Body armor is a crucial component in personal protection, and is used extensively in various sectors, including law enforcement, military, and civilians. Depending on the situation armor can either be worn as concealed body armor or tactical body armor. This article will delve into these two types, comparing their features, benefits, and typical applications.

Concealable Body Armor

Definition and Characteristics

Concealable body armor, as the name suggests is designed to be worn under clothing, making it relatively invisible to the casual observer. This type of armor is typically made from lightweight and flexible materials, allowing for a high degree of mobility while also providing substantial protection. Depending on the design and material used, it can protect against various threats, ranging from blunt force trauma to bullets from different types of firearms.

Benefits and Advantages

Concealable body armor offers several advantages. The most obvious is the ability to provide protection without drawing attention or causing alarm. This covert aspect allows individuals to blend into crowds and go about their duties without standing out or looking intimidating. It also holds a psychological advantage for the wearer and does not elicit reactions from others the way overt armor can. 

Another advantage is its relative comfort compared to bulkier forms of armor. Due to its lightweight, thin, and flexible design, individuals can wear concealable body armor for extended periods without experiencing discomfort. Moreover, advancements in body armor technology have led to increasingly lighter and thinner designs, improving comfort even further.

Typical Design and Features

Concealable body armor often takes the form of a vest that covers the torso, providing protection to vital organs like the heart and lungs. These vests are typically made from advanced materials such as Kevlar or UHMWPE (Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene) known for their high tensile strength and ability to absorb and disperse the energy from impacts. 

Size dimensions of concealable body armor - Tacticon Armament
Soft armor panel

Additionally, many designs feature pockets where additional armor plates can be inserted for enhanced protection. Some designs even have moisture-wicking and anti-microbial fabric linings to increase comfort during prolonged use.

Applications and Scenarios

Concealable body armor is commonly used in scenarios where covert operations or discretion is key. This includes roles in law enforcement, executive protection, private security, and civilian contexts. By providing unobtrusive protection, concealable body armor allows individuals to protect themselves without compromising their ability to blend in with the surrounding environment.

Concealable body armor offers a unique combination of discretion, comfort, and protection, making it an ideal choice for a range of scenarios where overt displays of protection could be counterproductive or draw unwanted attention.

Man wearing concealed body armor under at-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt - Tacticon Armament
Concealed body armor

Tactical Body Armor

Definition and Characteristics

Unlike concealable body armor, tactical body armor is designed to be worn overtly, usually over a uniform or other clothing. It is typically more robust, and heavier, and offers a higher level of protection compared to concealable body armor. Tactical body armor is commonly designed to resist not only pistol bullets but rifle rounds as well.  

Benefits and Advantages

The primary advantage of tactical body armor is its enhanced level of protection. Given its more substantial construction, it typically features additional armor plating and coverage that can protect against higher-caliber firearms and explosive shrapnel.

Another advantage of tactical body armor is the inclusion of additional features such as MOLLE pouches for carrying equipment, attachment points for gear like radios or holsters, and even integrated quick-release systems for rapid removal in emergency situations.

Typical Design and Features

Tactical body armor often comes in the form of plate carriers or tactical vests. These typically cover not only the front and back of the torso, like concealable vests. The armor plates used are often made from high-strength materials such as ceramic, UHMWPE, or steel, which are designed to stop incoming projectiles by shattering them on contact. 

Many designs also feature MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) webbing, which allows for the attachment of additional gear. This modularity enables users to customize their loadout to fit their specific mission requirements.

Applications and Scenarios

Tactical body armor is commonly used in scenarios where there is a risk of encountering rifle fire. This includes military operations, SWAT teams, and other law enforcement situations where rifle threats are likely.

Due to its overt nature and higher protection levels, tactical body armor is usually worn when threats are likely, as opposed to everyday use. Instead, it’s most often seen in active combat zones or high-risk law enforcement operations.

In summary, tactical body armor offers superior protection and enhanced functionality for high-threat environments, making it a crucial piece of equipment for military and law enforcement personnel operating in such scenarios.

Protection Level and Ballistic Capabilities

Concealable body armor generally offers lower protection levels than tactical body armor. It’s typically designed of soft armor to protect against handgun rounds and may include pockets for additional hard armor plates to guard against higher-caliber threats.

On the other hand, tactical body armor is designed to offer higher levels of protection by primarily utilizing armor plates. It can protect against rifle rounds, explosions, and other high-velocity projectiles due to the incorporation of hard armor plates.

Design and Coverage Area

Concealable body armor focuses on covering vital areas, usually the heart and lungs, and is generally designed as a vest. It’s meant to be worn underneath the clothing and due to its lightweight, thin, and flexible nature has a larger coverage area.

