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Choosing The Right Armour

Which Vest Is Right For Me?

When selecting body armour this is the most critical question to ask, as choosing the correct piece of protective gear can literally save your life. On the hand, selecting a vest that does not protect you against the threat level you face is both a waste of money and an unnecessary risk to your life. Despite a temptation to buy the highest rated vest possible, be sure not to select a body armour piece that provides unessential levels of protection. Such pieces are often significantly heavier and more restrictive of body movement than vests offering less (but adequate) protection.

Covert Or Overt?

Another key decision point when selecting body armour is whether to purchase covert bullet proof vests, which are hidden under clothes, or overt vests that fit over clothing. 

Covert vests

Typically manufactured in lighter colours, covert vests are engineered to the thinnest possible specifications. This allows the wearer to hide the fact that he or she has on body armour. Unnoticeable to observers, covert vests frequently utilise moisture wicking fabrics that provide coolness over extended periods of use. They are ideal for officers assigned to close protection details, undercover operatives, and door supervisors, who may want to conceal the fact that they are wearing body armour.

Overt vests

Intended to be worn over clothes, overt vests are usually black, but can be manufactured in a number of colors specific to use. For example, military personnel wear camouflage designs, while security team members frequently select high-visibility colors. Journalists in areas of active combat wear blue vests, clearly identifying them as members of the media. Overt vests are most common among soldiers, law enforcement officers, and security guards.

Covert / Overt vests

Some body armour users prefer the flexibility provided by Covert / Overt vests, which comfortably fit over or under clothes. These bullet proof vests have higher protective levels than traditional covert vests, while offering a thinner material than normal overt vests. Covert / Overt vests are designed for individuals who encounter a variety of situations and threat levels in their everyday professional capacities.

What Threats Am I Likely To Face?

Before selecting a piece of body armour, undertake detailed research on the area you will be operating in, paying close attention to attack patterns that have occurred in the past. This information will allow you to confidently choose a bullet proof vest optimised to the level and type of attack you may face. Below, we explore the main types of threats that may be present in everyday work situations. Naturally, this list is far from exhaustive.

Police / Prison Officers

Threat levels encountered by law enforcement personnel are highly dependent on the region patrolled. An officer assigned to a small town or village community will likely encounter significantly fewer violent threats than an inner city officer. However, incidents reported recently in locations such as Newcastle and Cumbria point towards an increased prevalence of gun crime in geographically dispersed areas. This trend cannot be ignored by any officer, whatever his or her location. Law enforcement personnel are also frequently confronted by assailants who may utilise a needle or improvised cutting weapon such as a broken bottle. In ensuring adequate protection against the wide variety of threats that occur on a daily basis, officers may want to purchase a multi-threat vest equipped with bullet, spike, and stab protection.

Security Personnel

Encountering drunk, unruly, and aggressive patrons on a nightly basis, security personnel regularly find themselves in situations of elevated threat. Customers of nightlife establishments will likely have access to potential weapons such as glasses, knives, and bottles, making a stab proof vest an essential piece of protective equipment. In some areas, the threat of firearms attacks may be high as well, and security personnel may want to invest in the enhanced protection offered by a multi-threat bullet and stab proof vest.

Military Personnel

Military personnel in combat zones typically encounter high levels of ballistic weapons threats, requiring the highest level of protection possible. The chances of a rifle attack are extremely high, making body armour that protects against rifle rounds essential. Traditional soft body armour on its own is not adequate in halting rifle-fired rounds and military personnel are advised to combine this protection with hard armour plates. While the plates will add significant weight to the vest, they will provide the level of protection necessary to maximise survival chances in combat areas. Complete protection in a war zone requires the use of an NIJ Level IIIa vest, utilised with hard armour plates rated at NIJ Level III or IV. Additional attachments for neck, arm, and groin protection are recommended as well.

Shipping Crew / Coastguards

Piracy at sea has witnessed an upsurge in recent years, placing shipping crew members at heightened levels of risk. Weapons utilised by pirates are diverse, ranging from small handguns to rifles of high-velocity. This presents challenges for shipping companies, seeking to equip crew members with bullet proof vests that protect them in all the situations they may encounter. The normal bullet proof vest offers flexibility and minimal weight, protecting against handgun attacks. Adding hard armour inserts to the vest adds bulk and restricts movement significantly, but may be necessary, as pirates are increasingly well armed. We recommend that coastguards and shipping enterprises consider the purchase of NIJ Level IIIa high-protection vests, utilised in conjunction with hard armour plates rated at the NIJ Level III or IV level. The additional weight should not present a significant concern, as the vests will only be used in situations where the vessel comes under direct attack. In everyday work situations, shipping crew members can go about their duties without the vests. However, in case of coordinated pirate attack, having the highest quality protection at hand is of vital importance.