No matter if you are law enforcement, military, a security contractor or just a bouncer at a club, body armor is becoming increasingly prevalent outside of the normal occupations with which it is associated. We are growing to understand that our society has become apathetic to the domestic threats that present themselves on a daily basis.
Fortunately, we are slowly changing this nature and increasing our preparedness and vigilance to better protect ourselves, our clients, and our neighbors.
More relevant jobs are starting to issue and encourage the use of both soft and hard body armor. This is not just for the protection of that individual, but to allow them to respond and meet threats head on to prevent the further loss of life. But, as with all things, there are some aspects of body armor that are being overlooked.
Body armor is a piece of equipment that continuously gets glossed over when it comes to training. After all, why would you need to practice with something that just sits around your torso? It doesn’t change anything right?
Why Train with Body Armor?
Wearing body armor changes a vast array of aspects that warrant consideration when carrying out your duties. The first and perhaps the most obvious change is the increase in weight. Even when using lightweight or ceramic plates, there is still a large enough increase in physical exertion that your body will notice it very quickly.
Fairly basic tasks, such as standing or walking, will quickly drain your energy if you do not properly prepare for it. Physical conditioning is the easiest way to overcome this obstacle. Integrating your body armor, or a training set of body armor, to your workout routine is a great way to overcome the drawbacks of the increased weight. If you do not work out regularly, then begin with unweighted exercises. You do not want to add your kit all at once or for every single workout right away. This will cause a greater probability of injury.
Once you are conditioned to the additional weight, you will be able to add it to more workouts and notice an increase in your physical abilities when the armor is not being used. The additional weight can also cause soreness in the neck and shoulders if the plate carrier is improperly adjusted or is poorly manufactured. This issue, fortunately, is easily reconcilable by purchasing quality equipment and by utilizing shoulder pads on the straps. Along with the extra weight, you must also consider the extra bulk.
As much as we want our kit to be as thin and mobile as Black Panther's suit, we aren’t quite there yet. A set of body armor changes the dynamics of movement drastically. The level it restricts you depends mostly on the type of armor you are using. Soft armor alone will have less limitations than a plate carrier, which in turn is less constricting than a full armor set with front, back, and side plates.
No matter the level, the restrictions each pose need to be evaluated and mitigated properly. Everything from sitting in a car, getting through a doorway, or climbing over a wall, gets increasingly more difficult the more armor you are wearing. Any activity that you likely could conduct while wearing your kit needs to be tested and trained prior to actively performing your duties.
This training will help you to refine your kit and work through potential problems in a non-stress to low-stress environment, decreasing your likelihood of errors during high-stress scenarios that could present themselves.
Possible Restrictions to Prepare for
Vehicles tend to be one of the most overlooked obstacles for someone wearing body armor. People tend to be very comfortable around vehicles since we use them daily in both personal and professional capacities. This creates a false sense of security when it comes to operating a vehicle in a manner (with body armor) in which we lack proficiency.
Some of the considerations are seat position, mirror position, ease of turning in your seat (for backing up), seat belt release, and entry and exit of the vehicle. All these issues are easily overcome with practice, but creating the changes in how you operate a vehicle requires practice in a training environment. Even though vehicles tend to be overlooked, they are not the most common activity hindered by body armor.
That spot is reserved for firearms manipulations.
Firearms manipulations go hand in hand with body armor. Since the purpose of body armor is to defend the wearer from harm, it is assumed they are going into a potentially kinetic environment and will likely be armed themselves.
Regardless of weapons system, manipulations need to be rehearsed with every level of armor that you may utilize. This is especially true if you are choosing to utilize magazine pouches that are mounted to your armor instead of on a battle belt.
Getting repetitions with your armor is imperative considering the fact you will be at your highest level of stress when you need your armor, and kit, to be working perfectly. When your stress level gets to this elevated position, you will revert to your base level of training. If that foundation has never, or rarely, incorporated your armor, you will continually experience issues and inconsistencies that you will have to work through.
This can quite literally be the difference between life and death in these scenarios.
Apart from the obvious changes to the fundamentals of marksmanship, armor can also hinder and catch on slings, require adjustment for your sidearm location, change your magazine placement, or the location of your med kit. The time to correct possible issues is not during a threatening scenario, but at the range or at home while training with your equipment.
There are many excuses that individuals use to justify their decision to disregard training with their kit. In the end, it comes down to the individual’s dedication and willpower to be the biggest asset they can be during a life-or-death scenario. If someone truly wants to be an asset to both themselves and their community, they will find the time and resources required to properly train with their equipment. If they are more worried about their excuses than the training, they also need to be prepared to be a liability to their own wellbeing and the survival of others around them.