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Guide to Body Armor

Security Operatives and Protective Equipment:
A Guide to Body Armor

Many Security Operatives will at some point in their career find themselves in a dangerous situation. Indeed, the very nature of a Security Operative’s (SO) work is dangerous, and requires preparation and awareness in order to be performed successfully. This preparation involves training, knowledge of the client and the operation, and an understanding of the equipment available and which is most appropriate for the circumstances.

It is this last point that some SOs have neglected; while there is no doubt that SOs will be aware of the necessity of body armor, there are still some who do not realize the options available to them and the benefits the different options can provide in different circumstances. There are a wide number of products available under the term ‘body armor’, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation. Understanding these advantages and disadvantages allows the SO to be properly protected no matter the job.

One of the most common examples of an SOs work is as a Close Protection Operative which is commonly simplified to just a ‘bodyguard’. Protecting and working for a client involves that you remain in close proximity at all times without getting in the way. Nevertheless, the scenarios that may occur can vary wildly, and protecting an unpopular CEO or politician will be very different to protecting a beloved celebrity figure.

Whatever the specifics, it is important the Operative remains discreet; this does not mean they cannot be protected however, and covert bullet proof vests can provide discreet protection even against high caliber threats. Ballistic protection is important for a SO as firearms are so readily available and commonly used in crime. However, bullet resistant vests are available at a variety of levels according to the ammunition it can stop. These ‘NIJ Levels’ are governed by the National Institute of Justice’s ballistics testing, which is recognized widely as being the best in the world.

The highest level of protection available for Kevlar vests is capable of stopping the vast majority of ammunition found in handguns, and it is vital that Officers are protected against these weapons. An NIJ Level IIa vest is considered the minimum level of protection, as it can protect against standard handgun ammunition like the 9mm, 10mm, and .357 SIG. The highest level available in soft Kevlar armor is NIJ Level IIIa, which can stop the vast majority of handguns.

On the other hand, firearms may not always be the most pressing or even the most severe threat. When working in site security around large numbers of people and big crowds the threat of attack can come from anywhere. In some locations, firearms will simply not be available to most, and yet weapons like knives and needles can be just as deadly. Bullet resistant vests will not protect an SO against edged or spiked weapons, as the protective fabric will be cut or bypassed. Stab and spike proof vests are available however, and will often utilise the same protective fabrics; this is because their strength will help absorb the impact of the attack, while additional layers of chainmail and/or plastic laminate will stop the weapon from penetrating.

All of the protection above is available in a variety of different styles of vest, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. While Close Security Operatives will benefit from the discretion of a covert vest, others will have no need for a vest worn underneath clothing. Indeed, those who wish to display their authority will want an overt vest, which can be equipped with high-visibility covers and pockets for additional equipment. These overt vests can form a useful part of a uniform.

SOs working in site security will usually prefer to wear an overt vest, yet for particularly dangerous locations a Tactical vest will be more appropriate. These vests are designed to give maximum protection, and while protection against even high-caliber ammunition can be achieved in any vest, a Tactical vest will provide the ultimate in protection for an SO. These vests can be augmented with protection for the neck, throat, upper arm, and groin for example, and will present an image of preparation and professionalism which will benefit those working in Maritime Security or in active warzones.

There are a number of choices in ballistic protection available for Security Operatives, and each has their own advantages and disadvantages according to the situations they are used in. While the levels of protection available in body armor are available in any style, the weight and thickness of a vest are important to consider. Whether it is covert, overt, or Tactical, body armor is more comfortable and accessible than ever before, and it is important that SOs keep themselves protected appropriately in order to perform their job properly. 


Posted March 19, 2016. Guest article by SafeGuard Armor.


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