Certified | USA Small Business
Bulletproof Vest Buying Guide
If you want to invest in a bulletproof vest, it is important to know the various styles and materials, each providing unique benefits. Each bulletproof vest offers multiple levels of protection, mobility and affordability. When buying a piece of body armor, you invest in your personal safety.
Learning about the best bulletproof vests can make all the difference and keep you adequately protected. Bulletproof vest materials can prevent a projectile or bullets without penetrating the wearer's body. Learn how to buy a bulletproof vest and the best ballistic vests for each application.
What Is a Bulletproof Vest?
A bulletproof vest is a type of body armor regularly worn by law enforcement and the military to provide a high level of protection. As its name implies, a bulletproof vest is designed to protect the wearer from bullets, minimizing injuries and savings lives.
Numerous bulletproof vest styles are designed to stop bullets and encapsulate projectiles from weapons. While many people may think they know what a bulletproof vest is, they may confuse it with a plate carrier, another form of effective ballistic protection.
A plate carrier is a piece of body armor where armor plates are placed in the front and back of the garment for bullet protection. Some of the main differences between a bulletproof vest and a bulletproof plate carrier include:
- Weight: A plate carrier is typically heavier than a bulletproof vest because a plate carrier uses armor plates for an added layer of protection. While a bulletproof vest may be more lightweight, this allows for a greater range of mobility and speed, making it ideal for applications where the wearer needs to be agile.
- Protection level: The protection level of each body armor also varies depending on its composition. A bulletproof vest is an effective piece of armor but may not provide as much protection as a plate carrier. The trade-off is that a vest can provide a higher level of mobility and agility.
- Material: The body armor material can also help you determine the difference between a plate carrier and a bulletproof vest. In general, a plate carrier is made of an ordinary fabric vest with slots for armor plates. On the other hand, a vest does not feature these removable armor plates but can be made of lightweight or breathable fabric.
- Wearability: One way to differentiate between a vest and plate carrier is that ballistic vests have zippers on the sides, making them easier to take off or put on. A vest's zipper prevents the ability to put anything around the middle of the vest. While a plate carrier may require more effort to take off or put on, they feature a cummerbund and adjustable straps for a more secure fit.
- MOLLE: MOLLE, modular lightweight load-carrying equipment, refers to extra compartments and pouches for carrying essential equipment and gear. While MOLLE is a vital aspect of a plate carrier, it is not mandatory for a bulletproof vest.
Ballistic Vest Materials
The material a ballistic best is made of is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a piece of body armor. In addition to material, you should also pay close attention to the weight, another critical factor for potential buyers.
Understanding each type of material's benefits and average weight can help you choose the piece of body armor best for your unique needs. Typically, a lighter-weight vest may be ideal if looking for concealable body armor. If you are wondering what kind of bulletproof vest is best to buy, it is important to understand the differences between materials. Some of the most popular ballistic best materials include:
Polyethylene (PE) is a common material for bulletproof vests and is made through bonding unidirectional ultra-high molecular weight PE (UHMWPE) fibers over a high-density PE (HDPE) sheet. On average, a PE plate weighs between 2 to 5 pounds, making them a lightweight alternative to other materials, such as ceramic or steel.
Because PE vests are made from bonding HDPE sheets and UHMWPE, the material can be molded to shape and cut as needed. This material is then compressed at a higher temperature and pressure, creating a cohesive armored plate. As PE is a type of polymer, it offers various lightweight benefits.
PE is exceptionally popular because it is lightweight and does not inhibit agility and movement like a heavier material. A PE vest can withstand numerous rounds without experiencing severe or immediate complications. The quality of PE and materials used during creation directly influence if the vest can withstand rounds without delaminating.
Ceramic is another popular material choice if you are looking for hard body armor. Ceramic plates are often more lightweight than steel plates, and some models may provide the same level of protection as steel with significantly less weight.
One important thing to consider about ceramic plates is that they may not handle multiple rounds of precision fire at the same location. A ceramic bulletproof vest may weigh between 4 and 8 pounds. While a ceramic bulletproof vest is highly effective, it may require a little more care to ensure the ceramic material remains intact and effective.
Aramid is a strong synthetic fiber first used in the 1960s. Aramid fiber is often used in bulletproof and stab-proof vests because it is exceptionally flexible and strong, proven to be a reliable material for body armor. Aramid offers numerous benefits, including strong chemical resistance, no melting point, no conductivity and high strength and durability.
There are two types of aramid fiber used for bulletproof vests, including woven aramid and unidirectional (UD) aramid. UD aramid has two to four layers of aramid fiber and is often more rigid than woven aramid fiber. UD aramid is quite strong and is another soft body armor with lighter weight.
On the other hand, woven aramid fiber is a type of aramid woven more traditionally. There are numerous aramid weaving methods and techniques, which can all provide unique benefits, strengths and average weights. Woven aramid vests are often quite flexible and can even neutralize close-encounter shots.
Carbon nanotubes (CNT) is an ideal material used in body armor and bulletproof vests because it has a unique composition of a high-yield strain and high-elastic modulus. CNT is incredibly lightweight, strong and has high elasticity, which can absorb a large amount of kinetic energy. Vests with CNT can withstand a large amount of damage from multiple ballistic impacts, a vital component for any body armor.
