Body Armour and Bulletproof Vests

Body Armour and Bulletproof Vests – All you need to know!

Not All Body Armour Is The Same

Body armour is a piece of safety equipment essential for providing life-saving protection against various threats ranging from stabbing, bludgeoning, and of course, bullets fired from various weapons.

The threat levels of ballistic vests are set by the NIJ (National Institute of Justice) and vary from soft to hard armour variations with six different armour type levels. It can be very confusing, especially for the first-time private citizen buyer to know which is the best option for them. We compiled this guide to help you answer frequently asked questions and explain the different levels, but of course, should you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask us.

Soft Armour and Hard Armour

Soft Armour Overview

The most common material used is Aramid, of which Kevlar is one of the well-known brands.  The Aramid threads, which are very tightly woven together, are proven to be able to stop bullets. The woven design distributes the force of the impact, causing the entire net of Aramid threads to absorb the energy. The lightweight material and its protection make it ideal for professions that may require a lot of movement and flexibility.

Soft armour is lighter and more flexible than hard armour and it is the material and the design that give it the strength and durability to stop a bullet. It may feel like a thick canvas vest, but the materials used to create that vest can be anywhere from five to ten times stronger than steel.

Soft body armour comes in different shapes and sizes and is normally inserted into a “carry vest” that is made from Poly-cotton material. 

soft body armour
Example of soft body armour
Layers of Kevlar inside the bulletproof vest

Soft armour after it has stopped bullets

Some Features of Soft Body Armour:

  • Concealable – can be worn without being visually detected
  • Soft and flexible material – comfortable
  • Lightweight – adds little to the overall weight of security gear
  • High deflection range – can effectively counter a wide range of handgun bullets
  • Lower protective capabilities – cannot withstand high-calibre or high-velocity rifle rounds

Types of Soft Body Armour

Stab and Spike Proof Armour

This armour offers protection against manual striking with edged or straight knives and other sharp weapons, it is not bulletproof.

Level I Body Armour

Level I protection is the lowest available level in terms of bulletproof vests. At this level, a vest is rated for 2 types of small calibre rounds, specifically .38 and .22 calibre rounds. Due to higher calibre rounds being much more common, Level I vests are not considered up to NIJ standards.

This was the first NIJ level. It’s now considered obsolete since weapons have evolved far beyond Level 1’s protective abilities. You really only see this level in old or second-hand body armour, which we urge you to avoid for quality and safety reasons.

Level IIA Body Armour

Level IIA is the next tier up. At this level, protection is slightly more flexible – additionally protecting the body from 9 mm rounds as well as .40 Smith and Wesson rounds. The “A” distinction refers to having similar properties as Level II vests but somewhat weaker.

After Level 1, this level is the least effective but most concealable armour for those who need to remain mobile and want it undetectable, such as undercover officers, intelligence agents, or VIPs. It still provides a degree of protection from slower projectiles or knives.

Level II Body Armour

Level II vests provide the same level of protection as IIA but can sustain damage from 9 mm rounds at higher traveling speeds (up to 368 m/s) and additionally protects against .357 magnum rounds (up to 436 m/s).

Level IIIA Body Armour

Level IIIA protection covers all previous protection levels as well as 9 mm rounds traveling at speeds of up to 426 m/s. Level IIIA vests also protect against .44 magnum and .44 caliber rounds.

The most universally recommended armour, IIIA offers protection against most rounds of handguns. This is generally the highest rating possible for commercially available concealable armour.

Equire today about our LS621 Kevlar bulletproof vests

Hard Armour Overview

Hard armour is for those who expect to see combat or work in environments where they need protection, not only from handguns, but also from rifles. As the name suggests, it uses hard armour plates, most commonly ceramic plates, able to resist most munitions except for armour-piercing rounds.

These are much thicker and heavier than soft body armour with no flexibility. Ceramic, Steel, and poly plates are some of the most commonly used materials.

Hard body armour can either be used in conjunction with soft body armour or on its own.  Normally soft body armour carry vests are equipped with “plate pockets” on the front and back in which the ceramic/steel plates are inserted. 

