Police Bullet
Proof Vests
Type IIA (9 mm; .40 S&W)
Type II (9 mm; .357 Magnum)
Type IIIA (.357 SIG; .44 Magnum)
Type III (Rifles)
Type IV (Armor Piercing Rifle)
Special Type
"Personal body armor covered by this
standard is classified into five types (IIA,
II, IIIA, III, IV) by level of ballistic
performance. In addition, a special test
class is defined to allow armor to be
validated against threats that may not be
covered by the five standard classes."
Concealable Body Armor
"...your access to state of the art soft body
armor far exceeds the protection afforded to
police officers in the past." ~ Barry M. Baker
Bullet proof is a generic term applied to a wide
range of soft or hard armor developed to prevent
penetration by bullets.  You’ll hear some people say
that there is no such thing as a bullet proof vest.  
Whether or not a vest is bullet proof depends upon
a number of factors including the level of protection
the vest provides, the type of bullet fired into the
vest and the number of times the vest is hit.  So,
don’t get hung up on terminology.  Just remember
that you’ll want a vest rated to protect you as much
as possible against the threats you’re likely to
Baltimore was one of the first major police
departments to issue soft body armor to its police
officers in the 1980s.  The vest consisted of a single
Kevlar panel for the front only.  The vest was rated
as a level I or type I to prevent penetration by .22
caliber; .25 caliber; .32 caliber, and .380 caliber
bullets.  The single panel was comfortable, and it
served its purpose in a number of lifesaving
instances.  Then, a Baltimore officer was shot by a
suspect using a .357 magnum revolver.  The bullet
easily penetrated the single front panel.  The impact
spun the officer around, and he was shot a second
time in the back which had no protection.
The officer’s death was followed by the issuance of
three additional panels to provide two panels for
both front and back doubling the ballistic
protection.  Of course, the vest was no longer
comfortable.  You’ll notice that the chart provided
below doesn’t even include type I body armor.  
Years ago, the smaller caliber, low velocity bullets
were those predominantly used by criminals.  
Today, 9mm and 40mm high capacity semi-
automatic handguns are the most used by both
police and criminals.  Again, refer to the chart from
the National Institutes of Justice and you can see
that your
minimum level of protection would be
Type IIA.
There’s a lot of science involved in the continuing
evolution of soft body armor.  Even when your vest
protects you from penetrating rounds, there’s the
problem of blunt impact trauma, and the research
goes on to disperse the trauma from the impact. If
more than one round hits, the blunt trauma only
increases.  So, nothing is ever perfect, but your
access to state of the art soft body armor far
exceeds the protection afforded to police officers in
the past.
Concealable or covert armor is designed to be worn
beneath your uniform shirt.  The primary purpose
for concealment is to maintain the integrity of your
uniform.  If you’re working in a plainclothes
assignment, the reason for concealment should be
obvious.  When you encounter a police officer, just
look closely and you’ll quickly determine whether or
not the officer is wearing a concealable bullet proof
vest.  The purpose for concealment is not to fool
anyone.  Criminals already know that most police
officers wear body armor.
Tactical Body Armor
Just about anything that’s not concealable comes
under the tactical label.  When body armor is worn
overtly, the style of the armor can be simple to
elaborate.  The fabric carrier might have utility
pockets and pouches for ammo and other items.  
All kinds of additions and extensions can be added
to tactical vests to protect additional parts of the
of Police Departments
For the simple minded among us, the mere sight of
police officers wearing any ballistic armor protection
beyond concealable armor is an unacceptable
assault on their utopian views of the world.  Police
departments share some similarities with the
military such as rank structures, but there is one
thing where the police and military part company.  
When the military enters into a hostile operation,
the primary goal is to limit casualties to as few as
possible. When police officers confront armed
adversaries, zero is the only acceptable casualty
On This Site...
Comfort in Relation to
Police officers should and must have the best body
armor available for personal protection.  While
sophisticated tactical armor will be appropriate in
particular situations, the armor you wear on a daily
basis needs to meet a minimum level of comfort.  
Today’s concealable bullet proof vests far exceed
the comfort level of the armor I wore for years.  
Never the less, you’ll see more and more use of
overt bullet proof vests being worn by uniformed
police officers during their regular tour of duty.

Because of the continual advancement in the
science of body armor, the armor can be styled and
fitted to conform to the police officer’s uniform.  
There’s no question that armor worn over the shirt
is far more comfortable than armor worn beneath
the shirt.  There is one distinct disadvantage to
overt body armor; the armor can be easily
removed.  However, this disadvantage can be
overcome by the individual police officer if the officer
understands that the armor only protects when it’s
being worn.  Just like a car seat belt – if you need it
when you’re not wearing it, you won’t have time to
put it on.
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker