Self Defense Training Articles
Self Defense Training Articles
So you’re ready to buy body armor. Maybe you’ve been running and gunning for a years now and it’s simply the next logical step before night vision. Or maybe you’ve seen the writing on the wall that things are going downhill fast and a little extra protection in this society is pricking the back of your mind. Or maybe you just think it’s wise to have a set of armor to go check on those bumps in the night.
Whatever your reason, it’s hard to argue with any of the logic. The simple fact is everyone should have body armor and truthfully everyone should probably have two sets (but more on that in a minute). But what kind of armor do you need? I get asked this all the time and it’s truthfully a hard question to answer because just like picking a carry gun; the answer is “it depends.”
To begin, we need to recognize there are two basic types of armor. One: a hard armor which is typically steel or ceramic plates. Steel can be hit multiple times but doesn’t generally stop as high a caliber rounds as ceramic. Ceramic is also a lot lighter but the internals can fracture causing failure of the armor so it needs to be checked periodically for internal stress fractures often caused by slinging it around nimbly bimbly.
Hard armor is what we think of we envision soldiers running and gunning in Afghanistan. It usually has magazines, medical pouches, or other gear attached to the molle webbing. It used to be that steel plates were all that was available but modern ceramic plates are much lighter and provide more protection for the solider who is not financially responsible for the replacement of the armor.
Soft Body Armor
Soft armor is what cops wear under their uniform. We grew watching shows like Magnum P.I. or Tango & Cash where it seemed like cops wouldn’t be outside without it. Riggs would have died in the first Lethal Weapon had he not been wearing it for the shotgun blast that knocked him 5 feet back.
Soft armor usually has a stab rating as well since they can be penetrated with force and are really only designed to stop bullets and blunt force attacks. The rating itself will be measured in joules of force.
Armor Levels And Ratings
Body armor comes in various levels; the lowest level is not level one for some reason but is level IIA. Apparently when level 1 was discontinued in the 1970’s it was just replaced with a slightly higher end level IIA.The National Institute of Justice requires level IIA to be rated for a 9mm at 1165 f/s and a .40cal at 1065 f/s.
Level II jumps the notch up (why we don’t just call IIA level I is beyond me) and must stop a 9mm at 1245 f/s and a .357 Magnum at 1430 f/s. These are easily concealable vests that provide substantially more protection that IIA making IIA virtually obsolete.
Level IIIA jumps the notch up once more and must stop a .357 Sig FMJ moving at a rate of 1470 f/s or a .44 Magnum at 1430 f/s. This is still in the soft armor category but is harder to conceal. I would liken this to what we see amongst a lot of our patrol cops. They aren’t yet in full battle rattle like a swat team but they aren’t concealing it like we’d think of an investigator or detective doing.
It’s interesting to note that modern technology has allowed IIIA to get a lot lighter and more concealable making level II almost irrelevant and harder and harder to find. I was actually looking at new armor for me and Amandalyn while I was writing this and I had a hard time finding level II and certainly at a reasonable price with the same company offering level II for $1200 and level IIIA for $500 while it only weighs a half pound more.
Level III is generally where we start seeing plates though some IIIA will have it or have the option of adding it. Steel plates must be able to stop a .308 cal bullet at 2780 f/s. These are extremely heavy weighing in at just under 10 pounds. Ceramic plates are available that will weigh 1/3 that and are much nicer to wear all day. However, they are only good for a few rounds where steel (though not approved for use again) can be used indefinitely. This comes in to play if you’re planning for the apocalypse more so than a home invasion. However, a home invasion would be over fairly fast and I’m not sure it matters since you’re not patrolling in those heavy weights.
Finally we bump up to level IV which offers the highest protection designed to stop one armor piercing round. It’s important to note that III is designed for multiple hits so depending on your mission IV is not necessarily better. To my knowledge there’s no hard and fast rule and with technology changing so fast this could be inaccurate by the time this is published but I’m not aware of any steel level IV plates and the only ones I’ve seen are ceramic.
