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What Makes a High Quality Bullet Proof Vest?

Discussion in 'Survival Articles' started by melbo, Mar 20, 2014.

  1. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    When you are on the hunt for a bullet proof vest, there are many different factors that you need to consider before making a purchase. You want to be sure that you are getting a high quality vest that will suit your needs well. In order to find a high quality bullet proof vest, you first need to take the time to consider the type of vest that you need.

    You need to decide if you want a soft or hard body armor. Soft body armor uses many different layers of material to provide protection. When a round hits the layers, it is caught and the impact is distributed throughout the protective layers. Hard body armor uses plates for protection. This is ideal when you are going against larger rounds or heavier artillery, Such as AP rounds fired from a .50-caliber machine gun Once you know if you want hard or soft body armor, you need to determine for what you will be wearing the body armor. There are some bulletproof vests that are designed for individuals that work in warmer environments, an example being the safeguard bulletproof vest using coolmax lining. Some of the best bullet proof vests on the market have cooling systems built into them. The cooling systems will ensure that air circulates between the wearer’s skin and the vest for optimum comfort. Someone living in a cooler environment or that does not need to wear the bullet proof vest all of the time may not need the cooling system stealth_black2. Another factor to consider when attempting buying a high quality bullet proof vest is the carrier. Many people assume that all carriers are alike, but that is not the case at all. There are carriers that use Velcro to tighten the vest around the body. This is ideal for anyone who has to move around a lot while wearing the vest. Having the vest tight to the body means that the vest will stay in place regardless of what the person is doing. The Velcro strap allows the person to tighten and loosen the vest as needed to ensure that they always get a perfect fit. Zippered carriers are another option. Zippered carriers are usually only used for overt vests because they allow someone to get their vest on within just a matter of seconds. You want to look to be sure that the zipper is well made, if you chose to buy a zippered carrier.

    Finally, you want to take the time to read reviews for the bullet proof vests that you are considering. You want to be sure that the vests are comfortable to wear, easy to maintain, and provide the protection that you need. Reading comments that other users have left regarding the specific vests you are considering will ensure that you are making an informed decision about the vest that you plan to purchase. You should never rush into a vest purchase. It should be slow, methodical process that allows you to feel safe and confident every time that you put the vest on.
    stg58, Survival Crib, Mike and 5 others like this.
  2. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    I recommend BulletProofME.com Body Armor / Bullet proof Vests for great prices, excellent service and honest sales. For folks on a budget or the savvy type who want something more, this might be the place for you. I have no regrets and I love my vests purchased through them. Good people, amazing deals.
  3. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    I would just like to add some thoughts to this article from a person who used body armor and bullet proof vests for over twenty years.

    First, what specific protection should you be looking at? Specifically the NIJ Standard of protection. There are five levels of protection afforded by modern ballistic vests:

    Level IIA - Stops 9mm (124 grain @ 1100 FPS), .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Conditional dependent, this is the lowest form of ballistic protection available.

    Level II - Stops 9 mm (124 grain @ 1300 FPS) and .357 Magnum, all lesser threads

    Level IIIA - Stops .357 Sig (125 grain @ 1470 FPS) and .44 Magnum (240 grain @ 1400 FPS)

    Level III - Hard armor plates that can work in conjunction with soft panels (like IIA or IIIA) or as a standalone inside a plate carrier. They are capable of stopping all lesser threats and up to .308 ball ammunition (M80 type).

    Level IV - Hard armor plates that will stop armor piercing rounds like the .30-06 M2 AP type. And are capable of stopping all lesser threats.

    Typically the NIJ standard will be printed on the panel or plate itself with what it is rated up to.

    And once you get to Level III and IV, these are standalone systems that offer limited protection, typically to the critical organ portion on the front and back areas of the body. They offer no lateral protection unless combined with a side plate of similar ballistic rating. The military system, whether it is the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) or Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) generally come with additional pouches that can carry the side SAPI (Small Arms Protective Inserts) that offer Level IV lateral protection. And even then, there are significant gaps in the armor itself that are not rated for rifle protection.

