Prospective buyers of bulletproof vests must consider the following:
WHAT THREATS AM I TO ENCOUNTER AND WHAT LEVEL OF PROTECTION IS CORRECT FOR ME?
Level IIIA, soft panels, will stop hand guns, sub-machine guns and shotguns, shotguns might still prove lethal due to the impact but pellets will not penetrate. Level III, hard armor plate, will stop the most common rifle rounds such as 5.56, 6.5 and 7.62 (m16, Ak47, m14). Level IV will stop all the aforementioned rounds as well as armor piercing rifle rounds up to 30/06 (machine guns and sniper rifles). There are no higher rated level of protection for body armor than level IV.
WILL IT BE NECESSARY FOR ME TO CONCEAL THE USAGE OF MY VEST?
If you need to conceal the usage we recommend our Level IIIA Concealed vest, it is made using a minimal carrier and vital protective aramid panels, hard armor plates rated at level III or IV can be worn concealed but without wearing several layers of clothing their concealability is not optimal.
HOW OFTEN WILL I BE WEARING THE VEST?
If you plan to use your vest every day we recommend something light weight and comfortable to wear, PNP officers generally opt for the Standard IIIA vest or our Dual IIIA & IV in which they can take out the plates or panels depending on situation. Our level III and IV vests are made primarily for tactical usage as plates can be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time but we minimized the weight of our level III plates to make them ideal for Scout Rangers operations.
IS THE SELLER REPUTABLE? HOW DO I KNOW IF THE VEST IS BRAND NEW?
To know if the seller is reputable you should ask in specifics about warranty, return policy, data sheets and test results. You should also be able to check the labels on the panels or plates for production date and ballistic standards. Be aware, vests made in accordance to the 0101.04 or 0101.05 most likely expired years ago and you should not buy. If the panel or plate does not have a production date, or no label at all, do not buy. Reputable sellers will have their panels and plates tested by the most recognized ballistic testing facility, HP White laboratories. Chinese manufactures are banned from testing in the US but they might still be able to produce test results from less reputable testing facilities.
BALLISTIC PROTECTION MATERIALS
Our BVP products utilize four different types of panels/plates. Our Standard panel is made of UHMW-PE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Poly Ethylene), our Concealed panels are made of aramid, our level III plates are made with ceramic and a silicone-PE composite and our level IV plates are made with ceramic and a alumina-PE composite. We have branded materials such as Dyneema, Twaron and Kevlar available for wholesale customization. Below you will be able to read about the capabilities of each material.
UHMW-PE is the most common type of material used in body armor nowadays, the polyethylene fibers are lower in weight and offer higher ballistic resistance than kevlar but with a few short comings of its own. UHMW-PE is weather resistant, the inherent decay of all fibers is significantly slower when exposed to water and air, it is also chemical resistant but with a low melting point of only 130 celsius, the ballistic performance will also worsen when exposed to temperatures over 90 degrees. Backface deformation is also higher with the UHMW-PE as opposed to aramid. Dyneema is the most famous UHMW-PE brand.
Aramid is made of the same material as Kevlar and used to be the most widely used material for body armor, it still has its place and certain qualities of aramid makes it better than UHMW-PE in specific situations. Aramid is genereally stronger than UHWM-PE, the backface deformation is lower and it disperses energy better (less blunt trauma impact), aramid is also cut resistant (to make it stab-resistant additional layers of aramid must be added) and has a melting point of 400 celsius. The high melting point makes aramid ideal for protection against contact shots when you wear the vest concealed. Aramid will decay faster when in contact with water and air, it is also suspectible to degradation from UV light. All our aramid panels are resin treated to become water resistant and they are encapsuled in water and UV resistant fabric to protect against degradation.
CERAMIC SIC-PE AND ALU-PE
Our level III plates are made with an outer shell of ceramic backed with a silicone-PE (polyethylene) composite. Whilst our level IV plates are made with an alumina-PE backing instead. The main difference between Sic-PE and Alu-PE is weight, both the plates can be made to either level III or IV but there are significant extra costs in making the Sic-PE plates as they will reduce the weight by almost one kilogram.
Ceramic plates are the only type of plates that can be rated up to level IV, even steel plates need an outer ceramic shell to be rated to level IV. Ceramic plates have also completly taken over the market in terms of hard armor plates. Steel plates which was more frequently used previously are not being issued to armed forces and police due to their weight (our level III plate weighs 1.8kg, a level III steel plate from AR500 weighs 3.6kg) and inherent dangers. Steel plates do not lessen the impact at all, it will take the full impact force of the bullet while the bullet itself is prone to fragmentation and spalling which can hurt either yourself or your co-operators. Ceramic plates, whilst not true multi-hit capable to the same extent as a steel plate, will capture the bullets and fragments inside your plate and break its own tiles to reduce the impact. We at BVP do not recommend nor sell steel plates as we believe they are dangerous and very uncomfortable to wear due to the added weight. All our plates are multi-hit capable, we test them with 3-shots as opposed to the NIJ standard of only 1-shot.