Body armor is quite simply the most important piece of any law enforcement officer’s uniform. It saves lives. Unfortunately, when it doesn’t fit properly, your body armor can also be the most uncomfortable part of your uniform. However, with the correct fit, your body armor will not only be more comfortable but also provide effective and protective coverage. All it takes are a few simple measurements and some fine tuning once you have your vest, so let’s get started.
You’ll need a measuring a tape and a friend to help you measure. While it’s possible to take the measurements yourself, it’s much easier and much more accurate if someone else measures. For the best results, wear a T-shirt with your uniform trousers and your duty rig. Make sure that the front and back panels will not touch your duty belt (or holstered weapon, accessory pouches, etc.) while standing. Round up all measurements to the nearest whole number.
Chest: Wrap the measuring tape around the fullest part of the chest, starting at the center. Run the tape horizontally around the middle of the rib cage. Don’t “suck-in” or “puff-out”, make sure your chest is in a relaxed state and that you are measuring around the fullest part of the chest.
Waist: While standing, measure across the waist at its widest point. Don’t “suck-in”. As a general rule, the widest point will be approximately 2″ above the belt. If your waist measurement is larger than your chest measurement, select the size corresponding to the waist.
Torso/Front Standing: Measure from your collarbone to about a ½” above your duty belt. Make sure that you are measuring the middle of your chest, not from your shoulders.
Torso/Back Standing: Measure from the base of the collar (center of the back) to the top your duty belt.
Torso/Front Seated: Measure from your collarbone to about a ½” above your duty belt. Your torso contracts when you sit, so this measurement should be smaller than the one you took while standing. Get this measurement wrong, and your vest won’t be comfortable while driving.
These measurements are basically the same for men and women, although female officers may also need to provide their cup and band size. Again, don’t “suck-in” or “puff-out” while taking these measurements. If you do, you won’t get the best fit, and your body armor won’t be as comfortable.
Once you have your vest, you’ll need to make some final adjustments. If you’ve taken the correct measurements and ordered the right size, you’ll be able to make adjustments without compromising protective coverage.
While standing, adjust the shoulder straps (front and back) to make sure the vest doesn’t ride too high or too low. Adjust the torso straps for proper side coverage, and of course, for comfort. Next, have a seat. It’s important that your vest fits comfortably while driving. Ideally, you should test the fit while seated in your cruiser. If you’ve measured correctly, and made the correct shoulder adjustments while standing, there shouldn’t be any discomfort with the vest while seated or driving.