Body Armor Types and Levels

Body Armor Types and Levels

Choosing the correct type of body armor is important to ensure you are protected completely. There are different types of body armor available depending on the threats they can protect against, and it is important to understand each to make sure you have the correct vest.

Ballistic Protection

The most common type of body armor is a bulletproof vest, which provides you with ballistic protection. This means that it is resistant to bullets, though exactly what types of bullets depend on the level the armor is listed at. Ballistic protection levels are assigned based on the ammunition the vest can stop, with higher levels capable of stopping stronger ammunition. Bulletproof vests at Levels I-IIIa use soft materials like Kevlar®, which are incredibly strong and can trap and slow bullets to a complete stop.

A bulletproof vest at Level IIIa can stop the vast majority of ammunition used in handguns and is the strongest soft body armor available. Higher levels require rigid plates made from materials like Ceramics or Polyethylene.

Edged Blade Protection

This is most commonly referred to as stab protection, meaning it can protect you against attacks involving weapons like knives. These vests differ from bullet-resistant vests because of the materials they use. However, most stab-proof vests will still use Kevlar and will come with ballistic protection. Stab protection can stop attacks using edged weapons, like knives, axes, and broken bottles. Stab-proof vests use materials like chainmail to stop the edge from cutting through the Kevlar beneath, which in turn absorbs some of the impacts from the attack.

Spike Protection

Many people don’t realize that stab protection is different from spike protection, and weapons like needles or screwdrivers for example will require a spike-proof vest. Spike protection is usually offered in conjunction with edged blade protection and ballistic protection. Spike protection can stop attacks using spiked weapons, which can otherwise pass through chainmail and Kevlar. Spike-proof vests, therefore, need layers of plastic laminate to create a tough surface that can stop these weapons. Spike-proof vests will usually have Kevlar and possibly chainmail beneath this plastic laminate, which helps absorb the impact of an attack. 

The protection you need depends on the most likely threats you will face. The different types of body armor available reflect the different types of protection available. For protection against firearms, you will need ballistic protection in the form of a bulletproof vest. For protection against edged weapons like knives, you will need a stab-proof vest. For protection against spiked weapons like ice picks, you will need a vest with spike protection.