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1. What's a ballistic vest and what’s in it?

First, you need to know what a ballistic vest is made of before buying one. Needless to say, ballistic vests are made of very strong fibers in order to offer protection. These materials are known as Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene Fibers (UHMWPE) such as Dyneema or strong Aramid fibers like Kevlar.

Known as the world's strongest fiber™, Dyneema originated from the Netherlands and is at most 15 times stronger than quality steel and up to 40% stronger than aramid fibers, both on a weight for weight basis. At the same time, it is also so lightweight that it can float in water! 

Kevlar is an important fiber from the Aramid parentage. It is frequently used in body armor production. It is heat-resistant, super-strong but also relatively light. For example, both Kevlar 29 and Kevlar 49 are over eight times greater than steel wire. 

Similar to Kevlar, Twaron is a para-aramid, heat-resistant, and strong synthetic fiber. It is also widely used for ballistic, heat and cut protection. 

2. What is soft body armor?

There are plenty of options in the body armor market, which could be overwhelming for beginners. But for ballistic vests, there are mainly two types: soft body armor and hard body armor. To choose between soft and hard body armor, you need to know their differences and then decide your required protection level.

Soft Body Armor
Soft armor is lighter and more flexible while offering less protection than hard body armor. It can only protect against low-velocity handgun rounds and stabbing threats. It is also the most concealable and comfortable type of body armor. Soft body armor is usually popular among people who face a relatively lower degree of threat on a daily basis.

3. What is hard armor?

Hard armor
On the other hand, hard body armor is for people who expect to see heavy combat or face threats from high-velocity, armor-piercing rifle rounds. The hard armor contains plates that offer protection against assault rifles. However, hard armor plates are usually quite heavy in weight and not concealable. Some of them are very bulky thus less comfortable and flexible.

4. How to find the right ballistic vest?

To find the right ballistic vest, it needs to provide the level of protection you need (see NIJ ballistic standard here). Next to that, you need to make a balance between weight, flexibility, protection level, and concealability. 

For example, if you frequently face an attack from powerful weapons, you should prioritize the protection level and consider buying hard plates which offer the highest level of protection. In other cases, you should consider the weight. Higher levels of protection come with extra weight. As being able to move is also important, you really need to ensure that the vest you choose can offer you an adequate level of protection while being flexible as well.

5. How expensive is a bulletproof vest?

A ballistic vest costs differently depending on what and where materials it is made of. Moreover, a rigid testing process of the vests could also cost more. For example, some body armor manufacturers undergo extremely rigorous testing procedures that exceed industry standards and minimum requirements such as EnGarde. Though it is also possible that some manufacturers just set higher prices due to their pricing strategies.