What Is the Best Body Armor?

The best body armor vest is one you will wear. Whether you’re in law enforcement, private security or the general public, choosing the right life safety products to protect you on the job is no small task. For you to wear your vest consistently, it needs to be lightweight, mold to the body, and discreet when needed. 


Searching for the best armor can turn up all kinds of conflicting information, which can be pretty overwhelming for a first-time user. What do we mean when we talk about certified versus compliant body armor, for example? How do we know which situations require soft armor, and which ones are better suited for hard armor? Let’s break this data down, then, so that you have enough background to confidently purchase what is truly the best concealable armor on the market today.

What Does “the Best Body Armor” Actually Mean?

When we talk about the “best” body armor, we’re not necessarily focusing on surface-level appearances or a high price tag. Mainly, we’re looking at just how much protection our users need (which will depend on the situation) and determining whether an armor product is NIJ certified, rather than compliant. A better understanding of what each of these terms means will help you make informed decisions when searching for the body armor that’s right for you.

What Is the Difference Between Soft and Hard Armor?

Needless to say, the type of body armor you require really depends on the threats you may encounter. In lower-risk situations, for example, you may prefer less-protective soft armor that stops all common handgun rounds, including .357, 9mm, 45ACP, and all the way up to .44 magnum following the National Institute of Justice accreditation standard 0101.06. On the other hand, if you’re in a high-risk threat area, you may opt for hard armor for greater protection. 

Soft Armor

As its name suggests, soft armor is more comfortable as it molds to the body. It’s made of a woven para-aramid that spreads the impact energy of a projectile, lessening potential damages. Soft body armor is typically used for concealable, tactical, and t-shirt vests, as well as backpack inserts.

Hard Armor

Hard armor is constructed from steel plates, polyethylene, and ceramic composites, and is mostly worn over your clothes in a tactical vest, plate carrier, or active shooter kit. This type of armor is ideal for high-risk situations, such as handgun and rifle threats.

What Is the Difference Between Certified and Compliant Armor?

Certified body armor has met the National Institute of Justice standards, meaning that it has been sent to an independent government-approved laboratory and been tested to ensure it meets the standard requirements for government use. In its simplest form, if you see armor for sale and it doesn’t say “certified,” it’s not certified. 


Many body armor companies end up misleading their customers and encouraging them to purchase compliant armor, rather than certified products. They typically state that their armor is “rated.” This means that you may be purchasing and wearing armor that does not meet the quality standards acceptable for law enforcement and government use. Check out the differences between certified and compliant armor below, so that you have a greater understanding of what you’re purchasing.

What Is Compliant Armor?

Compliant armor may have completed a lower level of ballistic body armor testing, but it isn’t subject to ongoing government inspection to ensure it continues to perform. Suppliers of compliant armor often use confusing phrases like “bullet safe” and “safe life,” but these words do not guarantee that their products meet the standards established by the National Institute of Justice. They completed some level of testing at some point in time, and there is no guarantee the vests currently being sold have even been tested! Many of these companies sell foreign-made vests and fail to disclose them on their websites. 

What Is NIJ Certified Armor?

Your best bet is to opt for certified armor, which could mean the difference between life and death in many cases. This armor is NIJ certified and contains the NIJ “Listed Model” stamp on the outside of the ballistics. These products have all been developed after March 1st, 2017, and have passed the required nationwide safety tests. This also means the company is subject to strict government oversight to ensure they continue to make the same vest.

Choosing the Best Body Armor for You

Finding the best body armor out there may sound like a daunting task, but at the end of the day, you know better than anyone what you need to prioritize while at your job. Keep the following considerations in mind, and you’ll have a solid understanding of what the best body armor will be for your needs.


Quality body armor is sold to law enforcement for over $1,000 per vest. Body Armor Direct has no dealers or distributors, so we’re able to sell our vests at an affordable price with no middlemen! Foreign-made, non-certified vests are sold for $399 and under online, but again, these products likely don’t meet governmental safety standards.


Think again about the day-to-day requirements of your job. Body Armor Direct has over 75 five-star reviews from law enforcement, private security, and civilians that state they wear the vests daily.


This ties in with the “comfort” aspect of your decision. Are you looking for soft or hard plates? Something to wear under a t-shirt? Maybe a helmet would better suit your needs? Again, it all depends on your unique circumstances.


Will compliant body armor cut it for you in your job? Remember, this type of civilian armor may have protective capabilities, but it hasn’t undergone the rigorous NIJ testing that certified body armor has. Make sure to purchase body armor that meets the expected threat level of your situation.

Where Does Body Armor Direct Come In?

Body Armor Direct prides itself on producing high-quality, bullet resistant safety products, with both NIJ certified soft and hard plates made in the USA. We manufacture level 3a body armor as well as dozens of related products. If you’re in need of potentially lifesaving body armor, you’ve come to the right place. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions about our products.