Body Armor in 2004

Body armor has come a long way, both in its deployment and its design. Body armor used to be issued only for high-risk situations, and only by departments that could bankroll this “luxury” purchase. Now every department has opportunities to buy or receive funding for body armor, and every officer on the streets should have the same life-saving protection that was once saved for known high-risk situations.

What was once heavy and inconvenient, body armor is now lightweight, breathable and flexible. Special designs are made for women officers’ comfort and protection. Different armor has been developed for specific needs: stab resistant armor for knives and other sharp weapons; waterproof and floatable armor for marine units. Armor is now also made to be concealable and discreet, or indiscreet for teams who need to be noticed and recognized.

The companies included in this review offer their own unique lines of armor, from effective and affordable, to the more expensive, bells-and-whistles kind of armor.

American Body Armor

American Body Armor (ABA) manufactures extensive lines of both concealable and tactical body armor. Its concealable Xtreme body armor comes in Xtreme, Xtreme X and Xtreme ZX. The Xtreme vest combines Quadralink with DuPont Kevlar®, GoldFlex™ and SpectraShield® GoldFlex. The Olefin covers resist chemicals, perspiration and weather, to keep its wearer cool and dry from both internal and external forces. They also feature six-point fastening straps, front and back shirttails and a flexible trauma insert.
The Xtreme X incorporates Zshield™ with Quadralink™ Zylon®. This vest is always comfortable, and is made for continuous and long wear. Its Olefin cover is also anti-microbial to protect both the vest and its wearer. It also has six-point fastening straps, a flexible trauma insert and shirttails.

The Xtreme ZX is the lightest carrier, and uses the Akwadyne® Comfort Management System. It incorporates a shoulder strap suspension system, which essentially works to prevent the ballistic panels from sagging and losing protection. Like its relatives, it offers an anti-microbial cover and trauma insert. Its ballistic panels are inserted from outside the vest so there are not any interior seams that might cause chafing. It also reduces the number of straps from six to four for a better, easy fit.

ABA’s tactical line of armor includes the RPM, which was designed for its officer’s speed and mobility. The RPM weighs less than six pounds. It wraps from front to back and is short, so the bottom of the vest will not interfere with a duty belt. The consumer can choose between Level II and IV plates, and additional bicep protection and groin pad.

The RPM-F1 is ABA’s latest addition to its line of innovative tactical vests. This front-opening vest weighs less than six pounds. It was designed to be easily and quickly either added or removed. The side closure is made from elastic so it moves with the officer’s body easily. It offers overlapping shoulder protection, and the consumer can add bicep and groin protection, and choose from Level III and IV plates. It features a modular grid system for force disbursement and additional attachment tabs.


Based out of the United States, ArmorShield™ is part of an international group of companies that manufactures body armor. Every vest is made with the Trauma-Lite™ Blunt Trauma Reduction System (BTS), which reduces blunt trauma up to 70%. The armor is covered by a layer of polycarbonate underneath a layer of foam. This group takes the energy and spreads it over a wider area of body, lessening the damage of impact. The vests are light and do not restrict movement.

The Trauma-Lite insert comes standard in covert armor; a spinal insert is standard for bicycle and motorcycle officers to protect their backs in case of a fall or an accident. The female vests mold to the female officer’s shape without additional bulk of uncomfortable darts.

The Titan Hybrid is 30% lighter than most aramid designs, and more flexible and concealable. Uniquely, the covert armor can be changed into tactical armor by sliding the covert armor panels into ArmorShield’s MTO carrier. The REV Plus is ArmorShield’s line of tactical vests. They feature adjustable shoulders, ergonomic belly-strap holders. Neck, thorax, groin and upper-arm armor offer optional and additional protection.

Another unique armor type is its maritime armor: the BFV-Zulu Type V PFD is fully waterproof and buoyant so it will not weigh an officer down when wet. It will actually serve as a flotation device if an officer ends up in deep water. Side panels are optional. It is threat Level IIIAS Certified.

SBA Armor is an affordable alternative for departments that need to strictly watch their budgets. The SBA offers side closure, groin protection and bicep protectors. This vest also comes with additional neck guard, thorax protector and Levels III and IV armor plates. Although it may not have all of the bells and whistles of the more diverse vests, it is an affordable and reliable piece of body armor.

In addition to its vests, ArmorShield offers ballistic blankets, K9 vests, bags, ballistic shin guards, shields and more. The vests are NIJ 0101.04 certified.

