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How to Travel With Body Armor: Common Rules and Regulations
Body armor is essential for law enforcement, military professionals and even civilians. If you are traveling with body armor, including bulletproof vests, plates, helmets and blankets, you've come to the right place.
Airlines and countries have their own policies and restrictions, so it's important you understand these regulations before traveling — but it's pretty easy to travel to other states or countries with any kind of body armor. Overall, it is legal to own and wear armor in the United States as long as you are not a convicted felon.
I know, there's a lot of different types of protective gear and research around what's allowed and what's not, but we have taken care of that for you. Our article will help you learn how to travel with body armor.
Airplane Travel With Body Armor
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says that, in most cases, you can travel with bulletproof vests, helmets, visors and other tactical equipment in checked or carry-on bags. Keep in mind, the average weight for a checked bag for most airlines is around 50 pounds. While you can travel with as much body armor as you want, you will have to think about weight and size limits of luggage, so no overpacking!
In many cases, you don't have to notify TSA that you are flying with tactical equipment, such as a bulletproof vest. On occasion, airport security may ask you a simple question about your equipment, such as why you are traveling with it, but they are just making sure all is well.
You can travel with any form of armor, including plate carriers, tactical gloves, bulletproof visors and more. You just need to make sure your equipment is securely packed in your luggage and doesn't exceed the weight limit for your flight.
While you can fly with protective equipment, TSA officers make the final decision about anything you pack in your carry-on or checked luggage. Heck, they could say you can't bring your favorite pair of slippers on the plane if they wanted, but you shouldn't worry. TSA officers are simply there to ensure everyone gets on the plane safely, and as long as tactical equipment is 50 pounds or lighter, you should be a-okay to board your flight.
In the unlikely situation TSA officers notify you that you can't, you may need to store your gear somewhere. Hope you didn't skip leg day if you need to run the gear back to your car! Fortunately, this is rarely a concern, and we have never had this happen with our equipment.
Can You Wear Body Armor on a Plane?
No, you can't wear body armor or a bulletproof vest on a plane. Best to plan another outfit. While TSA will often let you board a plane with tactical gear in a checked or carry-on bag, you can't board the plane while wearing it. Body armor is permitted in all 50 states and can be worn across state lines, but this doesn't mean you can wear it on a plane.
I guess a bulletproof vest isn't everyone's favorite airport fashion style yet! Anyway, you can simply store your equipment in your carry-on or checked bags to travel with armor.
How to Pack Body Armor
One of the most important aspects of traveling with body armor to consider is its weight. A standard bulletproof vest may weigh between six to nine pounds, a ballistic helmet three to five pounds and armor plates between five to 20 pounds, depending on material. Aka, buying steel armor will save money upfront, but will cost more to ship and travel with (among other downsides to steel (see our article here comparing materials)
Most airlines require your checked luggage to be 50 pounds or lighter. Keep in mind overweight bags may cost a fee ranging from $50 up to $200 (ouch!), so we recommend weighing your bag before heading to the airport. If your baggage is overweight, you can adjust accordingly to meet weight requirements in order to avoid paying this fee.
Carrying bulletproof gear in your checked bags is usually easier than in your carry-on bag. While not necessary, you can travel with your body armor receipts and product information for added peace of mind in case security asks about your gear.
If you are a military or law enforcement professional who needs to travel with body armor, bulletproof vests or other gear, you should bring any work-related credentials that show you require the gear for your work.
How to Navigate These Rules Depending on Where You Travel
Protective armor is legal in all 50 states in the United States, meaning you can travel domestically and across state lines without any issues if you are traveling by train, bus or car.
Airlines have much stricter regulations on what they allow on flights. Even though TSA is stricter than your grandma about dessert before dinner, traveling with body armor is pretty easy to do. As long as you pack your equipment in a suitcase and check that your suitcase isn't as heavy as you feel after Thanksgiving, you should have no problem flying.
Traveling With Body Armor Across State Lines
You can travel across state lines with body armor via car, bus and train lines. Most states abide by federal law regarding armor, but certain states do add their own requirements on top of federal law. For example, Connecticut has some of the strictest regulations on buying body armor, only allowing face-to-face sales.
Depending on your mode of transportation, you may simply wear equipment while traveling if you are comfortable. If you are driving your car, wearing your body armor should be no issue, unless your partner thinks it throws off that perfectly planned travel outfit. Train lines and bus lines also have significantly more relaxed security requirements than airports.
Most travel authorities allow passengers to travel with body armor in their bags. Airlines have the most strict regulations about what you can bring on the plane, but most airlines and TSA agents allow ballistic gear in luggage. Traveling with body armor on trains, buses or in your car will be a breeze.
International Travel With Body Armor
If you are traveling with armor, the first thing to do is check which country you are traveling to, as they may have a completely separate set of regulations regarding ballistic armor.
While personal armor may be available in the United States, some countries may ban the use of armor for civilians. For example, in the European Union, ballistic gear considered for military applications is restricted to civilians. On the other hand, the U.K. doesn't have any legal restrictions on the sale or ownership of armor.
Some countries consider certain types of protective equipment a controlled item and may have strict regulations about its use or deny civilians from owning a specific type.
Military professionals commonly travel with personal armor, and it may be a more streamlined process for these people to board a plane with ballistic gear. TSA agents may ask for proof of a person's military involvement. Typically, those with a work-related reason to wear bulletproof armor have no difficulty with TSA agents as long as they provide proper documentation when asked.
Atomic Defense Body Armor
Atomic Defense is a leading provider of NIJ-tested ballistic armor and tactical equipment trusted by military professionals and law enforcement. Your safety is our first priority, and we are committed to offering military-grade ballistic gear. We develop innovative concealable, lightweight and high-performance body armor.
Contact us online today, and learn more about our products.