January 13, 2016, by Chris Taylor – While those in the Military will be all too aware of the importance of body armor, and the advances made in the field of personal protection, many may overlook just how to best care for armor. One would expect a vest designed to protect against bullets and explosions to not need too much in the way of maintenance, and to some extent this is true; however, it is important to be aware of how best to care for and maintain body armor. Firstly, however, it is vital that servicemen and women have armor that fits correctly.
Getting the Right Fit
It may seem obvious to note, but a bullet proof vest, like any other item of clothing, should fit correctly. Unlike other vests, however, an ill-fitting bullet resistant vest can bring disastrous consequences, particularly for the Armed Forces. A vest that fits incorrectly will be uncomfortable to wear at the best of times, but in the inhospitable environments inherent to modern combat, this will be so much worse. This will naturally impact performance, and can be a deadly distraction. Ensuring that the vest fits correctly takes one more thing off the soldier’s mind.
More importantly, body armor that does not fit correctly can have large gaps in protection, particularly when worn as part of a uniform and in conjunction with equipment and miscellaneous items. This can leave areas on the body, such as under the arms and below the neck, where there is no protection. This is of course a serious problem, and the worry caused by this potential eventuality may also distract soldiers from doing their duty.
There are more sizes and styles of vest available than ever before, meaning that soldiers can find armor that fits their proportions, and is not simply ‘off the rack’. This is especially true for female soldiers, who all too long have had to make do with armor designed for men. For many, this will simply not fit their body properly, leaving them ill-equipped to perform in hostile environments. Manufacturers are increasingly providing sizes and models specifically designed for women, meaning female soldiers can perform with absolute confidence in their protection.
Caring for Your Armor
Even if your armor does not face the kind of threats it is built to withstand, and is only subjected to the elements, it needs to be cared for and maintained properly. Much of the care needed for vests is the same as it is with other items of clothing; it should be washed, dried, and stored correctly. Of course, there are specific considerations to keep in mind because of the protective elements involved.
Washing the vest involves first separating the carrier from the protective inserts. While there may be specific washing instructions for the carrier, the protective inserts can only be washed using a gentle sponge and simple cleaning solution. Even though the plates are encased, they should still be washed regularly, if only to ensure that there is nothing to put you off wearing your vest, such as a bad smell.
Drying the vest should be done by simply hanging it out to dry, or leaving it on a radiator, keeping a close eye to ensure that it does not become too hot and warp. Storing the vest is even simpler, and can be hung like a jacket or shirt. It should not, however, be folded or have anything heavy placed on top of it. Similarly, it cannot be kept in direct sunlight to ensure the Kevlar inside does not degrade.
It is important to regularly check your armor for any kinds of damage or deformity, and the cleaning and storing of your vest is the perfect opportunity to do so. If there is any damage or deformity whatsoever, you must replace your armor. Most manufacturers offer a guarantee with vests, but vests have a lifespan that should not be exceeded, usually 10 years. After this time, they cannot guarantee your protection, and have to be replaced.
Body armor does require unique sizing, cleaning, and storing, and will require some maintenance to ensure your protection. However, considering the protection it offers, it is a small task to make sure that your vest can perform properly at all times, and will not let you down.