Body armor has advanced in its capabilities over the last decade using thinner and lighter materials to accomplish the same level of protection. There are heavy-duty plate carrier options for SWAT and other tactical responders, as well as concealed and external ballistic vests for uniformed officers on the street. Thankfully, many of these advances also apply to covert body armor as well, meaning undercover operators need not go without. Here are some tips on purchasing body armor for your covert needs.
SELECT YOUR LEVEL OF PROTECTION
Whether your personnel are working low-profile, close protection detail or are full-blown undercover assets, you’ll want to strike that balance between a good level of protection and concealability. There are many options out there, but you may be surprised to find you can achieve up to a NIJ level IIIA with a garment the size of a tank top.
While there is a general trade-off of fortification related to bulk, you can find excellent protection from very unobtrusive products. Keep in mind, the lower the level of protection, the easier the defensive garment will be to conceal.
AVOID THE TELLS
Buy specific products intended for low-profile or undercover work. Trying to fit the standard patrol vest under a shirt or jacket is not a wise adaptation. Bulky panels that rub against each other are going to give body armor away. They do this by folding out at odd angles and generally not allowing the normal range of movement a person would experience sans body armor.
Another factor that could unveil an undercover operator is extra heat. If an operative is wearing a t-shirt and shorts but sweating profusely, they might have some explaining to do. Find concealable body armor products crafted with great breathability in mind so wearers do not have to face this critical issue.
Ill-fitted pieces might even push off a belt and ride up above a cover garment potentially risking compromise. When you have selected the level of protection you need and the garment that will work for your personnel, make sure they have a proper fitting. This will help ensure their level of mobility and flexibility do not suffer.
DRESS FOR THE OCCASION
By seeking out the right vendor, you can dress your low-profile employee for success. This does not necessarily refer to the body armor itself, but clothing that blends them into their environment. Seek out concealed body armor manufacturers who can produce garments that fit the general identity of the person or their assignment. Ordering a protective suit jacket would be idyllic for a dignitary close-protection assignment, but would not go over well for your drug taskforce operative.
If you cannot find something available in a manufacturer’s catalog that suits your needs, reach out to them and tell them what you are looking for. Reputable companies will work with you to help fulfill your concealed body armor needs.
CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN OR WOMAN
When you are talking about ballistic protection, there is no doubt that these are some of the most important garments people who go into harm’s way on a regular basis can wear. With a little effort up front, perspective buyers can find body armor solutions that will increase the survivability of a shooting scenario for your undercover asset while not tipping off the people around them that they are protected.
About the author
Sean Curtis is a law enforcement professional with over two decades of experience, serving with SWAT, diving and swift water rescue teams in Colorado. He has also served in wildland fire, search and rescue, EMS and emergency management.