How to ensure your body armor is a perfect fit
Follow these simple steps to ensure your body armor not only fits for comfort, but also for maximum protection
Body armor is arguably one of the most vital pieces of equipment a police officer uses on a daily basis. Whether body armor is worn outside or underneath an officer’s uniform, it must fit correctly.
Follow these simple steps to ensure your body armor not only fits for comfort, but also for maximum protection.
Get custom fitted
When ballistic gear fits the right way, it provides the officer excellent protection and comfort. Since each person’s body type is different, the best way to guarantee body armor fits properly is to have it custom fitted.
When having a fitting, multiple factors should be taken into consideration. For instance, body armor should be fitted with enough room for movement without being too loose. However, it should not be so tight that the officer is restricted and unable to move. Equally, if body armor is too tight, it can create small gaps making the officer vulnerable to potential threats.
The ideal way to be fitted for body armor is to wear a complete uniform. An armor vest should not be too long or too short. A vest that is too long can interfere with the duty belt, while one that is too short does not offer enough coverage.
Inner panels should not overlap. Wearing ballistic panels too close together can cause damage and may contribute to restriction of movement.
Straps on armor vests should be secure enough to avoid unwanted movement, but should not be too tightly strapped. If straps begin to ripple or buckle, they are too tight. When this happens, the vest can sit too high making the midsection of the body vulnerable. To avoid this, it is suggested to strap it enough so a pull is felt. When the straps are adjusted correctly, it avoids unnecessary wear and tear on the outer carrier, as well as the inner ballistic panels.
Consider body changes
Another factor that may impact the fit of body armor is change in weight. If an unexpected change arises, it is suggested to get refitted.
Officers who intend to change their body structure one way or another need to keep this in mind and let the person conducting the fitting know. Plans to gain weight, lose weight, or intentions of muscle building should all be taken into consideration.
Look at gender-specific options
Some of the newest lines of body armor paneling come available for men or women specifically. This can make a large difference in the overall fit of the vest. Since these are designed with a particular body type or gender in mind, the ballistic panels are custom made to fit more naturally and effectively.
Wear your body armor both on and off duty
In order to become more comfortable with your body armor, it is a good idea to try out new body armor by wearing it outside of work until it feels more natural, and is broken in a little. Practice wearing it both in and out of uniform before reporting to duty to help with the adjustment.
Maintain your body armor
Taking care of body armor is one of the best ways to ensure it fits properly. After the outer vest and the ballistic panels are cleaned, it is best to assemble the vest correctly, ensuring each plate is placed in the right way. This will allow the vest to retain its shape and fit.
Outer vest carriers may be washed in a delicate cycle in a washing machine. However, each front, rear and side ballistic panel should be washed by hand and laid flat to dry as well.
When cleaning or storing a body armor carrier vest, lay it out flat to avoid the straps from overstretching and the vest to become misshapen. Though finding the proper fit comes with the initial adjustment, maintaining the integrity of body armor and properly caring for it contributes to a lasting fit.
Dive deeper: How to make sure your agency buys the right body armor
- Officer Safety