A Complete 2020 Guide to the 5 Best Body Armor Options in the Market

The need for body armor protection is increasing by the day. In hindsight, many people were of the opinion that this kind of protection only applied to those in the military, private security or law enforcement. Consider the following startling facts; there are more than 300 million firearms in private hands in the United States. All these weapons are actually legal. Illegal firearms are estimated to be in the millions as well. This means that live fire situations are increasing. A bulletproof vest or body armor is a good way to protect yourself from lurking threats.

Can civilians use body armor?

Every law-abiding person has the right to buy body armor in the US. This is pegged on your fundamental right to preserve life. Choosing to be prepared for shootouts will certainly increase your survival level. Therefore, it is legal for civilians to buy and use body armor in all 50 states. Having said this, checking local regulations on body armor is critical. For example, you must make a face to face purchase of body armor in the state of Connecticut. The only group of people that do not enjoy the right to buy and use body armor are convicted felons and those under the age of 18 years.

How will body armor protect you?

Once you purchase a bulletproof vest, you may be tempted to think that you are bulletproof. However, it is important to know exactly how this piece of protection works to increase your safety and survival rate. The kind of body armor you choose is important. A soft armor can stop bullets from a handgun that fires from a distance. If you are threatened with a high-powered rifle, soft armor may not work as desired. Side protection is also key with body armor. The armor may  keep bullets away but the impact can still be dire. From internal injuries to broken ribs and severe pain, body armor can only do so much. With this in mind, this protection will decrease injury and promote your chances of survival. Choosing the most suitable armor is therefore of utmost importance.    

Types of body armor

There are two distinct kinds of body armor in the market. There is soft body armor and hard body armor. These two come with major differences as highlighted below;

Soft body armor

Compared to the hard body kind, this is a relatively flexible type of protection. The most notable feature of the soft armor is that it is not as bulky as the hard body armor. It is mostly used by private security players and even police officers in their duties. This kind of body protection is made from a variety of materials including Spectra, Kevlar and Twaron; this list goes on. It is also worth noting that the armor comes in various shapes and fits. Soft armor for the body works to protect from small caliber pistol shots and not against rifles.  

Hard body armor

This kind of armor is comprised of hard plates made from ballistic steel and ceramic hard plates; among others. These plates are then used inside a carrier vest. This kind of heavy duty protection is designed to withstand high caliber rifle shots. This armor is therefore very common in tough fire engagements. The main downside to this armor is weight. They can be too heavy compromising movement in an active situation. In hot weather, carrying around heavy plates can also be uncomfortable.

Hybrid body armor

In the market, you will find body protection made of soft armor with the ability to accomodate hard armor plates. In this regard, wearers will enjoy the best of both worlds. Many body armor carriers or vests are fitted with soft armor features with slots to slide suitable plates. This hybrid option is suitable for those who are in volatile situations facing high level threats.   

Quick tips on choosing the right body armor

Choosing the most suitable piece of protection can potentially save your life. The first consideration is to look at your threat level. This way, you can decide whether to go with rifle-rated hard armor or not. For civilians, soft body armor is always a first choice. Another tip is to fully understand the body armor options in the market. For example, know the difference between stand-alone armor and in-conjunction armor. Another point is to be aware of the body armor standards set by the National Institute of Justice. This agency guides buyers on the right armor to get based on their practical tests and assessments. Other factors to consider are the perfect fit, shape,cut and design of the armor. Many people also look at the price point before buying. With all the above basics in mind, you can find some of the best quality plate carriers at good prices here. 

Now let us explore a few of the best body armor options for 2020.  

  1. AR500 Armor

AR500 body armor is made by Armored Republic, a company that was founded in 2012. When they first launched, the company was known as AR500; whose name has been retained as well. AR500 is the leading name in body armor producing high quality affordable protection for the general public. This brand has body armor for all protection levels. AR500 stands for abrasion resistant steel that features a brinell hardness of 500. Their steel body armor is built to withstand high caliber rifle shots. Their level III and level IV armor are in the NIJ compliance list. This means that they have been tested for quality and suitability. According to the National Institute of Justice NIJ 0101.06 protection standard, level III body armor provides rifle protection of up to 7.62 FMJ lead core. Level IV provides rifle protection of up to .30 caliber steel core armor piercing ammo. The NIJ standard should help you choose armor that corresponds with your threat level.

