Understanding what body armor to buy as a civilian can be confusing, mainly because it’s probably not something you’re familiar with unless you were enlisted in the military and wore issued body armor or it’s part of your daily work as a contractor or law enforcement officer.
You’re here because you’re interested in buying high-quality body armor and you need to understand what you’re looking at, what to consider when purchasing it, and what personal protection is right for you.
Next Day Armor was founded on the principle that your next day matters. Because of that, we’ve made it our mission to get civilians the highest quality armor in the shortest amount of time, all while being a trusted source of knowledge in understanding what you’re buying.
We’ve put together this list to do just that – to help you understand what to consider when buying high-quality body armor for your personal protection.
1) Can I buy body armor as a civilian?
If you live in the United States, the answer in most cases is yes – you can purchase body armor as a civilian for personal protection. However, there are both federal and state restrictions that you need to know about before buying body armor. See the full article here – Is It Legal for Civilians to Buy Body Armor In My State?
2) What size body armor plates do I need to fit my plate carrier?
This is the most common question we get asked. The answer depends on two important factors: your body shape and size and your plate carrier brand and size.
In general, to get the maximum protection, body armor should cover your front, back, and sides. The body armor should fit you well, so it is very important to establish the correct measurements.
We’ve developed this sizing guide to help you properly fit our hard armor rifle plates to your plate carrier. See the full sizing guide here — How to Choose the Right Size Plates for Your Armor System.
3) What level of threat protection should I get?
When considering threat level ratings – think about the type of threats you expect to encounter, which objective you need to accomplish, and the level of protection that will be required to offer yourself the best protection for the situation. For example, if there is a probability that you will encounter mainly rifle threats, choose plates that offer protection against rifle threats. If you are unsure of the threats you may face, consider choosing hard armor plates that offer rifle threat protection as these plates also provide handgun threat protection. If your mission is very specific to maneuverability, you may need to consider the maximum threat protection at the lightest weight per plate to ensure you can accomplish your objective.
4) Where are the plates made and are they lab tested to the NIJ standard?
If you expect to come up against real threats, being confident that you’re getting what you pay for is important. Trust and confidence in what you’re buying and wearing for your personal protection should be the basis for your decision. We believe the best body armor plates are either NIJ certified and or accepted by U.S. military, law enforcement, special forces and other units that thoroughly confirm and test products before issuing them for mission readiness.
So what is the NIJ and why is it important?
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has been setting body armor standards since 1972. The NIJ standard is the only nationally recognized standard for body armor worn by law enforcement and corrections officers. The NIJ also administers a program to test commercially-available armor against their compliance regulations to determine whether it meets the NIJ’s minimum performance standards.
The NIJ conducts ballistics tests and other tests to determine the effectiveness and protection of a body vest, hard plates, and soft panels. These tests also help to determine the lifespan of the body armor. NIJ ratings cover both soft and hard armor categories, with soft armor comprising the lower levels and hard armor the higher levels.
The NIJ’s website offers in-depth detail on their methods and testing criteria and the associated ratings.
The important thing to remember is to thoroughly consider the level of threat you expect to be up against. There are ranges including Type I, IIA, II, IIIA for handguns, and Type III, III++, IV hard armor types that perform well against rifle threats. In general, the higher the body armor rating – the greater the protection it provides.
5) Understanding in-conjunction vs stand-alone body armor ratings
It is very important to know the difference between stand-alone and in-conjunction ratings when looking at what body armor to buy.
Stand-alone armor is exactly what it says: No other protection is needed to stop the prescribed threat levels stated on the product rating.
In conjunction with armor requires multiple pieces to provide protection against the prescribed threat level. In-conjunction typically means there is a combination of both soft and hard armor to gain the level of protection stated on the product rating.
Choosing the right body armor can be a matter of life or death and we encourage you to consider your options carefully. Please do your research to determine which type of gear is right for your specific needs, anticipated threats, and always purchase from a reputable dealer. When you feel confident in your buying decision, you’ll feel safe and prepared for when “what if” becomes what is.