Skip to content

How to Buy a Bulletproof Vest

If you find yourself in a situation where people are shooting at you, a bulletproof vest may be the piece of equipment that saves your life.

Bulletproof vests are typically made of a strong woven fiber called Kevlar or contain a ballistics plate that is capable of stopping bullets before they penetrate your body.

When buying a bulletproof vest, it’s important to weigh all of your options and make sure it fits before making your final decision. If you educate yourself on different models and measure yourself correctly, you can get a bulletproof vest that fits comfortably and protects you from gunfire.


Weighing Your Options



Determine if it’s legal for you to buy and wear a vest.

In the United States, If you’ve ever been convicted of a violent crime, it is  illegal to wear body armor. In certain places, like Australia, it’s illegal to wear a bulletproof vest without a permit. Search online for your local and federal laws related to bullet proof vests or body armor, and make sure that you don’t need a permit to purchase one.

  • If you do need a permit, follow your province, state or country’s application process and get a permit before attempting to purchase a vest.

    In Ontario, anyone can purchase and use a bulletproof vest. Bulletproof vests and all other body armor can be purchased online or face-to-face.

    Canadian Body Armour Regulations

    We all have a right to protect ourselves and our families.  As such, we have a legal right to acquire and wear body armor for personal and professional protection. In turn, it is also 100% legal to sell bulletproof vests and other types of body armor to anyone in the Canada, however some provinces have regulated the possession of body armour products. Please read this article for complete details – 

    Please remember that it is the responsibility of the buyer to ascertain whether he is legally able to purchase and use body armor in his province. This responsibility does not fall on the shoulders of the retailer. 


Choose a vest based on the threat that you’re likely to encounter. Lighter, thinner ballistics vests like the IIA, II, and IIIA are made to stop bullets from handguns. These three vests are recommended if you are likely to encounter small arms fire. If you are in a more dangerous war zone, however, you’ll need the protection of a level III vest, which can stop rifle bullets. Determine what kind of atmosphere you’re in and the potential threats around you.

  • If you’re a civilian that’s not in a war zone, get a lighter vest so that you can wear it under your clothes.
  • The IIA can stop bullets from a 9mm or .40 caliber handgun.
  • The II vest can stop 9mm and .357 caliber handgun bullets.
  • An IIIA vest can stop larger caliber handgun bullets like a .357 SIG and .44 Magnum.
  • For the greatest protection, purchase a level IV vest which can save you from .30 caliber armor piercing rounds.


Decide if you want a concealed or an external vest. If you’re a civilian or an undercover agent, you’ll want to wear a vest that won’t be seen. External vests and plates fit over your existing clothing and are usually preferred by military personnel or police officers because they are easier to remove.


Consider your needed level of mobility. The higher the protection level on your vest, the thicker and heavier it becomes. If you need to be agile and quick on your feet, consider getting a lighter vest like the II or IIA. Heavier body armor may feel clunky and will be harder to move in.


Consider purchasing stab resistant armor to stop blade attacks. Look at the armor panel label on the inside of your vest to determine whether it’s made to protect you from knife attacks. If you think you’ll be in a situation where your greatest threat is a blade, consider purchasing a stab-resistant vest rather than a standard ballistics vest. Combination armor is also an option, as it’s specially designed to stop both bullets and knives. Variations of stab proof vests are available at 

  • If you’re a correctional officer, there’s a greater chance of you being slashed or stabbed than getting shot.


Get a vest that can stop a bullet from the gun that you plan on carrying. If you intend on carrying a gun, you should at very least purchase a vest that’s capable of stopping a bullet from the weapon that you plan on carrying. This may save your life if you’re disarmed and your own weapon is used against you.

Part 2

Taking Your Measurements



Measure your height and weight. Most vests will have sizes based on your height and weight. Use a tape measure to determine how tall you are. Step on a scale and to get your current weight and write the measurements on a piece of paper.


Wear the clothes you’ll be wearing while measuring yourself. If you are buying a concealed vest, wear a tight fitting t-shirt and pants. If you are wearing a larger, exterior vest, wear the uniform or clothes you’ll be wearing and then measure yourself. This will give you a more accurate idea of what vest size you need while you’re out in the field.

  • If you’re a law enforcement official, remember to wear your utility belt and the gear you’d normally be carrying.


Measure your chest. Have someone help when taking measurements. Wrap a tape measure around your chest so that the tape runs under your armpits and across your back. Take the measurement and round it up to the next whole number. Make a note of measurement.

  • For instance if your chest measurement was 16.25 inches (41.3 cm), you’ll want to round up to 17 inches (43 cm).
  • Relax your muscles and breathe normally while you get measured for your vest.


Measure around the largest part of your torso. Wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your torso. Round this number up as well.


Measure from your collarbone to your navel. Hold the tape measure up to the center of your collarbone and let the tape hang under your navel. If you’re wearing a utility belt, measure from the center of your collarbone to the top of the belt. Use this measurement to determine how long your vest should be.

  • Some people make the mistake of getting a vest that hangs down below their hips for extra protection. This is actually bad because it hinders mobility while you wear it.
  • Follow the Sizing Chart

Part 3

Purchasing the Right Vest



Make sure that the vest you want to buy is NIJ compliant. The National Institute of Justice, or NIJ, has created a list of tested levels.


Go to the website and find a model you want.


Compare your body measurements with the vest measurements. As you look for vests to purchase, compare your body measurements with the vest that you want to buy.


Purchase a vest that fits within your budget. Determine how much money you have to spend on the vest and get one that falls within your budget. Some vests cost extra because of their style or look. Others will cost more because of their level of protection or innovative extra features.


If you are local, try the vest on before you buy it. Make sure that you feel comfortable in the vest and that it isn’t too tight or too loose on your body. If it feels too bulky and you can’t move your arms, find a vest that fits you better.

  • You should never wear another person’s vest because it won’t fit correctly and won’t fully protect you.


Move around while wearing the vest. Run around and sit in a chair while wearing the vest. Your vest should feel comfortable whether you’re running or sitting. Try to do different physical acts and see if your vest interferes with your ability to move. The vest should not shift too high or low as you’re making your movements.


Get a replacement vest every five years or after it gets hit with a bullet. Once the vest gets shot, the bullet can crack the ballistics plate and damage the material, so it must be replaced. It’s also recommended that you replace your bulletproof vest every five years. After a couple of years, the material inside of the vest starts to break down. While an expired vest may still stop a bullet, it’s better to be safe than sorry.