Gator Hawk Armor

Gator Hawk’s sales and manufacturing team has an impressive 130-plus years of experience in law enforcement armor. And it shows in its diverse group of vests. The Gator Excel is constructed of Zylon and Gold Flex laminate to provide high-performance design. This unique design causes its fibers to rapidly engage when struck by a bullet. The armor panel distributes the force throughout the armor panel. It is certified for threat levels IIA, II and IIIA. It features a water-resistant panel cover, and is lined with mesh to keep the body temperature constant.

The Gator-Lite Series features a midweight hybrid vest, made of Spectra Plus Flex® and Gold Flex®. The vest is thin and concealable. Its panel cover is water resistant and features a six-point fastening system. It covers Threat levels IIA, II and IIIA.

Gator-Pro is the economical choice of the Gator Hawk armor group. It still offers excellent protection with a premium weave and offers many of the features that higher priced armor offers. It is lined in mesh for temperature and moisture control; has a removable armor plate; and a six-point fastening system. This armor covers threat levels IIA, II and IIIA.

Other products Gator Hawk offers include: tactical outer carriers and plates, load-bearing tactical vests and International SWAT ballistic panels. The TAC-30 Series is its tactical line of armor, and includes optional shoulder, bicep, collar and throat enhancements. This series is available in the following designs: Gator Excel, Gator Lite and Gator-Pro.

P.A.C.A. Body Armor

American made, owned and operated, P.A.C.A. Body Armor features three different lines of armored vests. The Pegasus series uses advanced ballistic materials, and each of the vests uses the strengths of its ballistic fabrics while providing maximum comfort and protection. The series features an AquaDuct™ inner lining, six-point straps, a trauma and soft trauma plate, and shirttails. Options include a metal trauma plate, Flexi-Shield insert, quilted outershell and cooling inserts.

The GS Series of body armor uses materials including SpectraShield Flex Plus and Gold Flex. These materials offer flexibility, comfort and mobility with Level IIA and II protection. They feature six-point straps, shirttails, AquaDuct inner carrier lining and Flexi-Shield.

The KGS Series also combines multiple, high-performance materials: SpectraShield Flex Plus and Gold Flex, plus a Kevlar® weave. The vests offer Level II and IIIA protection while maintaining their flexibility, comfort and mobility. These vests uniquely offer a metal trauma plate, Flexi-Shield and custom fitting as standard.

The P.A.C.A. Tactical System Special Mission and Response Team (S.M.A.R.T.) SVII and SVII Plus vests feature NIJ Certified Level IIIA ballistic protection, and the highest level of mobility. Because it is made for specific tactics, its options are varied: detachable ballistic yoke and collar protection; detachable ballistic femoral artery / groin protection; detachable ballistic shoulder protection; detachable ballistic biceps protection; front and back hard armor plate pockets.

Pacific Safety Products

Pacific Safety Products is Canada’s leading supplier to the Canadian military and law enforcement. Its PROTECTED by PSP™ line offers armor and accessories that have been in the works for more than 20 years. The PROTECTED vest is made to fit each individual officer: more than 60 vest configurations are available through PSP, made to meet any requirement. PSP offers a full range of standard size and custom size vests for men and women.

The 1000 Patrol Series of vests are engineered for mobility and custom sizing. The closures on the shoulders and sides of the officers are elastic, for comfort and ease of movement. The shoulders have microphone clips for easy access. Reflective material and ID patches are available for all models. Pacific Safety Products’ Tactical Series of vests are available in either two- or three-piece designs. Options include flame protection, reflective ID flaps, groin panel and hydration system.


The “exo” system offers lightweight, heavy ballistic protection. It is framed by a grid that keeps ballistic fabric in place, while lessening the impact to the body. Not only does this spare an officer’s body from more direct impact, it also keeps the armor safe for multiple hits in the same region— if two bullets strike the same region, the fibers will have remained in place and strong. The “exo” is also over 50% lighter than other aramid level IIIA packages.

In addition to being lightweight, the “exo” is only 0.18-inch thick, which is also 40% thinner than most aramids. Its thinness does not take away from an officer’s security— it adds to it because it makes him more mobile. The frame system of this tactical armor supports its ballistic material, allowing it to be both lightweight and strong.

Reliance Armor Systems

Reliance offers concealed, stab and tactical body armor, in addition to helmets and shields. Four vests make up its group of concealable body armor. The VMax® is high-performance and lightweight. Its woven Spectra ballistic material is designed to stop a bullet and reduce blunt trauma impact.

Softouch is affordable and easy to wear. Still lightweight, Softouch is flexible and uses the V-Loc technology for extended performance and durability. It is priced so most departments will be able to purchase it. The T4 Series is an aramid ballistic vest that provides all the protection needed. It is available at a price that all departments can, and should, afford.

