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.
Protech Armored Products
Protech Armored Products' Trimax vest provides a variety of options to increase your protection during a tactical entry or other high-risk operation.
The Trimax protects you with its standard features such as removable NIJ Level IIIA ballistic panels; full front, back, and overlapping side protection; and an attachment for upper-arm and groin protection.
Convenient features include weapon retention pads, dual microphone tabs, built-in wire channels, rear "officer-down" strap, and an expandable 8-inch elastic side closure system.
A detachable yoke system that protects shoulders, collar, and throat is available as an option, as are detachable ballistic protection for shoulders, upper arm, and groin.
The new Titan LT3A from PT Armor uses Twaron LFT to provide its shock absorbency and ballistic stopping power. It meets NIJ threat Level IIIA, hence the name.
The lightweight Titan LT3A weighs only .95 pounds per square foot and is .19 inches thick. Because it is made of Twaron microfibers, the vest can withstand clusters of rounds landing within a small area without bunching up.
PT Armor offers an attrition rate warranty on its Titan LT3A vest. The company will recut it to fit an officer of equal or smaller size for the life of the ballistic warranty. The agency incurs only the charge for a new cover.
RBR Tactical Armor
The RBR 203-60 First Responder Vest at NIJ Level IIIA features a side opening style with front-to-back overlapping protection as well as over-the-shoulder coverage and a groin protector.
Like other vests in RBR's 203 line, the First Responder comes with a Velcro-backed nylon webbing pocket attachment system, pistol belt keepers, a rescue handle, a channel for flex-cuffs on the right shoulder, and front and rear 12-inch plate pockets to insert plates for protection against rifle blasts.
The vest intentionally uses Velcro instead of snaps for its modular grid system to make it lighter and to prevent snaps from tearing away from a vest as a projectile after a blast.
Reliance Armor Systems
Although bullets are often seen as the officer's ultimate enemy, edged weapons are also dangerous and potentially deadly. Gladiator stab armor from Reliance provides protection against both spikes and edged blades.
The carrier includes transpor lining to keep your skin dry and comfortable. Panels resistant to picks and knives are sealed in an antimicrobial, antibacterial pouch to prevent odor. Laminated fabric and foam provide for soft, comfortable wear, as do the custom fit. It's lightweight at 1.38 pounds per square feet and provides ease of movement.
Safariland's Zero-G armorwear uses fabrics worn by professional athletes to enhance comfort and performance. The satin-like carrier allows your uniform shirt to slip over it as you move while other fabrics provide abrasion and snag resistance, breathability, and moisture wicking.
Besides a variety of materials, Safariland offers more than 400 unique panel shapes so your vest will fit your specific body type.
In addition, special straps and fasteners make Zero-G vests easily adjustable. Repositionable NeoSoft straps allow you to change the length of the strap at the anchor point. QwikTab fasteners are low profile so they won't show through your uniform shirt and they can be loosened or tightened without help so you can adjust your straps in the field if necessary.
Second Chance Body Armor
The sixth generation Monarch Summit line of body armor from Second Chance is 15 percent lighter and 20 percent more breathable than previous generations. Made with all aramid fiber materials from Simula and Teijin Twaron, it is available in NIJ levels IIA, II, and IIIA.
The Monarch Summit's light weight and comfort are enhanced when used with the company's Apex carrier.
The Apex provides comfort and a secure fit, enhancing safety. It features X-Static fiber for thermodynamic, anti-static, anti-microbial properties. Its unique design provides greater weight distribution and holds ballistic panels in place better.
The Apex is also very adjustable. Its Powernet side and shoulder straps are completely removable and extra front pockets allow for added ballistic protection.
The High Velocity Gold-Flex concealable vest from U.S. Armor uses a combination of AlliedSignal's Gold Flex and Spectra Flex ballistic fabrics to provide protection in a thin, light, comfortable vest.
The High Velocity's other components are built with comfort in mind, as well.
The vest's standard poly-cotton outer carrier is treated with Intera to wick moisture away from skin, keeping you cooler and more comfortable. It also features shirt tails to keep it in place. Other carriers are also available.
The ballistic panel cover material, made of Dupont Nylon Supplex, is breathable and water resistant to prevent odor and uncomfortable wetness.
A detachable six-point elastic and Velcro closure system keeps the vest secure and ensures it can be adjusted to the best fit.
Male and female High Velocity concealable vests are available in NIJ Levels IIA, II, and IIIA, as well as three lengths and seven sizes.