Body armor suitThe AR500 Armor is coated with Paxcon. This is the same coating used on trucks to promote durability. On body armor this coating helps prevent spalling. Spalling is the splatter of metal when a bullet hits the steel. Metal fragments flying around can be very dangerous in a live fire situation. Hard AR500 body armor comes with a host of benefits. First, body armor is very affordable to all people. They have the most competitive prices compared to other products. From as low as $140, a person can get a plate carrier and several bare level plates. Other accessories by this brand including pouches and medical accessories are also inexpensive.

The steel armor is superior and durable compared to other materials. Environmental factors such as impact and temperature cannot harm this armor. This brand is also more accessible to civilian buyers. There are many body armor makers who only sell to law enforcement officers. However, this company sells to all people who are looking for protection. Only children under 18 years and felons cannot access the product.  

AR500 Armor has also been reviewed positively by independent platforms. This is the most popular and notable body armor brand in the market. It also has soft body armor options in all levels. AR500 soft armor can be found at levels IIA/II/IIIA. This soft armor is made using kevlar. This material is made of proprietary fibres that are interwoven to reduce the impact of a bullet by spreading it to the vest.

AR500 plate carriers

This company has an array of plate carriers that suit different needs. If you are looking for optimal comfort, choose the Testudo carrier. It is well padded with a cummberbund at the side. You can also attach anything at the molle making it very handy. There is a second generation Testudo that comes with side plate holders. For something more discreet, the Emergency Personal Carrier (EPC) is a good option. It looks lightweight for a soft armor panel. There are so many other plate carriers to talk about.

The downsides

– When it comes to the steel plates, weight is an issue. One armor plate can weigh up to 9lbs. If a wearer decides to wear the front and back plates, the weight can be too much.

– Some of the body armor by this company is not NIJ certified. However, this is not a mandatory requirement for manufacturers. 

  1. Security Pro USA Gladiator Beast Package

This package gives you all round hard armor protection as desired. From the collar, throat, shoulder, groin, lower back and even biceps, you will be well covered. Front, back and side protection is delivered by Level IV NIJ certified ceramic. Fitting is easy for this armor because of the options at the waist and shoulder area. All vital accessories can be attached to the powerful molle webbing. The vest is easy to get into and to get out of. It opens on the side to make this happen. Compared to other hard body armor, this is a lighter option that weighs in at about 15 lbs when all the features are fitted therein.

  1. VISM Carrier Vest With Level III+ Plates

If you are looking for level 3+ protection in body armor, this is a great option as well. The bulletproof vest by VISM is known for durability and comfort. Made from 60D nylon, the vest sports a great rugged design. It can house two hard armor plates that come with the package. The SAPI plates are made using Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. They can stop 7.62 and 5.56 NATO rounds. The cummerbund and shoulder straps are well adjustable for a good fit. The inner panels have a breathable mesh where soft body armor can be accomodated. With plates included, this armor weights at about 9.7 lbs.

  1. BlueStone Safety Full-Wrap Vest

If you want a vest that seamlessly fits under your shirt or jacket, this is an ideal choice. It is a discreet body armor that is highly versatile. Whether you are a uniformed professional or not, this product is suitable. Your front, back and sides are well covered against 9mm, 40, 38 and even 44 Magnum rounds. This is a handy vest that comes with an elastic and adjustable waistband over the kevlar soft body armor.

  1. Tactical Scorpion Gear Level III+ Plate Body Armor

Military body armorYou may have a carrier vest already and may be looking to find the right plates. If this is the case, consider this product. You get a wide variety of plate sizes that weigh between one to four pounds. The thickness is about 1 inch and they give you the ultimate lightweight protection. They can readily deter fragmentation while fitting into a variety of vest carriers. Tactical Scorpion also has an assortment of carrier vests that you can consider. If you wish to order customized plates, the company also produces them to your delight.

Final thoughts

Once you have chosen your desired body armor, go a step further. Consider getting suitable trauma pads. Body armor is only designed to help stop bullets and trauma pads can help in reinforcing the rigid surface to avoid effects of high impact like soreness and broken ribs. Even though the pads are non-ballistic, they can go a long way in keeping you safer. AR500 Trauma Pads are excellent and they can fit a wide variety of plate sizes. This information is supposed to help you choose wisely. If you are a civilian who has never used body armor, you need to research deeply on the best possible options. AR500 Armor Level III+ Lightweight is the best fit for civilians. You enjoy comfort and high level protection in the process.

Take time to read verified user reviews and get a clear picture on various body armor options in the market. Above all, look out for the right specifications and know the protection level you are aiming for. On the National Institute of Justice website there is a list of compliant body armor. You also want to choose an affordable product without compromising the quality. Design, fit and cut are other considerations. In the end, you should be able to invest in a piece of body armor that works perfectly.   

For related topics, checkout our recent article related to K-9 body armor here

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