The tactical armor line uses the structure of the concealable vests. The Tactical Response Vest was obviously made for the SWAT team, with front access, drag strap, hydration system, a water-resistant shell and more. Groin and bicep protectors are optional. It is important to note that the hydration system in this vest comes standard, as departments have been reassessing the importance of having a cool and accessible water system for their SWAT members.

The Urban Mission Vest offers side opening, drag strap, front and rear rifle plate pockets and more. Optional are ID labels, ballistic collar and groin and bicep protectors. The Rapid Response Vest has the same features as the previous two vests, but was made for rapid deployment. It closes by double hook and loop closures, and is priced so that any department could add it to its tactical necessities.

The Narcotics Tactical Vest features two front slash pockets. It has optional ID labels, collar protection and flex cuff pocket. Reliance Armor Systems also offers many accessories in addition to its vests, including: T-shirts, helmets, goggles, gas masks, gloves and more.


Safariland’s new ACTIVE MATRIX™ Ballistics system offers four different ballistic packages at each NIJ threat level. The lightest and thinnest ballistics are offered as the Platinum Technology, with a Gold & Silver offering in the middle, and Bronze representing value priced panels. And, horizontally, every tier of technology offers four different ballistic solutions, each certified for the appropriate NIJ threat level. You choose the weight, thickness and ballistic performance right for you.

ZERO-G® ARMORWEAR® was designed to eliminate most of the problems associated with wearing concealable soft armor: they wanted a vest with maximum comfort and wearability. The resulting vest has over 400 unique panel shapes designed to fit virtually any body type.

The ZERO-G’s straps may be repositioned at either anchor point by the wearer, by using its QwikTab fasteners. They are easy to adjust, and remain very strong and precise.

Safariland’s MATRIX’s SmartFit sizing system assures a perfect fit every time. It is made from abrasion-resistant, snag-resistant, breathable and self-wicking fabrics, which combine to deliver the ultimate in comfort and wearability.

The MATRIX’s straps may be repositioned at either anchor point by the wearer. This feature is something very unique in the industry. The NeoSoft™ straps provide just the right range of adjustment over the life of the vest.

The material only stretches in one direction, which keeps the vest tucked in and in place for longer periods of time. Stretch material and ergonomic shape keeps the MATRIX’s tails comfortably tucked in all shift long.

Second Chance

Second Chance is truly dedicated to saving officers’ lives. In addition to making world-class body armor, they have the Second Chance Saves Club, which honors officers who have used their vests in the line of fire and survived. So far the company has counted more than 900 saves.

The Monarch Summit™ is Second Chance’s premier aramid body armor. It features ARAFLEX® VI. In its sixth generation, the Summit uses SimuLITE™, GORE-TEX, Comfort Cool® and ButterflyLITE™, to keep it lightweight and breathable. It covers levels  IIA, II and IIIA.

The Monarch® +P+ is certified to meet the NIJ 0115.00 spike standard, so it is both anti-ballistic and anti-stab. The Monarch +P+ represents a combination of the Monarch® and Prism™ materials. It also features GORE-TEX Comfort Cool® to retain breathability. The vest covers both ballistic threat levels IIA, II and IIIA; and spike level I protection.

The TRI-FLEX® is certified for threat levels IIA, II and IIIA, and combines Araflex® IV, Zyloflex® VIII and GoldFlex™. The original Monarch uses Araflex IV and V, Butterfly Lite stitch patterns and Comfort Cool to create a complete package: safe, comfortable, lightweight and temperature controlled. The Second Chance SC229 uses Twaron T-2000 Microfilament, which is thin and still covers threat levels IIA, II and IIIA.

Second Chance’s design features six comfortable, custom-fit adjustable straps. With everything Second Chance has to offer, it is no wonder that Second Chance is one of the most well-known body armor companies.

U.S. Armor

U.S. Armor Corporation offers a large line of body armor, including concealable, correctional, tactical armor and accessories. The concealable armor comes in four different series: Terminal Velocity®, V-Zero®, High Velocity® and Enforcer / Eagle®. All vests are available in half-inch increments, so the officer will have the best fit possible.

The Tactical Armor comes in eight different series, including: Cover Plus, PFA, Crowd Control, Lightweight Correctional and Tactical, CQB, PASGTs and Narco.

Customers can design their “own tactical package” by choosing a vest, color, fabric, threat level and pocket systems.

U.S. Armor is also involved in the revolutionary Baker Batshield “system” of tactical products. It is the manufacturer of the shield, per se, and is the exclusive distributor of the ballistic eye goggles, which are rigidly mounted to the ballistic helmet.

Peggy Wilkins Krainik is a freelance writer and editor. She may be contacted via e-mail at,

Published in Law and Order, Feb 2004

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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