    Typically most police departments issue a Level IIIA type vest to patrolmen to wear under the uniform shirts. In many realistically expected encounters, this is sufficient protection for the officer. However, some departments also issue a Level III or IV plate carrier that can be put on over the top of the Level IIIA vest which provides additional protection.

    Military systems use a Level IIIA soft panel vest with Level IV plates that are inserted. It is considered a full system only when the plates are added which offers greater protection. Obviously weight increases as you go upward in protection so your Level IIA vest will be the lightest and most comfortable while a military style vest system with front, rear and side Level IV plates will weigh the most. Obviously training is key in this matter since one will have to wear said armor and test their agility as well as mobility as well as long term comfort and endurance. In recent years, some have taken the risk assessment in using only a plate carrier that affords front/rear protection (typically Level IVA plates) and sometimes side plates. The additional armor is sacrificed for mobility and agility. It's up to the individual wearer on whether they want to take the risk of decreased protection for increased mobility/agility.

  4. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    Additionally, one more subject I'd like to add on. Some will tell you the older military PASGT systems (like the flak jacket) are rated to ballistic level IIA. This has never been confirmed by the military and/or the NIJ. The military designed the vest to stop flak and shrapnel and did not consider it a bulletproof design. Plus, taking the age of the vests into account (production stopped in the 1980s/early 1990s) they are at least 20 years old at a minimum and have been surpassed by superior ballistic protective designs. I've seen a few people do some backyard ballistic tests where these vests stopped handgun rounds, but frankly, I don't trust anyone that isn't professionally certified to do the testing. And realistically, are you willing to trust your life to someone who happened to blast away at something and call it a "test?" Companies cannot list that NIJ certification without having done extensive testing on their product and a one time test of an old flak jacket does not extensive make. So is your life really worth the $150 you buy an old flak jacket from the gun show? Or does the old saying of "buy once, cry once" come into play. Or more aptly put by taking this risk "buy once, die once."

    Furthermore, I've seen YouTube videos and other websites where people have made their own body armor. Either from ceramic plates or cast their own steel. The problem here, again, is complete lack of standardization and proper testing. There is a chance that it stopped a round in the video, but what are the chances of repeat hits? Or if they edited out the fifteen times before it failed. One cannot tell specifically whether or not that home made body armor will work or whether it will prevent spalling (chunks of metal that release from the rear of an impact point) or even be lighter than what one can buy. So again, you can accept the risk of the DIY project of making your own body armor. Or you can buy from a reputable company and know the product was tested extensively and will provide the protection that's listed.

    And last but not least, some companies have and will recall lots/types of body armor or plates. Whatever manufacturer you happen to go with, check the website from time to time to see if any of the armor you purchase has been recalled.
  5. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey..... Moderator Site Supporter++

    Mike likes this.
  6. Gesko

    Gesko Monkey

    Can everyone get a bullet proof vest in the US? here in Germany that's not possible, just policemen, licensed bodyguards and whatever can get one here, but not the average Joe
  7. fedorthedog

    fedorthedog Monkey++

    One thing to watch for if you find an older vest is many were not designed to distribute the blunt force trauma just stop the bullet. Its leave a hell of a dimple on the inside of the vest, enough to break ribs or rupture something.
    Tully Mars, Georgia_Boy and Yard Dart like this.
  8. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey..... Moderator Site Supporter++

    Yes Gesko..... we can.
    Mike likes this.
  9. stg58

    stg58 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+ Founding Member

    Don't forget the CPU.

