You’re thinking about ballistic protection products and you come across and ad for a bulletproof vest for $199. So what’s the difference between a $199 vest and a $400 jacket?
I’ll tell you – and if you’re shopping for body armor, there are a few things you should know…
- What will it stop?
- How is it certified?
- Where and how is it made?
- Will you actually wear it?
1. What will it stop?
When it comes to ballistic protection there are ratings set force by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The most common NIJ ratings are Level 2A, 2, 3A, 3, 4 .
The ratings tell you what the armor will stop.
Level 2A is the lightest of all available armor that will stop short barrel handguns (4″ or shorter) that fire 9mm and .40 S&W. Approximately 80% of gun violence is committed with these types of weapons.
Level 2 offers a little more protection, still lightweight and very protective. It will stop 9 mm Sub-Machine guns, 44 Magnums, as well as 9mm handguns fired from short barrel weapons.
Level 3A is the most protection you can get from soft armor. It will stop ALL handguns (both long and short barrel) as well as offer more blunt force trauma protection (BFT). This will stop over 90% of what you will encounter in the street. That’s the reason this is the most common protection worn by law enforcement.
Level 3 is the fist level of protection against rifle fire. This is a HARD plate (either composite – light and expensive or steel – cheap and heavy). The Level III will stop a 5.56mm round from an AR-15 as well a 7.62mm full metal jacket bullets from an AK-47. This will stop over 96% of what is used in violent crime.
Level 4 is a plate that will also provide protection against armor piercing rounds. This protects against .30 caliber armor piercing rounds (Military designation M2 AP), in addition to all other ammunition mentioned.
Basically, soft armor can stop only handguns, and armor plates can stop rifle fire and handguns.
2. How is it Certified?
Not all Certifications are created equal.
Just because it says “certified”, doesn’t mean it will work like you assume it will…
Most “certifications” for body are like this – the manufacturer sends it to a lab, the conduct one test on the armor (usually a 9mm or the lowest caliber possible) and the send a certificate. That’s it.
But that’s not NIJ 0101.06 certified…that certificate is for ONE TEST. The REAL test is a little more extensive….
First they tumble the sample to simulate 5 years of wear and tear.
Then they “dip it” to make sure if can repel moisture Make a note – if you’re body armor gets wet, it doesn’t work. The dip test makes sure it doesn’t get wet.
They also test Blunt Force Trauma (BFT). Not only does the round have to stop the bullet, it can’t let it penetrate past .44mm. Which means you won’t suffer injuries from the impact of the round.
All certified (non NIJ 0101.06 compliant) armor does not tet for this
Next they don’t just shoot it once, they shoot it multiple times with all of the ammo for which it is to be certified. They also do this to randomly selected samples to ensure quality across the board.
3. How is it made?
Part of the NIJ 0101.06 certification is to check the manufacturing process to make sure that the protection is made consistently and up to the same standard every day.
For the other “certification” they only test one sample – shoot it and send it back. So you really don’t know what you’re buying.
As you can guess the NIJ Certification process takes a lot of time and is extremely expensive.
4. Will you actually wear it?
Compare putting on a bulletproof vest to putting on a jacket or a backpack.
How often are you going to strap on a vest?
Are you going to wear the vest over or under your clothes?
Are you going to disrobe when you get to work or the restaurant?
Imagine strapping a vest on, putting your coat over it and going out to eat. Are you going to eat with your coat on, or take it off and draw attention to yourself?
Chances are you’re not going to wear the vest.
Vests are only practical when you have to wear it for work, or you’re going out with the intention of keeping it on the entire time. However, you can throw on a jacket over anything or just take your backpack.
No muss, no fuss.
The reality of you wearing a bulletproof vest everyday is highly unlikely. And bulletproof protection, no matter what you purchase, does you ZERO good if it sits in your closet.
When it comes to bulletproof protection you want something:
- You know will work
- You will use everyday
- That won’t draw attention
- That you can take on and off in a second…without having to take your clothes off!
Is your life worth a couple of hundred bucks?
I don’t know, all I can tell you is that when it comes to ballistic protection, I don’t want to wonder if it’s going to work, I want to KNOW it’s going to work.
To learn more about military grade ballistic protection for everyday life GO HERE <<<