Is All Body Armour the Same?

Did you know that not all body armour is the same? Read on to explore how tactical gear is so much more complicated than Small, Medium and Large.

There’s no such thing as bog-standard body armour.

Vests come in three major categories, based on the weapons they are designed to repel. Ballistic vests prevent bullets getting through, stab vests are great a keeping out edged blades and spike vests prevent the ingress of needles and ice picks.

Choose a threat

A bullet-proof vest may not necessarily protect the wearer from an ice pick. Stab and spike vests come in 3 different ratings, depending on the force they can withstand. (It’s a physics thing.)  For people going into multi-threat zones, there are multi-threat vests.

Body armour comes in different weights as well.

Choose a protection level

Ballistic body armour graded IIa, that can protect against 9mm handguns, or IIIa, can handle a .44 Magnum, may be suitable for lower-risk urban attacks. Levels III and IV, with their ballistic plating, are widely used by people in war zones.

‘Soft’ (IIa and IIIa) vests don’t limit mobility much, and are lightweight. One can choose between 2 levels of discretion: overt (worn on top of clothes) or covert (under clothes).  Level III (AK-47) and IV (armour-piercing rounds) vests are bulkier (think Ankylosaur) and heavier, the armoured plates offer higher levels of protection. And, since buying tactical gear is a Goldilocks game, there’s a modular system that allows for customised protection: just right.

While wearing too little protection is dangerous, the fastest, biggest, bestest bulkiest body armour may not always be the answer. Huge levels of protection add up in kilos and euros. And high-protection armour can be uncomfortable, resulting in the user not wearing it.

Choose a vest

So, what’s a shopper to do? Her homework. Learn what types of weapons are prevalent in each situation before going shopping.

Just like the myth of the Universal Remote Control, there is no universal body armour. The best vest for the job is just that: the best vest for a specific region with specific threats.

Body armour is a single step in mitigating risk in a hostile environment. Pairing the right equipment with the right training is essential when moving through dangerous places.  Check out the battleface Resources Page for more detailed information on gear and hostile environment training.