A bulletproof vest is typically used by police, military and special forces. However, it is not only those who  use a bullet proof vest, but also the private area, which has gone over to the use of bullet proof and stab proof vests. It is especially guards, doormen, bouncers and also civilians, where a bulletproof is vest used, as bulletproof vests today are much easier to hide under a jacket, shirt or sweater. There is many different body armor types today, and therefore it can be a bit of a jungle to find the correct bullet proof vest since a bullet proof vest can be made for different purposes. Some are made to have the clothes (overt bullet proof vest), and others are made to be concealable (covert bullet proof vest).

You need know the different levels of protection

Bullet proof vests are primarily in 5 different levels of protection and can be divided into two different groups; NIJ IIA; NIJ II and NIJ IIIA. These are the levels of bullet proof protection that is made in Soft Armor. Soft armor is the soft aramid and polyethylene materials that mold itself to your body, depending on your body type. These bullet proof levels stop bullets from most handguns and lower calibers. NIJ IIIA is the highest level of protection.

It is important to remember that there are many different standards dealing with how to test the bullet-proof vests. This is due to each country has its different threats for hand guns and arms. However, the most used standard is the American standard NIJ (National Institute of Justice). If you need to buy a bullet proof vest tested by NIJ, it must be tested to NIJ standard 0101.04 or NIJ standard 0101.06. NIJ. 06 standard is the newest and most advanced standard, which cost around 25000 USD to become certified to.

NIJ II-A bulletproof vests are the lowest level for bullet proof vests. These are 3-6 mm thin depending on the bullet-proof material. These bulletproof vests stop a 9mm and 40 S & W. NIJ IIA is as said the lowest level, and there are 40% less bullet proof material in this kind of vest, than a NIJ IIIA vest.

NIJ II bulletproof vests are made to stop a 9 mm and .357 Magnum. These vests are typically about 4-8 mm thin, depending on the material.

NIJ IIIA bulletproof vests are the most powerful bullet proof vest for soft armor vests. This is made to stop a .357 SIG and .44 Magnum. These vests are 6-11mm thin, and today this bullet proof level is so easy to conceal, that this is the most common level of protection. Such a bulletproof vest weighs an average 2-2.5 in a size large, and it is applicable to NIJ IIA, NIJ II and NIJ IIIA that they ALL can be hidden under a sweater, t-shirt, jacket or shirt.

The last two bullet proof levels are NIJ III (3) and NIJ IV (4), which are hard armor plates that are made to be placed in the front and the back of a bullet proof vest. These bullet proof plates have a thickness of 15-25 mm depending on the material they are made of. A bullet proof plate is made to stop shot from machine guns and rifles (7.62 Nato, Remington, .30 caliber, etc.). When purchasing such a bulletproof plate, It is important that you look at whether it’s made for SA (Stand Alone) or be in front of a bulletproof vest, which is called ICW (In Conjunction With). This has implications for the thickness and weight of the plate as the ICW is lighter than a SA bullet proof plate. NIJ III and NIJ IV hard armor plates come in many different varieties and sizes. However, it typically 25×20 cm (10×8 inches) for concealable bullet proof vests, and 30×25 cm (12×10 inches) for overt bullet proof vests.

A bullet proof vest is not stab proof

Many believe that a bullet proof vest can stop knives. This is incorrectly assumed. Bullet proof vests are by default not able to stop knives and therefore you will either need to add stab proof plates, or the bullet proof vest has to be made as an bullet- and stab proof vest by both using bullet and stab proof fibers. Bullet- and stab proof fibers are woven differently and therefore you need to add stab proof fibers for stab protection. If a vest has to be called stab proof, it must be according to the international standards as a minimum, be able to stop 36 joules from a knife blade.

