When choosing a bulletproof vest, there’s definitely a variety of questions you would like to ask before purchasing it. How does body armor work? How do you wear it properly? What are the main body armor levels? How does it vary between men and women?
The answer to the latter is complex because until recently, all ballistic vests produced by manufacturers were made for male officers without taking into consideration the peculiarities of female bodies. A while back the situation changed and in this article, we share key information you need to know on the topic.
Women’s Bulletproof Vest
As the number of women in law enforcement agencies is growing today, body armor suppliers pay more attention to creating protective wear that would perfectly fit the unique shapes of women.
However, many bullet-resistant vests are still produced unisex which means that female officers have to manually adjust the fit to feel comfortable when wearing protective clothing.
Just like male body armor, female bullet-resistant vests should have a particular ergonomic shape that would copy the female body relief to provide adequate torso protection. There’s a number of aspects to be considered when it comes to selecting a bulletproof vest for women. Let’s review the main ones in detail.
1. Height and Weight
Statistics prove that the average height differs depending on gender and state that men are approximately 4.3 inches higher than women.
This is one of the reasons why a woman might not always feel comfortable in a gender-neutral vest and fail to carry it for a long time without removing it. Continued wear of body armor that fails to fit well and is too heavy to carry because of low body mass can cause health issues such as osteochondrosis. Besides, ill-fitting protective wear can incite an officer to take it off. These actions can be dangerous when the servant is on duty.
Because women are anatomically lower than men and the length of their torso is shorter, women’s bulletproof vests should be shorter as well. If the length of a vest is inappropriate for women, it may bend and hit the neck when sitting or simply leaning forward. This also concerns a difference in the width of the shoulders, chest, and waist, and affects the fit of the vest in general.
The above-mentioned peculiarities of female bodies make the fit of a male bullet-resistant vest uncomfortable for a woman because of anatomical differences, even unisex body armor can be too tight at areas like the chest and too loose at other body parts like the waist and arms. In the first case, it might restrain movement and hinder agility. In the second case, it might fail to cover vital areas that need to be protected from blunt injuries and threats alike.
For this reason, body armor for women is produced with bust cups and curved or shaped protective panels to ensure it is fitting and covering all the important areas in the right way. Armholes and shoulder straps should be narrower to allow mobility and better comfort to female wearers.
At the moment, NIJ (National Institute of Justice) are updating their standards to 0101-07. The document will include new test procedures for non-planar armor that have folds and seams to make sure female officers get as adequate protection from threats as males have.
Men’s Bulletproof Vest
There’s one key difference between the female vests — they are created from two planar panels. While female body armor consists of one planar panel put at the back and another non-planar one placed at the front of a vest to perfectly fit the female body shape.
As the majority of armor is originally designed for men that prevail in law enforcement, the process of selecting a bullet-proof vest turns out to be much easier for male officers. Among aspects that should be taken into account when looking for body armor are how well it fits and how comfortable it is.
Male military and law enforcement personnel should make certain that protective clothing fits them in the best possible way. It does not have to be extremely loose and not too tight because it can lead to the fact that the vest will not perform its functions—starting from thermoregulation to basic protection from threats.
Among things that require particular attention are the size of armholes, neck openings, and the lengths of a vest. The first two should be wide enough to provide for proper mobility and agility but they should not be too loose. If so, they might not cover the chest and other important body areas.
When pulling the vest straps, an officer should make sure the armor is not tight, and that it allows to breathe freely. Otherwise, a bullet-resistant vest can restrict the air supply, slow down the reaction, and obstruct mobility during dangerous situations.
Although it might seem that there aren’t many differences between body armor for men and women, wearing gender-specific protective clothing can save lives. A bullet-proof vest that fits well and is comfortable for an officer, provides a proper range of motion, necessary thermoregulation, and even psychological confidence that the armor will safeguard them from threats that might appear while on duty.