How Long Does Body Armor Last?

You may wear your tactical vest for work every day—or you might keep a vest easily accessible in your home in case of an emergency. Whether or not you wear these safety products daily, they will eventually degrade. Believe it or not, body armor is manufactured with an expiration date, which is usually around 5 years after a vest is produced. While expired vests may still offer considerable protection, they aren’t nearly as reliable or consistent as a vest that is not expired. Let’s take a closer look at some factors that can cause body armor to break down.

Does Body Armor Actually Expire?

You might have thought that expiration dates are limited to items like food and medicine, but body armor and other similar safety products also have a shelf life. This is because the chemical compounds that make up a vest, such as industrial fiber or Kevlar, degrade over time. A number of other factors can speed up the degradation process, too.

What Can Cause Body Armor to Expire?


If you’re working in a moist, damp environment, your safety gear is much more likely to expire at an earlier time than the estimated 5-year cutoff. This also means that storing your vest in a humid location can quicken the degradation process.

UV Light

Using your vest in environments with high exposure to ultraviolet radiation can also shorten shelf life. Commonly, body armor vests are exposed to UV rays when worn out in the sunlight for extended periods.

Hard vs. Soft Armor

The type of body armor you’re using also makes a difference—for example, soft armor expires much more quickly than hard armor, as it is more vulnerable to hot, wet environments. 

Weight Loss or Gain

Even something as simple as a change in your weight can diminish the protective quality of your gear. If a vest presses too snuggly (or not snuggly enough) against your body, stress may be put on the ballistic panels as they move around inside the carrier.

Internal Damage

A vest may not appear to be expired to the casual observer, or even to the person who is wearing it most frequently. Your product may look pristine on the outside, but on the inside it could be warped, cracked, or bent from use.

    What Is the Risk of Using an Expired Vest?

    It doesn’t take much imagination to think of all the problems an expired vest could cause for its wearer. To put it bluntly, using an old, worn-out vest could lead to serious bodily injury by a bullet. At worst, such bodily harm could result in death. This is why it’s essential to abide by the manufacturer’s recommendations and stated expiration date.

    How Often Should Body Armor Be Replaced?

    We recommend that you have your body armor checked regularly for signs of both external and internal damage by an expert in your field. In the case that your gear has, in fact, degraded, it is encouraged that you replace your armor with a more recently-manufactured model. 

    The key thing to remember here is that you may need to replace your vest even before it has truly expired—it all depends on your individual circumstances. After all, don’t want to find yourself in a dangerous situation with damaged or underperforming body equipment.

    Where Can I Buy High-Quality Body Armor?

    At Body Armor Direct, we value each and every one of our customers, which means we don’t want you to risk using an expired or damaged vest if you can help it. When you’re ready to replace a vest (expired or otherwise), we hope you’ll reach out to our ballistic safety experts.

    We Provide a Warranty

    Body Armor Direct’s ballistic safety products are all backed by a warranty. This states that for a period of 5 years, your vest’s panels will conform to the minimum requirements of the NIJ protocol for ballistic intervention during an actual confrontation at the stated threat level.

    We’re Based in the United States

    All of our soft armor products are manufactured at a Florida facility, and we pride ourselves on using the highest-quality materials in our development process. In terms of fine-tuning our products, we wanted to make sure that our customers would get the most out of their armor; that’s why every vest is designed with the goal of lasting for the expected 5-year period.

    We’re NIJ-Certified

    Body Armor Direct vests are certified by the National Institute of Justice, meaning that all of our products have been sent to an independent, government-approved laboratory and have been tested to ensure they meet the standard requirements for government use. If your armor is not NIJ-certified, it may have been tested at one point in time to a portion of the NIJ standard.

    Body Armor Direct Is Always Here to Help

    If you have any questions about whether or not you’re due for a replacement vest, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll match you with reliable, consistent, potentially life-saving gear and provide you with the insights you need to use body armor successfully in your line of work.