F.A.Q. to 21st Century Hard Armor

Questions & Answers

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about body armor Do you have a body armor question? Fill out the easy form below.

Q: When should I wear body armor?

A: When you are on the job, wear it.

Q: What threat level should I purchase?

A: One important consideration is the level of threat you will encounter on a routine basis. Police officers should consider the weapons encountered and confiscated on there beat. Media reports, indicate that high-powered semi-automatic weapons have become the criminal's weapon of choice. Since traditional firearms continue to be a threat, They should also be considered when making a purchase As a rule of thumb, officers should wear a vest that protects against the weapon they carry. A review of reports on officers killed during the period of 1970 to 1986 shows that, on the average, one in five victims was assaulted with his or her own service weapon.

Q: How does body armor work?

A: When a bullet hits body armor, the bullet, flattening it and absorbing its energy. Not only does this keep the bullet from penetrating your body, it also helps protect you from blunt trauma (the whack of the bullet against your body) by redirecting the adsorbed energy throughout the armor.

Q: What's the difference between ballistic materials? Aren't they all the same?

A: Both aramids (KevlarŽ and TwaronŽ brands) and ultra high molecular weight (UHMW) polyethylene fibers (SpectraŽ and DyneemaŽ brands) are high-strength, manmade fibers that are lightweight compared with steel and glass fibers. Both are high-modulus fibers with built-in spring like stiffness that makes them good ingredients for ballistic armor. Though chemically different, they are frequently used synergistically in multi component soft body armor. Aramids are difficult to ignite or melt. Decomposing at 900F, they are excellent for high-heat environments. As members of the nylon family they absorb water losing some of their ballistic capabilities when wet. But with a greater density than polyethylene they pack more ballistic protection into a given volume In contrast, UHMW polyethylene fibers are up to 40 percent stronger than aramids; have a lower density than aramids (in fact, they float); and possess a superior ability to both absorb and radiate energy making them the premier material for ballistics. They do not absorb water and have a greater resistance to most chemicals and to deterioration from UV light (sunlight) than do aramids. With a melting point of 296F, UHMW polyethylenes are used in a variety of ballistic composites where weight is a consideration.

Q: How does Shield Technology differ from other ballistic materials?

A: Shield Technology composites are not woven. The fibers are oriented in the same direction, then crossed at 90 degree angles, bonded with resin and laminated between two sheets of film. Shield Technology is one of the most effective ballistic systems available today.

Q: How do I know what threats my body armor will protect against?

A: Body armor made in the U.S. is labeled to indicate the level of protection with an NIJ rating. The rating level indicates the rounds the vest was designed to protect against. V-50 testing can augment this, Identifying the armor's capability to defeat threats that are not covered by the NIJ.

Body armor manufactured outside the U.S. is governed by regulations and performance standards that reflect differences in ballistics threats. Standards vary from country to country. For more information about protection levels and standards when buying body armor abroad, contact the authority or regulating body in the country where it will be used.

Q: How do I know what kind of body armor to buy?

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A: The purchase of body armor is as individual as the rearer. There are many factors to consider: Protection level, styles and possible use situations, among others. Consult your manufacturer for more information an the types of body armor available. Each sells a range of products.

Q. How should I care for my body armor?

A: How you care for your body armor will depend upon the material of which it is made. The care requirements of different ballistic materials vary. The best way to care for your body armor is to follow the care instructions included when it was purchased. Or, consult the manufacturer. Otherwise, you may void your warranties and impair the productive capability of your body armor.

In general, soft body armor can be hand-washed with a mild detergent and drip-dried indoors; body armor should never be bleached, machine washed or dried; dry cleaning should be avoided, as well as outdoor/direct sun drying.

Q: How do I know what ballistic materials my body armor contains?

A: The body armor you have purchased should contain information on its composition and fiber content. If it does not, the manufacturer will be able to provide the specifics

Q. What is Strike Face?

A. The surface of an armor designated by the manufacturer as the surface that should face the ballistic threat. In plain words, the surface of a body armor panel which is intended to be facing the bullet as it strikes the armor.

Q. What is Wear Face?

A.The surface of an armor designated by the manufacturer as the surface that should be worn toward the body.

Q. What are the types of Penetration?

A. Complete Penetration - A projectile which passes completely through an object (body armor), and clears the wear face of the object before coming to rest. Partial Penetration - A projectile which remains trapped within an object (body armor), but a portion of the projectile can be seen protruding from the wear face of the object (body armor).

Q. What is Specific Projectile?

A. A bullet of one clearly defined configuration - for example, the same catalog and lot number having the same materials, shape, and construction.

Q. What is Blunt Trauma?

A. Injuries to the wearer resulting from the forces imparted by a bullet stopped by body armor.

Q. What is V-50 Testing?

A. A test performed on a sample of body armor to determine the velocity at which a specific projectile has a 50% probability of complete or partial penetration. V-50 Testing is performed by firing a specific projectile at a sample of body armor at a velocity which has been determined to be near, but below, the velocity at which the projectile is expected to penetrate the armor sample. By increasing the velocity of successive shots by small increments, the velocity at which penetration occurs is experimentally determined. A number of shots is then fired at the sample, and the velocity is adjusted until half of the shots penetrate, and half do not. The average velocity from the last few shots is the V-50 number for that specific projectile and armor sample. The number of shots used to determine the V-50 value varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.