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How Body Armor Varies Between Female and Male Users

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What Is Female Body Armor?

In the past, most body armor has been designed to fit the needs of the standard soldier – a male soldier. With the influx of female soldiers and law enforcement personnel, manufacturers and military branches have had to rethink the body armor game to fit the needs of the standard female wearer.

Historically, female body armor wearers have been wearing body armor that can’t possibly accommodate the female figure and provide superior comfort or protection. Thankfully, that’s starting to change. The National Institute of Justice, who issues the standard for body armor testing and certification, is introducing NIJ Standard 0101.07, which will include “improved test methods for female body armor.”

Spartan Armor Systems has addressed the need for female body armor by offering our swimmers cut steel core body armor, which better conforms to the female body than the transitional shooters cut body armor. Female law enforcement, first responders, military and civilians swear by the benefits ofSpartan AR 550 Body Armor and Sentinel Swimmers Plate Carrier Package. It is the perfect choice for females who are looking for a more comfortable fit and protection of vital organs.

What might the NIJ take into account in the new standard?

Body Shape

Weight proportion plays a big part in how body armor carriers fit, and where they rest and strike the body. Body armor that is designed and tested solely for males can be loose on a female figure,causing parts of the vest to strike the wearer.

The breasts of males and females are typically different. Body armor that has only been tested for wear by males may not account for larger breasts. Larger breasted wearers may experience unintended gaps between their body armor and their torso. Again, this can cause the vest to swing and strike the wearer’s torso.

As far as skeletal differences, females tend to have wider hips and shorter legs than men. Generally, males have broader shoulders than females. These differences in skeletal structures account for how males and females carry weight differently. Females may benefit from body armor that disperses the weight in areas that are more suited for the female skeleton.

Height and Weight

On average, males are about 10 - 15% larger than females. Some body armor manufacturers that test only male wearers may not carry sizes suitable for petite or smaller statured females.

Female Body Armor 2020

Ill fitting body armor can be cumbersome, bulky and heavy. For years, women have reported various issues with body armor made for male body types. Standard male body armor can be too wide, long and heavy for female wearers. The weight isn’t only due to their typically smaller skeletal frame, but how body armor distributes its weight for the male frame. In addition to this, when wearing body armor built for a male, large breasted females may feel pressure in the chest area and experience trouble breathing. While comfort is important, an improper fitting ballistic vest may not provide the necessary protection it was designed to.

Body armor manufacturers are now using cup sizing for proper fitting body armor. Manufacturers are also using a technique called darting. Darting is a method of shaping ballistic materials around the breast area. A dart is where fabric is overlapped to create an angle. This helps the body armor fit the contours of the female form.

The Army is currently implementing a new Soldier Protection System (SPS), which incorporates the needs of female soldiers. The SPS includes a new modified helmet, face shield, mandible and retention strap mechanism. The most important being the retention strap. Previous helmet retention straps didn’t take females with long hair into account, resulting in a retention strap that pressed against hair buns potentially causing pain and discomfort. The new “Army Improved Retention Strap” mechanism uses a different pattern that will fit around a hair bun.

The Product Manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment of the Program Executive Office for Soldier, Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead,recently stated that other improvements have been made to the “protective undergarment, blast pelvic protector, load distribution system and ballistic combat shirt.”

The new system is also reported to feel lighter and increase mobility with a greater range of motion. Other body armor enhancements identified in the Marines’ report include smaller armor plates and an adjustable frame backpack to help female Marines shoulder heavy loads.

The Marines are also said to be implementing new, smaller and lighter armor plates and carriers. The shoulders of the new body armor plates will be contoured to better fit a rifle stock. The waist of the body armor plates will be shorter for better maneuverability. Some of these changes, like the shorter waist, may better accommodate the female form than previous standard body armor plates.

Choose Spartan Armor

Law enforcement officers, soldiers and civilians love the versatility in sizing options of Spartan Armor SystemsAR550 Leonidas Plate Carrier Package. This body armor package comes with body armor plates in single curve or with our Advanced Triple Curve for customizable comfort.

For customer sizing inquiries, call (520)396-3335 or email



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