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Soft Body Armor VS. Hard Body Armor: What's the Difference?

March 23, 2017
By Vel Tye

 

 

Tactical vest

 

Different kinds of body armor protect against various levels of bodily harm. When searching for body armor you may come across the terms “soft body armor” and “hard body armor,” but what’s the difference?

What is Soft Body Armor?

As the name suggests, soft body armor is soft and flexible, though its components can be many times stronger than steel. Because it is typically not as bulky as hard body armor, it’s more likely to be worn underneath a uniform or in addition to some other kind of gear. In some cases, soft armor is used in conjunction with hard armor to provide the user with as much protection as possible.

Soft armor is usually made of a fabric-like material with extreme strength such as Kevlar, Spectra, Twaron, and so on. Soft armor can come in many shapes and forms, but it is most commonly worn as a vest.

Although it is flexible and easy-to-wear, soft body armor is not as strong as its hard counterpart. Typically rated to stop pistol-caliber ammunition, soft body armor is generally not rated to protect the wearer against rife-caliber shots.

 

What is Hard Body Armor?

Hard body armor consists of a soft armor shell situated with metal plates, typically made of ballistic steel or ceramic. The plates are integrated into functional apparel of some kind such as a Hugger vest or other bulletproof garment. Hard body armor is far stronger than soft body armor thanks to the impenetrability of its internal plates.

Many kinds of hard armor utilize layered plates which were originally designed by the U.S. military. Made of ceramic, these plates are also coated in a strong protective material for additional strength. Hard armor vests are usually sold without plates; the user then decides which plates to purchase and integrate.

Because of its strength qualities, hard armor is heavier and less pliable than soft body armor. Some users report it’s less comfortable to wear and say it can get hot and slightly uncomfortable during long periods of use. Despite some small drawbacks, hard body armor is rated to protect its user from high-caliber rifle ammunition and is the most common kind of body armor used in tactical situations.

 

Both hard and soft armor are generally strong enough to protect the human body from sharp or fast-moving threats. The best protection is multi-layered protection; gear made up of both soft and hard armor components.

 

Need help determining whether soft or hard armor is right for your team? Contact the experts at Vel Tye today to talk gear. Protective apparel is our specialty.

 

Topics: Body Armor, Gear, Hard Body Armor, Hugger Vest, Materials, Soft Body Armor