What level vest do you need?

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

What level vest do you need?

When looking at ballistic vests, there are more possibilities than may seem immediately obvious to those who don’t wear them.

As we discussed in the May issue of ÆGIS, you start with the question of what level vest to get. The choices –threat levels – are described in http://www.nlectc.org/pdffiles/0101.04RevA.pdf. These are:

Type I (22 LR; 380 ACP)

This armor protects against .22 caliber Long Rifle Lead Round Nose (LR LRN) bullets, with nominal masses of 2.6 g (40 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 320 m/s (1050 ft/s) or less, and 380 ACP Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets, with nominal masses of 6.2 g (95 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 312 m/s (1025 ft/s) or less.

Type IIA (9 mm; 40 S&W)

This armor protects against 9 mm Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets, with nominal masses of 8.0 g (124 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 332 m/s (1090 ft/s) or less, and 40 S&W caliber Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets, with nominal masses of 11.7 g (180 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 312 m/s (1025 ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in section 2.1.

Type II (9 mm; 357 Magnum)

This armor protects against 9 mm Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets, with nominal masses of 8.0 g (124 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 358 m/s (1175 ft/s) or less, and 357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point (JSP) bullets, with nominal masses of 10.2 g (158 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 427 m/s (1400 ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in sections 2.1 and 2.2.

Type IIIA (High Velocity 9 mm; 44 Magnum)

This armor protects against 9 mm Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets, with nominal masses of 8.0 g (124 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 427 m/s (1400 ft/s) or less, and 44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets, with nominal masses of 15.6 g (240 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 427 m/s (1400 ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against most handgun threats, as well as the threats mentioned in sections 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3.

Type III (Rifles)

This armor protects against 7.62 mm Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets (U.S. Military designation M80), with nominal masses of 9.6 g (148 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 838 m/s (2750 ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in sections 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, and 2.4.

Type IV (Armor Piercing Rifle)

This armor protects against .30 caliber armor piercing (AP) bullets (U.S. Military designation M2 AP), with nominal masses of 10.8 g (166 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 869 m/s (2850 ft/s) or less. It also provides at least single hit protection against the threats mentioned in sections 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5.

The level you choose is based on the threat you are likely to face. This means, for most of us who are likely to use a vest at all, a threat level that will protect us from our own gun if it is taken away from us, as well as the guns carried by police officers in our region. In this editor’s city that would include roughly 36,000 gun-toting city police, plus assorted armed local, state, and federal law enforcement officers.

To add to the mixture, you can get inserts that offer higher levels of protection if you are shot and the bullet hits the insert. We have a number of these, the most protective of which is a Level IV strike plate. This plate is big (9 3⁄4” wide and 11” high and 3⁄4” thick) and heavy (8.5 pounds) and expensive (it retails for as much as the vest). We have never actually worn it, and hope never to be going into any situation that would require its use.

We also have smaller and lighter drop-in standard size (5” by 8”) inserts, which vary from the soft insert that came with our vest to a 0.2” thick Level IIIA metal insert weighing 1.38 pounds.

Why would you add one of these inserts? Well, if you are shot, the bullet can push the vest into your body, causing some level of trauma. If this happens, it would be nicer if it were pushing on a big plate rather than concentrating all the force on one tiny, bullet-sized area. In addition, woven ballistic vests aren’t generally swell at stopping knives, so an insert can be desirable if you happened to be being stabbed in the chest where you are wearing the insert. Most important of all, if you are in an automobile accident – which is much more likely than being shot – having the insert hit the steering wheel is better than your chest hitting the steering wheel, though that is less of an issue today, with most cars having air bags.

The bottom line is that we do not, in our normal daily lives, wear a ballistic vest: We face no more danger than anyone else, so it is not necessary. If we are in a situation where there is some higher probability of risk we will wear a vest, but will only use the soft insert. If we are doing something where we envision a higher probability of being actually shot at we will use one of the more visible inserts. While we do not imagine ever needing the level IV plate, we haven’t thrown it out.

More To Explore