September 17, 2007
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 also 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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
U.S. Armor Corporation
16433 Valley View Avenue
Cerritos, CA 90703