How To Stay Safe Using Body Armor

by guest blogger, Ben Atkinson

Body Armor is an essential item for outdoors-men, homesteaders, travelers and survivalists alike. Without access to proper medical care, minor injuries can quickly turn into life-threatening emergencies. Although no body protection is 100% bulletproof, it provides a great deal of protection against the projectiles of different weapons and, depending on the type, can even protect against stab and slashing attacks. Needless to say, when you're out and about in a hostile environment, body armor can be the difference between life and death.

Given the sharp increase in the shooting incidents across North America in recent years, survivalists are finding out that body armor is now an integral part of their gear. Part of being prepared for the worst is having adequate protection in the form of a bulletproof vest that keeps bullet projectiles from penetrating through the skin and injuring your vital organs. When you carefully select the type and level of protection of your gear, your chances of staying safe if caught in crossfire, are pretty good.

Body armor covers a wide range of products, including helmets and shields, but the most important equipment is the carrier.

Types of Body Armor

Generally, body armor is classified as soft and hard. Soft body armor is rated at levels I through III and works well against handguns and some semi-automatic pistols. It is lightweight and versatile, making it suitable for urban settings. Hard body armor is rated at levels III through IV and is characterized by hard rigid plates, which are effective even against rifle and armor-piercing rounds.  It is most commonly used by the military and police tactical units.

Survivalists are aware that firearms will be the major threat to their safety, as they will be the first weapon anyone will look for. It is usually recommended that you wear body armor that protects against the weapon you intend to carry. The National Institute of Justice tests and standardizes bullet proof vests (NIJ Levels), and vests from Level I-IIIa are capable of stopping the vast majority of handgun ammunition. Higher levels are efficient against lower level threats as well.

What do Survivalists Prefer?

The most popular choice with US survivalists is an external vest level IIIA with soft panels. It is not as heavy as higher level tactical vests, but it offers protection against a wide range of calibers. Well suited for high-risk situations - it covers more of the uncommon or unusual threats, such as 9mm and 44 Magnum calibers at sub-machine gun velocity. You can always chose to enhance it with rifle plates for maximum safety. It may make it a bit harder to conceal, but you can always wear it under fleece or jacket.

concealable body armorStealth PRO armor is concealable and able to stop small-arms fire.

Some survivalists avoid wearing a protective vest because of its perceived weight and bulk. However, modern bullet proof vests are lightweight and flexible, and can even be worn underneath clothing (covert style). Covert carriers are designed to be worn comfortably for extended periods, and some even include breathable materials that can help regulate your temperature. They have the advantage of being very discreet without sacrificing protection. This makes them ideal to be worn at all times, across different survival scenarios.

There are, of course, benefits to vests that are worn over clothing, in an 'overt' style as well. Some survivalists feel that displaying body armor in this manner can help deter potential attackers as it acts as a statement of authority. These overt vests offer just as much protection and are lightweight and flexible as well, so it is a matter of personal choice as to which is most appropriate.

How is Body Armor Graded?

Based on the National Institute of Justice's rating system for body armor and its requirements, the levels are categorized as follows:

Level I: Generally not recommended, the lowest level protects only against fragmentation and very low velocity pistol ammunition, such as a. 38 Special and .22 calibers.

Level IIA: Suitable against vast majority of threats encountered on the street by law enforcement officials, although it does not protect against blunt trauma injuries. It is tested against 9mm and .40 calibers.

Level II: Considered the best balanced option between blunt trauma protection, cost, and thickness / comfort / concealability. It performs well 9mm and .357 Magnum calibers at higher velocity.

Level IIIA: Well suited for high-risk situations as it covers more of the uncommon or unusual threats, such as 9mm and 44 Magnum calibers at sub-machine gun velocity.

Level III: With more comprehensive safety coverage, Level III extends to cover even 7.62mm NATO rounds, which makes it suitable for military personnel and security operatives in high-risk areas.

Level IV: The highest rating, it offers protection against armor-piercing .30-06 caliber rounds and all lower level threats.

Read more on protection levels here.

What Else Can You Plan For?

After firearms, edged and spiked weapons are the second most serious threat that survivalists encounter. As time passes and ammunition becomes scarcer and scarcer, attackers are likely to use knives or spiked weapons, which a bullet proof vest does not protect against.

Bullet resistant vests are made of protective fibers that can 'trap' and slow a bullet, flattening and slowing it to a complete halt. But an edged weapon will simply cut through these fibers, while a spiked weapon can pass through the minute gaps between them. This means that for complete protection you need to ensure that your bullet proof vest comes with stab and spike protection in the form of chainmail and/or a layer of laminate.

You should keep in mind that body armor is usually designed to be effective against a particular threat. Stab protection armor is useless against spiked weapons as their build is different. However, survivalists can look for a combo system of protection, with dual ballistic and stab or spike resistance. New combo ballistic-stab systems have evolved to provide today's law enforcement and corrections officers with maximum coverage against multiple threats. Modern combo systems are designed to adapt and protect the officer against various risks in different hostile environments. The ideal combo ballistic and stab system is designed using innovative materials and advanced engineering to minimize aerial density (i.e. fabric weight), while maximizing functionality.

The current certifications for combo packages are as follows: Ballistic IIA – Spike Class 3, Ballistic II – Spike Class 2, and Ballistic IIIA – Spike Class 3.

Ultimately, it will be very difficult to cover all threat you are likely to face in a survival-type scenario. Especially since pretty much anything can be used as or made into a weapon when chaos is rampant. Still, erring on the side of caution is the smart thing to do, so consider shopping around for body protection that covers the most commonly used weapons you are likely encounter in your vicinity. This means – check crime statistics for assaults, domestic disputes, robberies, murders and other violent crimes to see any patterns. Because in the event of a disaster – these are the same people you are likely to face on the street in competition for scarce resources. This will give you a pretty good idea of what type of protection you are going to need.

About the Author: Ben Atkinson is the Communication Executive of Safeguard Armor LLC, a company who supplies a wide range of body armor to police, military and civilians around the world.

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