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Body Armor Guide For Beginners

Uses of body armor today go well beyond the battlefield or war. If you’re new to the body armor world, there is a lot you might not know, but you might be wondering. Luckily for you, we have put together a beginner’s guide to body armor. We will explain the different types of body armor, give you a basic understanding of threat levels, as well as how to differentiate between body armor vests.

Soldiers In The Field

What Is Body Armor?

Body armor is protective clothing that someone wears to absorb or defect from physical attacks which might otherwise harm them. Originally being used in the military by soldiers in war, it has many uses today to protect people in different professions. Riot police, private bodyguards, or ordinary citizens are among the most popular types of people who wear body armor on a regular basis.

Body armor is typically split into 2 categories: soft and hard body armor. Choosing between the 2 depends on the type of protection you require. There are also different types of body armor for different levels of protection against different threats. Knowing what you want to be protected against is key to choosing the right body armor for you.

Is It Illegal To Wear Body Armor In Public?

In the US, it is legal for anyone to purchase body armor, whether online or in person, and there is no need for background checks or needing an ID. However, it is important to note that each individual state has individual laws as to when and why someone can wear body armor. Most states allow for anyone to buy and wear body armor except those with felony convictions. However, some states have stricter laws, such as Connecticut, where residents cannot buy body armor online and cannot have body armor shipped from outside Connecticut inside. 

Other countries vary. Australia, for example, prohibits anyone from possessing body armor without granted authorization in specific territories. In the UK, there aren’t any restrictions on buying or owning body armor. In Canada, you need to have a license to wear body armor, and in the EU, body armor that’s used for military usage is forbidden to be used by citizens.

Each country will have its own specific laws and regulations. It is vital to research your own countries/state laws before purchasing any body armor to ensure you aren’t breaking any laws.

Different Types Of Body Armor

Body Armor Vest

Also known as a bulletproof or ballistic vest, this is an item of body armor that helps absorb and reduce the impact to the torso from fragmentation from explosions and firearm-fired projectiles. This is usually worn by police officers, correctional officers, security guards, and some regular citizens. Depending on what you need protection from, there are different types of vests, for different levels of protection.

Soft Armor Plates

Soft armor plates are flexible and soft, but still extremely strong and protective. They are light and not bulky and are usually worn as a concealed body armor vest or plate carrier.

Hard Armor Plates

Hard body armor plates provide the highest level of protection possible but are not as comfortable or light as soft armor plates. They can be inserted into plate carriers or body armor vests.

Concealed Vest

Concealed body armor vests are designed to be worn under street clothes, or uniforms. Due to soft armor panels, they are designed not to be seen, but to provide full protection from bullet and stab threats. They provide protection at the front, back, and sides of the torso.

Full Body Tactical Armor

The military usually wears full body armor. It consists of front, side, and back protection in a vest, which can be joined with armor that covers the majority of the body such as a helmet and protection for the arms and legs. This is intended to be worn on show above clothes, as opposed to the concealed vest.

Bulletproof Military Plate Carrier

Plate carriers are another type of bulletproof vest, but which are lighter and more comfortable than the full-body armor vests. They can hold soft or hard armor plates to provide different levels of protection required. As they are lighter options yet still provide very strong protection, they are a popular choice for the military and police services.

Edge-Blade and Spike Protection

Edge-blade refers to commercial knives that do not come to a fine point. Protection against this blade is against slashing or stabbing of such an instrument. Spike weapons refer to any harmful instrument that has a fine-pointed tip. This does not include shrapnel that is projected from an explosive. Spike weapons could refer to a syringe or anything that has a sharp-tipped edge.

Protection against stabbings may be slightly different to ballistic protection. The stab vest may have fibers woven tighter and more layers to prevent an edge-blade or spike from penetrating the skin. 

Multi Armor Threat

Multi-threat armor provides protection against multiple different types of weapons and attacks. This type of armor is useful if someone is facing multiple threats or does not know what weapons their attackers may have. This type of armor is beneficial for people working in Law Enforcement, who are required to have complete protection against a wide variety of threats. The types of body armor could be to have stab-proof vests, which are also spike-proof at the same time.

Body Armor For Women

Whilst we have gone through several types of body armor, all of these are primarily designed for men. However, body armor for women has more recently undergone a transformation and new unique designs have taken into account the women who need to wear body armor. Source’s BarCurve insert allows for better protection and wearability for female staff. This insert can be placed into some of Source’s body armor to adapt it for women’s wearability. Source also has torso modeling according to the cup size of women. 

Different Threat Levels

The U.S. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has established different performance levels of body armor to ensure that users know what their body armor will protect them from. It is split into 5 different threat levels:

  • Level IIA
  • Level II
  • Level IIIA
  • Level III
  • Level IV

Level IIA, Level II, and Level IIIA are typically soft armor. However, hard armor plates can sometimes be found with a Level IIIA rating. 

Level III and Level IV are typically hard armor plates. However, each body armor varies in what they were designed to protect you from and it is important to research what level of threat you are aiming to be protected from, and what type of body armor can provide you with this type of protection.

Two Soldiers With Vests In The Field

Body Armor Comparison: Source


Full Body Armor FBA Ind4100

This vest can be worn as either a concealed vest or as full body armor. It provides front and back protection, with the option to add both sides, neck, and full body protection. Can be assembled in less than 30 seconds, and adjusted whilst on the move.

Full Body Armor Fba Ind4100 E1635417975344

Ballistic Vest Type: Full body tactical armor, can be worn with soft and or hard plates, plate carrier

MOLLE/Built-in Pouches?: Yes (for attachment of pouches)

Type of Ballistic Panels: Hard Plates, Soft Armor, and Side Plates

Compatible with War Belt?: Yes

Type of Closure: Vest Quick Release (VQR) mechanism (when released stays in one place)

Sizing Options?: Expandable with collar and neck protection

How Easy to Assemble?: Less than 30 seconds

Female Vest Option?: No

Quick Release Feature?: Yes

Concealed?: Yes but can also be worn as full body armor

Scalability to Threat: Front, back, shoulder protection. Optional side protection with MOLLE. Can be worn as full body armor

Extra Features: Can integrate with a 3L backpack with back vertical zippers. One-sided shoulder closure.


Ultra-06 Plate Carrier

An extremely light and comfortable plate carrier due to the additional layer of padding to prioritize comfort and reduce trauma from impact.

Ultra 06 Plate Carrier

Ballistic Vest Type: Plate carrier, with an additional layer of padding to reduce impact and increase comfort

Weight: 600g

MOLLE/Built-In Pouches?: Yes (for attaching pouches or hydration)

Ballistic Panels: Hard panels front and back

Compatible with War Belt?: No

Type of Closure: Source Rail Buckels

Sizing Option?: Yes, with Rails Buckles

How Easy To Assemble: 15 seconds

Female Vest Option?: No

Quick Release Feature?: Yes

Concealed?: No

Scalability to Threat: 10mm EVA Padding, front back and side closure

Extra Features: 2x quick access pockets. Removable shoulder padding with drinking tube


Ballistic Vest BAV ESP2200

A lightweight, waterproof female vest that provides the highest torso protection against bullet and stab threats.

Ballistic Vest Bav Esp2200

Ballistic Vest Type: Female vest with soft armor panels

MOLLE/Built-In Pouches?: No

Ballistic Panels: Soft plates

Compatible with War Belt?: No

Type of Closure: Double velcro closure

Sizing Options?: Yes with adjustable shoulder straps and BalanScale fastener system for symmetrical and leveled closure

Female Vest Option?: Yes

Quick Release Feature?: No

Concealed?: No

Scalability to Threat: High torso protection against bullet and stab threats with soft armor panels

Extra Features: Wide-padded and adjustable shoulder straps, drain hole, side loops for alignment


Ballistic and Concealed Vest BCV CAT1300

High protection against multi-bullet and stab threats, able to be worn by both males and females due to BraCurve insert, coated with waterproof and anti-stain treatment.

