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        Choosing the Right Bulletproof Vest

        Choosing the Right Bulletproof Vest

        When choosing a bulletproof vest, it's important to consider the type of protection you need. Different vests offer different levels of protection, so you'll need to decide which one is right for you.

        For example, if you need a vest that can protect you from high-powered rifles, then you'll need to opt for a plate carrier with Level III or Level IV ballistic plates, made from multiple layers of bulletproof material. On the other hand, if you're looking for something to protect you in a situation where potential adversaries will be using smaller caliber handguns, then a Level IIA or Level IIIA soft vest, worn over or under clothing will be the right choice.

        Statistically, most crimes in the United States will be committed with handguns. In 2020, the ATF ran data analysis on 389,276 firearms recovered from crimes across the United States. Contrary to anti-gun rhetoric, which preaches that the 5.56x45mm rounds from the AR15 are the most dangerous and prolific rounds in the United States, the 9mm is by far the most common round found at crime scenes in America. In all the states except Montana and Puerto Rico (where criminals favor the .22 and the .40 caliber respectively) the 9mm is the undisputed king of gun crime. The 5.56x45 doesn’t even make it into the top 5, and the .223 ranks 13th.

        Top Calibers Recovered and Traced in the United States and Territories

        According to the ATF’s numbers, a Level IIA soft vest should be enough to stop the most common threats, since it protects against both 9mm and .40 S&W, the two most popular handguns used in crimes. The IIIA, a slightly heavier option, offers protection from larger rounds such as the .45 ACP, .357 Sig, .357 Mag and .44 Mag. Of these calibers, the .45 and .357 still rank relatively high on the ATF’s list, so it’s a good idea for anyone to spend the extra money to get the security of more robust armor.

        If you’re concerned about possibly taking rifle fire, Level III plates are rated to stop the AR15’s 5.56x45 rounds as well as 7.62x39 rounds from an AK-47 or .308 rounds from a high caliber bolt action rifle or AR-10. This type of armor is impossible to conceal under a shirt, and is usually worn by military personnel or law enforcement. Compared to the 145,815 9mm weapons traced by the ATF, the 9,032 5.56x45mm weapons in their database seem decidedly low, despite the AR15 being the most popular rifle in the United States. The .308 appears even less, with only 1,545 firearms traced.

        For those who want only the highest level of protection, Level IV plates are available. These heavy duty armor plates are capable of defeating .30-06 Armor-Piercing Rounds. This large caliber round is only slightly less common than its .308 counterpart on the ATF’s list of traced calibers. There were only 1,587 weapons chambered in .30-06. This is most likely because .30-06 rounds are expensive, averaging at around $1.30 on the lower end.

        Criminal elements are most likely to use what’s available, concealable, and cheap. For the best in concealable bulletproof, protection, BulletSafe recommends the VP3 bulletproof vest. This NIJ-Certified IIIA armor is designed to be lightweight and comfortable while being practical and effective. Worn over or under a shirt, it can also be upgraded with Level III or Level IV plates in its Velcro pockets to protect against greater threats. The VP3 is ideal for law enforcement, security and other professionals who seek reliable and comfortable protection.


        What to put on your Tactical Vest

        What to put on your Tactical Vest

        I once had the pleasure of meeting an individual who insisted that every inch of MOLLE webbing on his tactical vest had to be used for something. He suggested that an individual who was not carrying eleven magazines, a complete IFAK, a radio, a knife, a CamelBak pouch, and a flashlight was “under-equipped.” Does one need all these things in a survival situation? Yes, they would all be very handy. But should they all go on the plate carrier? Well, that depends. 

        There are two important maxims one should remember when kitting out. The first and most important is to equip yourself with what you will need for your particular mission; the second being that “lighter is faster.” Unless you graduated from BUD/S school you aren’t a Navy SEAL, and there’s absolutely no reason for you to copy a SEAL loadout because you aren’t going for long missions deep in hostile enemy territory. 

        Most customers who purchase the BulletSafe Tactical Plate Carrier Kit are either civilian security or law enforcement with the remainder of customers falling into the category of “protection-minded citizens.” 

        For security professionals who will be doing most of their work standing, a lightweight loadout is preferred. There’s no need to carry six extra magazines, since any potential encounter will be swift and limited to a single individual or a very small group. If you happen to work in a private security firm, be the judge of how many magazines you need to carry, but keep in mind that the majority of altercations with a single dangerous individual end after only a few rounds are fired from the weapon of a well-trained security officer. In the same vein, security officers should also carry a body camera on their vests in case police need evidence following a shooting. 

