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.
It’s a well known fact that body armor can save your life; that’s why knowing which tactical body armor you should purchase is a crucial decision. Before you start comparing prices it’s important to be informed about the varying levels of body armor available. There are six levels, with level one offering the least amount of protection and the most at the sixth level. It is imperative to know which level is suited to your specific job, as you don’t need over protection nor can you afford under protection. It’s not as easy as simply choosing the armor that offers the highest amount of protection, as each level also increases in weight and bulk. Below is a breakdown of each level and what they offer protection against, as well as a few suggestions for body armor.
Level I vests protects against .22 caliber pistol rounds or long rifle rounds, and .380 caliber rounds. Level I body armor is notably light, but that comes at the cost of greater protection. This is the minimum level of protection every officer should have, and the armor should be routinely worn at all times while on duty. Level I body armor was introduced during the mid-1970s. However, most agencies today have opted for a higher level of protection due to increased threat levels.
This level protects against all lower levels as well as 9mm rounds and .357 magnum rounds. Level IIA body armor is well suited for full-time use by police departments, particularly those seeking protection from lower velocity ammunition.
Protects against the same types of rounds that Level IIA protects against, except the added safety at this level increases the speed at which that ammunition can be fired while still protecting the wearer. Level II body armor is typically heavier and more bulky than either Level I or IIA.
Level IIIA provides protection against most handgun threats, as well as the Level I, II-A, and II threats. Level IIIA body armor provides the highest level of protection available from concealable body armor and is appropriate for routine wear in many situations. However, users located in hot or humid climates may need to evaluate the use of Level IIIA armor carefully, as the added weight and bulk may impede with the wearer’s duties.
Level III body armor is the first vest that mandates the use of heavy, bulky hard plate with softer body armor to protect the wearer from rifle rounds. The soft armor is able to absorb some trauma and minimize injury to the wearer. This armor protects against 7.62mm full metal jacketed ammunition, as well as everything protected from the lower levels. Level III body armor is mostly intended only for tactical situations when the threat warrants such protection, such as barricade confrontations involving sporting rifles.
Similar to Level III, Level IV body armor is a hard body armor designed to protect the wearer from “armor piercing” bullets. It also provides at least single-hit protection against the Level I through III threats. Level IV body armor provides the highest level of protection currently available. Because this armor is intended to resist “armor piercing” bullets, it often uses ceramic materials. Such materials are brittle in nature and may provide only single-shot protection, since the ceramic tends to break apart when struck. Just like Level III armor, Level IV armor is clearly intended only for tactical situations when the threat warrants such protection.
With the knowledge of the various levels you can now choose the right piece of equipment to suit your needs. Here are some examples of a few top selling vests from Galls.com:
Below are a few videos suggesting the best way to properly fit a ballistic vest, as well as how to measure sizing for both men and women.
Sizing for Women:
Sizing for Men: