28 Nov 12

This subject often comes up too! “Should I invest in soft-body armor?”

Here is my comment: Soft body-armor, invented in the 1970s by my good friend and colleague, Dick Davis, is intended to be worn over the t-shirt, but under the outer-shirt, so that it is not obvious to the casual observer that one has it on. It provides protection from collar-bone to navel, both sides. Head, neck, groin, limbs, and lower abdomen are normally not protected.

Most brands are currently made of multiple layers of high-tensile-strength, kevlar fabric. Most will contain missile impacts up to 1500 f/s. Missiles going faster than that will usually penetrate. So, soft body-armor provides protection from most pistol rounds, but provides no protection from most rifle rounds.

Protection from knife slashes is substantial. Protection from knife-point penetration (stabbing) is marginal.

The material itself is less than half-inch thick, flexible, and, in most cases, breathable. So, when a bullet hits it and doesn’t penetrate, the impact point will still carry forward far enough (before the bullet comes to a stop) to create a nasty bruise. The bruise is usually not severe enough to cause significant incapacitation of the wearer in the short term, and subsequently heals normally, within a week or two. On rare occasions, a rib is broken.

The best brands of soft body-armor are expensive and require fitting.

The choice between wearing the ballistic garment, or not, is this, “Do you want to be ‘punched,’ or ‘pierced?’” When a bullet hits you, you may get both, but you can’t have neither!

Uniformed police wear soft body-armor routinely, but is it something non-police need?

The answer is this: When you think you have a genuine need, and thus plan on wearing it daily as part of your normal routine, in the same manner police do, the answer is “Yes.” If not, the answer is probably “No.”

Soft body-armor cannot be put on in a hurry. It takes several minutes to get it on, properly adjusted, and then concealed under a shirt. The idea that you’ll be able to put it on when danger threatens, at a moment’s notice, is delusory. You either put it on every morning, and wear it all day, or forget the whole idea!

You may want a copy, not currently intending to wear it, but just to have it against the day when you may have to start wearing it daily. That may be sensible, but soft body-armor is, as noted above, expensive, and, for many, represents a substantial investment, so you’re going to want to think it through before spending the money.

Another alternative is the “Investigator Jacket” (also known by other names). This is basically and Army field jacket, lined with kevlar panels, and is included in the product-line of most major body-armor manufacturers. Coverage is more extensive than with concealable body-armor described above.

There is a large velcro overlap in front, so the garment is loose and can be thrown on quickly and thus provide instant protection. Not suitable for all-day wear, this garment may be suitable to be kept in a bedroom, where one can don it quickly when the alarm goes off in the middle of the night.

An Investigator Jacket will be a good deal more expensive than concealable body-armor, so, once again, it just represents another option that must be balanced against spending the money elsewhere.

There is precious little glamour associated with wearing soft body-armor! With all advances made over the past forty years, it is still hot and uncomfortable. Because of this “discomfort factor,” even some police refuse to wear it.

It is not something most non-police need to invest in, at least currently. But it is available in general commerce, and, in most jurisdictions, unregulated.

Your call!