Body armor has been in existence for centuries, but it was not until the 1960s that the bulletproof vest became a must-have for anyone in the line of fire. Whether you are an officer in the police force or a ballistics enthusiast, wearing a vest can provide life-saving protection. Once made of animal skin, silk and metal, bulletproof wear has evolved greatly since the 19th century. Today, it is lighter, stronger and much more affordable than ever before.
Soft vs. Hard Body Armor
The difference between soft and hard armor is simple. While soft gear is made mostly of fibers, hard armor has a tougher construction with built-in metals, ceramics or polyethylene. Both are ballistic-resistant but provide different degrees of protection. Each type of bullet proof vest has its unique purpose, construction, weight, concealability and cost.
As the name suggests, soft bullet proof vests are intended to resist with lower protection provided for bullet impact. When a bullet comes in contact with the gear, the layers of fibers absorb and quickly dissipate the energy in order to prevent penetration. This is the ideal design for patrol officers and anyone in need of low-level coverage.
The first vests were developed by Japanese inventors who made them from silk. Over the years, new materials were synthesized that were more cost effective. One of these fabrics was aramid. Aramid is highly effective at preventing bullet penetration and is easier to manufacture than its predecessors. Studies show that newer materials such as spider silk are still being tested and could potentially overtake Aramid fibers in future.
Aramid fibers as Spectra and Dyneema are light weight and flexible, which enhances comfort. Vests made from these fabrics can be worn comfortably for longer periods of time and are not restrictive on movement.
One of the biggest advantages of soft armor is its ability to be hidden. Because they are light and flexible, you can easily wear them under clothing. Concealing armor is crucial because if attackers notice your protective gear, they might aim for the head, legs and other parts of your body that are not protected instead.
The price of bulletproof vests with optional anti stab/knife panels varies from one manufacturer to another. When choosing your gear, make sure that it is of good quality and that it can meet your specific needs. Take advantage of any discounts your manufacturer might offer based on the volume of the purchase. The clearer you are about your threat level and how long you need your gear to last, the more likely you are to get a great deal.
Hard armor plates are designed to provide higher level of protection, they provides more protection especially against assault rifles, it is preferred by tactical teams and those in high-risk situations. These plates are usually combined with lvl IIIA vests, in additional helmets can be used as add-ons to achieve greater body coverage against fire.
Steel, polyethylene, polyethylene and ceramics are worked into the design to create a tougher, longer lasting construction. More often than not, individuals pair a soft vest with a hard plate for high-level protection. In some cases, a standalone armor plates is worn without a vest. This gear can be worn either over clothing or underneath depending on the requirements of the operation.
Hard armor plates is usually reserved for special circumstances because it is heavier in weight. It can slow down and limit your mobility to an extent. Wearing it for extended periods of time can cause fatigue. However, if you are in a high-risk operation that involves high caliber firearms, it can provide better impact resistance than its counterpart.
This type of bulletproof gear tends to be thicker and thus more bulky. For this reason, it is normally worn overtly. However, new thinner vests that can be worn under clothing are fast becoming popular.
Because of the importance of this kind of armor, you need to make sure you have a reliable manufacturer that sells quality vests and plates. Hard, ballistic-resistant gear does not come cheap, which is why you have to take note of the guarantee and warranty. Getting long-lasting vests and plates can save you a fortune in the long run. Assess your protection needs carefully before purchase.
The Future of Bullet Proof Wear
Newer materials and concepts to improve the design of vests and plates are underway. Spider silk is being developed as an alternative material to Aramid, and there are talks of “liquid armor” making its introduction soon. Whatever the future of ballistic-resistant gear holds, innovators are confident that it will be a safer, effective and more comfortable one.