Maintenance Tips for Bulletproof Vests

Introduction

Everyone knows that a bulletproof vest (aka body armour/ballistic vest/ballistic armour) is a must for law enforcement officers and military personnel because they reduce the risk of injury and, importantly, save lives.

However, do you understand how you can prolong your body armour’s life? While taking proper care of your ballistic armour is not a complicated affair, it is essential to do it correctly.

And, although the benefits of ballistic armour are obvious for military personnel, did you know that firearms continue to be one of the most dangerous threats faced by law enforcement officers in the US (from 1987 to 2015, more than 70,000 have been assaulted by firearms, with 1,700 killed).

Law enforcement officers/military personnel have demanding jobs, and some wear and tear on ballistic armour is expected. As such, a better understanding of the maintenance of ballistic armour can ensure that personnel know how to inspect their body armour and detect any issues that need attention.

Ballistic armour should be visually inspected for damage or excessive wear, every time it is worn. Never wear ballistic armour that is damaged in anyway. If damaged you should immediately contact the manufacturer or representative to discuss repair options.

Ballistic armour is constructed of ballistic and other materials and, owing to the many styles of ballistic armour, it is difficult to provide a complete care and maintenance guide.

With this in mind, below are a number of maintenance tips to keep your ballistic armour in excellent shape.

Maintenance Tips

Some wear and tear is expected, but remember:

  • To carry out frequent inspections and proper care of ballistic armour, as this can help maintain the integrity of the ballistic panels and the carrier.
    • It is important to remember that ballistic armour is a ballistic-resistant vest that is made up of a carrier and soft armour panels or hard armour plates.
  • That suppliers usually have recommended care instructions on the label.
    • It is important to follow the supplier-recommended care instructions, making certain that anyone else who cares for the ballistic armour is also aware of these instructions.

Visually inspect ballistic panel covers frequently, and remember:

  • To check for cuts, tears, stitching separation, sealing problems, and excessive wear – all of which could expose the ballistic-resistant materials to moisture and other potentially degrading factors.
  • That carriers that rub the panel covers as a result of normal flexing can wear through the cover and expose the armour to moisture penetration.

Note that the covers of the armour panels should not be opened for any reason, and remember:

  • That if the integrity of the panel cover is compromised in any way, notify someone right away.
    • For example, report these findings to an appropriate representative who should contact the armour supplier for guidance on how to proceed.
  • To never attempt to repair armour panels under any circumstances.
    • Personnel should consider replacing, or returning to the manufacturer for repair, any armour panel or label that shows damage or excessive wear as soon as possible.

Washing:

  • There are different materials used in covers and carriers for ballistic armour and the manufacturers washing instructions where available should be followed.
  • Some of the removable carriers, made from polycotton can be gentle machine washed or hand washed.
  • Carriers made from 100% nylon or cordura should be hand sponged, using mild detergents and warm water.
  • The cover of the ballistic package, usually made of waterproof nylon, should only be hand sponged using mild detergents and warm water.
  • The ballistic package should never be immersed in water.
  • Generally, aramid and Kevlar panels are held within watertight sleeves and inserted into either external or internal carriers. As long as the seals are not broken, a little moisture on the ballistic inserts will damage the fibres.
    • The two major fibres used in body armour are Aramid and Polyethylene.
    • Kevlar®, Twaron® and Technor® are all aramids whereas Dyneema® and Spectr® are part of the polyethylene group.
    • Furthermore, these fibres can be offered in a variety of woven or non-woven formats.

Drying:

  • After being cleaned, the ballistic package should be laid flat to dry in a well ventilated, shady place.
  • It should not be hung on the clothes line or laid out in the sunlight to dry, as UV rays will cause some types of ballistic packages to deteriorate, however this is not the case with 100% Dyneema®.

Storage:

  • All ballistic armour, regardless of style, should be stored flat, and not thrown in the back or boot of your car or left in the bottom of the wardrobe.
  • Laying it flat when not in use helps to ensure there are no sets or wrinkles in the ballistic materials which may cause damage to the fibres.
  • Ballistic armour that has a hard plate in the front or rear should be stored with the plate/s removed.
  • It should never be stored while it is damp from washing or perspiration as this can cause mould to grow.

Summary

Ballistic armour is an essential piece of tactical gear for law enforcement and military personnel. After all, it is a piece of equipment that has the potential to get you out of a tight spot and be life-saving.

By taking proper care of your ballistic armour, your ballistic armour can take better care of you.

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