It is true that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, but that stop often comes slightly too late. Even though violent crimes are falling in the US, despite what the media might show, there are still jobs, locations, and activities that you will want to carry body armor.But, civilian body armor is different in several aspects from army-issue military hard plates:
It can be soft and covert
It can be visible and eye-catching
You need to be able to carry different gear
Documents should be at the ready
You need to be able to get in and drive civilian vehicles
It should be as light as possible
These differences come from the situation civilians find themselves, either in the private security sector in particular, or doing jobs in dangerous areas in general. While you will be issued a hard plate vest in the Army or Navy for the exact mission, the active part of that mission won’t last that long. But, if you buy your armor for personal use you will still be expected to do the same 8-hour job as you did before. Opting for alumina over something lighter like Kevlar might be hard on your knees.Thankfully, as the price of all types of body armor has dropped there are now multiple models for sale at an affordable price for individuals. This means that you might use military-grade armor as a civilian, but you will still need to make it stand as personal body armor.
What is Considered Civilian Body Armor?
Technically, and body armor not worn by an army combatant would be considered civilian armor. There are no legal limitations, and there are even former military vests on sale from surplus stores.These often include body armor issued by the army for civilian use in some regions, such as the armor given to the press of political figures when passing through front lines.A distinction of what is a civilian becomes really important in military circumstances because civilians are invalid targets for the enemy, even if they are citizens of, or working for, the enemy nation or entity. Because of this, civilians need to be clearly marked as such and their body armor must never be the same color or design as that of valid military targets.Even though civilians might be issued the same NIJ Level of armor as the regular military, the color and additional gear must be different. Usually, civilian body armor is blue or teal, and can even be made in bright colors or white in some circumstances to show Red Cross/Red Half-Moon members and Doctors Without Borders.
Differences between Army and Civilian Body Armor
While the difference on the front lines is mostly aesthetical, there are considerable differences between the body armor needed for most civilians in peacetime and army members that need to go on missions.Primarily, because of the weight and longevity of use, most civilians opt for soft body armor as their primary level of protection. This armor is relatively light and can even we worn as covert armored clothing thorough the day.The benefit here is that an overwhelming majority of firearm assaults in the US happen with handguns, where all rounds can be stopped with soft NIJ Level IIIa armor. So, good chances are that hard plates won’t be necessary for your job unless you know you will be under fire from rifles.Also, most civilians require different levels of utility than the army. If you are on regular patrol you will need things like your smartphone and wallet, which is not something soldiers need to bother with. Also, your employers or situation might require you to stay covert and not show anyone that you are armed and protected, where you will need either internal carriers or covert armor.
What to Look for When Buying Armor?
If you are operating state-side, and don’t need armor for specific missions against a better-armed enemy, your first concern will be weight. If you need to carry your body armor for the whole day you don’t want something that will press on you too hard.If you opt for an external carrier, find something that has a modular design and can attach pouches both for security equipment and civilian items such as a phone or your car keys. A battle belt with an external carrier is also usually a good idea. Also, picking out something that would project your power might be a good idea, as you don’t want anyone attempting an attack.But, if you are a civilian that has business in a military zone, make certain that you are not in the same color or form as the regular army. Never carry a rifle and always place your patch denoting that you are, in fact, a civilian.