A body armor expiration date helps determine when body armor may no longer be as effective. Over time, body armor will break, and some materials may degrade more quickly than others. For example, bulletproof vests may have a lifespan between five to 10 years, depending on the material.
While expired body armor may provide some level of protection, it's not as strong, dependable and effective as body armor that hasn't expired. An expiration date helps a user determine when the product is more effective and reliable or when a user should consider replacement body armor.
Learn more about how long body armor lasts below.
How Long Does Steel Body Armor Last?
Steel is an exceptionally strong material for body armor and has a longer shelf life than body armor made from other materials. While each armor may vary depending on the manufacturer, steel body armor can last, on average, between 15-20 years. Certain body armor material may need to be replaced after five years.
If steel body armor is stored properly, it can last significantly longer. Steel, especially coated steel, is less likely to deteriorate for many years. Steel plates have very little backface deformation, which is the indent on the backside of an armor plate where the bullet was caught.
Little to no backface deformation significantly lowers the chance of severe injury. Steel plates are incredibly durable and won't take damage easily.
Proper Care for Steel Body Armor
Proper care and storage are needed to keep steel body armor effective. One important aspect of maintaining steel body armor is to store it in dry air and out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can degrade the integrity of steel over time. You should also avoid storing your steel body armor near caustic substances, chemicals or extreme temperatures.
It's generally recommended to store steel body armor flat without other objects on or touching it. You can store steel bulletproof vests or plate carriers on an appropriate hanger. Before wearing body armor that you've kept in storage, you should look for potential signs of wear and tear or damage and ensure the body armor hasn't reached the end of its shelf life.
When assessing steel body armor, potential signs of damage are frayed or broken stitching, fabric deterioration and broken or loose fasteners.
How Long Does Ceramic Body Armor Last?
In general, standard ceramic body armor has a lifespan between five to seven years, meaning you'll need to replace it after this period.
Ceramic may be more prone to damage or breaking if mishandled or dropped. Ceramic armor plates are incredibly effective and are capable of withstanding multiple rounds and projectiles. It's important to note ceramic armor plates may have a slightly more brittle quality to them when compared to steel.
Because of this brittle aspect, ceramic may be more likely to crack, chip or become damaged during use or if stored improperly.
Proper Care for Ceramic Body Armor
One of the most important steps when caring for ceramic body armor is to follow the manufacturer's recommended care instructions. Every style of body armor that meets the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ) standards is required to provide manufacturer-suggested care instructions on its label.
If anyone else may ever handle your body armor, you should ensure they know the proper cleaning, care and storage techniques. Moisture is incredibly harmful to ceramic body armor and can cause the armor to degrade over time. Storing ceramic body armor in a temperature-regulated, dry space is essential.
You should also spot clean your armor with appropriate materials if you notice any dirt or grime on the armor. Never fully submerge or wash armor because moisture can get trapped and cause the material to deteriorate.
How Long Does UHMWPE Body Armor Last?
UHMWPE, which stands for ultra-high molecular-weight polyethylene, tends to have a shorter shelf life, especially when compared to steel. In most cases, you'll need to replace UHMWPE armor every five years to ensure it remains effective and reliable.
UHMWPE has excellent wear resistance, durability and strength when taken care of properly. One important element of UHMWPE is that it isn't dimensionally stable if exposed to heat, meaning the material can contract or shrink. This shrinkage is often uneven and may cause friction and armor damage.
Proper Care for UHMWPE Body Armor
One of the biggest advantages of UHMWPE is that it's easy to maintain, so you can ensure the armor remains undamaged. Like any kind of armor, you should avoid storing UHMWPE in areas with unregulated temperatures, as high heat can cause numerous issues.
While spot cleaning is important for body armor, you should never use any solution that's not recommended by the manufacturer. Detergents and other chemical solutions can degrade body armor and cause it to deteriorate slowly.
A manufacturer should also provide storage recommendations. Generally, you should look to store body armor in a temperature-regulated room out of direct sunlight. Body armor should also not have other materials or equipment stacked on it while in storage.
How Long Does Kevlar/Aramid Body Armor Last?
In general, Kevlar and aramid body armor have a lifespan of five years before you need to replace them. While these types of body armor can be effective, one potential downside of Kevlar armor is that it's often more prone to damage from wear and tear.
Logically, the more you wear Kevlar armor, the quicker it'll degrade and need replacement. Like most body armor materials, Kevlar and aramid should not be left in extreme cold or heat, as these temperatures can cause the armor to become damaged.
Kevlar may also retain moisture, leading to damage. You should avoid getting Kevlar wet if possible — be mindful of wearing Kevlar in the rain. You should also never fully submerge Kevlar armor in water to minimize the risk of moisture damage.
Proper Care for Kevlar/Aramid Body Armor
When caring for and storing Kevlar or aramid body armor, you should always read the label and follow any manufacturer-specific instructions. Kevlar armor should remain dry to minimize potential damage. While Kevlar and aramid panels are often secure in a watertight sleeve, there's still the possibility that the seal fails or allows water to enter.
Even a little trapped moisture can greatly increase the risk of armor deterioration or damage. If you need to clean your Kevlar or aramid body armor, you should try to spot clean the armor with appropriate, manufacturer-suggested cleaning solutions.
Premium Body Armor and Tactical Equipment
At Atomic Defense, we're the top source for NIJ-tested tactical equipment and body armor. Our experts can help you determine what body armor material is right for you and how many bullets body armor can withstand effectively.
We work with each customer on an individual level to understand their unique needs and help them choose the body armor for their applications.
Contact us online today to learn more about our body armor.