        The primary purpose of carrying things on a vest is for immediate access. However, you will still need to run to a threat if you are needed there, and you don’t want to be winded when you reach said threat. Either do cardio or carry less weight on your vests. For security personnel, any job-essential equipment that can be carried on a duty belt such as a first aid kit, handcuffs, or nonlethal weapons like pepper spray should be carried as such so as not to restrict your upper body movement, which you will need for aiming. 

        It's also important to remember that you may find yourself in a position where you have to get into awkward positions such as going prone or kneeling in a firefight. Extra equipment on your chest that hampers your ability to put your knees in the proper support position, or equipment which does not allow you to go prone will be detrimental to you. 

        With all this being said, it is up to you, the user, to find the right attachments for your vest suited to the tactical scenario you believe you will find yourself in. 

        When armor fails (and how to prevent it)

        Body Armor

        November 7, 2018. A mass shooter had just opened fire on a crowd of partygoers at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. Screaming patrons running out of the bar caught the attention of a nearby pair of California Highway Patrol officers and Sergeant Ron Helus from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. The three men rushed to the scene and made entry into the dark bar, filled with smoke from smoke grenades the shooter had thrown during the beginning of his massacre. The shooter, who was taking cover inside the front office, had been watching the men through security cameras and decided to engage Sergeant Helus, shooting him five times in the chest. One of the Highway Patrol officers, confused and disoriented by the smoke, fired his rifle in the general direction of the shooter, but instead struck Helus in the back. The bullet pierced Helus’s heart and killed him.

        Now, Sergeant Helus was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time, but it had been expired for 14 years. Not only that, but it was a soft armor vest that was never meant to take rifle fire. In the after action report of the incident, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department recognized the need to track the expiration dates of their body armor and notify personnel when necessary. They also saw that officers needed additional protection to meet rifle threats in the form of a tactical vest which could be worn over their soft armor. Because of this unfortunate tragedy, every deputy in Ventura County now has access to plate carriers stored away in their vehicles reserved for extremely dangerous situations.

        Now, if you’re a civilian, what does this mean to you? First, you should know most soft armor is not guaranteed to protect you against rifle fire, and every precaution should be taken to ensure you have adequate threat protection. Second, body armor expires, and it would behoove the responsible body armor owner to keep track of his vest’s expiration date. Think of body armor like a fire extinguisher. The little red tank is always there, sitting quietly in its glass case in the corner. You hope you’ll never have to use it, but if your house catches fire fifteen years after you buy it, and you reach for your fire extinguisher only to watch in horror as it fizzles out, this is not exactly the most ideal situation. In the same way, body armor usually lasts about five years, which is the same length of time as BulletSafe’s warranty. You’ll think it’ll work until it won’t, and the moment it stops working is when you’ll need it most.

        With this in mind, it is genuinely unwise to buy used bulletproof vests from places like police and military surplus stores. If a seller states the vest is older than five years and you intend to use it for something other than a costume, do not buy the vest. Some people buy used vests for economic reasons, but BulletSafe remains committed to selling body armor at affordable costs. As of this writing, BulletSafe vests are still only $299.97, a much more affordable price than some individuals are charging for police surplus.

        Not only do bulletproof vests expire, but they can also be damaged outside of regular wear and tear. Generally, it’s best to store your vest in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. The aramid fibers used to construct BulletSafe vests loosen with heat and humidity. Vests expire rapidly with daily use, but in some situations, the vest should be replaced immediately.

        For example, if your bulletproof vest is ever immersed in water for an extended period of time, say, in a washing machine, the cohesion of the aramid fibers is jeopardized. While NIJ standard 0101.06 requires a bulletproof vest to be put into water for 30 minutes before testing, this does not mean that a wet NIJ certified vest should be relied upon for safety. A paper published in the Textile Research Journal concluded that aramid fabric loses its tensile strength after being sprayed with water for only three minutes. In the test, a 9x18mm Makarov round was fired at both wet and dry vests. 20 wet layers of aramid fiber failed to stop the round from punching through, but 14 dry layers of the same material were sufficient enough to prevent penetration.

        Lastly, you should also consider disposing of your vest after it’s been compromised in any way. If a vest is shot, stabbed, or otherwise broken, this does not mean the vest is still safe. Any damage from shots or stabs in the armor play havoc on the resistance of the ballistic fibers by unraveling them. Once a vest is shot or otherwise damaged it should immediately be replaced.

        If you’re a BulletSafe customer and one of our vests happened to save your life, we will gladly replace the vest free of charge as long as a police report is provided.

        Did you know bulletproof vests could expire? How have you been taking care of your own armor? Tell us in the comments below.

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