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April 27, 2007
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Concealable body armor — Proper fit, care, and maintenance

Body armor is one of the most important investments you and your agency will ever make in helping protect you. To get the most out of your body armor, it is important to make sure your vest fits properly. Though your body armor is strong enough to resist bullets, it’s also a sensitive piece of equipment that requires proper care and maintenance

Proper Fit

Getting the right size
Proper size is critical with body armor.  While it is tempting to get a larger vest with the idea of adding more ballistic protection, most officers end up either not wearing their vest or they are miserable wearing a vest that is too big.  The best solution is to get yourself a true, custom-fit vest tailored specifically for your body shape and dimensions. 

Front Panel

Normally a front ballistic panel should be two (2) and one half inches (2 ½”) off the top edge of the gun belt when standing and be no higher than the second button on your uniform shirt.  The space between the bottom edge of the front armor panel and the top edge of the gun belt is required so that when the officer sits down this space will close and the vest panel will rest on the edge of the gun belt without riding up into the throat.

Rear Panel
When standing relaxed with your arms at your side, the back ballistic panel should rest one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch (1/4” – ¾”) off the top edge of the gun belt and should be no higher than 4 inches down from the collar seam.  Having the space between your gun belt and the bottom of the back panel prevents the vest from riding up when going from a sitting to a standing position.

Side Panel Fit
While you may want the front and back panels to overlap on the sides it is important to realize this can make a vest much more uncomfortable by creating more bulk. In addition, the front and back panels will be rubbing against each other, causing premature wear to the panel covers.  The most comfortable option is to have your vest fitted with a small gap between the front and back panels.

Proper Care and Wear

Strapping
Your straps should be just tight enough to prevent excessive movement of the panels.  When putting on your vest, secure the straps to the Velcro on the front panel at the first feeling of resistance from the elastic. Over-strapping may cause curling and unnecessary wear to the ballistic panels.  Most important, when you are in a stressful situation that requires physical exertion, your physical performance will be hindered if your vest is on too tight and restricts the ability of your chest and lungs to fully expand when needed. Your vest is too tight if the straps are causing the vest to crease along the strap lines.

Trauma plates
Trauma Plates should ALWAYS be worn in the pockets provided on your Concealable Vest.  Their purpose is not to provide protection against additional bullets; it is a very necessary item that provides additional protection against Blunt Force Trauma in your most vulnerable and debilitating areas.   There are soft plates or hard plates to accomplish this purpose, and there is also the exclusive U.S. Armor TB-3 Titanium plate covered with KEVLAR felt lining that also stops spikes and engineered blades at the highest NIJ testable force limits.

Heavy Anti-Rifle Plates
Avoid using heavy Anti-Rifle plates as a Trauma Plate.  Not only will it not perform the very important Anti-Trauma function, the standard Concealable Vest carrier was neither designed or intended to support the extra weight and rigidity of an Anti-Rifle plate, and the cover will wear out and fail prematurely because of it.  And, of course, this type of misuse will void the Warranty.  Should you want to use Anti-Rifle protection plates, there are specific carriers made for that purpose, such as the U.S. Armor “Night Rider”.

Using vest carriers as load bearing vests
Unless your carrier is specifically designed to carry additional equipment (outer carriers only) you should not hang knifes, guns, or other items on your vest.  The additional weight will affect the comfort of the vest, may cause curling of the ballistic panels and will surely wear out the strapping system prematurely, along with voiding the Warranty. 

Storage

You should always store your vest in a flat position without other equipment on or around the vest. Other equipment may get pushed against the side of your vest and can cause curling.  DO NOT HANG YOUR VEST.  Hanging your vest can easily cause curling and may void the warranty for some vests. It will also prematurely stretch out the elastic in the straps, making them ineffective in properly suspending the panels across your torso.  If at all possible, you should always avoid storing your vest in extreme heat or in wet, humid areas. 

Proper Maintenance

Outer Carrier
Concealable Body Amor is underwear, so on a regular basis, remove the armor panels and Trauma Pad from the carrier, and put ONLY THE CARRIER in your washing machine on a “gentle” cycle.  It is for this reason that we recommend that you purchase multiple carriers. You can also put it in the dryer afterwards.  The Carrier material has been pre-shrunk and is colorfast, but bleach should only be used on white carriers. 

Armor Panels
Each time you clean your external carrier, the outside surfaces of the actual armor panels should also be cleaned using a damp, soapy sponge along with a mild detergent such as dishwashing liquid, and then allowed to air-dry.  Do not use a clothes dryer or hang the panels to dry them, and always avoid exposing them to extended periods of direct UV sunlight; simply leaning them up against an upright surface that will allow sufficient air flow will do the job, as the panel cover material is water-repellent.

Inspection
Just as with your firearms, regular cleanings provide an excellent opportunity to inspect your vest for any signs of unusual or excessive wear.  Particular attention should be paid to any separations in the stitching or sealing of the armor panel itself; at no time should the “raw” ballistic materials ever be visible.  Contact the manufacturer immediately if this condition should be discovered so that proper evaluations and repairs can be performed. 

Also, you must contact the manufacturer immediately if your vest panels should become submerged in any liquid for any significant amount of time.   

The external carrier should also be inspected for stitching separations on seams and on Velcro pad attachments, along with excessive elastic wear.  Proper, professional repairs or replacement should be made immediately should any negative conditions be present.

Always feel free to contact your vest manufacturer should you ever have any questions about the care, maintenance or condition of your vest, because there is absolutely nothing more important than your safety on the job.  It’s your chosen responsibility to go to work and do the job; a major part of our responsibility is to see that you are able to do it safely and with confidence.

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