The most well-known standards for stab proof vests are the British standard HOSDB (CAST) and the American NIJ. HOSDB use the terms KR (knives) and SP (spikes); NIJ use the term NIJ. Both of these levels come in three different stab/spike proof levels, where the pressure of the knife/spike increases for each level. The first pressure is called E1 and the second E2 where the strength is increased by 50%. For E1 the knife tip can’t penetrate more than 7 mm and E2 pressure is limited to 20mm. The spike is not allowed to penetrate.

For HOSDB (CAST) stab proof vests are tested either against KR or SP (or both):

  • KR1 + SP1 (KR 1: 24/36 joules and/or Spike 1: 24 joules)
  • KR2 + SP2 (KR 2: 33/50 joules and/or Spike 2: 33 joules)
  • KR 3 + SP3 (KR 3: 43/65 joules and/or Spike 3: 43 joules)

For NIJ standard 0115.00 the vest has to be tested with 2 different knife blades and 1 spike.

  • NIJ Level 1 – tested against E1 24 joules and 36 joules E2
  • NIJ Level 2 – tested against E1 33 joules and 50 joules E2
  • NIJ level 3 – tested against E1 43 joules and 65 joules E2

To work as a doorman, guard, security personnel or else where you need a stab proof vest, level 1 is enough,  as this standard stops up 85% of all threats and is very hard to stab through. Further, this level is also the lightest and easiest to hide under clothing. However, as a prison guard you need at least level 2, and these vests has to stop both knifes and spikes.

 Do you need a concealable or overt bullet proof vest?

You must make up your mind whether your bullet proof vest must be hidden under a shirt or whether it should be worn on top of clothing. This also affects the level of protection as bullet proof plates in NIJ level 3 and 4 are very thick (15-25 mm) and therefore they will be hard to hide beneath clothing. By default all the body armor levels; NIJ IIA, NIJ II and NIJ IIIA are very light and thin so all bullet proof vests in these levels can be hidden beneath clothing.

Today many bullet proof vests comes in black and white, as these colors match your shirt, jacket and so on.

A bullet proof vest must have sweat absorbent mesh against the body

This point is extremely important, as this makes your bullet proof vest comfortable to wear or not. A bullet proof vest without a sweat absorbing mesh against the body will be very moist and warm, which means that it becomes uncomfortable to wear in a matter of hours. It is recommended that you beneath your bullet proof vest have a sweat absorbing training t-shirt as this will help even more against moisture, sweat and heat. Bullet proof vests can be very warm to wear, and therefore you need to be aware of this problem.

Make sure the size of your bullet proof vest is correct

The sizes of body armor can vary from brand to brand. However, it is very important that you do not choose a bullet proof vest that is too large. This kind of vest will be in the way of your work, and do more wrong than good. Many cheap bulletproof vests are characterized by a poor fit and that they are incredibly wide at the chest. This trick can help you to easily cut away bullet proof vests in a poor quality.

It is important that your bulletproof vest fits you perfect, and it should not be oversized as this will affect your movement.

Be sure to make a budget when buying a bullet proof vest

There are many different brands of bullet proof vests, and therefore the prices vary a lot. Here you should be aware that the really cheap bullet proof vests sold from dubious websites may be of a very poor quality, and some of these do not comply with the international standards from HOSDB or NIJ. However, a NIJ 0101.06 certified west, whether it is made of Dyneema, Kevlar, Goldflex or Twaron will stop the same threats. There will be a difference in the thickness, weight and flexibility. This is very minimal and may only be a few hundred grams, and the thickness may vary a few millimeters. Here the price can fluctuate from 100-500 euro, to get a vest that weighs 200 grams less and is 3 mm thinner.

Look at the brand and the company behind the product, and do not let price determine whether you should buy a bullet proof vest or not. If you are unsure about the bullet proof vests performance you should contact the company and ask them to send the test papers on the product, as they must have these!

Use your bulletproof vest!

When you bought a bullet proof vest it must be used, and not hang in the closet. It is a matter of habit to wear a bullet proof vest, and therefore you will get used to wearing a bullet proof vest.

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