Before moving on, it’s important to designate one more option that is sometimes seen and that is the + options such as level III+ which is not actually rated by the NIJ but is an independent designator done by manufacturers with no standard. Do I think it’s worth paying for? Only from reputable manufacturers. Personally my main plate carrier is Level III+ from Ar500.
Lastly, it should also be noted that the rating system is changing and the new publication came out two days before this article (so I’m outdated before publishing). The new ratings have similar requirements but level IV is no longer on the list and instead everything is changed to Handgun Level I and II, and Rifle Levels I, II and III.
Armor Use In The Real World
Alright, so that’s the down and dirty on body armor but what do you actually need. Well my argument is always that everyone needs two sets of armor. One hard and one soft armor set per person of fighting age in the family. Let me explain.
First the hard armor; everyone wants to play with hard armor and go out with their AR15 pretending to be Rambo and running and gunning with their buddies but the simple reality is that it is highly unlikely you will ever use it in that sense. Even in some non permissive environments it isn’t appropriate to wear full body armor.
We see this in natural disaster areas and economic collapse world wide where citizens may setup safe havens with armed guards but they are short lived and often over taken by government forces where armor and guns are confiscated.
Hurricane Katrina is a great example of this where groups of individuals setup safe spaces with armed guards but eventually the National Guard and Police Departments started confiscating weapons and gear at road blocks all in the name of “public safety. “
Does that mean you shouldn’t have hard armor and train with it? absolutely not. In fact I think it’s very important to train some for the worst case scenario which could see you in full body armor for short periods of time or maybe just for a night of fighting off looters intent on taking over your home.
But the simple reality is that that day will likely never be in your future but what may be in your future is a day where you’re in a semi permissive environment and the need for body armor that can be worn under your daily clothing presents itself. For those of you screaming how wrong I am I want you to think about Argentina, Katrina, Minneapolis during the George Floyd riots, any number of civil unrest scenarios that take place in our post modern societies. These scenarios happen at local, state, and national levels across the globe leaving citizens begging for soft armor to be legal.
The scenarios are certainly present for both armors being needed and in some instances during the same disaster, such as the conflict in Israel happening right now where citizens are demanding the right to private ownership of firearms. But we can see much more application of soft armor in that it can be used as a safety protocol during range training, can be worn in degrading societies or natural disasters and is generally far more applicable as civilians than hard armor so it should be your first purchase.
Our general recommendation for students seeking body armor is to get level II or IIIA soft armor along with a pancake style pistol holster and two magazine carriers for your belt. This can all be concealed under an oversized button down shirt and can be worn in permissive, semi permissive and non permissive environments. Train how you fight and work movement with this equipment. A load bearing vest (LBV) can be thrown over the top with shot shell holders or Ar15 magazine carriers for home defense and some models have spare pistol mag carriers built in defending on how you desire to set it up.
We sacrifice some defense stopping power for conceivability and usability during the most likely course of action we would end up engaging. Admittedly this sacrifices some in the most dangerous course of action but still provides protection. Keep in mind at a later date the ideal situation is to get level III, III+ or IV body armor. Level IIIA used to be reserved for more law enforcement purposes but modern technology has made it more affordable and closes the gap on comfort between Level II and IIIA.
Ultimately you need to be comfortable with your decision but a quality soft vest is far more versatile than hard armor and though it may not perform as well in highly dangerous environments it would be unusual and exceedingly rare that we would find ourselves needing the higher end armor as anyone other than swat teams and military patrols.
is an entrepreneur and content creator. He lives on a small homestead in central Alabama where his wife and three children raise livestock and enjoy the quit life on their farm. He served as an Infantry Officer in the United States Army from Alaska to Afghanistan and currently owns, along side his wife, Timberline Security Solutions LLC based in Birmingham Alabama.
Amandalyn has spent her professional career doing a little bit of everything from being a licensed real estate agent, to a Private Investigator. Currently she operates, along with her husband, Timberline Security Solutions LLC to train civilians, military and police officers for the battle they may one day face. Together with Mackay they work as Private Investigators and conduct executive level protection details.