“You never know when you’ll need body armor. Do you intend to wear it everywhere you go?”
It’s almost amusing that for two polarized groups of people, this question serves as equal justification for owning body armor, or not. And it is a question we see all too often. As is the case with most hot topics in this country, you see two extremes pop up regarding body armor - that it is an unholy weapon for paranoid freaks and evildoers, or that it is an absolute essential for the impending apocalypse.
But where is the line between paranoid and prepared? And when is it appropriate to wear body armor?
Around the house?
To the store?
It breaks my heart to even entertain the idea that some of these have to be real considerations. The apocalypse may or may not be imminent, but if there’s one impending event you can surely count on, it is this nation becoming more greedy, more selfish, and more evil tomorrow than it is today. Care to prove me wrong?
Wouldn't it be amazing, if all it took to make an area safe was a sign like this?
A co-worker recently mentioned to me that she often considers sending her child to school in a concealed plate carrier, because she’s so worried about all the publicized shootings and shooting threats across the country. At first, I thought this was borderline outlandish - after all, if every child has to go to school wearing a plate carrier, what kind of life are we even living, and how are we okay just accepting it? But the more I thought about it, and the more I thought of my own son who isn’t quite old enough for school yet… Well, let’s just say I definitely get it now. Especially when nobody can predict when or where the next shooting is going to happen. More and more often these days, the suggestion to homeschool children is made as an alternative to public schooling - though this is not always realistic or practical, and simply hasn’t been adopted by the majority. Public schools are going to remain commonplace, as are all public gatherings in general, of course.
I’ll be the first to say it: in a perfect world, body armor companies like ours should not exist. It is a bittersweet industry to work in, for that reason - I am saddened by the thought that so many people potentially need bulletproof protection, but I am equally grateful to play a part in saving those lives. The reality is that we do not live in a perfect world; never have, never will. Evil cannot be eradicated, and it cannot be legislated away. This is why guns - and body armor - are so crucial in keeping evil at bay. Fighting unjust violence by relinquishing your own means of self-defense from that violence is not only stupid; it is selfish.
So where should bulletproof protection be used?
On simplified grounds, the answer to this question is: when you are at risk of getting shot. Easy enough, right? Bulletproof protection does not serve much of a purpose if bullets or the firearms to shoot them are not present. Of course, we all know it isn’t quite that simple: how do you know when there are no guns around? Do you throw up a “gun-free zone” sign and call it a day? I’m afraid not - because these days, over 85% of mass shootings happen in areas designated as “Gun-Free Zones”. Turns out, criminals are not dissuaded by polite signs. Crazy, right?
Truth is, there are almost always people around you carrying guns - shopping at the store, commuting on campus, strolling downtown, worshiping at church - and that’s a good thing. Think about it from a bad guy’s perspective: if you want to commit a crime involving a firearm, would you rather do it in a place where any random individual could potentially be concealing a firearm, ready to thwart you? Or would you rather do it in an alleged gun-free zone, where you know most law-abiding citizens will not be armed, and the ones who do have guns are easily identifiable? The answer is simple - and the statistics prove it. Guns really do make the community safer: even the CDC agreed, in a now-deleted statement that proves firearms save significantly more lives than they take.
That’s great and all, but it also complicates the original question of where body armor should ideally be worn.
Remember this - Just as you do not need to always walk around with a firearm in your hand, you do not necessarily need to be wearing armor 24/7. Having it quickly accessible will do just fine in many situations. While I do not wear a plate carrier to the grocery store, I typically keep one in my truck. While I obviously do not sleep with a plate carrier on, I keep one near my bedside. And who knows - in either situation, perhaps I will not have enough time to even put the carrier on; and if so, I will use a backup plan that I came up with beforehand, and make it work.
So the answer to the original question of where armor should be worn? It depends. Every situation is going to be unique. I cannot give you a list of every single place you should or should not wear a plate carrier, or have bulletproof protection nearby. Factor after factor can influence your decision-making in this regard: is your area known for armed crime? What types of weapons are commonly used? Where specifically do these crimes often take place? If you must go to these areas, do you know the lay of the land? Are there escape routes? Is there adequate cover to safely and quickly prepare yourself for effective retaliation?
