How To Select Body Armor


If you’re serious about self-protection, then you may have considered, in addition to a firearm, having body armor. No, we’re not talking about medieval armor. We’re talking about ballistic armor to stop bullets. But, if you’ve considered ballistic armor, how do you select the right kind for yourself?

There are several factors to consider. The first factor is when you expect to be using the armor. This can determine whether you will purchase a vest or if you will purchase a accessory such as a bullet proof backpack. Obviously, some times of armor will be more practical at certain times than at others.

After the first factor, you’ll want to consider the weight of the armor. If it is too heavy, it won’t be practical to wear or carry, but if it is too light, then the armor may not protect you as much as you would like.


The third factor is the rating on the armor. There are several levels in the National Institute of Justice Rating System. Samantha Biggers breaks down these ratings this way:

  • “Level 1 – You don’t really see anything with a Level 1 rating unless you are buying a used  product. This level was around when bullet proof technology was still being developed and honed to the exceptional level we have today.
  • Level 2-A – This is designed to stop calibers such as 9mm and .40 S&W with a full metal jacket
  • Level 2 – Tested against 9mm and .357 magnum
  • Level III-A – This is a high level of body armor and tested against .357 SIG and .44 Magnum bullets. If you have ever shot a .44 Magnum you know what I am talking about when I say that it is an extremely powerful bullet that can take down a Grizzly bear. I don’t practice with a .44 because it is too big for most circumstances. Having body armor or a pack that can stop something like that is pretty amazing to me. This is typically the level of armor used in packs and mid priced inserts. This level will not stop an AR-15 or AK-47 round. For those that don’t remember, the AR-15 is what was used at the Parkland, Florida school shooting. 
  • Level III – Designed to stop a 7.62 x 39 full metal jacket AK round or .223 ammo like that used by the popular AR-15.  This is the minimum needed to stop bullets from any of the major assault rifles.
  • Level IV – This will stop armor piercing rounds and is the highest level of protection you can currently buy. Typically this is used by SWAT teams and those that are at risk for being under heavy fire from large high velocity rounds made to penetrate as deeply as possible.”

Obviously, the higher the rating number, the more protection that the armor will provide, but that brings us to the final consideration: your budget. In most industries, the better the quality, the more expensive it is, so you will need to evaluate what you need and balance that with what you can afford. Of course, that is a personal decision which only you can make.

So, if you are considering purchasing body armor, keep these four factors in mind.



  1. A note to writers on firearms and firearms related subjects; please stop using the term “assault rifle” when referring to civilian, semi auto rifles like the AR and AK types. It only helps to reinforce the anti gun left’s “scary” image of firearms in the minds of those who know little to nothing about them.

  2. Good and useful information but I wish, people who know better, would STOP using the anti-gun freak term “assault rifles”. As we ALL know an AR-15 or AK47, unless modified to allow full auto, are not “assault rifles”. Other than that phrase above all you other information on Armour is the kind on information we like to see and read about.

  3. Also, they fail to mention that the Levels III & IV are actually hard plates (steel or ceramic, usually) backed with Kevlar or other soft armor. It should also be pointed out that III-A might stop .223 or 7.62×39 soft or hollow point rounds (going from memory on this, but I think that’s right).

  4. Suits of armor were made obsolete by firearms that could penetrate them. Now you can get body armor that’s not easily penetrated by firearms. Some of the old vests could be penetrated by arrows, but I don’t know about the new ones. It’s one of those things no one ever seems to mention. And remember, there is no bullet proof vest, or “bullet proof backpack” as mentioned above.

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