Decoding Body Armor: Your Guide to Different Types

Body armor has been used for centuries to protect against threats such as knives, arrows and bullets. Body armor is protective clothing specifically designed to mitigate the impact of various projectiles and threats, reducing the risk of injury or death to the wearer. Today, body armor is used far beyond the battlefield or war. If you're new to the field of body armor, don't worry, we've got a body armor guide for you. We will explain the different types of body armor, give you a basic understanding of the threat level and show you how to differentiate and select body armor.

Soft Armor Plates

Soft body armor consists of flexible materials like aramid fibers (e.g., Kevlar) or other synthetic materials. Provides protection against handgun rounds and some fragmentation. It is intended to be used for extended daily wear. It is the type of body armor that officers would typically wear while executing their daily duties. It can be worn under an officer’s uniform or other clothing. It can also be worn over a uniform or clothing in an external carrier. If it is worn under a uniform, it is called concealable armor.

Hard Armor Plates

Hard armor consists of rigid panels, or plates, of ballistic-resistant materials. Common materials include ceramic, steel, or composite materials. Hard armor is designed to offer greater protection against higher threats than soft armor. Hard armor plates are used in tactical armor. Tactical armor is typically a combination of a hard armor plate and soft armor panels, making it thicker and heavier than soft armor alone.

Levels of Protection:

NIJ Levels: The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) establishes standards for body armor. Common levels include:

Level II: Protects against common handgun calibers.

Level IIIA: Offers protection against higher-caliber handgun rounds.

Level III: Provides protection against rifle rounds.

Level IV: Resistant to armor-piercing rifle rounds.


Choosing the right body armor vest involves considering the specific threats you may face, the level of protection required, and factors like comfort and mobility. Additionally, it's crucial to stay informed about any relevant regulations in your area. Always purchase body armor from reputable suppliers to ensure compliance with safety standards.

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