Are you Making the Worst Decision of Your Life?

By Calibre Press  |   Sep 25, 2019

As made crystal clear in Calibre’s Street Survival II book, one of the most critical cardinal rules of officer survival is to wear your vest. Sounds obvious, but it’s a fact: Some officers don’t wear them. The list of justifications is long – and dangerous. “It’s uncomfortable.” “It’s too hot.” “I ride a desk so I don’t need a vest.” “I’m the Chief/Sheriff/Captain/Lieutenant. I’m not on the street anymore.” “I’m not going to need it. That’s not going to happen to me.”

As history has tragically shown, choosing to skip wearing your vest can be one of the worst decisions of your life. Here are some thoughts on body armor to keep in mind.

Make the smart choice more comfortable.

Let’s go to the most common reason officers skip wearing a vest: comfort. As detailed in Street Survival II, there are steps you can take when selecting your vest to ensure that it’s as comfortable as possible while still providing the protection you need.

When choosing a vest, select one that:

1. Almost encircles your torso. This allows for some side protection in addition to front and back coverage. Consider allowing about a one-inch opening on the sides to allow for heat dissipation. One of the most common complaints about vests is how hot they are. Allowing some space on the sides will help. Granted, you may forego some slight coverage but better that than no coverage at all.

2. Extends to about one inch above your belt and has a V-neck. If your vest is too long you’ll suffer from the “turtle shell effect,” meaning it will ride up under your chin when you sit down. Choosing a V-neck will help prevent the top of your vest from rubbing against your Adam’s apple, which can happen even when you’re standing.

3. Resists water. Moisture can lubricate the threads in the vest fabric, which can weaken the weave and lessen its stopping power. If your vest isn’t waterproof, check with the manufacturer about the advisability of applying a water-repellent spray. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions explicitly. Don’t use a vinyl cover as it won’t allow heat or sweat to dissipate properly.

A note on fit: Proper sizing is critical to the effectiveness of your vest. If you gain or lose a noticeable amount of weight (some have suggested 5-10% of your body weight) you need to check your vest’s fit and consider whether you need a new one. Clearly, cost is a consideration here but remember that you’re putting a price on your safety.

A note on protection: Remember, a ballistic vest isn’t just for bullets. It can provide important protection for your chest in a vehicular collision, protect you from other types of blunt force attacks on your torso and, depending on the vest, provide protection against stabbing and slashing. Three more good reasons to wear one…

Thoughts on outer carriers.

Outer vest carriers have become popular and may be worthy of consideration. In most, but not all, cases carriers are designed to blend in with your uniform such that it may not even be noticeable to the untrained eye. Two advantages to wearing an outer carrier are the ability to carry tools and equipment on it and the ease of taking it off when necessary. Some, however, caution that a vest should always be worn inconspicuously under your shirt. The thinking is that an obvious vest can be self-defeating. If an assailant realizes that your torso is protected, he may decide to shoot at your head or below your waist.

Keep it clean & current.

Maintaining your vest properly will better ensure durability and effectiveness. Be sure to rigidly follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and storage and be sure to strictly adhere to recommendations on timing for replacement. Treat your vest as though it might save your life someday…because it might.

If you take a hit.

It’s important to remember that even though a well-chosen vest helps prevent penetration, you may still experience injury if you’re hit. When a round impacts at high velocity it drives the armor inward against your body as the shot’s kinetic energy dissipates. This can cause a shallow wound or lesion in your flesh and may result in blunt trauma injuries to your internal organs. Be aware that there is no correlation between the severity of a skin lesion and possible internal damage. Just because a post-impact lesion appears harmless doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear. If you’re ever shot in your vest, you should be hospitalized for observation. Doctors will want to monitor you carefully for blunt trauma to your heart, lungs, liver, spleen, spine and/or abdominal wall.

Remember who your vest protects.

Whether you choose to believe it or not, by not wearing your vest you’re saying, “It can’t happen to me” or “I’m sure nothing bad is going to happen today.” Bad guys don’t make appointments. That “one” day can come at any time. Remember that. If you ever consider taking a pass on wearing your vest, take a moment and think of your loved ones. That vest is not only protecting you; it’s protecting them as well. Put it on.

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