metal jacketed ammunition, which are commonly found in most handguns. Even this ‘basic level’ is capable of protecting against a wide variety of rounds, with 10mm Auto, .357 SIG, and even .45 ACP rounds all covered by this level of protection. The Level II armor, conversely, can protect against all this as .357 Magnum jacketed soft points and the 9mm Parabellum fired at higher speeds. As mentioned above, however, the 9mm fired from a semi-automatic will require Level IIIa armor.
Higher levels of vests will require additional materials, as mentioned above. These vests are therefore known as ‘Hard Armors’, as they will usually use rigid plates of ceramics and/or polyethylene over the top of fabric like Kevlar. This naturally increases the weight and bulk of a vest, but provides much stronger protection and can even protect you against explosives and fragmentation. It may be tempting therefore to simply opt for the highest level of protection available, especially as even hard armor can be worn in a discreet covert vest. However, the extra weight and bulk can do more harm than good, and may fatigue you. Therefore, unless you expect to be facing these types of threats, it is better to opt for a lower level.
Hard Armor is available at NIJ Level III and IV, which is the highest available level of ballistic protection. Level III hard armor protects against 7.62mmx51mm NATO full metal jacketed rifle rounds, as well as the 5.56x45mm NATO round. Most rifle and automatic rounds are covered by the Level III, including such staples as the .30-06 and the .308 Winchester. However, the highest level of protection, the Level IV, offers protection against all these bullets, as well as armor-piercing variants.
As briefly mentioned above, even higher levels of protection are available in discreet vests. Body armor can be split roughly into two categories; covert and overt. This determines whether a vest is worn underneath or over clothing respectively, and each style has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, covert vests offer you discreet protection, meaning you can wear a vest in almost any environment without displaying your protection. However, there are times when you will want to display your protection and therefore your preparedness. An overt vest is worn over clothing and can be augmented with pouches and pockets, making it a useful addition to a uniform for example. Of course, there is no way to hide this.
There are many different options available in body armor, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The decision as to which is most appropriate has to reflect your own preparation and awareness, and most be relevant to the situation you will find yourself in. There are additional options available, such as Tactical Armor and Ballistic Helmets. Whatever you decide on, it has to reflect your own preparation. Whatever the choice, it can spell the difference between life and death.