When we need to choose body armor or any other tactical gear for that matter, it is paramount to adjust our choice primarily to the mission and then to our own capabilities. Having a higher grade of protection doesn’t always mean that we are safer.
There are four questions to list before making a final choice on armor:
- How well armed is the opposition?
- Is the mission long or short?
- Are you patrolling/defending or engaging?
- How much are you carrying?
If you are engaging perpetrators who have rifles and explosive devices then there is no choice but to go all-in with hard plates and do so quickly. But, if you are out on long patrols you will want something you can wear without fatigue lowering your combat ability.
Make a List of Your Needs
The best way to ensure the right choice of armor is to make a list of your needs before you begin. If you need protection on the job, make sure that you are taking everything into account.
While there might be extraordinary situations, you need to make a cost/benefit analysis if addressing that situation would harm your everyday duties. For instance, if you need to wear your armor on patrol for eight or more hours hard plates are out of the question. They might save you if you ever encounter rifle fire, but would harm you every day.
Choose Soft Body Armor for Every Day
Soft armor will protect you from even high-caliber handgun rounds and are very light and comfortable. Additionally, they can be concealed under your clothes, or even be woven into regular clothes such as the armored hoodie or T-shirt from UARM.
Hiding your armor gives you a tactical advantage in most situations that will increase your survivability.
And, if covert armor is not a necessity, there are overt soft tactical armors such as the Metropolis Vest with MOLLE webbing that is ideal if you need to jump in and out of your armor quickly. For police, paramedics, or any other type of first responders this armor can have some of the gear already attached and ready to go.
Hard Plates for Special Occasions
If you are bent on jumping into the fire, then you have no other option but to use the right tools. When you know your enemy will have rifles and knows how to use them, you will need an NIJ Level III or IV hard plate to protect you from those high-velocity rounds.
There are options to reduce the overall weight of your gear by using something like the UARM’s weightless plate carrier, but the plates alone will already be quite heavy. Once you have them on you want to strike fast and hard as to use your maximum combat ability.
If you are uncertain what you need, try keeping your gear flexible. Ideally, having a soft external carrier with a pocket for a hard plate, and that plate stored somewhere easily reachable.
You will know that you have made the right choice when your gear doesn’t hinder you and allows protection from anything you can come across.