Buyer’s Guide to Body Armor

Is body armor legal for civilians?
YES! You may be surprised to learn that body armor is legal for almost anyone to own! Many people believe that body armor is illegal to own unless you are a law enforcement officer, but that is simply not true.

Body armor is legal in all 50 states with ONLY the following three restrictions:

• Body Armor is illegal if you have been convicted of a violent felony.

• Body armor may not be shipped to a civilian in Connecticut. Body armor purchases in Connecticut may only occur "face to face."

• Body armor is not intended for criminals. Wearing body armor while committing a crime will increase penalties greatly.

Can I take body armor on a plane?
Body armor is legal in all 50 states and can be transported and worn over state lines. You cannot be arrested for wearing body armor and your armor cannot be confiscated. In fact, traveling with body armor is just as easy as traveling with a jacket. You may wear it onboard, take it in your carry-on luggage, or check it in baggage.

What does the “NIJ Rating” of body armor mean?
The single most important thing to look for when shopping for body armor is the NIJ (National Institute of Justice) Rating. This rating is the ballistic standard of resistance used in the United States and most of the world. Body armor becomes NIJ rated when it passes a strict set of guidelines at a NIJ certified 3rd party ballistic laboratory.

Kevlar Ballistic Body Armor Vest Bulletproof Concealable NIJ IIIA Self Defense

You should ALWAYS request ballistic testing information from an NIJ Certified Laboratory BEFORE you purchase body armor.

What are the different NIJ rating levels?
Soft Body Armor NIJ Threat Levels
NIJ Level iia

This is the lowest level of protection currently available for body armor. This level is mostly outdated, since higher protection levels are now just as concealable. NIJ level iia is typically used by individuals that are undercover and cannot risk being identified.

NIJ Level ii

This armor balances weight, protection, and concealability. Level ii armor will stop most common handgun rounds including 45 acp, 9mm, .40 s&w, .357 etc. The National Institute of Justice specifies that level ii armor must stop 9mm fmj bullets with a mass of 124 grains and a velocity of 1,305 ft/s as well as .357 magnum jsp with a mass of 158 grains and a velocity of 1,430 ft/s.

NIJ Level iiia

This level of protection is the most commonly recommended. Armor rated level iiia, such as a Compass Armor Vest, will protect the wearer against nearly all handgun rounds up to .44 magnum, 9mm submachinegun rounds, and even 12 gauge shotgun slugs. To be rated level iiia, armor must protect the wearer from .44 magnum with a mass of 240 grains and a velocity of 1340 ft/s.
What NIJ rating is best for me?
First, ask yourself: "Do I need protection against handgun and shotgun threats, rifle threats, or both?" Remember, there is a direct trade off between protection, comfort, and concealability. The higher the protection level, the heavier and less concealable the armor. The best armor is the armor you actually wear. With that in mind, it is best to select the most lightweight armor that will protect you from the threats you are most likely to encounter.
If you are like most of us, you need protection from handguns and shotguns, and will want soft body armor.The multi-threat vest comes in level ii (which is great if you are looking for the most concealable option possible) and level iiia (which is great for protection against larger, faster handgun threats and protection all the way up to 12 gauge slugs!) Nowadays, most people are deciding to go with iiia because it offers a great deal of protection while still being very lightweight and concealable.

Kevlar Ballistic Body Armor Vest Bulletproof Concealable NIJ IIIA Self Defense

What are the different materials used in body armor? What material is best?
Just like any other product out there, body armor comes in many different makes and models, as well as many different ballistic materials. The best type of material comes down to your own personal needs.


Kevlar has been the longtime standard for ballistic material. It is 5x stronger than steel and is more flexible and comfortable than most other materials. It is tried, true, and battle proven. Kevlar is made by combining para-phenylenediamine and terephthaloyl chloride to create aromatic polyamide threads which are then refined and woven into the panels. Kevlar has saved thousands of lives and will continue to do so for a long time!

Polyethylene – Often Called PE or UHMWPE

This material is a relatively new to the ballistics market and is 5x the strength of steel. Polyethylene is a similar material to plastic shopping bags from the grocery store, but don't be fooled - ballistic UHMWPE is heavily engineered. UHMWPE is often found in cost effective body armor as it is generally much cheaper than other ballistic materials to produce.


Steel is a very cost effective material for hard armor. It is commonly used in hard rifle plates and is often used for targets.
Steel provides great protection and will stop multiple hits. HOWEVER, many people choose not to wear steel plates because they are not practical for daily use. Their weight makes wearing steel plates uncomfortable and significantly restricts movement. Standard 10x12 slabs of steel armor can weigh as much as 15 pounds, which means front and rear protection can weigh up to 30 lbs! The trade off between protection and comfort is at an extreme with steel. It is, however, a great material if you do not want to spend the money on a more advanced ballistic material. Remember, something is always better than nothing. If you are looking for the cheapest option, steel is a great choice.
Can I test shoot my armor?

You can test shoot your armor, but plan on immediately buying a replacement! Stopping a bullet is serious! A single shot WILL damage your armor no matter how great it is, and that is major safety hazard.

Lvl III STA Stand Alone Ceramic Ballistic Hard Armor Plates Single Curve 25X30cm

How do I clean my body armor?
Body armor will need to be washed just like any other article of clothing, especially if you are wearing it on a daily basis! Cleaning a carrier is easy and can be done in a washing machine as long as the ballistic panels are removed. Since air drying is the best way to insure a long carrier lifespan, an extra carrier is recommended. Having a spare carrier will allow you to transfer your ballistic panels into the clean carrier while your soiled carrier washes/dries. It is important that you never go without protection.

Care Instructions for Body Armor

IMPORTANT: Do not machine wash or dry clean ballistic panel insert(s).

1.Remove ballistic panels from outer carrier.
2.Wipe ballistic panels using a mild soap and water. Set aside to dry.
3.Close all Velcro fasteners on carrier.
4.Dry clean, hand wash, or machine wash carrier on a delicate cycle using medium 5.water temperature. DO NOT BLEACH.
6.Tumble dry on a low heat setting or air dry. Iron on a low setting as needed.

You should store your vest in a room temperature environment away from direct sunlight, liquids, and chemicals. Store on a hanger or lay flat in Storage Bag for added convenience and protection.

How do I buy body armor? Can I purchase it online?

Body armor is an unregulated product which means it does not require any special paperwork or background checks.Body armor is a safety product incapable of causing harm. You can absolutely purchase armor online.

Suitable for Journalists, Media, Charity Workers or other CIVILIAN PERSONNEL that working in high ballistic risk/threat environments.

Thank you for reading our body armor guide, ​if you have any questions, please post in the comments section and we will be happy to answer them!

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