Why You Should Own Body Armor

Who doesn’t love the idea of being bulletproof? The idea of bullets bouncing off you sounds pretty dope to me. Sadly, none of us are Superman, Robocop, or a Terminator. We can’t be bulletproof, but body armor gets us pretty close. As close as you can reasonably be outside of an Abrams tank. Body armor is an interesting topic, that can be very deep. Today, we won’t dive too deep into the world of body armor, but we’ll talk all about why you should consider purchasing some. 

What Exactly is Body Armor 

You might be new here, and that’s good, great even. The term body armor could mean anything from heavy leather armor designed for medieval peasants fighting for their feudal lord to the modern body armor used by police and military. It might help new readers to better define exactly what we are talking about. When we talk about body armor, we mean bulletproof, or better yet, bullet-resistant armor. 

Jim Davis attired in full tactical body armor, circa 1994. It has become less bulky over the decades since. [Photo: Jim Davis]
I say bullet resistant because, eventually, bullets get through anything with enough effort and lead. Bulletproof armor comes in two different types. We have soft and hard armor. Amongst the world of soft and hard armor, there are several different types with different ratings. Each rating more or less says what the armor is capable of resisting. 

Soft Armor

In general, soft armor is used to resist handguns and shotguns. There are outliers and types of handgun and shotgun ammo that can certainly punch through certain types of soft armor, though. Most police officers these days are wearing simple, soft armor because of its lightweight nature and protective design. Soft armor tends to be flexible and easy to wear. It’s much cooler in terms of temperature and easier to wear for those long shifts. 

soft armor
Soft body armor fits under clothing and, if worn properly, is not obvious to bystanders. [Photo: PNG Item]

Hard Armor

Hard armor is where we typically get into rifle-resistant armor. Rifles are a big family of guns, and I don’t know of any wearable hard armor plate that can resist something like a .50 BMG. The current highest standard of armor is capable of resisting .30-06 M2 Armor Piercing rounds. That’s pretty standard for body armor, and most will be able to resist the most popular intermediate calibers without much effort. 

Vest carrier plates for body armor.
Ceramic and steel plates for vest carriers. Which one is better? [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Military members wear hard armor when deploying and training. It’s the military standard. Hard armor is often backed by soft armor to increase protection and reduce injuries by fragmentation. Specialized police forces may also wear hard armor in threat-escalated situations. 

Why You Should Own Soft Armor 

Why should you own body armor? There are several reasons why it should be part of your kit. Let’s start with the reasons why you should consider purchasing soft armor

Soft armor is often more practical for people who are looking for armor they can wear daily. It’s lightweight, moves pretty easily, and can be easily concealed. Soft armor is great for people with jobs that can be somewhat dangerous. This includes tow truck drivers, repo men, cash couriers, and even security guards who aren’t supplied with armor. Additionally, anyone who has been seriously threatened can wear body armor for an added layer of protection in daily life. 

plate carrier
Plate carriers are excellent to have. [Photo: Tom Stilson]
It’s a usable tool for daily use. Modern soft armor can be extremely concealable. Premier Armor makes several low-profile, easily concealed armor vests and even armored shirts that are great for daily wear. Most nonuniformed personnel will benefit from concealable, low-profile armor. 

Why You Should Own Hard Armor 

While I do believe soft armor is very usable and handy for specific jobs and situations, I don’t think everyone needs soft armor. I do believe that everyone should invest in quality hard armor. For the average Joe, wearing armor is not something you’d typically do, and if you have to turn to armor, you are facing a grave and extreme situation. 

In a grave and extreme situation, you want hard armor. It’s more protective, durable, and usable. The average person needs hard armor because it’s a life-saving piece of gear. And it helps you to be a little more bullet-resistant. That’s the biggest reason. 

High Speed Gear's Core Plate Carrier
High Speed Gear‘s Core Plate Carrier is available with a cummerbund. [Photo: High Speed Gear]
In situations where the local government is overwhelmed and loses order, body armor starts to become quite practical. My reason for owning hard armor is the same reason I own an AR-15 and the appropriate amount of ammo and magazines. Stuff happens, and when it happens, you don’t want to be caught unprepared. I don’t live far enough from a coast to be assured I won’t be facing hurricane Katrina-like conditions. 

I also believe in the idea of being an American Minute Man. Further, I believe that everyone should be skilled and equipped to be somewhat self-reliant. If you’re self-reliant, then you can help others or free up resources so that others can be rescued. Body armor is just part of that equation. 

It’s a life-saving piece of gear and one that’s great to have on hand. A good plate carrier is an excellent way to mount your gear, so carrying extra mags, an IFAK, and more is easy. 

What Kind of Body Armor 

We covered soft and hard armor, but let’s talk about what armor to get. First, when it comes to hard armor, you should ignore steel armor. Steel armor can stop bullets, but it also causes projectiles to spall and send portions of a metal bullet upward or downward into your vital areas. Hard, hot metal can strike your neck, legs, and more. Most of these are covered with an anti-spall coating, but truck liners shouldn’t be relied on to save your life. 

The most common and affordable option is ceramic hard armor. I’m not talking about your grandmother’s prized ceramic dolls. Ceramic has been used for a very long time, and the armor isn’t just made from ceramic. Ceramic armor is often backed by a metal layer or a fiber-reinforced plastic composite layer. The ceramic absorbs and dissipates kinetic energy to keep bullets out of you. 

Ceramic armor in a modern plate carrier is the way to go. [Photo: Brock Trautman]
Ceramic isn’t the only acceptable material, but it’s the most common. Some very cool modern polymers are working well, but they tend to be niche and somewhat expensive. There are lots of ceramic armor forms out there, but you should narrow them down to NIJ-certified plates. 

The NIJ, or National Institute of Justice, is a part of the Department of Justice. They independently test and certify armor to stringent standards. With this certification, your plates are tested and approved. NIJ Certified is the phrase you want to see. Some companies will use NIJ Compliant and assert their plates are made to NIJ standards but are not tested by the NIJ. 

You don’t want NIJ compliant, you want NIJ CERTIFIED! 

Armored Up 

Body armor is an extension of preparedness. Many of us own AR-15s with LPVOs, bright white lights, and night vision, which is a growing trend in the United States. As far as I’m concerned, all of those things fall into the same category as body armor. It’s just a part of being ready—ready for what? Anything. 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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