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Body armor explained

Body armor is constantly adapting to the needs of changing combat and technological advancements. Body armor offers advanced protection capable of defending against the most lethal ballistics on the market. 

At Spear Gear International, we understand the importance of understanding such potentially life-saving equipment before you decide which one to purchase. That's why we've created a thorough guide about what you should know to make the most informed decision before your purchase.  



Body armor is intrinsically linked with war, violent crime, hazardous situations, terror strikes, accidents, and such other life threatening events. Many people believe that the purchase of body armor may be restricted for lack of “official” military, police, security identification. This is false. Contrary to the general impression, anyone can easily access body armor through e-commerce.  The law abiding citizen who wants to protect themselves and their families can also purchase what gear they feel is needed.


Laws related to BODY ARMOR

Under US law, federal or state, US citizens and legal residents can legally purchase a bulletproof vest and or body armor.

However, there are three exceptions:

  • Convicts who intentionally perpetrate violence or unlawful activities cannot own body armor
  • The only state where e-commerce purchase of body armors is prohibited in Connecticut. You can only buy a bulletproof vest there only in a store.
  • Wearing a protective vest while committing crime or illegal activity of any nature will prove intent during the trial.


Can I fly while wearing BODY ARMOR?

Yes. The simple logic is that if you can purchase an item legally and freely, then you should be able to use it – in this case, wear it—when you see fit. In some states or cities you cannot wear body armor in public. It is to be worn only on your property or in your home. You may be targeted by TSA or Law Enforcement and delayed however.

You can check it in your luggage bag when traveling by air.



No. Federal law does not allow people to carry bulletproof vests purchased in other countries inside the US. This is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms or ITAR regulation.

The extended restrictions also aplies to shipping, taking, bringing, or sending body armor to or from the US. Simply put, you have to buy and wear bulletproof vests made in the US.



NIJ stands for National Institute for Justice.

This institute is a certifying agency for body armor effectiveness and safety. An NIJ rating is awarded to a product that clears ballistic standards of resistance set by the US and accepted almost universally.

NIJ standards are incredibly stringent and require brands to comply with uncompromising quality, safety, and protection of wearers. NIJ certification has to be obtained for products from accredited third-party laboratories.

It is necessary to check an armor plate or vest for its NIJ rating before making a purchase. After all, you are buying body armor for protection.



The NIJ has rated body armors according to their functionality and capability to resist or deflect ballistic. These ratings help in choosing the right armor for specific requirements. NIJ ratings are divided into soft armor and hard armor categories.


Level IIA

This level is the most concealable armor for those who need to be undetected, such as undercover law enforcement, protective agents, and intelligence gatherers, and high net-worth individuals.

Level II

It has an ideal balance between weight, flexibility, protection, and possibility of concealing the armor. Level II armor can protect you against specific handgun and shotgun ballistics.

Level IIIA

The most universally recommended armor that offers protection against most handgun and shotgun ballistics.


Level III

This is rated especially for a wide range of rifle ballistics on the lower end of the spectrum.

Level IV or Level III+

This is the most advanced body armor rating with outstanding capacity to resist most rifle, handgun, and shotgun ballistics including 7.62x39, .223/.556, .308, M193 Nato Ball. This level of protection is usually purchased by individuals involved in high threat endeavors such as military, law enforcement, para military contractors.



One must first look at the purpose of purchasing and what environment you will be wearing in.

So, how can one type of body armor satisfy different situations and requirements? Each situation has specific unique characteristics; hence, customization of body armor for various needs is necessary. 

Typically ballistic protection is divided into 2 categories


For personal armor pertaining to ballistics, this helps absorb the impact of the firearm or explosive shrapnel, and thus limits its penetration capacity. The multi-layered armor is made of solid fibrous materials that blunt and deform the approaching bullet or shrapnel, and alter their shape into a  dish-like form.

As these twin actions of stopping and blunting the bullet occur, the vest distributes its energy across its structure which weakens its impact. One of the materials used in mainstream bulletproof vests is Kevlar, which is why they are often referred to as Kevlar vests.



