Recommendations on Body Armor
Soft concealable vests (e.g., Kevlar) will NOT stop rifle fire, but are rated Level II-A or Level II for standard handgun threats, or Level III-A for more exotic pistol threats such as 9mm sub-machine-gun or .44 Magnum. Weight is only 3 to 6 lbs. (1.4 to 2.7 kg.) generally.
Rigid Rifle Plates are rated Level III to stop lead core .308 Full Metal Jacket (NATO 7.62 x 51mm), or Level IV to stop steel core .30-06 Armor-Piercing (AP). Rifle Plates, are generally 10" by 12" (25 by 30 cm.) and will add 7 to 18 lbs. to a vest, depending on the type chosen, as you need a pair for Front and Back protection, .
For technical details on the NIJ ratings, see the ballistic ratings chart.
Tactical Body Armor, e.g., the Interceptor vest we are running a special on is roughly twice the weight of a concealable, torso protection vest at 10 lbs. (4.5 kg.), but twice the coverage area with extended torso protection, plus neck and groin protection. But then you add the weight of Rifle Plates!
Here's a quick and dirty guide as to how armor can be configured - click the links for example photos:
1. Concealable Vest for pistol protection on the torso e.g., 4 lbs. (1.8 kg.)
2. Concealable vest with Rifle Plate Pockets and Level IV Rifle Plates Front & Back, and pistol protection all around, e.g., ~16.5 lb. (7.5 kg.) - this would be "concealable under a jacket"
3. Level IV Stand-Alone Rifle Plates in a Rifle Plates Carrier for rifle protection only on the Front & Back, ~15 lbs. (6.8 kg.) -this would be "concealable under a jacket". Level III Ultra-light Polyethylene plates would be just 7 lbs. (3.2 kg.)
4. Overt Tactical Body Armor for pistol and sub-machine-gun protection, ~10 lbs. (4.5 kg.) (without Rifle Plates) - "concealable under a jacket" if neck and Groin Protection taken off.
For running around town to protect against street crime, a concealable vest makes the most sense as handguns are the most common threat. Just as important, being concealable, light, and easy to wear, it will be worn more often. As we say - the best vest for you is the one you actually have on when being shot at! (As opposed to a heavier vest left at home in the closet.) We spend a lot of time talking folks out of concealable Level III-A vests for more concealable Level II vests that are easier to hide under light clothing.
For continuous use in a low threat environment, it might even make sense to forgo the vest and use a ballistic insert to make a Ballistic Backpack or Briefcase. A briefcase or backpack will usually be around, rather than a vest that won't always be worn because of heat buildup, or clothing choices.
For high threat situations, e.g., glass breaking at 3 o'-clock in the morning, or standing guard in a Hurricane Katrina style disaster, maximum protection in both coverage area and protection level makes the most sense. Hence Tactical Body Armor with Rifle Plates, and maybe even Side Rifle Plates. The extended coverage and rifle protection gives you a much "warmer and fuzzier" feeling when you are in a real "two-way range" situation!
So, if you can afford it, both a concealable torso vest, and an extended coverage Tactical vest with Rifle Plates is the optimal solution. Just as pistols and rifles serve different purposes with different capabilities - it's always a tradeoff between convenience and weight vs. protection.
If your budget dictates one or the other, go with what fits your circumstances most often. Discreet, concealed wear all day in low threat areas, or overt Tactical armor for shorter duration, high risk situations.
If you need to split the difference, you might want to consider a modular Rifle Plates Carrier to upgrade your concealable vest with rifle protection. Going the other way, you can strip down an Interceptor vest, removing the neck and groin components for a torso vest concealable under a light jacket. Yours truly - Nick, Manager, BulletProofME.com
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