Body armor is one of those things that defensively-minded preppers think of as a mandatory prep. Considering the number of guns in the United States and around the rest of the world, ballistic threats to your safety are extremely likely.
But quality body armor is very expensive and is not necessarily available over the counter in some places.
With all of the other survival necessities that we need to buy and maintain should we still prioritize the purchase of body armor? Is it worth it?
Body armor is always worth it when bullets are heading your way, but whether or not it is worth it to you depends on many factors. In urban areas or places where gun violence is common body armor is a smart investment. In high trust areas or where guns are uncommon, body armor may not be necessary.
There’s much more to consider when it comes to body armor as a personal safety or emergency prep. We will unpack some of these concerns in the rest of this article so that you may make a fully informed decision.
The Need for Armor is Situational
The fact of the matter is that there is no clear cut need or requirement for body armor in the context of most people’s lives. Yes, you can make an intelligent and informed assertion that body armor is a mandatory requirement for certain professions or in certain environments.
Police, security guards, ATM service personnel, armored car drivers, bouncers and, regrettably, an increasing number of EMTs depend on body armor due to endemic threats and either the areas they work or the nature of the profession itself.
Even in inherently non-violent or non-aggressive settings or professions equipping body armor is a smart choice.
Folks who work on public or private shooting ranges or teach firearms classes are well advised to wear body armor since being around live weapons pretty much all the time means that the chances of an accident increase proportionally, even though no one is trying to deliberately shoot them.
For a civilian who is just trying to be prepared, be it for everyday threats or major paradigm shifting events like a societal collapse or the localized loss of law and order, it is a more difficult question.
If people are going to be shooting at you, or there is a good chance that you could be shot at, body armor will certainly be welcome, that much is sure.
But it isn’t a panacea.
In Some Situations, Body Armor Makes More Sense
There is no easy diagram that will tell you when you should wear body armor versus when you shouldn’t.
I know that is what a lot of people want, no doubt, and still some other people wear body armor pretty much all the time if there is any inkling that they might be living in threat conditions that are higher than baseline. Alas, things are just not that simple as usual.
Generally speaking, the only environment that I believe body armor is 100% mandatory is in a dense urban environment where the threat of gunfire is going to be pretty much constant and could conceivably come from anywhere.
Combat in built up areas is hazardous in a way it is difficult for lay people to comprehend, and incredibly complex to boot. Though there is an abundance of cover to stop bullets there are equally as many lines of fire to get around that cover.
Considering you’ll be working and surviving on your own or as part of a small group, body armor is cheap life insurance.
However, in other environments particularly forests or jungle body armor makes less sense.
Body armor is always heavy and clammy, and this greater encumbrance will eat up your energy reserves even faster, and double that again when you are already heavily laden with other supplies, gear and ammunition.
Other environments where body armor might not be the best choice include mountains and swamps.
Not All Body Armor Is Created Equal
Another fact that is overlooked by those who are not familiar with ballistic armor is the fact that body armor is not created equal and must be proportional to the threat you are facing. The rating and type of body armor will largely dictate how it can be worn and under what circumstances.
For instance, comparatively lightweight, thin body armor that can be easily worn and concealed under typical clothing is usually only up to the task of stopping intermediate handgun projectiles. .22LR, 9mm, .38Spl. and the like.
It won’t stop superfast or extra large magnums, any rifle projectiles (except perhaps .22LR) and will prove to be very little impediment, if any against shotguns.
On the other hand, large and bulky hard armor plates, be they ceramic or steel, are up to the task of stopping high velocity rifle fire, perhaps even multiple projectiles, but the weight and bulk of these plates necessitate a heavy duty carrier that will make it effectively impossible to conceal except perhaps under the largest parkas.
If your objectives require you to remain discreet, chances are your armor will not afford you much protection against more powerful or larger guns.
Your Objectives Should Dictate Your Equipment
I’ll leave you with this, reader. It is essential to be honest with yourself, and you can only do that after making an accurate and equally honest assessment of your objectives against your threats and the context that you will encounter them in.
If you want to have a fully-equipped plate carrier that has on board extra ammunition and medical supplies so that you might quickly don it if you’re home or business becomes besieged, I would say that is a reasonably prudent determination especially if one lives in an urban area or any area where rifles are common.
On the other hand, keeping the same rig as part of your EDC while you run errands in a low threat, high trust environment is just about the peak of LARPing.
Conversely, if your town is trending towards higher and higher crime rates with muggings on the rise, and you present a particularly valuable target to an enterprising mugger, a low profile vest capable of stopping the handguns most commonly employed by these muggers with an additional stab and shank resistant package is absolutely prudent if you are serious about obtaining a good outcome should you be targeted for a mugging and unable to avoid it.
Considering an entirely different scenario, if your plan is to leave your home in a bedroom community outside of a major city before the mongrels come swarming your way in search of food and supplies after a societal collapse, and you’ll be heading into deep country in the woods, body armor is likely going to be little more than a hindrance.
You’d be better off devoting those weight savings toward moving quicker with less burden or perhaps even carrying more supplies in its place.
There is no hard and fast correct answer to the question of body armor. It is always great to have when you are getting shot at, but its benefits always come at a cost, both financially and operationally.
Body armor is a good investment and worth it if one is in an occupation or the threat of gunfire is a constant or is in an area where gun violence is endemic.
For everyone else, the usefulness of body armor is situational and must always be weighed against other objectives and operational requirements.
Careful analysis of your own requirements will help inform the determination of whether you should invest in a set of body armor or not.