Body Armor Guide 2021

Many self-defense enthusiasts wonder whether wearing body armor is worth it. Some are not even sure if it is legal. Today we will find out what body armor is, why you should wear it and how the protection rates differ.

What is Body Armor?

Body armor is legally defined as a protective piece of clothing specifically designed to absorb and deflect physical damage. Although originally designed for military usage, it is now widespread among civilians.

It is possible to wear body armor plates in concealment by incorporating it into a uniform shirt, coat, or some other type of clothing — this is how most bank employees wear body armor. Alternatively, you can wear it over the uniform so that it acts as something you could be recognized by. Special tactical teams wear body armor in exactly this way.

Body Armor Guide

In the United States, every citizen who didn’t have trouble with the law is allowed to buy body armor, although some convicts are deprived of this legal ability. It is also worth mentioning that criminals wearing body armor face increased penalties in court.

You can still buy body armor in all 50 states, even though shipping — with the notable exception of the State of Connecticut that, due to a state law, allows only a face-to-face selling of body armor.

Many businesses refuse to civilians considering body armor for sale. This is why you may have heard that it is illegal to use personal body armor. Still, those companies do this because of their policies and NOT because of the law.

Why Wear Body Armor?

Because it can be your life-savior! It is estimated that the lives of more than 1,200 officers have been saved because the officers were wearing body armor plates. 

Not only do the law enforcement agencies and military groups wear it, but also workers of security organizations, many health emergency teams, and airport security officers.

Here is a list of who also might or does wear body armor:

  • gun enthusiasts;
  • hunters;
  • motorcycle riders;
  • government security officials;
  • workers of bail services.

Materials Used In Body Armor

Body armor plates are made from a variety of different materials. When choosing a bulletproof vest for personal usage, you have to consider a trade-off between protection, comfort, and the ability to wear the plates in concealment. 

Body Armor

There is also a distinction made between soft and hard types of body armor. The former is usually made from a fabric-like material, while the latter is the former combined with some rifle plates for additional protection.

Let’s look at the most popular materials used in body armor plates:

  • Aramid;

Aramid is a heat-resistant strong synthetic fiber. From the chemical point of view, this fiber is prepared with the help of a reaction between amine and carboxylic acid halide groups. This probably doesn’t say much to you, but the –CO–NH– linkages that are produced during the reactions are exactly what gives aramid fibers their renowned strength. The most popular aramid fiber brands, of which you might have heard of, are Kevlar, Twaron, and Nomex.

  • Polyethylene (UHMWPE);

Another common material. A variety of this compound is actually what some plastic bags are made out of but this subset of the polyethylene polymer has a much, much larger molecular mass. It is also frequently referred to as UHMWPE — an abbreviation that stands for ultra-high-molecular-weigh polyethylene. 

Despite UHMWPE having some advantages compared to other materials, it is not advised to wear body armor made of polyethylene in hot areas, since it is prone to degrading faster when exposed to excess heat.

  • Carbon Nanotubes;

Carbon nanotubes are a modern material that is not yet widely used on the market. Research shows that this material is twenty times stronger than both aramid and polyethylene and a hundred times stronger than steel. 

It is renowned for its durability and is frequently named to be one of the strongest materials in the world. As an interesting fact, the largely fictitious proposals to build a space elevator have all involved using carbon nanotubes as the main material. With that said, it is of no surprise that they make excellent material for body armor.

  • Steel;

Steel is the most primitive material used in body armor. It is quite cheap and, therefore, the most economical option available on the market. Although it is much heavier compared to other materials, you should still buy steel body armor if it’s the only material you can afford. As they say, it is better to have at least something than to have nothing at all.

Body Armor Levels and Protection

As for the protection levels, the most widely used rating system is the NIJ Rating, created by the National Institute of Justice. You have to take NIJ levels into account when choosing a bulletproof vest These are the three levels of protection used for soft body armor classification:

  • II-A is now mostly outdated. Previously it was used for concealed wearing, but now armor with better protection levels is as concealable as II-A. This level of protection is possible of stopping, for example, 10 mm 155 & 175 gr bullets;
  • II is the most balanced of them all. Level II is possible of stopping most widely used pistol round like the 9 mm round;
  • III-A is the highest level of protection you can achieve without using rifle plates. Such armor can even protect you from some shotgun slugs. Some companies also sell enhanced III-A armor completed with additional protection from stabbing and piercing ammo.


Hardbody armor is a whole other level. As stated earlier, in hard body armor the soft carrier is complemented by rifle plates which are typically made out of steel. 

At the minimum, it provides Level III protection. Such armor can stop assault rifle bullets, as it is made to withstand bullets with a velocity of more than 2700 ft/s (more than 822 m/s in the metric system).

Level IV body armor is practically useless for everyday usage. Although it can protect you from piercing assault rifle bullets, this is an overkill for most of us and is just too heavy to wear on a daily basis. 

With that said, the most popular option among customers is a Level III-A body armor combined with some rifles plates.

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