Ballistic And Concealed Vest Bcv Cat1300

Ballistic Vest Type: Ballistic jacket and concealed vest, soft armor plates, intended to be worn under a shirt

MOLLE/Built-In Pouches?: 2 front pockets and a hidden zip pocket

Ballistic Panels: Soft Armor Panels

Compatible with War Belt?: No

Type of Closure: Zip at the front to give the feel of wearing a jacket

Sizing Options?: BraCurve inserts for wearability, protection, and comfort for female staff. Adjustable elastic shoulder straps.

Female Vest Option?: Yes

Quick Release Feature?: No

Concealed?: Yes

Scalability to Threat: High torso protection intended to be worn under a service shirt or jumper

Extra Features: Elastic waist belt for more stability, straps for attachment of radio

Plate Carrier PCA IRL3600 With Flotation Collar & Groin Protection Panel

Plate carrier for both hard and soft armor protection. It has front back and torso protection and is ideal for coast guard duty due to a detachable floating collar and detachable groin panel.

Plate Carrier Pca Irl3600

Ballistic Vest Type: Plate carrier for hard and soft armor plates. Front, back and side torso protection. 

MOLLE/Built-In Pouches?: Detachable MOLLE panel for groin panel, pouches and equipment and floating collar

Ballistic Panels?: Front and back protection with soft and hard plates

Compatible with War Belt?: No

Type of Closure?: Velcro panels for attachment of service badge. 2 buckles on each side for attachment.

How Easy to Assemble: 2 buckles on each side. Excess straps are stored in pockets.

Female Vest Option?: Yes

Quick Release Feature?: No

Concealed?: No

Scalability to Threat: High front, back and side torso protection. Extra attachment for groin protection.

Extra Features: D-rings for attachment of equipment, 4 rows of MOLLE on front and back for the attachment of pouches and equipment. Concealed back grab handle


Full Body Armor FBA ENG4400

Scalable and versatile vest with war belt. Part of the UK Army’s VIRTUS soldier system, able to be worn as a concealed vest or as full body armor with a war belt.

Full Body Armor Fba Eng4400

Ballistic Vest Type: Either a concealed vest with soft armor plates or full body armor with hard and soft body armor plates. 

MOLLE/Built-In Pouches?: MOLLE for pouches and assault equipment

Ballistic Panels?: Soft and/or Hard Panels

Compatible with War Belt?: Yes

Type of Closure: RAILS buckles and one-side shoulder closure.

Sizing Options?: Yes with RAILS buckles. Can adjust sizing options by the mm.

How Easy to Assemble?: Less than 30 seconds. Vest remains in one piece when released. 

Female Vest Option?: No

Quick Release Feature?: Yes

Concealed?: Yes but can also be worn as full-body armor

Scalability to Threat: Front, side, and back protection. DWD Exposine compatible, as part of the UK Army’s VIRTUS soldier system

Extra Features: Can take a vest on and off while wearing a helmet. Expandable with collar and upper arm protection. Side protection hard panels.


Scalability: The Soldier System

The Scalable Tactical Vest (STV) is a Soldier System solution SOURCE designed that allows soldiers to adapt their protection level and equipment components to meet the mission’s requirements. Multiple pieces of gear and protection can be attached or taken away within minutes, depending on the threat level, to equip the soldier with the proper protection that they need. 

What begins as a concealed vest, multiple pieces of protection can be added to be geared up to a full-tactical vest. This extra protection includes side protection, groin protection, ballistic protection for the neck, helmets, and more.

Scalability The Soldier System

The STV features a Vest Quick Release (VQR) mechanism that allows the vest to be removed with one single-hand pull, while the remaining in one piece allows for easy re-assembly. The STV is compatible with three tactical backpacks (Bergen 90L, Daysack 40L, and Assault Pack 17L), the DWD Weight Distribution System, the Tactical Hydration System, and various tactical accessories that enable the highest performance while on a tactical mission.

The Soldier System 1

Sum Up

Overall, different types of body armor will provide you with different levels of protection and against different threats. Before buying any body armor, we highly recommend doing research into the laws and regulations about buying and wearing body armor where you live. We also recommend you look into the types of threats you are looking to protect yourself from, as the higher the protection you get, the heavier the body armor is likely to be, especially if you have hard armor plates.

Body armor is extremely useful and can be life-saving, but knowing what to look for and how to pick out the right one for you is a must, as it could save your life one day.

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