The terms ‘bulletproof’ and ‘bullet-resistant’ are often used interchangeably when discussing body armor. However, it’s important to understand the distinction between bulletproof vs bullet resistant and their implications in the field of personal protection. While no material can be considered truly ‘bulletproof’ against all types of ammunition and velocities, the term ‘bullet-resistant’ accurately describes materials that can resist the penetration of certain bullets and to what degree. It’s crucial to recognize this difference to ensure a clear understanding of the actual capabilities of armor and manage expectations. In this article, we will provide an overview of bullet-resistant protection, explore the concept of ‘bulletproof vs bullet-resistant,’ and delve into how armor is rated by the NIJ for various levels of ballistic protection.
History of Body Armor
Body armor has a long and varied history, it began with the use of thick fabrics like leather and woven fabrics. As weapons and tooling improved so did the ability to manufacture armor of steel and bronze to counter these threats. The use of shields continued to be popular as a portable and maneuverable armor solution.
Throughout the history of body armor, advancements have been driven by the evolving nature of threats and the demand for enhanced protection and comfort. Over time, body armor has evolved from the basic metallic armor of medieval knights to enhanced Kevlar vests used by law enforcement today. Hard armor plates were developed for soldiers to address rifle threats that Kevlar could not protect against. This continual evolution has been driven by the need for better protection and comfort for the wearer.
Ballistic Levels of Protection
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has defined levels of protection for body armor under their .06 standard. The National Institute of Justice has announced it will soon be releasing the .07 standard to address evolving caliber threats. We have some idea what those may be, but it is not yet official, as it stands right now the current standards are listed below.
Level IIA: Protects against 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ammunition.
Level II: Provides protection against .357 Magnum ammunition.
Level IIIA: Protection against .357 SIG and .44 Magnum ammunition.
Level III: Resistant to 6 shots of 7.62×51 with only 44mm of back face deformation from the first two shots.
Level IV: Stops 30-06 caliber armor-piercing rifle rounds.
Each of the different body armor levels is capable of protecting against the threats listed in lower levels.
Different Types of Materials
Body armor is made from a variety of materials, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Kevlar is a type of aramid fiber that is woven into a fabric and layered. It’s lightweight, flexible, and has a high tensile strength. Kevlar provides excellent soft body armor options to be worn in a vest.
UHMWPE, Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene is a type of thermoplastic that is lighter than Kevlar but offers a similar level of ballistic protection for soft body armor. UHMWPE is also commonly used as a back in ceramic composite armor to provide support and additional capability.
Ceramic is often used with a UHMWPE backer. Ceramic plates are capable of achieving the NIJ’s highest rating due to their rigidity. They are lighter than steel, but not as robust because they can fracture if dropped repeatedly on hard surfaces.
Steel plates (a truly classic form of body armor) offer good rifle protection, but is limited, and cannot achieve NIJ level 4 rating. Steel fails against most armor piercings and faster rounds. However, steel is generally the most affordable rifle plate. A coating or covering must be used to prevent spall and fragmentation caused by the impact of a round. This generally takes the form of something called a frag coating. Steel tends to be a heavier plate option.
The NIJ sets the standards for body armor in the United States. It conducts rigorous testing to ensure that body armor meets these standards. The testing involves firing specific types of ammunition at the armor and measuring the depth of the indentation on the clay backing material. The armor must not only prevent the bullet from penetrating, but it also must limit the amount of blunt force trauma to the wearer.
Pros and Cons of Body Armor
Let’s now delve into the pros and cons associated with bulletproof body armor. We will examine the benefits it offers in terms of effective protection against various bullets and projectiles, enhanced personal safety, limited protection against unrated threats, and much more.
- Effective Protection: Bulletproof body armor provides reliable protection against various types of bullets and projectiles.
- Personal Safety: It enhances the safety and security of individuals in potentially dangerous situations.
- Versatility: Bulletproof body armor is available in different forms, such as vests, plates, and inserts, allowing for customization and adaptability.
- Increased Confidence: Wearing bulletproof body armor can boost confidence and peace of mind, especially in high-risk professions.
- Wide Range of Applications: It is used by military personnel, law enforcement officers, security professionals, and civilians who require enhanced personal protection.
- Durability: Bulletproof body armor is designed to withstand harsh conditions and retain its effectiveness over time.
- Lightweight Options: There are lightweight options available that provide excellent protection without compromising mobility or comfort.
