With line-of-duty deaths by gunfire up 83% in the first seven months of 2016, protecting yourself is more important than ever, and the old excuses for not donning a ballistic vest — uncomfortable, too warm, bulky — just don’t carry weight anymore. Twenty-first-century advancements in fabric, construction, materials and strength mean there’s a type of body armor available to suit every need. But with so many options to choose from, it’s important to carefully consider fit and the types of threats that you encounter most frequently in order to find the vest that’s best for you. Here’s a sampling of the latest protective products for patrol officers, all highly rated by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development and evaluation agency of the United States Department of Justice.
Concealable and Cool
The future of ballistic carriers is already here. The P1 Covert Carrier from the Safariland Group is so ergonomically friendly and ultra-lightweight, it doesn’t even feel like a vest. Every detail is a testament to design and performance excellence. Features include four-way stretch ripstop shell fabric, removable contoured stretch straps, strategically located Velcro channels for adjustability and easy fastening, front and back plate pockets, and a Luxicool cooling space mesh liner to reduce temperatures by 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit for ideal comfort in intense situations. MSRP not available.
Female officers in need of a concealable soft body armor carrier turn to RISE from Angel Armor because it offers unparalleled fit, comfort and versatility for women. A fully adjustable cummerbund system allows the vest to hug the body in the places that need it most. Customizable armor ensures a superior, tailored fit, while a concealed internal front plate pocket accommodates multiple plate sizes and allows for quick vertical adjustment. Also available in male models, RISE takes protection to a higher level. MSRP $1,479 (law enforcement only).
Protect Your Partner
Armor Express protected more than 1,000 K-9 teams in 2015, and its TEX 10 vest offers outstanding functionality without compromising comfort and mobility. The armor provides maximum coverage for a dog’s vital organs and comes in multiple sizes to fit a range of breeds. Three buckles help ensure a proper fit and make it easy to put on and take off. Extra features include MOLLE webbing to attach flashlights or tracking devices, two D-rings for short or long leads, front and side ID badge attachment points, and a wireless camera mount. Three-dimensional spacer mesh lining helps keep your canine cool. MSRP not available.
If it’s good enough for our armed forces, it’s good enough for our nation’s law enforcement officers. That’s the working theory behind the Alpha Elite Series ballistic systems from Point Blank Enterprises. Shown here inside the Elite concealable body armor vest, the Alpha Elite armor (AXII and AXIIIA models) relies on military-grade Dyneema Force Multiplier Technology to reduce ballistic threats. Point Blank engineers found this material to be extraordinarily effective against fragmentation and superbly efficient at absorbing impact energy. The Elite vest features top-loading combo plate pockets that accommodate 5”-by-8” trauma inserts as well as 6”-by-8”, 7”-by-9” or 8”-by-10” plates in front and back. MSRP $1,373 (AXII); $1,578 (AXIIIA).
The Ready Vest from U.S. Armor lets you quickly and easily turn your concealable body armor panels into an effective yet comfortable tactical outer carrier. The Ready Vest has 10”-by-12” plate pockets in both front and back, and external MOLLE webbing to attach additional pouches and equipment. With the option to add rifle plates to the front and back faces of the carrier, you’ll be fully ready for any active-shooter threat, warrant serving, tactical containments and other quickly evolving patrol situations. MSRP $396; law enforcement price $268.
Sometimes you just need a vest that’s reliable, sturdy, and trustworthy — like a good partner. That’s what you get with the Safariland Group’s M1 Covert Carrier. This concealable ballistic vest is designed to do exactly what you need it to: protect you from a bullet and keep you as comfortable as possible so you can do your job. Made of a highly durable, washable hexagon ripstop fabric, the M1 has a high-profile hook and loop Velcro, removable contoured straps for maximum adjustability, front and rear plate pockets, and an antimicrobial wicking mesh liner to ensure comfort and mobility through all-day wear. MSRP not available.
Ergonomic Edge-to-Edge Protection
If armor isn’t comfortable, an officer is less likely to wear it. That’s why ATS Armor takes the fit and shape of its hard armor plates so seriously. The Type IIIA torso plate features ATS’ renowned QuadCurve shape, which allows the plates to fit ergonomically in either the front or back. While weighing less than a pound apiece, these plates also provide edge-to-edge protection without requiring the need for soft body armor in conjunction. “This is an important benefit of our hard armor plates because some competitors trim their plates with foam, which offers no protection from shots to the edge of the plate,” says Kim Koyle, Sales and Marketing Coordinator for ATS. MSRP $179.95 (law enforcement, military and private security contractors only).
Easy On, Easy Off
Dubbed a “crossover” vest, the Guardian Front Opening Vest from Point Blank Enterprises combines the versatility of a front-opening vest with an advanced design that offers maximum protection. The vest can fit SPEED plate varieties or Level III or IV hard armor plates (front and back), and has extra zippered and Velcro equipment pouches and pockets. A removable inner cummerbund helps get an exact fit, and adjustable shoulders and sides ensure comfortable movement. MSRP $350.
This system from Armor Express is so thin you might forget it’s there. But when it matters most, the Razor’s reinforced stopping power will halt some of the most advanced rounds available. The level II and IIIA models, like all Razor armor, are built to match the most strenuous requirements, including top-level NIJ certification. Its razor-thin construction makes it an incredibly lightweight solution, ideal for officers in extremely hot climates. MSRP not available.