Body armor serves an important purpose for those who face danger. However, the effectiveness of body armor heavily depends on various factors such as correct sizing, proper fit, and even color. This article will delve into these considerations, and how they impact mobility, longevity, and concealment when wearing body armor, carriers, and vests.

Importance of Correctly Fitted Body Armor

The fit of your body armor is a key determinant of its effectiveness and comfort. Different types of fits, such as shooter’s cut or swimmer’s cut, are designed with various purposes in mind, impacting how the armor interacts with the wearer’s body. Comfort, mobility, and protection are the primary aspects to consider here.

Swimmers cut body armor overlaying shooters cut body armor - Tacticon Armament
Swimmers Cut Overlaying Shooters Cut Body Armor

Enhanced Comfort & Mobility

If you’re planning to wear the armor vest or body armor carrier for an extended period, or long distance, comfort becomes more important than if you’ll only wear it for an hour or two. Poorly fitted armor can cause discomfort, affecting your concentration and ability to perform effectively. The cut and material of your armor can also play a significant role in mitigating heat and cold discomfort.

Optimal Protection Coverage

When it comes to body armor, there’s often a tradeoff between mobility and protection. While it’s important to stay protected, over-encumbering yourself can limit your ability to move freely, which could also prove detrimental.

The right balance depends on the specific threats you face, your physical abilities, and the nature of your activities. I mean, a full-body EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) suite will sure protect you, but good luck moving fast.

Measuring and Determining the Right Size

Just like clothing, getting the right size is crucial before purchasing body armor. Ill-fitted armor can compromise its effectiveness and comfort.

Hard Armor Sizing

When measuring armor plate sizing, measure across your chest from nipple to nipple for width, and from the top of your sternum to your belly button for height. Subtract about 2-3 inches from this measurement to determine the height. It’s also important to ensure that the armor doesn’t bump into your throat when you sit down or crouch and doesn’t bump into your hips or feel uncomfortable.

Overlay of proper body armor fitment over vital organs - Tacticon Armament
Proper Body Armor Fitment

Generally, if your height is below 5’2”, choose 8 x 10 in armor panels. If your height is between 5’2” and 6’3”, choose 10 x 12 in. armor panels. If your height is above 6’3”, choose 11 x 14 in. armor panels. The weight of the panel is another consideration, lighter can be better depending on your constitution.

Soft Armor Sizing

For soft body armor, different measurements are needed. The “E3003 “Standard Practice for Measurement of Body Armor Wearers” guides these measurements. They include the chest/bust girth level, torso girth level, chest width, back width, bust point to bust point (female only), bust point to side seam (female only), under bust girth level (female only), front and back center lengths, and front lateral length. There are different types of soft armor as well, based on either ballistic threats, edged weapons threats, or spike resistant armor. 

Adjustability & Customization

Many body armor vests, carriers, and soft body armor allow for size customization and adjustability, making it easier to get a proper fit.

Importance of Adjustable Straps and Fasteners

Straps and fasteners are vital to adjusting body armor to fit different body shapes and sizes accurately. They help ensure that the armor stays in place and covers the essential parts of your body effectively. Most cumberbunds on plate carriers can be adjusted to fit a 2XL. Shoulder straps need adjusting to your size as well to make sure the armor is not too high or too low in the front or back. 

Fitting Body Shapes & Sizes

Body armor comes in various shapes and sizes to accommodate different body types including larger, regular, small, petite, and female specific body armor. There are many options out there. The most common hard armor size is 10×12, which should be used by anyone who wears a medium t-shirt to XL/2XL. 

Common Body Armor Fit Issues

Common fit issues stem from improper plate carrier adjustment. This means having the cumberbund too loose to where the armor is not secure and moves while you move. Or being too tight to the point it becomes restrictive. Similarly, if the shoulder straps are too loose the plates will sag, leaving you exposed. If they are too tight you risk injury to your chin, teeth, and nose.

Side Protection

Side plates for hard armor are generally 6×6 or 6×8, the choice is up to the user more or less, but 6×6 provides better mobility. Side plates are mounted on the cumberbund in pouches to extend frontal and side protection beyond the front plate alone. 

