Investing in a quality set of body armor is important for anyone who needs daily protection. However, it has been a lot more challenging for women to find protective due to the disproportionate number of men and women in the field. Historically, female wearers usually adopt the “one-size-fits-all” approach, referring to the practice that women can only wear the same model of body armor designed for men. However, many found that this is unsafe for women as it compromises the protection level and comfort provided by the ballistic wear.
Thankfully, the demand for women’s body armor has been growing as the number of women entering the field continues to rise. In 2022, The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) will release new test criteria addressing body armor for women. Following the new standard, agencies can order body armor models that comply with this new NIJ standard for women’s body armor.
1. What is the point of women’s body armor?
Due to the difference in breasts and body type, women’s body armor needs a different design to ensure the same level of protection and comfort. For example, the common design of plates for males is generally too heavy and does not fit women’s contours.
Carrying an overweight plate around will overburden the wearer and even cause pain. Therefore, body armor needs to have a tailor-made design for women to ensure the best performance of the ballistic vest and the wearer.
2. What is the consequence of wearing male ballistic vests for women?
As a rule of thumb, the right body armor should provide realistic protection while allowing an adequate level of comfort and mobility. In the case of women’s body armor, the design should emphasize flexibility and not overburden the wearer.
Most hard body armor that gives great protection comes with ceramic plates and is very heavy even for men. Wearing ill-fitting heavy body armor for a long time will hinder free movement and even cause pain and damage to vital organs.
3. What type of ballistic vest fits women?
It heavily depends on the specific body type of the woman. But in general, the plate and carriers should come in smaller sizes and lighter. And plates should be designed according to the curve of the chest and the torso size of the plate should be shorter.
Having a specific design tailored to women’s body contour is the only solution. But before considering gender, you should first decide on the protection level you want based on your needs and situation. Regardless of what type of body armor you are considering buying, you should always refer to the NIJ Compliant Product List to ensure the products fulfill the industry-level standards.
Now you can refer to the forthcoming NIJ test standard specifically for women and see whether the products you are considering buying are listed on the NIJ Compliant Product List.