On Nov. 23, 2006, the day after Thanksgiving, Officer Chris Walker of the Jonesboro (Ark.) Police Department confronted a rape suspect hiding in a dark attic. The suspect fired from a prone position directly at Walker, who was able to return fire.
The suspect died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Thanks to his Enforcer Classic Level IIA vest and plate from U.S. Armor, Walker survived a hit to his lower right chest and suffered no lasting damage.
"I had a really big red cherry right there where I was hit. That's pretty much it," says Walker.
Needless to say, this holiday season was especially meaningful for Walker and his family. It took weeks for the mark on his chest to heal, but that was a small price to pay for what would have otherwise been a fatal shot.
"I'm just very thankful that the vest has done its job," says Walker. "I'd recommend people wear their vests. They do work. I'm living proof."
Here's a sampling of concealable vests that just might save your life, too, one day.
Armor Express: HALO is the lightest and most flexible body armor from Armor Express. Halo body armor is made of Twaron microfilament fibers and Twaron laminated fiber technology (LFT) and is constructed with the company's Synchro-Stitch manufacturing technique. Full-wrap side coverage is standard. Available in Levels II and IIA in both male and structured female versions, HALO body armor is designed to offer superior protection with lightweight, breathable comfort. The Evolution concealable carrier features a lightweight microfiber outer shell and an antimicrobial inner lining that is moisture wicking, fast drying, and odor absorbing. A microfiber "wearstrip" creates greater durability and shoulder epaulets hold the Evolution carrier in place. Double front plate pockets hold 5x8-inch or 7x10-inch inserts. An interior suspension system and eight points of adjustment provide stability and adjustability to ensure proper fit.
ArmorShield USA: Certified to NIJ Level IIIA, the Cougar concealable vest from ArmorShield USA is designed to give good coverage coupled with light weight. When used in conjunction with a ceramic composite upgrade plate, the vest will defeat high-velocity, single-shot rifle fire. Features include waterproof sonic-welded ballistic pouches; sports mesh fabrics, a soft strap system, and low-slip fabric shell for comfort; and low-friction loop material for secure straps.
Diamondback Tactical: The Diamondback Tactical R.C.V. was designed with the operator and officer in mind. This lightweight, six-point adjustable vest has the same Level IIIA ballistic package as the R.C.B.V. and R.B.V. Predator vests. The ballistic panels in Diamondback's tactical packages are interchangeable with the concealable carrier, which is like having two vests in one. This means a cost savings and less gear to haul around. This vest is designed to be comfortable and rugged. Made of a washable 65/35 poly-cotton blend, the R.C.V. is designed to hold up well under adverse conditions. The R.C.V. can utilize any one of three IIIA offerings and comes in four carrier colors: black, navy blue, khaki tan, and white.
First Choice Armor: First Choice Armor's Thin Blue Line is offered in standard sizes (S, M, L, XL, and up), allowing quicker delivery time to people who need ballistic protection, and can't afford to wait. The Thin Blue Line series is currently available in Level II and IIIA, and has a patent-pending construction that uses the aramid fiber Twaron. Both Level II and IIIA packages meet the NIJ 2005 interim requirements. The Thin Blue Line also offers the newest carrier design, incorporating First Choice Armor's trademark CoolTek mesh and Micro Fiber weave. The vest features the same unique six-way shoulder system that is built into all First Choice vests. The carrier also touts a new Hidden Zipper system that extends the life of the carrier by reducing the friction that an exposed zipper receives from duty belts and gear.
Gator Hawk Armor: Gator Hawk Armor's new "Vanquish" series vest is designed for comfort and performance and meets the 2005 interim requirements. The Vanquish features hybrid engineering combined with high-performance, U.S.-made ballistic materials. When impacted by a ballistic projectile, the vest's design causes fibers to react with rapid engagement, stopping the bullet while dispersing its residual energy throughout the armor panel. Gator Hawk's Premium Concealable Carrier is constructed of poly-cotton and 500-denier Cordura and lined with Akwadyne cool mesh material. The carrier's shoulder harness system is designed to increase flexibility, while its shoulder straps attach to the rear panel for a cleaner look. It's available in navy, black, olive, tan, and white.
MSA: The Forcefield Alpha concealable vest from MSA was designed to provide maximum comfort without sacrificing ballistic coverage. The latest flexible fabric technology provides comfort and ease of movement. Increased side coverage and limited slip of ballistic panels give offer better protection. The MSA-exclusive Armor-Latch Closure gives you reliable front-to-back overlap. The versatile jersey-style carrier can be worn alone or with a T-shirt. The MSA-exclusive Tri-T Comfort System pulls moisture away from the body and incorporates cooling technology, while reducing odor-causing bacteria.
