Is Body Armor Only for Police?

There is an entire world out there built around concealed carry guns, including the caliber and holster that maximize your ability to defend yourself. Defending involves fighting back, but what about protecting your body? In the past, body armor, shields etc. have been looked at as something needed for law enforcement only. Some will even go as far as portraying body armor as dangerous for anyone to own except law enforcement. But why?

Law enforcement wearing body armor
Law Enforcement wear body armor on a regular basis, but should body armor only be for law enforcement?

Body armor is made to protect a person. We defend by carrying a weapon that can fire back at an assailant. Law-abiding citizens should also be able to protect themselves at the same time from the said assailant. I can tell you as a member of law enforcement, we are not worried about law-abiding citizens having the ability to protect themselves. We are much more worried about gun-wielding criminals opening fire in a populated area where no one can stop them. Thankfully, there are companies out there that also recognize this and now make products that can help protect you and your family.

Types of Body Armor

When people think of body armor, they often picture a tactical operator that resembles a Navy Seal or Chris Pratt in The Terminal List. We lump body armor in with the “assault” look and, let’s face it, that look is cool. But we are probably not going to the mall dressed like that. There are many different types of body armor, and the ballistic rating identifies the level of protection they can provide.  In this article, we are not focusing as much on ballistic ratings but instead on the types of carriers for armor that are now on the market.

Backpacks

Backpacks are great for all kinds of things. You can carry school supplies, clothes for the gym, half your workload from the office, or all your survival gear for the zombie apocalypse. But what if that bag strapped over your shoulders could also stop bullets? They can; they just haven’t begun to catch on until now.

There are two ways to use a backpack for protection: buy a ballistic-rated backpack or buy ballistic inserts for a backpack you already have. Inserts for backpacks start as low as $149 and can be purchased specifically for some of the most popular backpacks out there. With a panel insert, you can quickly pull your backpack around to the front for protection or leave it on the back if you are retreating for cover.

If you want to go a step further, they also make “quick deployment” backpacks that carry two panels and can transform into a regular vest carrier. While this option provides even more protection, it can be more expensive.

family wearing quick deployment body armor backpacks
Quick Deployment backpacks can be a great option for full, discreet protection while allowing them to quickly turn into a full-size bulletproof vest. Photo: Bullproofbodyguard.com

Backpacks are one of the most popular new ballistic trends because they are easy to throw on. They can carry whatever you need them to while increasing your personal protection.

Ballistic Shields

You are probably thinking, “What am I going to do with a shield?”  Our agency recently purchased individual officer shields to place in the patrol cars with the deputies. These are small enough to keep in the front seat and exit the vehicle easily without the shield getting in the way. But they are also large enough to cover your head and chest area. This would also be a great size for keeping in your home to protect against intruders.

mini shield held up to guard against home intruder
This mini-shield is the ideal size for keeping in a home or vehicle and can stop up to a 7.62 (AK-47) round

If ballistic shields work for protecting cops when clearing a building or home, why not have one ready should you need to respond to an intruder in your own home? Keeping one in your vehicle will also extend that level of protection if you feel like beefing up your vehicle safety equipment. These shields can be purchased in different ballistic ratings so read through the explanations of what each level will do and find the one that works for your needs.

Level IIIA Armor Jacket

 level IIIA body armor jacket
A level IIIA jacket can be a great option during the cooler months and can be found in the $500 range. Photo: ArmorEmpire.com

If you want the most concealability and convenience, a jacket with ballistic panels is a great option. Although, this only works in cooler temperatures and will be a seasonal option for some of us. Most of these types of jackets are made so that the panels can be removed. This allows someone who already has panels to purchase the jacket without buying additional ones. This can often cut the price in half.

Bullet Proof Pillow

This is another one of those options that may limit what you can do with it. Companies like RTS Tactical are making premium memory foam pillows that are bulletproof. Yes, I said a bulletproof pillow. They are great for intruders that break in while you are asleep or those nights when you made the wife a little too mad… If you like the shield idea for a home, having a pillow in bed with you gives you the quickest access to protection against most handgun-caliber firearms. The pillow can be used in the same way as a shield for clearing your home.

Plate carrier

If you just want something to throw on in your home or to keep in your vehicle, a plate carrier is also ideal. They are not as concealable as a backpack, jacket, or shirt that holds panels, but they can be thrown on quickly if you want to keep one by the bed. Low-profile plate carriers can be worn under jackets or other clothing for some concealment.

RTS Tactical plate carrier
Plate carriers, like this one from RTS, can be affordable and quick to throw on.

Summary

We take great effort in our training, selecting the right concealed carry gun, and making sure we can protect ourselves. Adding some additional protection with ballistic equipment can be a great benefit to these efforts. Not everyone will feel the need for some type of body armor. The type of ballistic carrier you select will vary greatly depending on your situation and the type of protection you want. If you do choose to take the next step in personal protection, you have a lot of great options out there to pick from.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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