42 Important Facts About Body Armor- bodyarmor news - By Scott Burton – MC Armor

42 Important Facts About Body Armor- bodyarmor news - By Scott Burton -Oct 18, 2022

Law enforcement agencies purchase body armor to protect the lives of their officers. It is important that officers understand the proper usage and care of this equipment in order to ensure its effectiveness. In addition, the proper fit of the armor is crucial for it to provide optimal protection.

If you want to get the most out of your body armor, this article is a must read. Also, if you plan on buying bullet-resistant armor this information will help you make the right choice.

In the last three decades body armor saved the lives of more than 3,000 police officers. That’s just in the United States, so it’s safe to say tens of thousands of lives have been saved worldwide. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) has conducted studies on the effectiveness of body armor in saving lives. Results show that by not wearing ballistic armor, police officers have 14 times the risk of dying of an injury.

Once considered a rarity, many in law enforcement are commonly wearing body armor on the job these days. A lot of police officers in the U.S. are making a daily ritual of putting on their body armor. However, there are many facts about ballistic-resistant armor that most officers who habitually wear it are not aware of. To protect “life and limb” all officers should be fully informed about the protective vests they’re counting on to save their lives.
These are the facts and answers you need to know to stay safe:

What Are Ballistic Vests Used For?

A bulletproof vest, also known as a ballistic vest or body armor, is designed to protect the torso from the impact of fragmentation from explosions and bullets fired from firearms. It works by absorbing and reducing the force of the impact. Bulletproof vests are commonly worn by police officers, correctional officers, security guards, and some private citizens for personal protection.

Why do most bulletproof vests only last 5 years?

The lifespan of a bulletproof vest is typically around five years, as stated by most body armor manufacturers. The reason for this relatively short lifespan is that the fibers in the vest tend to break down over time, resulting in a loss of performance. As a result, the vest may no longer be able to provide the same level of protection as it did when it was new. To ensure that the vest is still effective at protecting the wearer, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for care and maintenance and to replace the vest when it reaches the end of its service life.

Does A Bulletproof Vest Hurt?

Despite the ability of a bulletproof vest to prevent a bullet from penetrating the body, the wearer may still experience injury. If a bullet is successfully stopped by the vest, the impact may cause the fabric to press against the body, potentially resulting in bruises or internal injuries. It is important to note that while bulletproof vests can provide protection against bullets, they are not foolproof and may not completely prevent injury in all circumstances.

Body Armor is NOT in Fact, Bulletproof

While body armor offers a great deal of protection, it can’t protect against every possible threat. It’s basically made only of layers of fabric. Agreed, a revolutionary type of fabric is used in making the vest, but a body armor vest is not “bulletproof.” No garment is, but you can count on your protective vest being bullet resistant.

In reality, there is no substance that can claim to be totally bulletproof. In very rare instances, bullets have penetrated vests that, according to their rating, should have stopped them. This could occur from a specialized round being fired that may have more serration than usual, but who knows?

The point is that there is no such thing as a “bulletproof vest.” Wearing body armor does not protect you 100%. So, you must still be vigilant about your own safety by continuing to act responsibly. Risks you take when you don’t have your armor on would still be risky when you do have it on. Don’t be stupid; be careful.

What Type of Fabric Withstands a Bullet?

Soft body armor contains a number of ballistic panels that consist of highly specialized and extraordinarily strong fibers. Woven or non-woven fibers make up the fabric and oftentimes, a combination of both. This particular fabric is very effective at stopping bullets. It slows them down while turning them to the side so the full force is dispersed across the panel.

The specialized fabric more easily disperses the force coming in from mushrooming handgun rounds. Also, a bullet-resistant armor vest is more likely to stop bullets that travel more slowly. However, high-velocity rounds coming in from rifles firing hard-tipped bullets can pierce right through a soft armor protective vest.

All Vests Require an Arduous Round of Testing

Every 5 to 10 years the NIJ updates and further refines the test methods and performance requirements for the ballistic resistance of body armor designed to protect the torso against handgun and rifle ammunition.

It is now commonly accepted that females need body armor made to fit the female form. Therefore, bulletproof vests molded for women should be tested on shaped or formed armor as backing and this is what “Formed Armor Testing” is all about.

The idea is to ensure that the testing protocol for both Flat and Formed Armor Testing ensures better protection for both men and women end-users. Testing used to be the same for body armor designed for each gender. Manufacturers are now required to test each design separately according to gender.

What Type of Fabric Withstands a Bullet?

Soft body armor contains a number of ballistic panels that consist of highly specialized and extraordinarily strong fibers. Woven or non-woven fibers make up the fabric and oftentimes, a combination of both. This particular fabric is very effective at stopping bullets. It slows them down while turning them to the side so the full force is dispersed across the panel.

The specialized fabric more easily disperses the force coming in from mushrooming handgun rounds. Also, a bullet-resistant armor vest is more likely to stop bullets that travel more slowly. However, high-velocity rounds coming in from rifles firing hard-tipped bullets can pierce right through a soft armor protective vest.

Which type of soft body armor is strongest?

A Level IIIA bulletproof vest is one of the most effective types of soft body armor for protecting against handgun bullets. It is capable of stopping a significant number of the different types of ammunition used in handguns, and is the highest level of protection offered by this type of body armor. If you are in need of protection against handgun bullets, a Level IIIA bulletproof vest is an excellent option to consider.

Ballistic Fiber Choices Now Go Beyond Kevlar

DuPont came out with the very first bullet-resistant material, which they named Kevlar. This is why you’ve heard the term “Kevlar vests” so many times over the years in this context. Kevlar is still very much in use, but manufacturers have developed dozens of other ballistic fibers in recent years. One protective vest may actually contain several different types of ballistic fibers. DuPont Kevlar, DSM Dyneema and Teijin Twaron are the top three materials currently being used in the industry.

Dyneema material
Dyneema SB-51 material

As with everything in life there are pros and cons to each one of these bullet-resistant fibers. For example, a woven material may have more flexibility than a laminate, but the added weight means a heavier vest. Due to the introduction of Dyneema Force Multiplier Technology (such as SB-115 and SB-117), more and more body armor manufacturers have shifted towards the use of Dyneema ballistic fibers instead of Kevlar for their high-end ballistic solutions.

Dupont Kevlar XP
Kevlar XP material

What Protection Levels For Soft Body Armor Do Exist?

Unfortunately, the various certification levels set forth by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) are not always easily understood. Law enforcement agencies across the country differ on what level their officers’ should wear. You will find police officers wearing Level II, Level IIA or Level IIIA vests.

In the new NIJ standard NIJ 0101.07 that will be introduced at the end of 2019/early 2020, NIJ decided that the IIA protection level against low velocity rounds from handguns will no longer be used. So, basically you should choose between two protection levels, Level II and IIIA.

In general, Level II body armor offers less protection in comparison with Level IIIA. But Level II is more flexible, more lightweight and often more economical. The main reason for this is that a Level II soft body armor panel contains less protective material.

It is good to know that in the new NIJ standard NIJ 0101.07 easier terms will replace the confusing Roman numerals. For handgun threats, the term HG1 will replace NIJ Level II. And the term HG2 will replace Level IIIA. HG stands for Hand Gun.

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