The following guidelines have been developed to help agencies determine if a soft armor fits appropriately and provides appropriate coverage. These guidelines apply both to armors worn over and under the duty uniform.
Prior to putting on your armor, open the carrier and examine the label on each ballistic panel. Verify the label faces the correct direction. The label may say “Wear face,” “Strike face,” “This side toward body” or something similar. Many body armors are designed to work in one direction only; inserting the panels in the incorrect direction can result in the armor’s failing to perform as intended. The materials used may differ from strike face to body side and have different effects on the bullet or knife and may not work if the armor is worn backwards.
Place the panels into the carrier and wear the armor such that the front panel is over the front of your body and the back panel is over your back. The front panel can generally be identified by its having a scoop at the neckline.
After the armor is on your body, do not over tighten the straps. It is human nature to cinch the straps down as tightly as possible, and this is a common mistake. The armor should fit snugly, but not so tightly that it may affect breathing (including deep breathing, such as may occur during a foot chase). The armor should slide slightly on the body as the torso is rotated back and forth. If the armor moves with the body, it is probably too tight.
To ensure appropriate side coverage for both over-the-uniform and under-the-uniform armors, the sides of the torso armor should always overlap by approximately two inches front to back (i.e., the front panel should lie on top of the back panel). This may prevent a bullet from a frontal shot from entering between the panels, traveling inside the back panel and entering your body. This provides additional protection against near-edge shots and also allows for expansion if an officer gains weight over time without creating a dangerous gap.
Ballistic coverage under the arms should be as high as possible without compromising the ability to obtain a shooting position. Over-the-uniform armor may afford slightly greater protection in this area.
The length of the panels relative to the body is very important. For concealable soft armor (under-the-uniform), the front panel should extend from just below the jugular notch to two to three finger-widths above the top of the belt when standing. For over-the-uniform armor, the armor can be slightly longer without impeding movement or comfort. This gap may vary slightly from person to person but is normal and necessary, and prevents the panel from being pushed up into the throat when the officer is seated. Proper fit can be confirmed by sitting down with the armor on. When seated, the front panel should ride just on top of the belt but should not shift up into the throat. If it does, contact the supplier for a fit adjustment. The rear panel should extend from approximately two inches below the collar to approximately one inch above the belt.
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