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14 things you didn’t know about a bullet proof vest

A bullet proof vest is not “just” a bullet proof vest. That is why we have made a small article with "14 things you didn’t know" about a bullet proof vest. 

1. A bullet proof vest is in principle not bullet proof

 A bullet proof vest is not bullet "proof", but bullet resistant. A bullet proof vest will not with 100% certainty stop all kind of bullets, fired against a vest. Also there will be a blunt force trauma from the bullet, and a back face signature that can kill you. There is nothing that is 100% bullet proof which also applies to a stab proof vest.

Based on an NIJ 3a bullet proof vest, which is made to stop almost all bullets from small arms, will in extreme cases be penetrated by the bullet if you’re unlucky. You will not be the new Ironman by wearing a bullet proof vest. 9 mm AP rounds will be able to penetrate most soft armor vests as they’re made to penetrate the material. 

2. How does a bullet proof vest stop a bullet? 

Bullet-proof vests are made of a lot of small layers of bullet proof fibers. (You can read more about bullet proofmaterials here.) The bullet proof vest act a bit like a football net when a ball is shot into a soccer goal, the energy from the ball is being distributed out in the soccer goal. 

The velocity of the bullet also plays a role, the less speed; the less blunt trauma the shot will give him / her who wear the vest. Therefore, a quick bullet will be able to penetrate the bullet proof vest. For example 7.62x51 NATO, SS109 or similar high speed rifles will be able to penetrate a bullet proof vest without hard armor plates. 

3. Every bullet is lethal 

As said before, every bullet is lethal; no bullet proof vest will be able to stop a bullet 100% every time. The force of the shot, also called blunt force trauma can knock you unconscious, or at worst kill you.

According to NIJ standard 0101.06 a bullet proof vest requires a back face signature that is below 44 mm, which is to secure that you survive the impact of the bullet. 

4. Lifespan of a bullet proof vest

Most bulletproof vests have a lifespan of 5 years. This is due to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) standards which require that vests have to work for minimum 5 years. When a bullet proof vest is being used every day / weekend it will lose its durability faster that a vest that is not being used.

You have to look closely to scratches on the bullet proof panels and especially for moisture and if the sealing of the panel has been broken. If one maintains his vest properly, there should not be any problems in a lifespan of 5 years.

5. Keep your bullet proof vest away from moisture

After a long day / night it is always recommended that you take your bullet proof inserts out of the bullet proof vest. This is partly to take care of the bullet proof inserts, but also to check if the bullet proof inserts have taken any damage and to avoid moisture. Whether your ballistic vest is made in Kevlar, Dyneema, Twaron or any other ballistic material, there is no need to expose the bullet proof vest to moisture.

Remember that the carrier and ballistic inserts should be washed separately, and NEVER wash the bullet proof inserts in a wash machine. Do not iron the inserts as well, as it will burn / melt the bullet proof fibers inside the vest. To maintain and take care of the inserts please use a wet cloth over it.

6. Keep your vest in a closet or flat place

The inserts in a bullet proof vest cannot be stretched or bent in any way over a long period. This will cause the bullet proof fibers to be pulled apart and thereby they will lose their durability and eventually not stop any bullets.

Place your vest in a closet or a flat place where it is out of the sun. Please be aware when you get home from work, that you don’t put your sweaty vest on the floor in the corner. The sweat can seep into the fibers and reduce durability.

7. Never test your bullet proof vest against water

As with moisture and sweat it goes the same with water. A bullet proof vest can be damaged by water and ultimately it will destroy the bullet proof vest.

According to NIJ standard 0101.06 a bullet proof vest needs to be put into water for 30 minutes before testing it.

Most manufacturers make vests with water proof materials to keep the water out. But for your own safety, do not test it.

8. If you’re shot. Don’t give up!

You watch many movies where the hero gets shot and then 5 minutes later he wakes up because he is wearing a bullet proof vest. In fact, this is not the case. The force of the shot will feel like being shot by a splatter gun with 3 times as much power. It makes a mark on the body which causes a lot of beautiful colors and hurts a lot.

Today many manufacturers has become good at making bullet proof vests with a low blunt force trauma, which means the force of the bullet is hurting a lot less.

9. Have multiple carriers if the bullet proof vest is used a lot

If you work as a guard, bouncer or police officer you’re probably using your vest every day. It is recommended that you get more carriers to switch between because of the moisture and the durability of the carrier. As soon as a bullet proof vest is losing its durability, the vest will fit worse and worse, and in situations where you are moving fast, the vest will not cover the right areas.

10. If you lose or gain weight, you need a new bullet proof vest

This is an easy rule to remember, + - 10% is the maximum you can lose or gain in weight. A too large or small vest will not hold in the long run and make your work less convenient with vest that is to large or small. A bullet proof vest should fit closely to the body, neither too small nor large. You can read more here about how to choose the right size.

11. Your carrier does not protect you without the bullet proof panels! 

This point is simple. The carrier will not protect you without your bullet proof panels, or against sweat. Read point 5. 

12. If you are in a traffic accident Your bullet proof vest can save you. 

The fibers in the vest can withstand more than shots, and if one were to get out of a traffic accident, the vest can be a lifesaver. There are some cases where American officers have been saved by their bullet proof vest in a traffic accident. 

13. Duct tape should never be used to replace a damaged carrier 

You may never ever try to repair your damaged bullet proof vest with duct tape or to make it fit different. Here are two reasons: You will not be able to move properly in the vest as duct tape will tighten the vest in, and make it less flexible. 

This can be critical during situations where it requires you to respond quickly. If your vest is damaged, buy a new carrier, which may be obtained for relatively little money. 

14. Never let your bullet- and stab proof vest lie at home 

After purchasing a bullet proof vest there is no reason for you to leave it at home in the closet. Use it; you never know what you might be exposed to!