In a world that sometimes requires us to take extra measures to ensure our safety protective gear has become increasingly important. Among these protective measures body armor plays a crucial role in offering protection against a range of threats. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of stab-resistant armor (aka stab proof vest) exploring its various forms, including spike resistant, edge blade resistant, and multi-threat armor.

What is Stab Resistant Armor?

Stab resistant armor is a type of body armor specifically designed to protect the wearer against attacks from pointed weapons like knives, needles, and spikes. Stab resistant vests are made to prevent an object from penetrating through the armor, similar to bulletproof vests but with tighter weaves to prevent smaller objects from passing through.

Materials used in stab resistant and spike resistant armor often include high strength synthetic fibers like Kevlar or Spectra, and laminated materials. The weave of these materials is typically tighter than that used in bullet resistant vests and often includes a layer of laminate to increase the protective abilities of the dense network of fibers.

What is Edge Blade Resistant Armor?

Edge blade resistant armor is designed to protect against attacks from weapons with a cutting edge, such as knives, machetes, etc. This type of armor aims to prevent the slicing motion of these weapons, which can cut through fabric and cause life threatening injuries.

The construction of edge blade resistant armor often involves layers of cut resistant materials such as aramid fibers (like Kevlar), ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (like Dyneema or Spectra), and sometimes even metal or ceramic components. The goal is to create a barrier that the edge of a blade cannot easily cut through.

What is Multi-Threat Armor?

Multi-threat armor is designed to protect the wearer from multiple types of attacks. This includes a combination of ballistic threats, edged blades, spikes, and blunt force trauma. Multi-threat armor is often used by law enforcement.

The construction of multi-threat armor varies depending on the threats it’s designed to protect against. It often involves a combination of materials and technologies used in stab-resistant, spike-resistant, edge blade-resistant, and bullet-resistant armors.

Common Armor Materials

Stab proof vest insert - Tacticon Armament
“Stab proof vest”

Body armor materials need to be both tough and flexible, able to withstand significant force without inhibiting the wearer’s movement. High-strength synthetic fibers such as Kevlar, Dyneema, or Spectra are often used. These materials have a high tensile strength and are woven into a dense, flexible fabric. Some armors also incorporate layers of laminated materials, and composites for added protection.

Threat Levels & Protection

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) oversees and establishes performance standards for stab resistant armor and body armor. The NIJ’s threat levels are designed to provide users with a way to assess the protective capabilities of different types of body armor.

NIJ (National Institute of Justice) Armor levels IIA, II, IIA, III, IV - Tacticon Armament
NIJ body armor levels
  • Level IIA: This armor protects against 9mm and .40 S&W.
  • Level II: This armor protects against .357 Magnum jacketed soft point (JSP) bullets.
  • Level IIIA: This armor protects against .357 SIG FMJ flat nose bullets and .44 Magnum semi-jacketed hollow point (SJHP) bullets. It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in Levels IIA and II.
  • Level III: This armor protects against 7.62mm FMJ jacketed bullets (U.S. Military designation M80). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in Levels IIA, II, and IIIA.
  • Level IV: This armor protects against .30 caliber armor-piercing bullets (U.S. Military designation M2 AP) and the threats mentioned in Levels IIA, II, IIIA, and III.

For stab resistance, the NIJ has three levels under 0115.00 protocols.

Level E1

Level E2

Level E3

To make sense of this we first must understand how the NIJ defines threats for stab, and edge attacks for these levels. To begin, the NIJ makes two classes of weapons for stab and blade resistance. The first can be called a commercial class, they go as far as the refer to this as “The streets” class. This is for what officers can expect to encounter on the streets, such as commercially made knives, swords etc. The other class takes into account improvised weapons in a correctional institution setting such as shives, picks, etc.

Man pushing a knife to a man's chest wearing a stab proof vest - Tacticon Armament

From these two classes, they compare weapons from both classes to a set criterion defined by a 1-100 percentile of male adults and their ability to breach the armor with attacks using these weapons. Level E1 is defined as the 85th percentile, meaning only the strongest 15/100 males could breach the vest using one of the various forms/weapons/ and at a variety of angles while attacking. The E2 level is 90th percentile, and E3 is the 96th percentile, meaning only 4% of the strongest males could breach the vest.

Soft Armor Advantages and Disadvantages

Man wearing Level E3 bulletproof and stab resistant vest - Tacticon Armament
Level E3 stab resistant vest

Soft armor is lightweight and flexible making it comfortable to wear. It is generally relatively affordable and can be worn covertly under clothing. However, it may not provide the same level of protection against certain threats, such as rifle bullets as hard armor.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Stab Proof Vests

Stab proof vests are designed to protect against edged weapons, such as knives. They are typically lightweight and can be worn comfortably for extended periods. However, they may not provide adequate protection against ballistic threats unless specifically designed to do so.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Spike Proof Vests

Spike proof vests provide protection against improvised weapons like ice picks, shanks, and knives. They are crucial for individuals at risk of such attacks. However, like stab proof vests they may not provide adequate protection against ballistic threats unless specifically designed for these.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Edge Blade Vests

Edge blade vests are designed to protect against weapons with a cutting edge, such as knives or machetes. They can significantly reduce the risk of life threatening injuries from such attacks. However, they may be less effective against blunt force trauma, ballistic threats, or pointed weapons.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Multi-Threat Vests

Multi-threat vests offer protection against a variety of threats, making them versatile for different situations. They can combine stab, spike, edge blade, and ballistic protection. However, they can be heavier and more expensive than other types of vests due to the multiple layers of protection.