- Enhanced Survival Odds: In life-threatening situations, wearing bulletproof body armor can significantly improve the chances of survival.
- Level of Threat Mitigation: Bulletproof body armor offers varying levels of ballistic protection, allowing individuals to select the appropriate armor based on their specific needs.
- Weight and Discomfort: Body armor can be heavy and uncomfortable, potentially restricting mobility and causing fatigue during extended wear.
- Limited Protection against Unrated Threats: Armor is designed and rated to withstand specific ballistic threats. It may not provide complete protection against all types of ammunition or projectiles, particularly those it is not specifically rated for.
- Incomplete Body Coverage: Body armor typically covers vital organs and areas that are more susceptible to fatal injuries but does not provide full-body coverage.
- Cost: High-quality bulletproof body armor, especially lightweight and multicurve plates, can be expensive, making it a significant investment for individuals or organizations.
- Compliance with NIJ Standards: To ensure the reliability and effectiveness of body armor, it must meet the testing and certification standards set by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Complying with these standards can be a complex process for manufacturers and may affect the availability or affordability of certain armor options.
- Body armor is not bulletproof.
How To Choose The Right Body Armor
When choosing body armor, consider the nature of the threat you’re likely to encounter, the level of mobility you require, and the comfort you need. Here are some factors to keep in mind:
Threat Level: Different armor levels offer varying degrees of protection. Choose an armor that meets the threat level you’re most likely to encounter. If you expect rifle threats don’t buy a ‘Bulletproof vest’ these are made of soft armor and incapable of handling a rifle threat.
Comfort and Mobility: Body armor that’s too heavy or restrictive can limit your mobility and become uncomfortable over time. Consider the weight and flexibility of the armor and how it will impact your ability to move.
Material: Different materials offer various benefits and drawbacks. For example, Kevlar is lightweight and flexible, but not as hard or durable as steel or ceramic plates.
Cost: Higher levels of protection tend to be more expensive. Consider your budget when deciding on the type and level of armor.
Common Bulletproof vs Bullet Resistant Questions
What does bullet-resistant mean?
Bullet-resistant means that a material or object can resist the impact of bullets up to a certain extent. It doesn’t mean the material is impervious to all bullets, but it can protect against specific types of ammunition at given velocities.
What material is 100% bulletproof?
No material is 100% bulletproof against all types of ammunition at all velocities. The effectiveness of a material in stopping bullets depends on factors such as the type and speed of the bullet, the angle of impact, and the thickness and structure of the material.
What is the highest grade bulletproof?
The highest grade of body armor according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is Level IV, which can protect against .30 caliber armor-piercing rifle rounds.
Is anything completely bulletproof?
No material or object is completely bulletproof against all types of ammunition and velocities. Even the highest-grade body armor can be penetrated by certain types of bullets or repeated hits in the same area.
Is bulletproof fireproof?
No, bullet-resistant materials are not typically fireproof. While some materials used in body armor may have some resistance to heat, they are not designed to protect against fire or high temperatures.
Can an AR-15 penetrate a bulletproof vest?
An AR-15 fires a .223 caliber round which can penetrate some types of body armor. Typically, only Level III and IV armor can stop rifle rounds like those fired by an AR-15.
Do bullets bounce off bulletproof vests?
Bullets do not typically bounce off bulletproof vests. Instead, the layers of material in the vest absorb and disperse the energy of the bullet, which helps to prevent it from penetrating the armor.
What levels of protection Tacticon offers?
At Tacticon, we offer a range of protection levels to meet various needs and requirements. Our body armor solutions include options such as Level IIIA, Level III, and Level IV, rifle plates, handgun plates, and more. These levels represent different levels of ballistic protection, with higher levels offering increased resistance against more powerful ammunition. Whether you need lightweight concealable armor or robust rifle-rated plates, Tacticon has you covered with reliable and high-quality protective gear.
Can civilians own body armor?
Yes, in most places, civilians can legally purchase and own body armor. However, there may be restrictions in certain areas, and convicted felons are typically prohibited from owning body armor. Always check the local laws in your area.
Final Thoughts on Bulletproof vs Bullet Resistant
Understanding the difference between bulletproof vs bullet-resistant, the types of armor available, and various threat levels can help you make an informed choice for your specific protection needs. No body armor is bulletproof, in fact, most body armor is specialized to reduce weight, at the cost of protection from certain calibers. Body armor is constantly evolving, it is important to know that as threats evolve certain armor will not be as beneficial. That’s why we no longer wear chainmail.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.