Updated: August 31, 2021
6 Things to Look for in a Tactical Bulletproof Vest
Do You Need to Buy a Tactical Bulletproof Vest?
If you are looking to purchase a tactical bulletproof vest, we pinpoint the 6 things you need to know in order to make the smart choice.
The tactical bulletproof vest is an important item of equipment for anyone who works in a potentially dangerous profession. If you want to be prepared for the worst, you’re not prepared enough without one.
Think of a vest like a vehicle’s seat belt. You wear a seat belt not in the knowledge that you will get into an accident but rather you recognize the potential of being in one.
What makes a good tactical vest? It has to do more than keep you safe from rounds and potentially let you carry equipment for fast access through a molle system. It should make it easy for you to do what you need to do in order to survive.
Even with the best protection and carrying capability, you’ll eventually be a sitting duck if your vest doesn’t fit you right or impede your maneuverability.
You need to start asking yourself the important questions for potential tactical situations. These include the weight you can carry, the distance you may need to cover, and more.
Keep reading this article to learn how to pick out the right tactical bulletproof vest for your needs.
1. The Weight of the Vest
The weight of your tactical bulletproof vest will influence a couple of factors such as:
- How long you can wear it
- How far you can go with it
- How fast you can move
- How comfortable you’ll be wearing it
Over the years, manufacturers have developed lighter materials for soft armor plates and associated carriers. One of the biggest advantages of modern high-quality vests is their reduced weight and increased efficiency.
You want to avoid fatigue when using a bulletproof vest. Heavy equipment can wear you out faster than you think. This is extra important when using additional hard armor ballistic plates.
If you’re planning to wear your tactical vest for long stretches of time, look for lighter options. Any size large vest that weighs more than 3.5 – 4 lbs it is too heavy.
2. Comfort Level
This factor is too easy to overlook. While you may not think of comfort as a matter of importance, it will play a big role. This doesn’t mean a good vest will be as comfortable as a sweater or anything, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable.
If you’re uncomfortable, you can’t wear the vest as long as you would if you were more comfortable. It can limit your ability to move and focus. This is not acceptable in a survival or contact situation.
Your vest of choice has to fit your body the right way. It should be a snug fit but not feel like a constraint. There are many choices for carriers, but getting the size right is the most important when it comes to comfort.
A vest that’s not the right size can affect your movement a lot. This is especially important when attempting to secure a suspect on the ground who has the intent to not go quietly. It can also leave vital spots vulnerable if you’re not careful. A vest should provide protective coverage of your vital organs via your front, rear and side torso.
You should have an easy time rotating your arms and torso just like you would without the vest.
In tactical situations, you need your full natural movement. Without this ability, you can’t react fast enough to threats.
3. Tactical Bulletproof Vest Material
Most carriers consist of either cloth or nylon. The material of the vest will determine durability, comfort, and how it reacts to moisture. Since you’re likely to sweat a lot, that last factor is very important.
Different materials also come with different price tags.
Note that some materials may cause discomfort and skin abrasions if you wear them for a long time.
Think of what you’re going to wear underneath your tactical bulletproof vest. A good choice is a cotton or moisture wicking t-shirt. Also, consider how long you’re planning to wear it at a time.
Ballistic armor materials differ in a few ways as well. The panels that fit within the front and rear of your carrier or inside the front/rear pockets to provide extra protection can be soft or hard.
Make sure that the soft panels are heat sealed. This is important for the protection of the panels and ballistic material. Ballistic materials such as Kevlar should be guarded against moisture and UV light.
4. Level of Protection
The NIJ (National Institute of Justice) decide and publish the official protection ratings of bulletproof body armor.
Pay attention to these ratings. Without these guides, it will be tricky to find out which tactical bulletproof vest suits your needs.
A lot of people don’t know which specific kind of body armor they should look for. This can end with bad choices that lead to bad results in the tactical situations they may encounter.
There are four main protection levels and classification for bulletproof body armor. Higher levels offer better protection.
For example, Level II will only protect you against low velocity, small caliber rounds and relate to soft body armor. Level IV will keep you safe from high caliber rounds and relate to hard body armor.
In addition to bullet stopping power, you should also consider what other kinds of protection you need. The shape, material composition, shock distribution and blunt force trauma/backface signature will play an important role in this decision.
Understanding the protection levels is very important when you look for the best bulletproof vest. It’s the most important factor, since protection is the main purpose of having a bulletproof vest.
For this factor, you need to think more about what kinds of situations you need your vest for.
If you’re in a survival situation and your assailant can see your body armor, he will just shoot at an unprotected part instead. In this scenario, the vest will be useless.
If your tactical bulletproof vest has an odd fit or plates poke through your shirt, it becomes obvious. Choose a vest that is as thin as possible yet still meets the protection level you have chosen you need.
6. Longevity Factors
Since your bulletproof vest is a big investment and meant to save your life, you need it to survive the test of time.
See what kinds of warranties come with each promising vest. Not all vests have warranties. A nice warranty will provide more peace of mind, knowing that your protection will last and if it somehow doesn’t you can get it replaced.
In order to make the most of your bulletproof vest, you need to do your maintenance. Get a vest that’s not too hard to keep in a good condition.
Do your research and make sure that you know how to clean and care for your important tactical gear. Different materials call for different methods, and you don’t want to cause any harm. The NIJ has a lot of good information on this matter to help with your research.
Conclusion, What to Look for in a Tactical Bulletproof Vest
Survival in tactical situations can depend on a lot more than simple bullet-stopping power.
You need a vest that lets you move and endure long stretches of time in your protective body armor.
It should be easy to care for your tactical vest. It should also fit right without discomfort or making it too obvious that you’re wearing it.
Remember to follow the above advise when selecting a vest. There is no point buying a vest if it is too heavy and uncomfortable as you will find excuses not to wear it.