    Mike, Yard Dart and Georgia_Boy like this.
  10. CrufflerJJ

    CrufflerJJ Monkey+

    I don't know....I still adhere to the old Richard Davis belief (Second Chance Body Armor, before they became untrustworthy twits) that COMFORT is more important than stiffness in a vest. I wore a concealed vest for nearly 20 years in EMS. I went from a Safariland vest (stiff, hot, unpleasant) to my Second Chance vest (flexible, hot, but manageable). An uncomfortable vest will likely not get worn. Admittedly, a vest must still protect the user from penetrating trauma.

    If my vest stops a round, I don't care if it breaks a rib. I'll live. Give me a vest that's comfortable enough to wear (flexible) all the time over something that's as stiff as a board but promises to protect me from blunt force trauma.
    Georgia_Boy and Mike like this.
  11. D2wing

    D2wing Monkey

    Whoa, did you say stop a 50 cal AP round? Artillery? I would like to be proven wrong, but I don't think anything you can wear will stop a .50 cal AP. Much less artillery. .50 cal AP is generally fired from an M2. Machine gun. At several rounds per second. I have used one and am very impressed with them. AP means armor piercing.
    Now level IV will stop a single round of 30-06 AP. Don't hang around for the second.
    Now if there are other levels of body armor I would be very interested.
    I should add that Level IV is rated to stop 6 rounds of 7.62 NATO ball ammo. That is the ammo used in the M60 machine gun and some semi-auto rifles and not counting snipers is the most powerful round your are likely to encounter by someone wearing a blue helmet. Most likely they will be firing 5.56 NATO which is less powerful. So you are good unless somebody is rude enough to shot you in the face.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2015
  12. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey..... Moderator Site Supporter++


  13. D2wing

    D2wing Monkey

    That would do it.
    Mike and Yard Dart like this.
  14. CrufflerJJ

    CrufflerJJ Monkey+

    Coming soon....Chobham & reactive armor, all wrapped in a wafer thin vest carrier.
    Tully Mars and Yard Dart like this.
  15. Airborne Monkey

    Airborne Monkey Gorilla Survivalpithecus

    As long as you are not a convicted felon, here in the United States of America, land of the free, home of the brave ... yes, we can pretty-much purchase anything we want within reason. Vests, firearms, suppressors and silencers, full auto, semi-auto, big guns, little guns, even cannons.
    Mike, Gesko and Brokor like this.
  16. Troy brownrigg

    Troy brownrigg How my next home will be constructed!

    I want a bullet proof vest that makes me invisible! I tested out a .223 at 220 yards first shot I shattered a 12oz glass bottle. There are people with equipment that could care less what your wearing. It won't save you from someone that can shot a 1" pattern at 200 yards. Just extra weight to carry. Staying out of sight is the best thing to do.
    BTPost likes this.
  17. NotSoSneaky

    NotSoSneaky former supporter

    Point of concern for the noobs;
    Vests are bullet "resistant" not bullet "proof". [eek3]
    Most rifle rounds will go right through a vest. [OO]
    It also helps if you have plate armor over the vest. [coo]
    Just plates and no vest under is not a very good idea because of fragmentation.[eek3]

    Opinions vary and mine is worth what you paid for it. [tongue]
    Legion489, Georgia_Boy, AD1 and 3 others like this.
  18. alexanderv1per

    alexanderv1per Neophyte Monkey

    the best bulletproof technology in the market is from Miguel Caballero.
  19. leeflynn55

    leeflynn55 Monkey

    Great read, thanks!
  20. AD1

    AD1 Monkey+++

    I am glad someone correct the "bullet proof" misnomer. NOTHING you can wear is Bullet Proof!

    And thanks for correcting the "stops 50 cal AP" round. I spit wine out my nose on that one.


    SAPI is the front plate
    ESAPI is the Enhanced version level IV
    XSAPI is for the latest ballistic threat

    ESBI is the Enhanced Side ballistic Insert

    I spent 8 plus years as the VP of Sales and Marketing for a armor company that did body, vehicle, aircraft, naval armor and mine blast attenuating seats. Know the subject matter very well.
    D2wing, Tully Mars, Ganado and 3 others like this.
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