Hard body armour can also be used without soft body armour by simply inserting it into the plate pockets of the carry vest.

bullet proof vest
Changing from soft to hard body armour by inserting ballistic plates
ballistic plates
Left is a ceramic tile and right is the steel ballistic plates

Level III Body Armour

Level III body armour is the first level that protects against rifle rounds. They consist of a carry vest with or without soft body armour into which the plates are inserted (ceramic, steel, etc.).  Level III body armour vests must be able to withstand up to six shots from 7.62×51 NATO rounds.

These vests are capable of stopping AK-47 rounds.

Level IV Body Armour

Level IV body armour is the highest basic level that protects against armour piercing rounds.

This is the most advanced body armour rating with outstanding capacity to resist most rifle, handgun, and shotgun rounds. However, its bulkiness and weight is a limiting factor


Does one size fit all?

No, bulletproof vests come in different sizes.  It is, however, slightly adjustable with Velcro straps on the shoulders and around the waist.

Do you get bulletproof vests for women?

Today’s body armour manufacturers are doing a lot more to meet the needs of female wearers with specially cut ballistic gear that fits the female anatomy.

Why do bulletproof vests have expiry dates?

Body armor is made of synthetic materials whose properties and characteristics are lab-made, so they tend to “age” and become less effective with time. 

The materials lose their abilities of deflection, resistance, and dilution of kinetic energy. Due to this, body armour has a defined lifespan. Usually, NIJ-certified armor has a 5-year lifespan.

Can you still wear expired body armour?

No – the warranty falls away after 5 years.

What level of ballistic protection should I get?

This depends on the threat that you encounter. In areas where mostly handguns are used, Level IIIA will be sufficient. In areas where rifles are being used, Level III has to be worn.

What distance do bulletproof vests give protection for?

The NIJ standard test protocol requires test projectiles fired from a distance of 5 meters for levels of protection up to Level IIIA, and from 15 meter for threat Level III and Level IV.

How to determine your body armour size?

Body armour size normally follows the size of your shirt. It is important that all vital organs should be covered by Aramid.

Is it legal for civialians to wear body armour?


Why should I buy LIGHTSAVER body armour?

Our bulletproof vests are well researched and tested.  We pride ourselves in selling top quality products at a very reasonable price.

How do you clean a bulletproof vest?

Remove the Aramid panels from the carry vest.  The carry vest can be machine washed.  The Aramid panels should never get wet.  Simply wipe that panels clean with a damp cloth.

(Remember Aramid should never get wet – it affects the Aramid fibres and ballistic resistance)

Does your vest offer complete side protection?

Everyone has a different sized belly and a large belly keeps the vest panels from overlapping on the sides.  Some people will get complete protection from this, some very thin people may even see a little overlap. However, if you are a little bit larger in the belly, there may be a gap on the side.

Will I get hurt when shot at while wearing my bulletproof vest?

Although the vest will stop the bullet, there is still back face deformation on the back of the vest – against your body – which will cause bruising and can even fracture ribs, depending on where the bullet strikes the vest.

Very important:  The correct vest is needed for the corresponding threat, for instance, a Level IIIA vest will stop a handgun, but not a rifle bullet.

Whats the difference between a bulletproof vest, tactical/equipment vest and a riot suit?

Bulletproof vests resist bullets, tactical and equipment vests are the same thing and are used for carrying your equipment whereas riot suits protect against blunt objects like sticks, bricks, and stones.

Who buys these vests? 

We sell vests mainly to people who live, play, and work in potentially violent environments. These folks include Armor Car Companies, Cops, Security Guards, Shop Owners and Workers, Surveyors, Park Rangers, Volunteers, Bank Employees, Couriers, War Photographers, Urban Explorers, Paramedics, People Who Don’t Trust The Other Patrons At The Gun Range, Repo Men, Process Servers, Bail Bondsmen, Bounty Hunters, Bouncers, ATM Repairmen, Jewelers, people who transport cash, Farmers, etc.

How do you test your bulletproof vests?

Our vests are batch tested at a shooting range under controlled circumstances. Click here to watch our live ammo batch tests.

How do I order my bulletproof vest?

Send us an email – or contact us on 021 555 2416 or use our enquiry form below

BulletProof Vest Enquiry

For further questions or price requests, drop us a line
  • Let us know if you have any further questions about our bulletproof vests

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