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Body Armor Carrier Styles for Law Enforcement

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Across the United States, law enforcement personnel repeatedly place themselves in challenging situations in their war on crime. From raiding drug dens and storming criminal strongholds to patrolling tough neighborhoods, personnel in the law enforcement sector face may varying levels of danger in the line of duty. To stay as safe as possible, the right training is essential – as is the right equipment.

Body armor is a vital part of an officer’s uniform in many cases, whether the individual is part of a SWAT team, highway patrol, or on the beat. Today, manufacturers produce a wide and diverse range of body armor, offering protection against various bullets, blades, and spiked-weapons. To maximize their personal safety, officers should wear the vest best-suited to the level of danger they expect to encounter in a particular situation – but with so many different types available, how do they find the right one?

Body Armor – Type by Type

There are three types of bodily protection available: ballistic, edged blade, and spike. Ballistic armor is designed to stop bullets by absorbing their energy on impact, with Kevlar strong enough to slow their speed to a halt. Five levels of protection are available today, according to the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) current standard of testing: IIA, II, IIIA, III, and IV. Levels I – IIIA provide protection against the majority of handgun bullets, while levels III & IV feature plates (of steel or ceramics) to stop high-velocity rifle rounds.

Edged blade armor causes friction against knives, stopping them slashing or stabbing through. Spike protection features a tight weave of Kevlar, with gaps between threats narrow enough to trap pointed tips before they can penetrate.

Across all three types of armor, different styles are available: overt and covert. Both of these are designed to provide protection in varying situations, to suit the level of visibility or discretion officers need.

Overt Vests

This is the standard type of vest most people will be familiar with. Officers typically wear these over their uniforms while patrolling certain neighborhoods or urban areas, providing a highly visible sign of vigilance and preparation. SWAT teams typically wear overt armor (with ballistic plates) as well as helmets, goggles, and shoulder-protection.

While overt armor has less need to be as lightweight as covert armor, it has nevertheless become more streamlined in recent years, with a focus on maximizing the wearer’s agility and flexibility.

Covert Vests

This type of armor is designed to provide discreet, lightweight protection for officers in need of low-key defense. Performing undercover operations often demands covert armor, allowing the wearer to keep their vest hidden underneath other layers; certain types of covert armor are made with temperature-control materials, which absorb moisture and draw it away from the skin, providing a more comfortable experience. For officers working in hot climates, facing high-pressure situations and large amounts of physical activity, this can prevent overheating and eliminate the risk of distracting discomfort when they need full concentration.

While stab vests, spike vests, and ballistic vests of between levels IIA and IIIA are thin enough to be concealed underneath additional layers anyway, bullet proof vests at levels III and IV are heavier. However, some covert vests are available with ballistic plates: these are surprisingly lightweight and thin, providing comfortable wear over long periods.

Regardless of the type of vest a law-enforcement officer needs to wear, they should be sure to measure their height and chest before ordering: the right fit is key to ensure maximum performance.

About SafeGuard ARMOR:

SafeGuard ARMOR is a world-leading designer and manufacturer of body armor, with more than seven years’ experience supplying to domestic and business customers across the globe. Today, SafeGuard ARMOR manufactures body armor in the United States and Europe, shipping to over 100 countries. Their range features protective vests at all NIJ levels, providing complete safety solutions against ballistic, edged blade, and spiked-weapon threats.