Body Armour


Body armour is basically a layer of clothing designed to absorb and disperse the impact energy of a bullet. Modern body armour is designed to stop low velocity (handguns) and high velocity (rifles) with some manufacturers claiming protection from some types of armour-piercing rounds.

The armour comes in both semi-rigid and rigid construction incorporating a variety of layered materials such as fibres (Kevlar), ceramics and metals. It also comes in a variety of weights. But heavier does not necessarily mean greater protection.

Be aware that most vests offer no protection against blunt trauma which is the force of the blow itself. This can break ribs and cause internal injury. Defence against knife penetration usually requires an additional layer of protection.Body armour typically comes in two parts.

The first is a flexible vest or waistcoat commonly known as low-velocity protection – nearly all handguns or pistols and small machineguns fire low velocity bullets.The second part is the high velocity plate – hunting rifles and assault rifles fire high velocity bullets. This plate fits into pockets on the front and rear of the vest and because of their weight and inflexibility they are only large enough to protect the most vital central torso organs.

Body armour manufacturers use different materials and usually define their product by the type of projectile they will stop. Others use the level definition – level 1, 2, 3, 3a, 4. Be aware that different countries have slightly different standards for their levels as well as different certifications.  

The ideal low-velocity vest is one that covers not only the front and rear of the torso but also the sides from the hip to under the arm, lower back, lower abdomen and crotch, and a high collar to protect the neck and throat. But the need for discreet protection requires a more tailored vest designed to be concealed beneath clothing.

This option inevitably results in less protection. Low-cut vests offering more protection for the abdomen for instance can be uncomfortable when sitting in a vehicle.

Some manufacturers offer module systems with removable sections such as the collar, shoulders and abdomen. Many manufacturers also offer tailored vests for women designed to accommodate breasts.I’ve been using body armour since it was first introduced on a commercial level in the 1970s.

I have opted for the most concealable lightweight option that is stab-proof with minimal low velocity protection to my torso combined with a one square foot high velocity lightweight plate on my chest and back.My current vest is made by Pointblank Body Armour. It’s light, well tailored, comfortable.

My only criticism is the shoulders cannot be adjusted which means if someone much smaller or larger than myself borrows it the plate will position too high or too low respectively. There are many manufacturers on the market but like most things, you get what you pay for.

Do your research! Duncan Falconer is an AKE Risk Advisor