January 13, 2016, by Chris Taylor – Military body armor brings with it a different set of requirements compared to those needed by any other profession. Law Enforcement Officers, for example, are under constant and severe threat of attack and injury, and are particularly dependent on body armor in order to perform their work to the best of their ability. However, this pales in comparison to the difficulties facing those in the Military, and though as we will see some of the concerns and obstacles are similar when it comes to body armor, Military Body Armor is a unique and challenging area of interest.
This is particularly true when looking at specific sections of the Military, such as Snipers, who have their own unique requirements in addition to those needed by the Military at large. Snipers are a unique and important part of the Military who are in need of protection that can conform to their needs and respond to their work. The most important attributes a Sniper needs are patience, discretion, concentration, and mobility. It is important, therefore, that their armor does not infringe on these qualities whatsoever.
The Attributes of a Sniper
Working as a Sniper requires a great deal of patience, as these individuals may have to spend long periods in the same place awaiting the perfect shot. Being able to work in difficult conditions for long periods requires a great deal of patience, but also equipment and clothing that is not uncomfortable. Traditional body armor has been particularly bulky and cumbersome, and would be all but impossible for Snipers who may have to spend long periods prone.
As part of this, Snipers will also have to be discreet and remain unseen. Part of lying prone or in an uncomfortable position for long periods is in order to stay discreet and unseen, allowing for the perfect shot and the completion of a mission. For the same reason that soldiers are equipped with camouflaged uniforms, body armor needs to be discreet. A vest that gives a Sniper away is not worth the protection it provides.
Furthermore, armor that is not discreet and comfortable will prove to be a distraction, and the last thing a Sniper needs is distractions. Concentration is one of the most important prerequisites of a Sniper, for the same reason as patience; waiting for the perfect shot requires peak concentration at all times, and distractions of any form- least alone body armor- have to be avoided. Armor therefore needs to be unobtrusive, without a significant loss in protection.
This is particular important, as anyone working in the Military will know; warzones are naturally dangerous places, and protection needs to reflect that. Body armor for the Armed Forces therefore has to be capable of dealing with some of the most extreme threats, including explosives and armor-piercing ammunition. However, this protection cannot come at the expense of the requirements outlined above, and it may be tempting to many to sacrifice protection against the most extreme threats in favor of mobility, comfort, and discretion. Indeed, the US Navy recommends that soldiers are equipped with lower levels of protection in order to reduce the weight of equipment.
How Body Armor Has Improved
However, reducing the protection available to soldiers is dangerously irresponsible, and they more than any others require complete protection for the most hostile environments. Fortunately, modern body armor is more equipped than ever to deal with the unique requirements of the Military. For example, the protective materials used in body armor are far thinner and lighter than ever before, and as such the appropriate levels of protection can be achieved with far few layers. This makes armor far thinner, and allows the vest itself to far more comfortable, as softer but slightly thicker materials can be used in the carrier.
However, the development of materials means that vests can be even more comfortable by drawing heat and moisture away from the skin, helping to keep the wearer cool even in high temperatures.This is especially important for today’s Snipers, who will be spending long periods in very inhospitable environments. All this development means that armor can sit very close to the skin comfortably, and even improve performance.
For Snipers in particular, protective vests can be worn at no detriment to their performance, and will not get in the way whatsoever. This is even true when using hard armor plates of ceramics or polyethylene, which are needed to provide protection against explosives, fragmentation, and armor-piercing ammunition. These hard armor plates are also thinner and lighter than ever, meaning they will make very little difference to the wearability of a vest.
It is a mistake to assume that because Snipers are removed from the immediate action, often by a great distance, that they are not under the threat of attack and injury. The difficult conditions that Snipers work in may further put them off wearing body armor, as it may be seen as getting in the way. However, body armor is far more accessible than ever before and should not be neglected, particularly when it can be worn comfortably for extended periods.