Should you purchase body armor? Odds are, if you are reading this, you have already asked yourself this question. You’ve seen ads on social media or even follow someone on YouTube who promotes the use of body armor but is it for you? Maybe you talk yourself out of it because you believe it to be too expensive? Maybe you convince yourself that since you are not military or law enforcement. That you needn’t bother with such cumbersome equipment. Maybe you lack confidence in body armors ability to work, or perhaps worst of all, afraid to be seen wearing it by your range buddies. All of these are valid concerns but allow me to tell you why you should, at minimum, purchase body armor.
If you carry a firearm, you have somewhat an understanding of personal responsibility. You have accepted that your life is yours and yours alone to protect. Perhaps you also carry a gun to protect your family or even see yourself as a valid asset in protecting those in your community. Whatever your reason, it is born out of either the primordial sense of self-preservation or the refined afterthought that is responsibility. That feeling manifests itself in numerous ways often leading to individuals of like mind; members of the armed forces, law enforcement, security, or our nation's best asset, an armed and trained civilian. I am sure we are all familiar with the cliché of having “tools for your toolbox” and as much as I hate to bring it up, I am going to.
To most, tools are thought of as mechanical objects that accomplish a certain task. Often specific to whichever field it is used in. A mechanic should have a mechanic’s tools just as a carpenter should have a carpenter’s tools. What tools should you have? I think that boils down to what you perceive as your responsibilities. As an American, a gun is certainly the first tool often thought of, however, if you intend on making holes, you should intend on plugging them. Hence, medical equipment: tourniquets, chest seals, gauze, etc.
Why would body armor be any different? The fewer holes in you the better right?
Simply put, body armor stops bullets from putting you out of the fight. In turn, you can fight for longer. Leading up to the first point which is why you carry in the first place. Whether it is purely for self-preservation or the preservation of others, body armor increases the odds. It is an individual force multiplier. If you are still not convinced, let’s talk about some common concerns that you may have.
Body Armor Concerns
As mentioned above, you still aren't sure if body armor is something you “need”. Life is a gamble, and like any gamble, you work to increase your odds of coming out on top. If this were a game of Blackjack and I gave you the option to pick your second card, would you take it? For some the answer is easy. For others, not so. In the case of body armor, it is perhaps an even harder decision to make. If you are not familiar with the vast array of options that the modern market has then allow me to alleviate some of the common concerns that may be ailing you.
Let us start with the common misconception that body armor is too great an expense.
At the time of writing this, there are a plethora of fantastic body armor companies doling out budget-friendly options to suit your individual needs. Most of us regularly carry a firearm that is between $500-$1000 without questioning its worth yet scoff at the idea of equally or oftentimes less expensive body armor. The fact that the average NASCAR driver's primary rig (according to NBC Washington) is upwards of $200,000 would be completely negated if the driver's retention device were a single piece of twine. If you have ever dabbled in sports, you have likely heard the moniker “sometimes the best offense is a good defense.” The same can be applied to your everyday routine through the use of body armor.
How about the size and weight concerns of most individuals that have an interest in body armor? Body armor is a vague statement that covers a vast array of different shapes and size ballistic countermeasures. From rifle projectile rated plates and soft armor inserts to even backpacks and portable mats. There is almost always a ballistically rated product for you. All the body armor you should be looking at has an NIJ rating from the National Institute of Justices document NIJ Standard–0101.06. This ranges anywhere from simple fabric that stops basic threats, to hard plate armor that stops some of the largest personal threats known. You should look at your environment and compare the standards to find a suitable NIJ rating option that meets or exceeds your personal needs. You may not need the latest and greatest ballistically rated rifle plate for everyday use. You may come to the conclusion that an NIJ level 3A soft armor meets your needs since (according to the FBI) the majority of homicides in 2017 happened with handguns and level 3A soft armor is rated for most available handgun calibers.
The last concern I’d like to address is quite possibly the most controversial. Say you’ve read this awesome blog about why you should have body armor and you finally opted for a nice plate carrier and quality plates. You can’t wait to put it all together and slap some pouches and cool patches on it and head to the range. Recently, there has been a lot of negative stigmas associated with wearing body armor on the range and running your gun. Let me change that up a little. There has been a lot of negative stigmas associated with wearing (ballistically rated) body armor on the (gun) range. When put like that, I hope that you can see that from even a purely safety-oriented standpoint, body armor doesn’t seem like such a bad idea does it?
Sure, you know how you shoot, but can you attest for that guy in the bay to your left that still thinks the weaver's stance is cool? Or how about the gentlemen to your right casually mag dumping their mini-14s from the hip?
Get what you want out of your armor and if it means running it at the range then do what makes you happy. It is your investment into your survivability. Like most things we have previously talked about, if you find yourself in a situation where you need body armor, it will be too late to purchase it. Like a smart individual once said, “It is better to have and not need than to need and not have.”
Final Thoughts on Body Armor
Having been unfortunate enough to have personally witnessed what a full-fledged rifle round will do to a human’s torso without body armor, I chose to make body armor part of my life. If you are still on the fence about whether or not it is right for you then I implore you to do your research. At the end of the day, it will be your decision alone to make. As previously stated, body armor is an investment but it does not need to be one that prevents you from paying your bills or even having a bit of “fun money”.
Speaking of fun, the fun can be a reason on its own to purchase body armor. For many Americans, donning a plate carrier and ballistic helmet is just that, fun. For some fun is baseball, for others, it’s running gun drills with your close friends at your local shooting spot. Hell, for some individuals a plate carrier becomes a way to improve your personal exercise regiment, and with events like the tactical games and gun runs popping up all over the beautiful US of A, there is no better time to improve your physical standards along with your marksmanship.
Do you need body armor? Simply put, no. Should you have body armor? I believe that if you are the type of person that already carries a gun for protection and take a certain pride in your own personal protection as well as those around you, then body armor will only enhance your ability to do so. There are so many options on the market that can tailor to your specific needs that there is no excuse to not jump right in. Exercise your rights and join the already large yet increasing number of individuals adding body armor to their arsenal.
Do you have to wear it every day? No.
I for one, keep a plate carrier bedside and have another for my wife. It is there when I need it and wouldn’t be had I not seen the amazing benefits that personal ballistic armor can provide.
Simply having body armor is already a tactical and technical advantage. This advantage only increases the more you get out and train. Take a course. Shoot a match. Have fun. A vest or plate carrier only adds to the amount of real estate you have to add extra magazines and other equipment to take with you. It is the proverbial “cargo shorts” of the shooting world. If you already have one, why not utilize the space and increase your chances of survival by adding armor?
If life is a gamble and gambling is left to chance, increase your chance, reduce the fraction, and live. It is your right, and it is your life.