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Extra Cash? How About A New Bullet-Proof Vest?

Thursday, 31 January 2002 12:00 AM

Think again.

Since the terrible events of September 11th, the whole world has changed. What was only reserved for law enforcement, now must be considered by all law-abiding Americans for their personal security.

In the layman's vernacular, it is called a bullet-proof vest (by the way, no vest is actually "bullet-proof,” but rather "bullet-resistant”) -- in law enforcement circles, it is correctly known as concealable body armor.

This history of body armor goes back to almost the start of recorded history. Everything from wood shields, to the suit of armor worn by medieval knights, were attempts to protect us from the dangers of combat and other types of attacks. In more modern times, the U.S. Patent Office has records dating back to 1919 for several specimens of bullet-resistant items. However, it would not be until the late 1960s that the fibers that make our modern body armor possible were discovered.

So, how effective is modern body armor? In a word -- very!

For example, the FBI publishes an annual report entitled "Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted.” In the 1994 edition of that FBI document, it shows that the risk of sustaining a fatal injury for officers who do not routinely wear body armor is 14 times greater than for officers who do!

Consider this -- between 1973 and January 1, 2001, a total of 2,500 "saves” have been ascribed to the use of body armor. Not only has body armor saved lives against firearms, but also in car crashes and other types of accidents.

So what does this all mean to you?

Today, many adult citizens have chosen to legally and responsibly own firearms -- not only in their homes, but in a growing number of states with concealed carry laws, on their person.

In addition, many Americans work in occupations that may be at a higher risk for workplace violence -- everyone from taxi drivers and security officers to gas station clerks. Since about 75 percent of all workplace murders involve the use of a firearm, it is reasonable that we consider wearing concealable body armor on the job, especially in certain higher risk professions.

Also, many law-abiding adults have firearms in their homes for self-defense. Doesn't it make sense that if you choose to keep a firearm in your home, you should consider owning body armor as well?

Today, the latest generation of concealable body armor is lighter, thinner and more flexible then ever. Modern body armor not only uses new versions of Kevlar, but also such high-tech materials as Zylon, Spectra Shield, Twaron, Dyneema and Gold Flex. What all this means is that in virtually any climate, concealable body armor can be worn for long periods of time. Also, the price of new body armor is reasonable -- National Institute of Justice (NIJ) certified concealable body armor ranges from about $250 to $1,000+ -- and if you give your vest the proper care, it should last for approximately five years. As a side note, it is sad that today, even with these new amazing advances in body armor technology, many law enforcement officers still do not wear their body armor on-duty. Please, if you are a law enforcement officer who does not wear a vest on a consistent basis, I strongly urge you to do so.

Here are seven of the over 80 body armor manufacturers. A caveat: be sure to check the laws in your jurisdiction regarding the purchase and use of body armor. Also, some body armor companies may only sell to law enforcement.

I personally wear, as a reserve Law Enforcement Officer, a new style vest made by Safariland called the Zero-G. For me, the Zero-G offers better comfort, coverage and range of motion over more traditional styles vests -- and it looks like something RoboCop might wear!

If you decide that purchasing body armor will be an enhancement to your personal security, I suggest you carefully investigate the many options of body armor available. You should consider such factors such as flexibility, thinness, cost, level of protection needed and the climate in which you live. There is no such thing as the "perfect” vest -- only the "best” vest for you.

For more details on body armor, an excellent website to check out is www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij from the NIJ.

Is concealable body armor right for you?

Only you can make that important decision.

A final thought -- if you decide to purchase a vest, it will only be effective if you actually wear it.

Bruce Mandelblit is a nationally known security specialist, as well as a highly decorated reserve Law Enforcement Officer. In addition, Bruce writes a column for the trade publication Security Magazine.

This information is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

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Think again. Since the terrible events of September 11th, the whole world has changed. What was only reserved for law enforcement, now must be considered by all law-abiding Americans for their personal security. In the layman's vernacular, it is called a bullet-proof...
Thursday, 31 January 2002 12:00 AM
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