PACA: Available in NIJ Levels II and IIIA, PACA's PerformX ballistic system has been tested against special threats and blast fragmentation. The SVS carrier features a microfiber outershell with a self-ventilating design. The mesh inner lining's Smart Fabric Technology regulates temperature while Microban resists the growth of odor-causing mold and mildew. Ballistic panels are easily loaded into the vest and held securely in place by PACA's shoulder suspension system. The vest's VersaStrap 12-point removable strapping system and front and rear shirt tails provide a better fit. Options include Armor Ice active cooling inserts, MAC 03 outershell, steel blunt trauma insert, blade plate, and a neoprene closure system. Outershell colors include black, navy, white, gray, and tan.
Point Blank: The Hi-Lite ballistic system has now been reintroduced with the HI-Lite Proformance system in the new SS2 microfiber carrier. Available in NIJ certified Level II and Level IIIA, it's designed to be exceptionally thin and lightweight. Ballistic fabrics are enclosed in a durable ripstop nylon cover. The SS2 carrier features a zero-drag microfiber exterior that minimizes pulling and bunching of the uniform shirt and an exterior mid-torso zipper closure that eliminates body-side seams and bulges. Eight-point side strapping with low-profile Velcro adjustable straps allow for a customized fit. For added protection, the carrier accepts Point Blank 5x8-inch blunt trauma inserts. Akwadyne moisture-wicking body-side fabric keeps the wearer cool and comfortable.
Protective Products International: Designed by women specifically for the shape of a woman, Protective Products International's new Female Centennial Series ballistic package with form-fitted cups provides comprehensive ballistic protection and reduced backface signature while providing mobility and comfort. The Female Centennial Series incorporates the company's three-piece panel technology to provide a form-fitting front panel, resulting in a safe, reliable, comfortable-fitting concealable vest. Each vest includes either 5x8-inch powder-coated steel plate or 5x8-inch soft trauma pack and is available in black, white, navy, or tan.
PT Armor: PT Armor's LTG hybrid series of ballistic vests offers the versatility of a woven aramid material combined with the strength of a unidirectional material. Available in NIJ Level II and IIIA, each vest in the series is thin, light, and flexible, yet still maintains low to moderate backface deformations with high V-50s. The LTG hybrid vest can be used with PT Armor's nylon athletic mesh cover with ergonomically correct ventilated shoulders. Available with or without shirt tails, the undergarment cover is designed with an ergonomic shoulder structure that prevents imprinting and provides comfort. The straps are fully adjustable and will not stretch out of shape.
Second Chance Body Armor: Second Chance Armor's new MicroLite Series concealable ballistic vests feature all-woven Twaron ballistic panels. The concealable, full-wrap design of the MicroLite offers increased coverage over 360 degrees of the torso, providing overlapping protection for vital organs. Laser-cut vents and sonic-welded mesh inserts provide efficient ventilation of heat and moisture. Additionally, the ballistic panels are covered with breathable, waterproof GORE-TEX fabric. Lined with X-STATIC technology, with a permanently bonded layer of silver, the MicroLite carrier also possesses antimicrobial and anti-odor qualities that do not diminish in performance through continued use or washings. The series is available with Level II and Level IIIA ballistic protection.
Sentry Armor Systems: Sentry Armor Systems, the new U.S. division of Canadian company Pacific Safety Products, has introduced the Sigma Six. Its name comes from its six design distinctions: ergonomic design, patented ProTect ballistic panel protection system, 12-point adjustable carrier, CoolMax Extreme carrier lining, ProLoad panel access, and the ProFit sizing program. The patented ProTect Ballistic Panel Protection System removes moisture from inside the ballistic panels. The ProLoad System eliminates uncomfortable seams inside the carrier and allows for easy insertion of a trauma pad or plate. The vest is available in Levels II and IIIA and in black, navy, dark navy, tan, and white.
Southwest Armor Technologies (SWAT)/Arizona Tactical: The Concealable Vest System (CVS) from Southwest Armor Technologies, available in NIJ Level II or IIIA, features a patent-pending strapping system and design that allow for a customized fit and accessory modification. The patent-pending anchor system on each side of the carrier can secure the strapping system, optional Tranzit accessories (including an undershirt holster and trauma panels), or a combination of both. The vest's internal shoulder straps integrate into the top shoulders of the ballistic panels. This prevents the panels from sagging and improves the structural integrity. Removable shoulder straps can be adjusted to truly fine-tune the fit of the vest. Carriers are available in black, navy blue, white, and tan.
U.S. Armor: The Enforcer XLT from U.S. Armor uses Kevlar Comfort XLT and Honeywell GoldFlex to provide comfort and flexibility. Available in permanent nylon, poly/cotton, and poly-cotton Akwadyne carriers, the vest is available in a variety of styles, sizes, and lengths. A six-point elastic and Velcro closure system provides an accurate fit. The Enforcer XLT is available in IIA, II, and IIIA.
If you're looking for added protection, there is now a wide variety of ballistic plates available to supplement your soft body armor. Many plates can be used in both concealable and tactical vests. You can also switch the ballistic plate in a vest to adjust the level of protection, even on a daily basis, making this a highly versatile accessory.
Here's a sampling of the companies that manufacture armor plates for ballistic vests.
Armor Shield USA
Armour of America
First Choice Armor
Protective Products International
RBR Tactical Armor