Can Civilians Buy Body Armor?
Have you been wondering, as a civilian, if you’re allowed to purchase and wear body armor? Are you new to the law enforcement world and want to buy the best body armor to keep at home? Are you curious as to how to choose the best body armor for your particular wants and needs? If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help you make an informed decision regarding your body armor (aka, bulletproof vest) so you can protect yourself while understanding body armor laws in the U.S. and Canada.
Body armor is worn over one’s torso and can protect the body from things like shrapnel, stabbings, and bullets from different firearms. But depending on what you need it for will depend on the level of body armor protection you should invest in. It will also depend on which state you live in as different states have different laws in place in terms of who can buy body armor, who can sell body armor, and when and where it can be worn. We’ll cover all the basics below. If you need help deciding between the top bulletproof vests on the market in 2020, we have other articles covering that topic that you can check out!
What Are Body Armor/Bulletproof Vests?
First and foremost, let us define what body armor is in the first place. You probably commonly hear the term bulletproof vests, but this is actually the same as body armor or coat or armor. We’ll use both terms throughout, so just know that we’re referring to the same thing.
A bulletproof vest is just that – bulletproof material that’s made into a protective vest and worn on your body. It helps absorb the impact of things like bullets, knives, and shrapnel from explosives. They’re made from quality materials that are sewn in layers, such as Kevlar thread. Kevlar is one of the strongest and heat-resistant materials on the market and is almost three times stronger than regular threads like nylon and polyester. Spectra Shield® is also used; a composite, high-performing, lightweight material. In fact, it’s much stronger than steel yet can float in water. While bulletproof vests certainly aren’t comfortable for everyday wear, they can help protect both civilians and those in the law enforcement or military field from danger.
There are two types of body armor – soft body armor which protects you from things like handguns and is made from flexible ballistic materials, and hard armor, which protects you from greater threats and is made from thicker and stronger materials. In order to get a better understanding of what you may need, a police officer may wear soft body armor when they’re completing daily tasks but wear hard body armor when entering a high-risk situation.
Possessing Body Armor/Bullet Proof Vests In The States
Just like with many other things, each of the states has its own set of laws regarding wearing bulletproof vests, who can buy body armor, who can sell it, etc. Before you make your purchase, your best bet is to do your research first so you abide by the body armor laws set in place where you live. We’ll sum up the laws, but more information regarding the laws in the states for owning body armor can be found here. Just as much research should go into your bulletproof vest purchase as your firearm purchase.
Note: Below, when we say “anyone can purchase and wear body armor”, this excludes those previously convicted of a felony. A felony is considered murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, arson, kidnapping, selling drugs, animal cruelty, etc. You must also be considered an adult to make a purchase and cannot be wearing the bulletproof vest if your intent is to commit an offense.
Body armor can be sold online, in stores, at tradeshows, via catalog, or over the phone. In regards to shipping the body armor, it can ship anywhere in the states but Connecticut. If you want to buy body armor in Connecticut, it must be face-to-face.
Can Civilians Buy A Bullet Proof Vest In Canada?
When it comes to purchasing and wearing body armor/bulletproof vests in Canada, the laws are quite different than in the United States for civilians and professionals. For example, in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia, you must have a license to possess body armor (unless your job involves being a security guard, peace officer, correctional officer, etc.).
You can apply with the Registrar of Security Services where you’ll also be asked to explain why you need the bulletproof vest in the first place and undergo security and background checks. While there may be a lot of reluctance to sell body armor to civilians who are not in a position of law or the military in Canada, it is legal to buy and wear your body armor in all other provinces.
What To Look For When You Buy A Bullet Proof Vest
When it comes to purchasing and wearing body armor, there are a few things you may want to consider first. It’s not something that you just dive right into. As mentioned above, you probably spent a lot of time researching which firearm you wanted to purchase, so why not spend that same amount of time researching the best bulletproof vest for your safety? Here are five tips to follow when looking to invest in a bulletproof vest.
Tip 1: Consider Your Budget
Bulletproof vests can be expensive, but remember this: you get what you pay for. This certainly rings true for bulletproof vests, particularly because the more you spend, the more high-quality and top-performing materials your bulletproof vest will be crafted with. Plus, the more protection you want, the higher the price will be. So, after deciding which type of vest you require for your specific needs, this should give you an idea of what you’ll be looking to spend. Even if you go over your price point, you can feel rest assured knowing you’ll be thoroughly protested.
Tip 2: Comfort Zone
Bulletproof vests aren’t particularly made with comfort in mind as your safety is a top priority, but at the same time, you’ll want to feel at least somewhat comfortable in it, especially if you’ll be wearing the vest all day. When trying on different bulletproof vests, you’ll want to test out if you can move freely with it on, you’re still rather flexible, and that it’s not loose. If it moves around, it’s not going to provide enough protection, but it shouldn’t also feel really tight. You want to get the perfect-fitted bulletproof vest in order for it (and you) to do its job.
Tip 3: To Conceal Or Not To Conceal
If you plan on wearing your bulletproof vest underneath your clothes, there are particular vests for this. Sometimes, depending on your job, you may need to be as discreet as possible and, luckily, there are bulletproof vests designed for this type of stealth. While they’re made from thinner, more lightweight materials, it will still be able to protect you if it’s fitted properly. This is an important factor for civilians looking to buy a bulletproof vest as they’re not typically looking for one that stands out over their clothing.
Tip 4: Protection Level
There are five different bulletproof vest levels according to the U.S. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) that are explained below.
Tip 5: Mobility
As mentioned before, your mobility while wearing a bulletproof vest is extremely important, especially if you need to quickly maneuver away from danger unexpectedly. If you’re new to the world of bulletproof vests, you may want to buy your first one in-person so you can ensure your mobility isn’t compromised and practice moving quickly in it. You don’t want it to slow you down or compromise your flexibility. Civilians and professionals need to buy the right fitting bulletproof vest for their specific bodies which can be difficult to do online. But one thing is for certain, if your bulletproof vest is loose fitting or preventing you from bending over or moving from side to side comfortably, you’re putting yourself at risk.
Can Civilians Legally Buy A Bullet Proof Vest?
For civilians wondering if they can legally buy a bulletproof vest, yes, you absolutely can. Civilians have the right to protect themselves from danger, however, one cannot be bought if you have been convicted of a felony. When it comes to civilians wanting to buy bulletproof vests in Canada, depending on which province they live in, they may need to obtain a license first and undergo the necessary background and security checks. So, before you make a bulletproof vest purchase, make sure you understand the vest laws in your particular state or province.
When it comes to knowing which vest is best for you, it ultimately depends on what you’ll need it for as there are different types and levels of protection available like full body armor or vests that just protect your torso and back. Bulletproof vests are rated by the NIJ in terms of ballistic materials used to craft them and what rounds can potentially be stopped. Remember, bulletproof vests aren’t 100% bulletproof, just bullet-resistant. But one thing is for certain: civilians, officers, security guards, and more, can all be efficiently protected by wearing bulletproof vests. They truly do save lives and with modern technology constantly hitting the market, who knows how much more advanced they can be.