Steel is one of the most popular and highly sought-after materials for bulletproof vests and body armor. Steel bulletproof bests are a type of hard body armor that uses strengthened steel plates to disperse a round's energy to deform the round, minimizing blunt force trauma.
While steel is extremely effective and strong, it is a heavier material, meaning it may slightly inhibit the wearer's movement speed and range of motion. Typically, a steel bulletproof vest may weigh up to 10 pounds, much heavier than PE and ceramic plates.
Steel armor can withstand multiple high-velocity ballistic projectiles while maintaining structural integrity. Another reason steel is a preferable material for body armor is it also has a lower price point than other materials, making it a cost-effective solution.
Finally, a critical element to consider when choosing a type of body armor is its shelf life. When protective equipment is taken off a shelf for deployment, it needs to work. Steel is one material with one of the longest shelf lives.
Kevlar is an extremely lightweight option that is a strong synthetic polymer weaved into exceptionally strong material. Kevlar has incredibly high tensile strength, making it a durable and reliable choice. Once Kevlar is manufactured into a fiber, it can be made into a thread that can be woven into other materials. An important thing to note about Kevlar is it can't be placed in direct sunlight and is not waterproof.
Direct sunlight can cause the fibers in a Kevlar vest to lose their density and potentially lower the armor's effectiveness. Because of this, Kevlar is often used in the core or inner lining of a product and not the exterior.
While Kevlar is extremely strong and durable by itself, it can be made even stronger when bonded with composite materials. Because Kevlar is relatively thin, it is ideal to be worn under clothing and can be concealed. Kevlar is also used when making overt vests that are often worn by law enforcement or military operatives. Kevlar is commonly used to protect against handgun rounds because it offers a high level of impact resistance.
How to Get the Right Size Ballistic Vest
While a ballistic vest is beneficial, sizing is incredibly important. A proper fit is required to ensure a bulletproof vest is effective and efficient. If a bulletproof vest is too long, it can inhibit natural movement. If a bulletproof vest is too short, it can leave the wearer vulnerable.
Everyone's body is unique, so finding the right size is key. While a sizing chart is a helpful tool, it is important to take measurements to verify the correct size vest for your build. You can use a flexible measuring tape to measure your chest, back and arms to determine the size that may work best for you.
When using the measuring tape, ensure it is level when it wraps around your chest or back because an uneven measuring tape will provide inaccurate measurements. Generally, if you are in-between measurements, it is often recommended to round up for additional movement.
If possible, you should always try on a best before buying it. You want to make sure it fits snuggly yet comfortably and does not leave any parts of the body exposed or vulnerable. It can help to put on all of your clothing, tactical gear and accessories to see how the bulletproof vest fits with your full equipment.
Each vest style may also fit slightly differently. While you may be a medium in some brands or materials, you may need a small or even a large in other options depending on the fit.
Bulletproof Vest Accessories to Consider
Bulletproof vests are an essential element of personal protective equipment and body armor. There are many accessories available to consider that work well or in conjunction with bulletproof vests. While bulletproof vests are vital pieces of body armor, they are one piece of armor making up full-body gear.
The accessories you may need will vary depending on the application. For example, applications in a hotter, hostile climate may require ventilation and additional bulletproof gear to protect the wearer. Some of the most popular bulletproof vests available include:
- Body armor ventilation: Ventilation is essential for body armor, ensuring the wearer remains cool and doesn't overheat. Body armor ventilation can be used in any application to provide adequate airflow, but it is often recommended in very hot or humid environments.
- Bulletproof backpack: A bulletproof backpack can also be paired with a tactical vest, providing additional ballistic protection. A bulletproof backpack is an inconspicuous body armor form with armor plates to absorb energy from projectiles. You can use backpacks with ballistic plates are stationary or mobile armor. Bulletproof backpacks are lightweight, allowing the wearer for improved mobility.
- Bulletproof helmet: Bulletproof helmets protect from potential headshots and come in two materials, including UHMWPE or Kevlar. The exterior shell of a bulletproof helmet can protect from handgun rounds, compressing the bullet tip into a safer mushroom shape.
- Bulletproof masks: Bulletproof masks are an essential aspect of head and facial armor. There are numerous styles of bulletproof masks that provide unique benefits and a high level of protection. There are two popular types of bulletproof masks, including full-face and half-face masks.
- Tactical gloves: Tactical gloves are versatile and can be used in many applications. In many cases, tactical gloves are regularly used by law enforcement, the military and more. Tactical gloves protect the hands from various conditions, environments and potential threats.
Premium Ballistic Vests & Body Armor
At Atomic Defense, our number one priority is providing the highest grade body armor available for various applications. Our equipment and body armor is thoroughly tested and trusted by the military and law enforcement because of their efficiency and dependability.
We are proud to offer high-quality bulletproof visors, plate carriers, armor plates and more. We also offer bulletproof blankets, active threat equipment, assault vehicles and more. Our products are made from high-quality materials, and we prioritize quality products for our customers.
Contact us online today to learn more about our body armor and bulletproof vests.