Body armor is sometimes all that lies between you and a suspect's attack. It has saved officers' lives countless times. Not wearing it is not an option. As a law enforcement officer you're a walking target and, like it or not, a ballistic vest is the best protection you have against the bad guys' bullets.
But while the vests of yore felt as heavy as full battle armor from the Middle Ages and just about as flexible, ballistic vests have come a long way in recent years. They're more comfortable and even look better under uniforms because new high-tech fabrics make them both less bulky and more effective.
From breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics to flexible hybrid weaves and from concealable to tactical vests and everything in between, the wide range of materials and styles available for body armor virtually guarantee that what you want and need are out there. Most companies are eager to meet your agency's needs and will even customize your vest to satisfy all your department's mission-specific criteria.
Companies continue to develop new products as they conduct research using emerging technology. The following are some of the newest offerings in body armor for law enforcement.
American Body Armor
The Xtreme ZX vest from American Body Armor uses ballistic materials ZShield and Quadralink Zylon to allow for ease of movement while providing ballistic protection.
Its carrier design also emphasizes these qualities. It is very light and includes the Akwadyne comfort management system. In addition, a new shoulder strap suspension system prevents ballistic panels from sagging, ensuring better protection.
A new vest design makes it more comfortable to wear. Ballistic panels are now inserted on the outside of the vest so there are no inside seams to rub against your skin. And with just four straps instead of six, the vest is easier to get on as well as a better fit. An anti-microbial Olefin ballistic cover protects the panels from degradation and front and back shirt tails keep the vest in place.
Armorshield's TG series of ballistic vests, made of a combination of Titan Hybrid and Gold Flex materials, is available in levels II and IIA.
Threat level II armor weighs just .74 pounds per square foot, while threat level IIIA armor weighs 1.03 pounds per square foot.
Features of TG series concealed body armor provide moisture protection and a comfortable, secure fit.
Sonic welded ballistic pouches protect ballistic materials from moisture, preventing odor and degradation of materials. Breathable sports mesh fabrics wick away moisture and prevent abrasions and snags as they move with your body.
A unique strapping system allows you to adjust your vest's shoulder and waist straps in a variety of ways to get a fit that follows the contours of your body. Straps are wide, padded, and made of breathable soft mesh to relieve pressure on your shoulders.
First Choice Armor & Equipment
The Juggernaut is a tactical vest created for use with a ballistic model made using technology developed jointly by First Choice Armor and International Cartridge Corporation.
The ICC526 ballistic package is designed to stop ICC's 9mm and .40 caliber super duty round. The ICC526 model protects against friendly fire as well as any shots from criminals who may obtain an officer's duty weapon and turn it on another police officer.
The Juggernaut carrier comes standard with a fold-down ballistic collar, dual-man drag strap, throat shield, adjustable weapons retention system, and a MOLLE attachment system.
Options include a telescoping ballistic groin, a breakaway upper-arm epaulet, a snap-and-grid Velcro or nylon webbing attachment, and a CamelBak hydration attachment system.
Gator Hawk Armor
The new generation Gator-Lite concealable vest from Gator Hawk Armor weighs less per square foot while providing the same level of protection as its predecessors, the company says. It achieves this by using a combination of Gold Flex and Spectra Plus Flex materials.
Thinner, the vest creates a more concealable profile. It features laminate hybrid technology, a removable polycotton outer carrier, Akwadyne cool mesh lining for comfort, and a water-resistant ballistic panel cover. A removable 5x8-inch flexible trauma plate offers added protection and six two-inch fasteners keep the vest secure.
Options include an additional outer carrier, a four-point fastening system, a tactical outer carrier, and a steel trauma plate. The vest meets threat levels IIA, II, and IIIA.
Protective Apparel Corporation of America, better known as PACA, offers a multi-threat protection system for first responders, called the R.A.D. Warfighter. It's designed to stand up to ballistic threats and bomb fragmentation, as well as edged weapons or rifle fire when you add cobalt alloy blade plates or hard armor plates to the system.
Standard features include Akwadyne treated inner lining, 8x10-inch front and back plate pockets, and 2-, 4-, and 64-grain fragmentation protection. It is certified at NIJ Level II ballistic protection.
Options include front and rear hard armor plates, blade inserts, and a self-ventilating system (SVS) outershell.
Dragon Skin, from Pinnacle Armor, is a flexible armor that defeats rifle rounds and makes the company's SOV flexible armor possible. This NIJ Level III body armor will defeat several rifle rounds that normally fall into the Level IV category, as well as lesser threats.
SOV vests are flexible enough to wrap around the entire torso area and still move with you instead of restricting your movement. They are also lightweight, which makes them easier to conceal. The company says they feel as comfortable as level IIIA soft body armor.
The SOV is also diving capable. It is the only Level III ballistic vest available in a positive, negative, or neutrally buoyant configuration.
Point Blank Body Armor
Point Blank's Special Mission Vest (SMV) is a lightweight ruggedly constructed vest that offers basic load-carrying capabilities.
The vest provides extensive upper-body protection, including adjustable padded ballistic shoulder protection, as well as removable ballistic panels and a 500 denier Cordura outershell.
Convenience is built into the vest, with adjustable Velcro side closure straps, two utility pockets, a radio pocket, built-in front and back hard armor plate pockets for a ballistic upgrade, and front and back removable identification.
Options include NIJ Level III or Level IV 10x12-inch hard armor plates, Nomex fire-retardant or 1000 denier Cordura outershell, ballistic groin protector, or a modular grid webbing system.
Ballistics systems available include Legacy Pro, Aramid, Goldflex, Hi-Lite Pro Plus, Fusion, and The Beast.