What to look for when buying body armour

The internet is littered with body armour, many of which is incredibly cheap with dubious five star reviews. There’s a saying “buy cheap, buy twice,” which is quite fitting albeit if you succumb to your injuries you might not get the opportunity to “buy twice”.

Here’s a simple guide to buying the right body armour for you.

Task and Threat

What will you be doing whilst wearing your armour and what threats might you face?

Consider if you want your armour to cover your entire torso of if the concern is on your vital organs. Consider if you want to wear a whole vest or a slimline plate carrier. Consider if you’ll encounter knives more than guns or vice versa.

There can be no foolprice guidance on these issues, this is down to your personal choice.

Certification

Any reputable body armour supplier should be able to provide independent testing to show their armour fulfils or exceeds a specific threat level. You should be able to easily find an independent lab online and make your own judgement if they are credible.

A 10 year old certificate isn’t re-assuring either. You should expect to be able to see recent results to ensure there is regular testing of the armour.

Labelling

The body armour itself should be labelled in accordance with current guidance. According to section 3.4.1 of the CAST UK body armour standards…

A label shall be securely fixed to the body side of each protective panel so that it is visible to the wearer. The label shall be at least 75 × 75 mm and include as a minimum:

  • manufacturer name;
  • date of manufacture;
  • batch reference;
  • armour model unique identifier (model reference);
  • unique item identifier (serial number);
  • protection level (e.g. HO1 + KR1);
  • front or back panel identifier;
  • identification of ‘body side’ using the following text, with text height of at least 10 mm: ‘THIS SIDE TO THE BODY’;
  • colour-coded labels to identify protection type;
  • care and maintenance instructions;
  • for certification test panels, a separate label shall be used with the following statement clearly visible: ‘THIS IS A TEST PANEL ONLY, DO NOT WEAR’;
  • for certified panels, the test house reference shall be shown;
  • if panels have been pre-conditioned in accordance with Section 9.2, the label shall clearly state either ‘Wet Tested’ or ‘Extreme Temperature Tested’;
  • if the panels have been tested with additional test rounds, these shall be clearly stated on the label. Unless otherwise specified, text on the label shall have a minimum height of 3 mm.

CAST Body Armour Standards (external link)

Returns and Refunds

Unless you are buying bespoke body armour made to your exact measurements or buying something that is used, the returns policy of your supplier should be in accordance with the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

From 13 June 2014, the Consumer Contracts Regulations – which implement the European Consumer Rights Directive into UK law – apply to all purchases you make at a distance, for example online or over the phone. This piece of legislation replaces the Distance Selling Regulations.

Your right to cancel an order starts from the moment you place your order, and doesn’t end until seven working days from the day after you receive your goods.

Seven days is the minimum legal cancellation period. You then have 14 days to return the items at your own expense.

Consumer Contract Regulations (external link)