Soft armor is meant for light combat, civil crime, and other types of situations. Hence, they have some benefits:

  • Concealed armor – can be worn by anyone without being visually detected
  • Soft and flexible material – high on comfort
  • Lightweight – does not add to the overall weight of security gear
  • High deflection range – can effectively counter a wide range of handgun threat
  • Combination layers – Kevlar, Dyneema, and other combination materials produce outstanding resistance while being user-friendly


Hard body armor use combination layers of lightweight but solid materials such as steel, special metal alloys such as Armox, ceramic, and titanium. They usually have a back-lining of pressed laminate which enhances its resistance power.

Advantages of hard armor

  • Extremely bullet resistant – ideal for heavy combat
  • Usually worn externally in carriers
  • Unlike the concealed vest, it is not required to be worn all the time – it is easier to take on and off as needed, depending on threat level

Advantages of hard armor

  • Limited lifespan
  • Easily detected but shows an investment of preparedness
  • Heavy and bulky
  • Can be uncomfortable for the wearer when they slip, fall, role on the ground, or are in a crouching position.
  • It is important to mention that your choice of carrier will determine your comfort while carrying the added weight. 3 to 9 lbs per large plate, front and back plus two side plates that protect your liver and kidneys.



Concealed, lightweight vests are ideal for security personnel, bodyguards, law enforcement agencies, high profile citizens, public servants, emergency workers and other folks where concealment, fast action, agility, and ease of movement are essential. Mostly, can be worn for long durations.

On the other hand, hard armor is best for armed forces, federal and state and local law enforcement agencies special security, where the wearers are involved in an open conflict situation and are at potential risk of heavy gunfire. They are suitable for limited-time operations or you are physically fit enough to wear them for long periods.

(a battle belt in addition to your plate carrier can take the extra weight off of your lower spine and rest some of it onto your hips. This can give the wearer a great measure of relief.)



Body armor is made of synthetic materials, whose properties and characteristics are lab-made. Hence, they tend to "grow old," or become less effective with time. 

The materials lose their abilities of deflection, resistance, and dilution of kinetic energy. Due to this, body armor has a defined lifespan. Usually, all NIJ certified armor has a 5-year life.



Yes and no. Body armor longevity is in direct relation to the amount of it’s use. If the armor is being used more casual and occasional purposes such as for public appearances of VIPs, wearing a slightly outdated armor will not affect their effectiveness. However, if you are a plain clothed law enforcement officer wearing armor everyday it may be a good idea to have 2 or more vests to alternate and allow longer use.



Proper maintenance is vital for the superior performance of armor. After all, your life depends on it!

Keep armor “fighting fit.”

  • Wash armor regularly
  • Do not expose the inner lining of the armor to sunlight or liquids
  • Do not hang or fold the armor but store it in a lay-flat position
  • Avoid exposing the armor to excessive moisture or heat



Plate carriers are worn externally by military personnel, SWAT teams, high threat security teams. Plate carriers are multi-purposeful.

They have pockets, pouches, straps, waistbands, paddings, webbing, and even concealed compartments. In simplified terms, they are like a photographer's adjustable jacket with storage for accessories.

Plate carriers are also scalable, meaning their functionality can be increased as per custom requirements. This is a unique feature that normal body armor does not offer.



Spear Gear Intl very rarely use the term “Bulletproof” as not every product is completely “bulletproof” As the name suggests, bullet resistant clothing is the range of bodywear that extends the bulletproof armor's functionality to the rest of the body. They are complementary and supplementary to body armor and plate carriers.

Bulletproof clothing is made from materials similar to soft body armor. Hence, they are flexible, feel natural to wear, breathable, maneuverable, and concealable.

The wide range of bulletproof clothing includes:

  • Upper and lower body-wear such as vests, jackets, coats, pants, trousers, shorts, and more
  • Travel gear such as luggage, backpacks, and carry-on bags
  • Business and professional accessories such as business bags, cases for computer and other accessories, presentation panels, packing bags, and more
  • Vests and clothing for security-trained 

Canines known as K-9 protection.


Live to fight another day!

The fact that you chose to wear body armor can be a matter of life or death, literally. Do your research to determine which type of gear is right for your specific needs, and always purchase from a reputable retailer like Spear Gear Intl.. With proper care, you'll feel safe and ready for years to come.

We would love to hear from you in the comments below! support@speargearintl.com and as always, be safe! Gear up!

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