Tactical body armor, conversely, is designed to cover only the most essential areas without limiting the user due to weight and rigidity. Hard armor plates typically only cover the front and back, however, side plates can be attached to most plate carriers as well. Additional components like ballistic helmets, groin protectors, and arm or leg guards can also be integrated for full-body protection with pistol armor.

Size dimensions of hard body armor - Tacticon Armament
Tacticon hard armor plate

Ergonomics and Mobility

Due to its lightweight and flexible materials, concealable body armor generally provides better mobility and comfort, especially during prolonged use. It’s designed to be unobtrusive, allowing the wearer to move freely and blend in with the crowd.

Tactical body armor, however, is bulkier and heavier due to its additional protective components. While advancements have been made to improve its ergonomics, it still might hinder mobility to a certain degree compared to concealable body armor.

Concealability and Visibility

Concealable body armor is designed for discretion, to be worn without drawing attention or causing alarm. This allows individuals to maintain a low profile while still having protection. Tactical body armor is highly visible and clearly indicates that the wearer is prepared for a fight. Its overt nature can serve as a deterrent in some situations, but it also clearly marks the wearer as a potential threat in the eyes of adversaries.

Man in woods wearing overt body armor - Tacticon Armament
Overt body armor

In essence, the choice between concealable and tactical body armor depends on the specifics of the situation. Each offers its own advantages and is designed for different scenarios – concealable for discreet protection in lower threat environments, and tactical for maximum protection in high-threat, often combat-related situations.

Choosing the Right Body Armor for Your Needs

Selecting the appropriate body armor involves careful consideration of numerous factors. Here are some key considerations to make when choosing between concealable and tactical body armor.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Body Armor

Threat Level: Determine the types of threats you are likely to face. This could range from blunt force trauma and knife attacks to varying types of firearm projectiles based on the armor’s NIJ rating.

Comfort and Mobility: Consider the duration you will be wearing the armor and the mobility it allows. If you need to wear the armor for long periods, comfort becomes crucial. Similarly, your tasks may require swift movement, which could be hindered by bulky armor.

Environment: Your surroundings play a significant role in the type of armor you choose. Crowded, urban environments may call for concealable armor, while war zones or high-risk law enforcement situations might demand tactical body armor.

Assessing Personal Requirements and Risks

Understanding your specific requirements and potential risks is vital in choosing the right body armor. Are you a law enforcement officer who requires daily protection, a security guard in a high-risk environment, or a civilian in a dangerous area? Each of these scenarios involves different risks and therefore different requirements for body armor.

Understanding the Intended Use and Circumstances

Your body armor should be suitable for the specific situation or task at hand. If your role involves a lot of covert operations or situations where you need to blend in with the crowd, concealable body armor would be a more suitable choice. Conversely, if you’re involved in active combat or high-threat situations where additional protection is vital, tactical body armor would be the better option.

Balancing Concealment and Protection Needs

There’s a trade-off between concealment and protection. Concealable body armor offers discretion but usually at the cost of lower protection levels. On the other hand, tactical body armor provides higher protection but is overt and can be cumbersome. Depending on your specific situation and risk level, you’ll need to strike the right balance between these two factors.

In conclusion, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to body armor. The right choice depends on your personal needs, potential threats, working environment, and the specific tasks you’ll be performing. Always remember that the primary purpose of body armor is to protect you, so ensure that your choice fulfills this purpose effectively.

Parting Thoughts

Body armor, whether concealable or tactical, serves a vital role in personal protection across various sectors, from law enforcement and military to private security and certain civilian contexts. However, understanding the differences between these two types is essential to making an informed decision based on your needs and the potential threats you face.

Concealable body armor, designed for discretion and comfort, offers protection without drawing attention. It’s typically lightweight, flexible, and provides sufficient protection against lower-level threats, making it suitable for covert operations and scenarios where blending in is critical.

On the other hand, tactical body armor is designed for high-threat environments, offering enhanced protection at the cost of increased visibility and potential impact on mobility. Its robust design and additional features cater to situations where the risk is high and concealment is of secondary concern.

Choosing the right body armor is a critical decision that must be made based on an individual’s specific needs, the nature of their tasks, and the potential threats they might face. It’s essential to balance concealment and protection needs, considering factors such as the environment, comfort, mobility, and, most importantly, the level of protection required.

Ultimately, the goal is to ensure the safety and protection of the wearer. With a clear understanding of the key differences between concealable and tactical body armor, individuals and organizations can make informed decisions to safeguard their personnel effectively and efficiently.

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