A Guide to Body Armour for Close Protection Operatives


Safeguard Armour, the premium body armour manufacturer in the UK have produced this helpful article for us. If you would like more information or advice on armour please contact them at info@safeguardarmour.co.uk or 0113 8800795

As a close protection operative, you hold a position of great responsibility, helping to keep one or more persons safe from harm. This is not an easy job, and demands considerable training and courage: depending on the person you’re hired to protect, you may be vulnerable to varying levels of danger. However, working as a bodyguard is not as action-packed and simple as it may appear in the media: instead, much of the work involves planning routes for transportation, performing counter-surveillance, checking venues their client will enter, and running background checks on those people due to make contact.

However, there’s no denying that certain assignments may bring a certain level of risk: providing close protection for a controversial politician or campaigner may well leave you facing serious threats to life, while the same could certainly be said of celebrities known to have stalkers or to have received threats against their safety. Preparation clearly plays a key part in keeping your clients safe, you need to know where they’re going during particular hours, who they’re likely to meet, what dangers they may face, and, crucially, what steps you need to take to ensure their safety should a volatile situation arise.

Part of your risk mitigation strategy may include the wearing of body armour. Manufacturers produce various types of protective vests to combat a range of risks, but how do you know which vests offer protection against certain weapons? Whether you’re new to the world of close protection, or you need a refresher, this guide has been put together to help you pick the best vest for all situations.

Which Vest is Best? Finding the Right Vest

Body armour is produced to offer three types of protection: ballistic (bullet-resistant), edged blade (stab-resistant) and spike (spiked-weapon resistant). Each type features varying levels of protection against these specific threats.

Bullet proof vests are tested and rated by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in the U.S.A., and though Britain’s own Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) tests armour too, most UK suppliers use the American-rated levels as a guide. Some vests offer protection against all three types, but typically only at lower levels. Level I armour, for example, defends against .22 calibre bullets, whereas level IV stops armour-piercing ammunition (thanks to ballistic plates, typically made of ceramics or steel) these are the bulkiest, most heavyweight type of bulletproof vest available, and so will only be needed when expecting the highest degree of danger, in hostile environments. Levels I – IIIA are classed as soft armours, and are made with multiple layers of Kevlar; levels III – IV are hard armours, combining Kevlar and plates.

Stab vests are, like bulletproof vests, available in three different levels, based on the amount of energy an attacker uses in an assault, and the size of the blade wielded. These feature multiple layers of Kevlar, in a tighter weave than that in bulletproof vests, to create friction against blades – whether used in slashing or stabbing motions – and stop them tearing through. Many stab vests include spike protection, and, if so, the weave will be particularly tight, with the gaps between fibres small enough to trap pointed tips if an assailant uses an improvised, sharpened weapon instead of an engineered blade. You may never know exactly what type of danger your client faces – an assailant may well choose to fire on them from afar with a rifle, or get in close for a stab-wound – but you may be able to choose your armour based around the level of weaponry an assailant is likely to have access to, and which type of locations you’ll be in. Will you be out in open spaces, where a gunman may have plenty of space to operate in, or will you be in close-quarters, amongst crowds? All of this planning will be part of your preparation, so try to amass as much information to help guide you.

How Important are Size and Fit?

Size and fit are of key importance when buying body armour: choose the wrong vest, and you may still face a risk of injury. How? Well, a vest which is too big may hang away from the torso and leave a gap big enough for a bullet to pass between, or push up into your throat when you move in a particular way (distracting you at the worst times). On the other hand, a vest that’s too small may leave you feeling restricted and uncomfortable, which can prove disastrous if you need to run or help escort your client to a safe place quickly.

Body armour is available in covert and overt styles (though level III and IV bullet proof vests are too bulky for covert wear), to suit changing situations. For most close protection work, you may need to wear covert vests – worn underneath your clothing – to help maintain a discrete service. In certain high-risk environments and situations, however, you may need to wear overt armour for additional protection, which will obviously identify you as a security specialist. Covert armour is made with thinner, more lightweight materials, and breathable fabrics, helping you to stay comfortable during extended periods of wear; these vests will allow you to stay cool and safe while wearing the smart attire typically required of close protection operatives.

To help yourself get the best size for your shape, be sure to measure your height and chest before you order (ask a friend or colleague to help, for greater accuracy). If your security firm will not provide the right level of armour for your current assignment, you may need to buy it yourself. While higher levels can be expensive, you should avoid letting the expense put you off – their value far outweighs any price.

For more information and articles please visit Safeguard Armour’s website – www.safeguardarmour.co.uk


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