DECEMBER 1, 2014 – As one of the United States’ five armed forces, the Coast Guard keeps America’s seas as safe as can be, preventing various criminal activities affecting law and order on-land. The Coast Guard covers a broad spectrum of protective services, from search-and-rescue operations for missing mariners, to boarding ships carrying contraband or posing a threat to national security. Danger clearly features prominently in their work, whether they’re diving into the sea to rescue missing persons or preparing to search a suspicious ship.
While coast guard personnel wear protective clothing when entering water (helmets, inner and outer layers, flotation jackets), they also need body armor when expecting to encounter armed resistance from potentially-hostile individuals or groups. Should they be called to investigate a ship believed to be carrying drugs or other illegal goods, they need to be sure they have the best protection against a range of threats. While you can never know exactly what a specific situation will bring, coast guard personnel need to be ready for any viable risk. How do you know which is right for specific dangers? Body Armor manufactures SafeGuard Clothing take a look into protective clothing.
Without doubt, the greatest threat the coast guard will face when boarding suspicious ships is gunfire. Whether investigating illegal drugs, arms, or stolen cargo, criminals will be willing to defend themselves (and their goods) by any means necessary, regardless of who tries to stop them. Various types of ballistic vests are produced, to protect against different ammunition threats. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) rates these based on the level of protection they offer, with armor available to cover against common 9mm bullets right up to armor-piercing ammo. You should always try to wear armor which, at the least, stops the same ammunition you and your colleagues are currently using; the U.S. Coast Guard’s range of weaponry includes the M9 pistol, the M16A2 and M4 assault rifles, and the M870P 12-gauge shotgun.
Level I armor is designed to stop .22 caliber LR LRN rounds, as well as 380 ACP FMJ bullets.
Level IIA protects against 9mm and .40 S&W rounds, while level II stops higher-velocity 9mm and .357 Magnum ammo. Level IIIA defends against .44 Magnum and 9mm submachine gun bullets. These soft armors offer reliable protection, and can be worn in covert or overt styles (over or under clothing, respectively).
Level III is a hard armor, and stops fire from high-powered rifles. Level IV vests stop bullets from armor-piercing rifles, featuring multiple layers of Kevlar and tough plates (of ceramics or steel). These are obviously bulkier than soft armors, but can save lives when facing the most extreme firefights.
Edged Blade and Spiked Weapon Vests
In some situations, criminals may attack coast guard personnel with knives or other sharp instruments. Stab vests can stop knives of various designs, from daggers to machetes, with multiple layers of a tight Kevlar weave; whether an attacker uses slashing or stabbing motions, the vest creates friction against the blade, and stops it penetrating.
Spiked weapon vests are of similar design, but with a tighter weave to prevent pointed tips passing between the fibers (as they might in even stab vests). Though may not be needed as often as ballistic or stab vests, these can prove essential at times, particularly if criminals attack with syringes containing contaminated DNA or harmful substances.
Multi-threat vests may be a smart choice for general wear, offering defense against lower-level ballistic and stab threats.
The Importance of the Best Fit
To get the most out of your body armor, you need to be sure of finding the right fit for your shape. This is absolutely essential, as a vest should cover the vital organs at all times – if your vest is too large or too small, it may not perform as well as it should.
A vest that’s too big will prove cumbersome, rising and falling with each movement – a particular hazard should you find yourself in water. On the other hand, a vest that’s too small could restrict your flexibility and agility – making you more vulnerable to whatever dangers you face. Be sure to try your armor on carefully, and explore how much freedom you have. You need to be as comfortable and secure as possible to perform at the best of your abilities.