Soft Armor vs. Hard Armor

Soft armor, made from woven or laminated fibers (e.g., Kevlar and UHMWPE), is lightweight and flexible, offering a comfortable option for everyday wear. It’s designed to trap and slow down bullets or reduce the impact of blunt force. However, soft armor does not stop rifle rounds.

Hard armor, typically made from materials like ceramics, steel, or polyethylene offers more robust protection from rifles. This type of armor can stop rifle bullets and provide protection against sharp objects. Hard armor can be heavier and less comfortable for extended wear.

Stabproof vs. Bulletproof

Stab proof vests are designed to prevent penetration from edged weapons like knives or broken bottles. Bullet proof (or bullet resistant) vests are designed to disperse the impact energy of a bullet, preventing it from penetrating the vest.

It’s important to note that while some vests can provide both bullet and stab protection, a vest designed specifically for one may not necessarily protect against the other. 

There is a difference between bullproof vs bullet resistant however, we commonly hear the term “Bulletproof vest”, however ‘bullet resistant’ is actually more correct as no armor is completely bulletproof. This is the reason the NIJ rates different armor levels, so that there is a clear description what threats armor will stop. 

Civilian Use of Stab Proof Vests

Stab proof vests can be a useful safety measure for civilians in certain professions or situations where there’s a risk of attack from edged weapons. For example law enforcement, security personnel, delivery drivers, or individuals in high crime areas may choose to wear a stab proof vest for added protection.

Armor Care, Maintenance, and Longevity

Armor should be regularly inspected for signs of wear, or damage. It should also be stored in a flat in a dry, and cool environment to prevent bending, moisture, and heat from harming it. The longevity of the armor depends on the manufactures stated warranty, however for soft armor this is generally 5 years. It is important to check your specific set.

Common Stab Resistant Armor Questions

How long does a stab proof vest last?

With proper care a stab proof vest can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years. However any sign of wear, damage, or a significant impact should warrant replacement.

Are stab proof vests uncomfortable?

The comfort of a stab proof vest can depend on its design, the materials used, and how well it fits the wearer. Modern designs have improved comfort, but some people may still find them restrictive or warm during extended wear.

Is it illegal to wear a stab proof vest?

In most places it is legal for civilians to purchase and wear stab proof vests. However, laws can vary so it’s important to check local regulations.

How thick is a stab proof vest?

The thickness of a stab proof vest can vary based on its design and the level of protection it offers. Typically, they can range from around 6mm to more than 20mm depending on the manufacture and level.

Will a stab vest stop a bullet?

A stab vest is not designed to stop a bullet. Some vests are rated for both bullet and stab protection, but unless specifically stated a stab vest should not be relied upon to stop a bullet.

What is more bulletproof than Kevlar?

Materials like ceramic, UHMWPE, and steel can offer higher levels of bullet resistance than Kevlar in the form of rifle plates.

Why are bulletproof vests not stab proof?

Bulletproof vests are designed to disperse the energy of a bullet, while stab proof vests are designed to prevent an object from penetrating through. The materials and design for each are different, which is why a bulletproof vest might not be stab proof and vice versa.

Would a stab proof vest stop a sword?

A stab proof vest will likely protect against a sword, but it would depend on the force of the attack, the type of sword, and the specific design and rating of the vest.

What should I wear to protect from stabbing?

A stab proof vest is specifically designed to protect against stabbings. However, avoiding dangerous situations is always the best form of protection.

Final Thoughts

Body armor, including stab proof vests can provide a crucial layer of protection for individuals in high risk situations. However, it’s essential to remember that these protective measures are not invincible shields. They should be regarded as a last resort rather than a first line of defense.

While stab-proof vests can provide significant protection, they’re not designed to make you invincible. Therefore, it’s always best to prioritize de-escalation, avoidance, and escape from situations where personal safety is threatened.

Moreover, the right type of body armor depends on the specific threat you’re likely to face. It’s important to understand the differences between soft and hard armor, as well as stab proof, bulletproof, and multi-threat vests. Each offers a unique set of advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered in light of your individual needs.

Finally, body armor should be maintained properly and replaced when needed to ensure its effectiveness. And, as always, check the laws in your area regarding the possession and use of body armor.

The advent of various protective gear, like stab resistant armor, has indeed made it possible to safeguard one’s life in certain threatening situations. However, this technology should augment, not replace, a comprehensive approach to personal safety that includes awareness, caution, and preparedness.

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