By Friedrich Seiltgen

Gunpowder readers know that today’s world is dangerous – just ask your local law enforcement officer (LEO) or watch the news. More and more citizens are getting body armor for themselves and some type of protection for their children.

You likely have some questions or concerns about choosing the right type of body armor. Read below to find the answers:

Why Should I Wear Body Armor?
Some people think it’s overkill to have body armor, but as a retired LEO, I do not. Homeowners. for example, can have a vest near their bed set up with a pistol attached, as well as some type of light. When something goes “bump in the night,” you can put on your vest and everything you need is in one place ready to go and investigate.

Some people wear body armor when going to the shooting range. You never know the proficiency of the other shooters on the range. Negligent discharges occur, and a vest may prevent a serious wound or death! LEOs should always wear armor at the range. You must be accustomed to shooting with your issued armor, since doing so can change your stance, grip, cheek weld, etc.

Is It Legal to Possess Body Armor?
Generally, it is legal to own body armor. In the past, body armor was reserved only for military and police. In Florida now, where I live, anyone without a felony conviction can purchase body armor. Most states, including Florida, make it a felony to wear body armor during the commission of certain crimes. (F.S.S. 775.0846).

As always, know the laws in your state!

Body Armor Comes in Levels
As with pretty much everything, there are tradeoffs when it comes to body armor. A general rule is that as you get more protection, the weight and cost go up. The police generally wear IIIa, soft armor, with some officers opting to increase to III, or III+ armor. Higher level levels with hard plates made of steel or composites have their use for certain things. Many vests include a small steel plate covering the center “10 ring.” This is a stab plate for knives, not bullets!

A standard IIIa will stop almost all handgun rounds. It will not stop the 5.7x28mm round used in the FN Five-seveN™ pistol and P90 personal defense weapon. Some will remember that the Five-seveN™ was used by U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan during his lone wolf active shooter attack on Fort Hood, Texas.

Where Can I Buy Body Armor?
Just like everything else, online. Only Connecticut requires body armor to be purchased face-to-face. I still prefer putting my hands on the product before I purchase. Body armor can be found at surplus stores, LEO supply stores, and usually at your local gun show. Many years ago, I saw used body armor commanding high prices at gun shows. Today, the prices have come down, as the technology behind body armor continues to advance. You can pick up body armor for anywhere between $150 to $500.

Don’t Forget the Children
Today’s children also need protection from politicians and their failed policies. There are manufacturers that sell bookbags that are level IIIa. Some people purchase soft armor and place one of the panels into a bookbag for their children. There are also companies that manufacture different size panels. I saw one at a local surplus store starting at $129.95. This can also be a tactic for grownups, too. A panel placed into a backpack, briefcase, or purse makes decent impromptu protection.

Many LEOs carry an old vest in their Privately-Owned Vehicles, and for patrol are purchasing hard plates with carriers to hold extras for an active shooter event. These are not cheap but can be a lifesaver when things go bad.

As our world steadily becomes more dangerous, more people are becoming conscious of their duty to take care of themselves. As I have said repeatedly, when seconds count, police are minutes away.

Body armor, along with training in first aid and an individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) with tourniquet is an investment you’ll never regret making.

Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He currently conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, Firearms, First Aid, and Law Enforcement Vehicle Operations in Florida. His writing has appeared in The Counter Terrorist Magazine, Homeland Security Today and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at [email protected].