What You Need to Know About Bulletproof Vests

| January 13, 2014 |

bulletproof vest

Everyone who has ever seen an action movie knows about bulletproof vests. They are magical, light-weight vest that is completely concealable under clothing and capable of stopping any kind of round- without any damage to the wearer. However, before you decide to test that parking lot shootout from “Back to the Future”; perhaps you should know a bit more about bulletproof vests- what they are, how they work and what different types can do.

What is a bulletproof vest?

A bulletproof vest is simply an article of personal armor that is worn on the vest and is intended to stop varying levels of small caliber projectiles and some small fragments that are created by hand grenades and explosives. Most commonly, bulletproof vests are purchased as “soft” vests, meaning they are concealable and minimize restriction on your body’s movement.

In addition to soft vests, there are options for increased protection from higher caliber weapons which include armor plates that can be added to soft vests or complete ceramic plate-based and hard fiber-based laminate armor. This higher grade is necessary for protection from rifles and armor piercing ammunition. While very effective, the higher level of protection comes at the expense of greater weight and reduced maneuverability.

How do bulletproof vests work?

By its very name, a bulletproof vest is a vest that is worn to protect against gunfire. History has seen a variety of takes on armor, from the original melee-based armor to ballistic resisting body armor that most are familiar with today- all with the same purpose; redistribute the force of a blow to minimize damage to the intended target.

Ballistics changed the landscape of personal armor by concentrating a stronger force in a much smaller area. Where a suit of armor could stop a strike from a sword, it is far less effective in preventing penetration from gunfire. The area hit is just not large enough to be dispersed.

Modern bulletproof vests were designed to provide the dispersal of force needed in a much smaller impact area by use of many layers of woven fibers or laminated material. To blunt force trauma or a stabbing/slicing attack, they are ineffective; however it is the flexibility of the material in a small surface area that provides bullet stopping power. The relatively softer material is able to absorb the force of a bullet by taking the energy and stretching to absorb the inertia; the higher the grade of vest- the greater the amount of inertia it can absorb.

The downside is that the force isn’t completely deflected by a vest, and soft vests will still deliver damage upon taking a round. However, the higher the grade- the less damage taken by the wearer.

What kinds of bulletproof vests are there?

There are six grades of bulletproof vest that are available, with increasing levels of protection:

Level I

o Small Caliber Handguns (.22 and .38)
o Long rifle rounds (40 grams up to 1450 ft/s)

Level IIa

o All lower levels
o 9mm (up to 1140 ft/s)
o 357 magnum rounds (up to 1300 ft/s)

Level II

o All lower levels
o 9mm (up to 1225 ft/s)
o 357 Magnum (up to 1300 ft/s)

Level IIIa

o All lower levels
o 9mm (up to 1400 ft/s)
o .44 caliber magnum rounds (under 1440 ft/s)

Level III

o All lower levels
o Requires use of armor plates for rifle protection
o At least six 7.62mm FMJ rounds (up to 2800 ft/s)

Level IV

o All lower levels
o At least one armor-piercing round
o Tested with .30 AP (armor-piercing) rounds

Bulletproof vests are far from “one-size-fits-all” purchases, and they aren’t magical items capable of repelling any and all rounds multiple times. Most lower-level vests are meant to provide just enough protection to get out of direct fire and protect against a one-shot; they are not meant to take repeated rounds. It is also important to know that taking a round in a bulletproof vest isn’t fun, it hurts- a lot.

However, when you purchase a well-made and good-fitting vest from a reputable manufacturer- you’ll be in pain but alive. Check out these videos for more information.

Category: Equipment

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