You get the idea. Be smart, train to develop muscle memory, and do NOT be afraid to act. Just remember that there is almost never “one-size-fits-all” for any situation.
What type of body armor is best for on-the-go protection?
Okay, so we’ve established a few ideal places or situations to wear body armor, as well as a few rules of thumb for when and where to have it accessible - but does that mean always donning a full combat load, helmet, battle belt, and all?
Of course not - even if it is your right to do so, it’s still not a good idea. Paul once spoke to the Thessalonians about “[abstaining] from all appearances of evil” - and while guns or plate carriers are not inherently evil, and while it is not worthwhile to live our lives around trying to pacify every single person's fears and feelings (we all know how effective that is), there is definitely a line between “expressing your rights” and common courtesy… or common sense, for that matter.
Think of this way: Is it your right to walk down the street with an AK47? Most likely, depending on where you live - you are absolutely within your rights to do so. Does that mean you should? Well, that’s a different question. “Can” and “should” are two very different concepts that many people seem incapable of understanding the distinctions between. To play this out simply, let’s try a Pros and Cons list for carrying an AK47 down a busy street:
Prepared for most potential firearm engagements
May dissuade bad people from trying to mess with you
Probably looks cool
Will almost 100% guarantee the police are called
Potential standoff with said police/armed citizens misinterpreting your intentions
Bad guys hiding weapons know to take you out first
Legal implications of “intent” in court of law
Hopefully, you get the idea. Not only would such an act incite fear in people who have no idea what your intentions are, but it also makes you a ridiculously easy target for any individuals looking to cause harm, who have not yet made their intentions known. Not to mention, you better hope the police in your area are unquestionably pro-gun when they show up - and yes, they will show up.
Ask yourself - if you were downtown and saw a stranger looking like this, would it influence your mind, travel routes, or course of action in any way?
In most realistic scenarios, an individual carrying a concealed weapon is the one who saves the day - because no one is going to rob a convenience store if they already believe everybody around them is secretly armed. The same mindset can unquestionably be applied to body armor. Unfortunately, you cannot always predict when someone is going to point a gun at you - otherwise, no one would ever get shot.
While constantly carrying a concealed firearm is commonplace, it isn’t so with body armor. This is just how it is, and until we create regular t-shirts and jeans that stop bullets, it’s going to stay that way. So to address the original question - that is, which type of body armor is best for being on the go - my go-to rule is as follows:
If I’m somewhere in public where I feel the need to have body armor on my person, I will choose some type of lightweight, flexible, concealable body armor - a Concealed IIIA vest, or perhaps some backpack armor. Since nearly all weapon-involved shootings take place with handguns, including most that require quick reaction times, I feel statistically confident that this type of armor will be adequate.
Dress for the situation. Dress for what you can reasonably expect (etc).
If I’m somewhere I feel the need to have body armor on standby, I’ll probably keep a rifle-rated setup on hand - since it is concealed in my truck, home, locker, etc until the time comes to need it, it does not alert the general public. And if shit has already hit the fan and bullets are flying, most people are not going to mind seeing a good guy whip out a plate carrier - just make sure you identify yourself as a good guy, of course.
When writing these articles, I often find myself disappointed by the number of times I need to chalk something up to “it depends” or “there’s no one right answer” for this topic or that topic. And for a subject like utilizing body armor on the go, this rule applies more than ever. By now, hopefully many of those readers who are new to the tactical industry understand why: No two situations are ever going to be identical. The key factors (in my own subjective order of importance) which nearly always decide the victor of an engagement are:
Training (Develops muscle memory to counter adrenaline in combat)
Adapting (Allows greater overall control of an evolving situation)
Firepower (Superior guns can increase odds of survival, though by how much can depend)
Luck (Even the best warriors can fall due to the odds initially being stacked against them)
Take this information for what it is - We never want people to take these articles as gospel, but it is our goal to help point people in the right directions and allow them the opportunities to think for themselves, understand the foundation of preparedness, and train best for their own circumstances. Because what is best for me will not be best for my neighbor, or his, or yours. So take the time to get out, observe your surroundings, learn from multiple perspectives, learn from those with experience, and above all - just get out there! No matter how “good” or “bad” your training or preparation is, it is leaps and bounds superior to no training or preparation at all. The best training regimen is the one you actually do.
So get out there and grow.