Balancing Weight and Protection in Body Armor
By: Rob Orgel, Emergency Response Tactical
When it comes to gear, a common saying comes to mind: "Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain." This saying is frequently mentioned in camping and backpacking. This holds true in the case of body armor, albeit with a twist.
Body Armor: A Necessity, Not a Choice
Leisurely backpacking often allows for adjusting or discarding the weight of a pack. However, body armor, a crucial part of Military Personnel gear, is necessary when in the field. It is a non-negotiable component. When you're at your most exhausted, your body armor must stay on and continue to serve its purpose.
The idea of "painful pounds" resonates in body armor. It emphasizes the importance of carefully considering every ounce that goes into your protective gear.
The Need for Speed
I strongly believe that "speed equals success" in combat operations, a principle well understood by Private Security Contractors. Through my observations, I have noticed that many ambushes arise from opportunity. A slowed or halted convoy increases the likelihood of an attack.
On an individual level, this translates to the way you move through close-quarters situations. A slower pace can make you an easy target. This brings us to the critical role of your body armor's weight.
Your plate carrier and its weight can significantly affect your abilities, your speed, and your stamina.
Breaking Down the Components
Let's explore the components of body armor. First, the plate carrier, next, we need to consider the weight of the ballistic protection. Finally, we need to think about the overall kit weight.
The Plate Carrier
Choosing a high-quality, lightweight plate carrier is crucial. The carrier determines how much space you have for magazines and equipment. However, you should avoid having more space than necessary.
An oversized plate carrier can lead to shifting plates and increased difficulty in movement. You're not just fitting the carrier to your standing body, but for full-scale operations that can involve mounting vehicles, running, and administering first aid. The principle? Keep it light and minimize the real estate.
Ballistic Protection Weight
Unless you're carrying a heavy weapon, the heaviest part of your kit will be the ballistic protection. Opting for high-quality, lightweight protection that fulfills all your ballistic needs can vastly improve your capabilities while wearing your kit.
For instance, Level IV Spartan Armor offers robust protection, but it comes at the cost of weight. The right kit for the right job is paramount. If there's no rifle threat, you may prefer to move faster and more flexibly in Level IIIA Spartan Armor.
The Overall Kit Weight
The overall weight includes full magazines, ballistic protection, and any other mission-essential gear attached to your vest. Minimizing this weight is crucial. If you can keep your kit at 20 pounds, you're doing well. If it's much heavier, you need to consider where you can cut weight.
The Bottom Line
The overall goal is to be quick and adaptable, not slow, and cumbersome. While a turtle can withstand a lot of damage, it lacks mobility and offensive capabilities. Don't let your kit weight or lack of physical ability in the kit turn you into a turtle in the field.
The Balance Between Protection and Mobility
Our objective when choosing a body armor setup should be to strike a balance between protection and mobility. Your ballistic protection, such as the Level IV Spartan Armor, can stop high-level threats, but it's heavier. Conversely, the lighter Level IIIA Spartan Armorallows for quicker movement but is designed to stop lower-level threats.
The choice depends on the situation. If you're facing a scenario without a rifle threat, lighter armor that allows for faster movement might be the best choice.
Customizing Your Kit
Consider your mission and the threats you're likely to face when selecting your armor. It's common for professionals to have several kits to cater to different situations. Armor Packages can provide a good starting point for various needs.
Cutting Weight Where Possible
Look at each part of your kit and ask yourself if there's a way to cut weight. How many magazines do you need to "not run out"? How much water do you need if operations don't leave your home? These are questions that can help identify potential weight savings.
The goal should be to maintain effectiveness without being weighed down by your gear. If someone tells me their ballistic protection weighs over 20 pounds to start, without anything else in the vest, I suggest they reconsider their setup.
Body armor is a critical part of your tactical gear, but it should never hinder your ability to respond effectively. Keep it light, minimize the real estate, and customize your kit to the job at hand.
Remember, you're aiming to be fast and flexible, not slow, and immobile. Don't let your kit weight determine your effectiveness in the field. The right setup can make a world of difference.
For Tactical Gear Retailers, understanding these principles can help in advising customers on the best products for their needs. And for Outdoor Enthusiasts and Survivalists, this knowledge can guide the selection of gear for maximum protection and mobility.
About the Author:
Rob joined the USMC in 2004 with a military occupational specialty of 0311 (Infantry Rifleman). Assigned to 3rd Bn 1st Marines, Rob participated in a deployment to Iraq (OIF-3) as a point man followed by an assignment as Team Leader for the 13th MEU Special Operations Capable to Iraq (OIF-6). In 2007, he joined 1st Marine Regiment and reenlisted to deploy to Afghanistan. InJanuary 2010, Rob was promoted to the rank of Sergeant & continued to serve 1st Marine Regiment for a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. On return from Afghanistan, Rob was assigned to School Of Infantry West to work as a Combat Instructor (CI) for the USMC where he trained thousands of Marines to gain the skills necessary to survive. Rob exited the USMC in 2014 & was immediately picked up by Securing our Country (SOC). As a private military contractor, Rob was responsible for training the specialty teams of operators at the American Embassy in Iraq. Shortly after leaving Contract in 2018, Rob became the Chief Instructor of GPS Defense Sniper School. Rob now gives 100% of his attention to Emergency Response Tactical training all levels over 320 days a year as his passion & full-time job.
You can read his full bio here.