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What is body armour?

The term body armour is usually associated with vests designed to provide ballistic protection to the vital organs in the torso. Usually, a vest contains two armour panels held in place by a carrier. One panel protects the front of the torso, the other protects the rear. To protect the sides of the torso, the vest is worn with the front panel overlapping the rear panel or vice-versa. Depending on operational requirements, panels may also butt together or have a side gap.

The armour panels themselves consist of a ballistic panel with an integral cover that protects the ballistic materials in the panel from the environment. Panels come in multiple sizes to accommodate the different shapes and sizes of the wearers. Typically, neither the panel cover nor the carrier is intended to provide ballistic protection. The principal purpose of the carrier is to support and secure the panels to the wearer’s body.

Why should I wear body armour?

Body armour is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment used by officers. Between 2002 and 2011, the FBI reports that between 1,800 and 2,300 officers were assaulted with firearms annually. Of the 543 officers feloniously killed during the same period, 498 were killed with firearms. In 2011 alone, 72 officers were feloniously killed; of those 63 were killed with firearms.

What’s the difference between soft and hard body armour?

There are two basic kinds of body armour, soft armour and hard armour. Soft body armour consists of flexible panels of ballistic materials; is designed to offer protection against assaults with handguns and is intended to be used for extended daily wear. It can be worn concealed under an officer’s uniform or other clothing or can also be worn over a uniform or clothing in an external carrier.

Hard armour consists of rigid panels, or plates, of ballistic-resistant materials and is designed to offer greater protection against higher threats than soft armour. Hard armour plates are used in tactical armour, which is typically a combination of a hard armour plate and soft armour panels, making it thicker and heavier than soft armour. Tactical armour is not typically worn for extended periods and is normally donned for wear by officers entering high-risk situations.

What is stab-resistant armour?

There are also armours designed to protect against edged (knives) or stabbing weapons. These are referred to as stab-resistant armour and are typically worn by correctional officers and are available from PRE Labs.

What is a trauma pad or plate?

It is important not to confuse trauma packs or plates with soft armour panels or hard armour plates. As with armour panels and plates, these items may be either flexible or rigid and may be constructed from layers of ballistic-resistant fabrics, metals, laminate sheets or other materials.

Are my armour panels transferable from concealable to external carriers?

Yes, we manufacture your armour panels to easily transfer from one carrier to another. This ensures exacting fit and maximum coverage regardless of how you choose to wear your armour.

How long will my armour provide me with full protection?

All body armour, regardless of the ballistic materials used, will degrade over time. How fast your armour degrades, is highly dependent on how it is cared for. It is imperative that you protect your armour from any condition that could reduce its performance including:

  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (the sun)
  • Prolonged exposure to moisture
  • Continuous flexing or folding along the same line
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals such as bleach or petroleum based products

Following the care and maintenance instructions outlined in the manual will ensure that your armour will provide you with the described protection for five years.

What is NIJ certification and why is it important?

There are two components to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Ballistic-Resistant Body Armour Standards and Testing Program. The first is the performance standard; the second is the accompanying Compliance Testing Program (CTP).

The use of NIJ Standard-0101.06 is voluntary. Public safety agencies can choose whether to purchase body armour that is found to be compliant with the standard. Similarly, participation in the NIJ CTP on the part of body armour manufacturers is also voluntary.

Participation offers advantages to both public safety agencies and body armour manufacturers. Because the standard was developed with input from law enforcement and correctional officers, it informs manufacturers of what their customers need. Purchasing armour listed on the Compliant Product Listing (CPL) provides agencies confidence that an armour will meet their needs. It also provides them with a resource allowing them to see a full list of compliant models that may meet their needs. In turn, the knowledge that agencies are likely to buy armour listed on the CPL provides suppliers with an incentive to have their armours listed.

Download NIJ Revision Bulletin

What is a “threat level” and which one do I choose?

NIJ Standard-0101.06 specifies five levels of ballistic performance for body armour. The first three levels – IIA, II and IIIA – are typically soft armours. The two remaining levels, III and IV, are typically hard armour designed to protect officers against rifle threats. The standard threat bullets associated with these five levels are listed below:

In making the decision on level of protection you require, we recommend that you protect yourself from your own weapon first. In officer involves shootings, there is a high instance of being shot with your own weapon. Secondly, protect yourself from the threats you are confronting while on duty. PRE Labs does not recommend the use of Type IIA armour as Type II armour provides significantly higher protection at virtually the same weight.

  • Type IIA. 9mm FMJ RN; .40 Smith and Wesson (S&W) FMJ
  • Type II. 9mm FMJ RN; .357Magnum JSP
  • Type IIIA. .357 SIGFMJ FN; .44 Magnum SJHP
  • Type III. 7.62mm FMJ (M80) (Rifle)
  • Type IV. .30 Cal AP (M2 AP) (Rifle)
How do I know what size and coverage of armour is best suited for me?

At PRE Labs we pride ourselves on our ability to accurately fit your body armour and have spent years refining our sizing matrix. Using a proprietary set of algorithms, we take your measurements and convert them to highly accurate patterns.
We guarantee your fit!

Choosing the level of side coverage is a personal choice and is a compromise between comfort and protection. If you choose a side gap or butting sides, it is important that you are aware that this is now a vulnerable area with less protection. We recommend a full side overlap to protect you as much as possible.