Range of Motion & Flexibility

Range of motion and flexibility are additional reasons that body armor must be properly sized. Oftentimes people want as much coverage as they can get without realizing that if they go too big they lose the ability to fully move their arms. For example, wearing an 11×14 plate may affect the ability to shoulder a rifle if you are not that large. 

Body Armor Color

Ah, this is the fun part. Plate carriers come in many colors from camo to FDE, OD Green, etc. The color of your body armor can impact its effectiveness in terms of concealment. Generally, in desert areas many people elect an FDE plate carrier, whereas those in more wooded areas often select OD green or a camouflage pattern. 

Camouflage & Concealment

Camouflage patterns such as forest, desert, and marine are designed to conceal the wearer in different environments and scenarios. Obviously, certain colors are better in certain environments, that’s why it is important to look at your environment prior to purchase. 

Find the Right Color For You

Depending on the manufacturer, body armor comes in various colors. For example, Tacticon products offer a range of colors to suit your preferences and tactical needs. Beyond personal style preference, there are external factors that should influence the selection of body armor.

Climate & Weather

The climate and weather conditions of the environment where the armor will be worn should be considered. For instance, wet environments require snug-fitting armor to avoid chafing and skin irritations. In dry environments, sand and debris can find their way into loosely fitting armor. In cold environments, body armor can provide an additional layer of warmth, while in hot environments, proper fit is essential for keeping cool and controlling sweat accumulation. 

Body Armor Size/Fit/Color FAQs

How should body armor fit?

Body armor should fit snugly without being too tight. It should cover the vital areas of the torso including your heart, lungs, and major organs, but it should not restrict your movement or cause discomfort.

Is body armor one size fits all?

No, body armor is not one size fits all. It comes in various sizes to accommodate different body types and sizes. Choosing the correct size is crucial for optimal protection and comfort. Body armor should cover your vital organs without restricting movement. 

Should body armor be tight or loose?

Body armor should neither be too tight nor too loose. It should fit snugly without restricting movement or breathing. Armor that’s too loose might not provide adequate protection, while armor that’s too tight can be uncomfortable and limit your range of motion.

How far down should body armor go?

Body armor should ideally cover the length of your torso, from the sternum to about 2-3 inches above your belly button. This offers protection to your vital organs without restricting movement.

Should body armor cover the belly button?

No. Body armor should ideally end about 2-3 inches above the belly button. This ensures it covers your vital organs but doesn’t impede movement or cause discomfort when you sit or bend.

Does armor need to be fitted?

Yes, body armor should be properly fitted for the wearer. This ensures optimal coverage of vital areas, maximum comfort, and unrestricted movement.

What size armor do I need?

The size of body armor you need depends on your body measurements, typically your chest width (nipple to nipple) and the length from your sternum to your belly button. Most armor manufacturers provide size charts to guide you.

Can you wear body armor under clothes?

Yes, some types of body armor are designed to be worn covertly under clothing. However, the level of protection, comfort, and concealability of the armor will depend on the specific type of armor.

What is the most common body armor size?

10×12 inch plates are the most common as they provide a good balance of coverage and mobility for anyone who is 5’3-6’3

What is the best color for tactical gear?

We are all still seeking the one size fits all, but unfortunately haven’t found it yet. The best color for tactical gear depends on the environment in which it will be used. Black, tan, green, and various camouflage patterns are all popular choices.

What color is night armor?

“Night armor” typically refers to armor that is black or dark colored, designed for operations in low-light or night conditions. Unless we are talking Knight armor, that was metallic for the most part. 

Final Thoughts

Selecting the right body armor involves considering size, fit, and color, each of which has a significant impact on the armor’s performance and comfort. As you assess your personal needs and evaluate the available options, it’s crucial to make informed decisions for your safety and the effective use of your body armor. Make sure to understand the best sizing option for your individual needs that will cover your vitals without hindering movement. Always ensure your armor carrier has been properly adjusted for you with the armor in it.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.