With an estimated 270m to 310m American civilians possessing guns (legally and otherwise), the safe use of firearms is of paramount importance. From handguns to armor-piercing rifles, a weapon in the wrong hands can prove fatal, even by accidental means – two people die each day by accidental shooting. When handling guns, whatever the circumstances, body armor should always be available.
However, with so many types of guns and ammunition available today, how do you know which type of armor will keep you safe against specific weapons? The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) rates vests on the amount of protection they offer during strict tests, and assigns each one to a specific level. Seasoned gun-users will no doubt be familiar with these, but for the beginner (or even those who feel the need to refresh their knowledge), SafeGuard Clothing discuss the various protection levels below to help you make the right purchase.
[expand title=”What’s the difference in Soft & Hard Armor? Read More”]
Bullet proof vests in the soft armor category range from level I to level IIIA. These are designed to protect against more common weapons, and use multiple layers of Kevlar to absorb bullets’ energy and flatten the rounds themselves. Level I armor stops .22 caliber LR LRN rounds and 380 ACP FMJ RN bullets, which hit with a velocity of 320 meters per second and 312 meters per second respectively.
Level IIA body armor is designed to stop 9mm FMJ RN rounds and .40 Smith & Wesson caliber FMJ bullets, while level II protects against higher-velocity 9mm and .357 rounds. Armor at level IIIA is designed to defend against .44 Magnum and 9mm submachine gun ammo – this is the highest amount of protection available in concealable soft armor. As the levels increase, so does the bulk and weight of each vest.
Whereas the lower-level armors are made of tightly-woven Kevlar, these high-level vests feature hard plates in their design – typically made of ceramics, steel, or titanium – to stop more dangerous rounds. Level III vests are generally of a semi-rigid or hard build, and can stop bullets fired by high-powered rifles, such as 7.62mm FMJ bullets, as well as 223 Remington rounds (of 5.56mm FMJ), 30 Carbine FMJ, and finally a 12-gauge slug. These are essential to ensure your own safety if using any of these bullets.
Last but by no means least, armor at level IV stops armor-piercing rounds, including .30-06 caliber rounds hitting at a velocity of 868 meters per second. These vests also tend to feature additional panels on the front and rear to accommodate more plates for enhanced protection.
Always be sure to have a wide range of armors available to suit your specific needs on a given day, and only wear undamaged vests – check them regularly to ensure they’re reliable.