Body Armor for Private Citizens

Why? Because, cop or law-abiding armed citizen, in a gunfight the bullets go in both directions.

What’s that Wilson Combat Glock 19 pistol resting on in the lead photo? Why, ballistic panels by Premier Body Armor, some of which I’m testing and which show very promising quality so far. And why is a retired cop testing armor anyway? Because police aren’t the only Good Guys and Gals whose lives can be saved by such products.

A pistol and two Premier Body Armor ballistic pads

If you are reading this, I presume you are a law-abiding armed citizen or what the late Peter Kokalis aptly described as an armed professional. I presume that when you go to bed tonight, you will have rapid access to a loaded firearm.

Why? In case one or more violent armed criminals feloniously intrude into your home.

Why do I keep body armor in my bedroom, one vest for me and one for my wife?

For the exact same reasons. In a gunfight, the bullets go in both directions.  Why do police officers and combat soldiers wear body armor? In recognition of that fact.

Two body armor vests leaning against a bed
Body armor readily accessible in the bedroom.

Those cops and combat soldiers go routinely in harm’s way as part of their jobs.  Most armed citizens don’t. For them, the armor is kept at home for the most part as emergency gear, just like home defense firearms.

Is body armor legal?

Until recently, body armor was legal for all law-abiding citizens to own and even wear in public, anywhere. Unfortunately, in New York and a few other (choke) “progressive” states, lawmakers have moved to make body armor illegal for ordinary citizens to own.

Yes. That’s right. Some of the places where self-styled progressives have told you since the Columbine High School atrocity in 1999 that you should buy your children backpacks with ballistic inserts to wear to school to protect themselves against “gun nuts,” now want to criminalize your children — and you — for following their advice.

Massad Ayoob crouching behind a bulletproof backpack
Premier Armor in VERTX backpack can be swiveled thus while returning fire.

Here’s the deal as it stands now.

Many states make it an enhanced crime or sentencing to commit a crime while wearing body armor, on the perfectly logical theory that doing so indicates a willingness or indeed an intent to shoot it out with police. Some forbid any convicted felon to purchase or own body armor, occasionally specifying that the felony in question has to be a crime of violence. For the most part, though, it’s still perfectly legal for the law-abiding citizen to not only own body armor, but to wear it in public. (I would strongly recommend that you wear concealed soft armor such as the Premier product, so you don’t look like a “whack job” and attract unwanted attention.)

Massad Ayoob holding a shirt and a backpack, both with body armor ballistic pads.
Author with Premier Armor in T-shirt concealment carrier and in VERTX backpack.

Many of the body armor companies that supply police, military, and security make it a policy not to sell to private citizens. Fortunately, some do not. One such has been kind enough to publish this list of state-by-state laws, current as of April 2023. You can read it at

Beyond the Gun

In 2010, I was invited to speak at a body armor symposium related to officer safety at the annual conference of IACP, the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The point I made was that a high 40th percentile of body armor saves had been “non-weapons” events: cops saved in car crashes, stompings, and that sort of thing. In the fourth quarter of 1996, I had become Second Chance Body Armor Save #682 and Kevlar Survivors Club member #1946…in a car crash. I had been driving the stated 45 MPH speed limit on a secondary road when a 16-year-old girl with a new driver’s license pulled out of a side road straight in front of me. There had been no time to stop, only time to turn the wheel and instead of hitting her driver’s door head-on, destroying the front of her Chevy Cavalier. She emerged unscathed.

I didn’t. I had been stupid enough to not be wearing a seat belt. The impact drove my chest into the steering wheel with an impact that felt like I’d been hit with a baseball bat, blotted out immediately by my head hitting the windshield. The airbag did not deploy.

The Second Chance SuperFeatherlight ballistic vest did.

The doctors told me later that without the vest I would have died from flail chest, the sternum and front rib cage being broken loose and causing fatal suffocation, and that instead of six months post-concussion syndrome and some hearing loss I would have probably had an open skull fracture with brain matter on the windshield.

I mention that because, at the time of the crash, I was off-duty — the equivalent of an armed citizen. I lived and worked in New Hampshire, which has brutal winters. I was already aware of how many cops had been saved by vests in crashes, and had learned in uniform that with the vest on the warmth and wind-breaking capability of a Kevlar vest let me be in the cold without heavy outerwear that limited my range of movement. In winter, I learned that if I wore my Kevlar vest under a flannel shirt and a duck-down vest, I would be warm enough and much more comfortable and flexible. I got into the habit of wearing it off-duty in such weather, and it saved my life that day.

After 43 years of police work, I retired in 2017. I still keep body armor at the bedside. Retired to warmer climes I no longer wear it regularly in winter, but keep it for home defense. Making my living primarily as a firearms instructor, I’ll wear it when teaching higher-risk things, like shooting on the move where I have to be with the student, and between him and the others if he falls while shooting with a gun in his hand and his finger on the trigger.

Any of us are one night away from discovering that we’re being stalked, or are otherwise in accelerated danger. There ain’t much time to order and acclimate to a vest. We all dry fire to maintain skills, right? Dry fire should always be done with a backstop, and a Kevlar or Twaron vest placed against a wall is perfect for that.

If any misguided legislators in your state want to ban good people’s right to own body armor, speak out strongly against them! The sword and the shield go hand to hand when righteously fighting: don’t let them deny you your sword or gun, nor your shield or your protective armor.

Rich Davis standing on a tower with a microphone.
This is Richard Davis, the armed citizen wounded in a gunfight in which he defeated three armed robbers, who decided there had to be something better to stop bullets with than one’s own body. He created the soft body armor that “bulletproofed America’s police.”

Check out Premier Body Armor. I’m liking it so far, and the prices are hard to beat. I expect to get some good use out of their VERTX backpack with Level IIIa ballistic insert.

Massad "Mas" Ayoob is a well respected and widely regarded SME in the firearm world. He has been a writer, editor, and law enforcement columnist for decades, and has published thousands of articles and dozens of books on firearms, self-defense, use of force, and related topics. Mas, a veteran police officer, was the first to earn the title of Five Gun Master in the International Defensive Pistol Association. He served nearly 20 years as chair of the Firearms Committee of the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers and is also a longtime veteran of the Advisory Bard of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. A court-recognized expert witness in shooting cases since 1979, Ayoob founded the Lethal Force Institute in 1981 and served as its director until 2009. He continues to instruct through Massad Ayoob Group,

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap