Chosing between soft and hard body armour can be complicated as the threat level you are faced with may vary, as well as the environment and other factors. Therefore, it is of significant importance to understand the working mechanisms of both hard and soft armour systems.
There has to be a significant amount of vetting of armour systems when you’re putting your life on the line. In order to make the best choice you need to be presented with the right information on different body armour systems.
Soft Armour Composition
Although soft armour can feel like weighty cloth fabric, it is actually composed of materials which are significantly stronger than metals like steel! As the name suggests, soft armour is less rigid and often lighter than hard armour but is generally limited to stopping small arms firm like handgun rounds. There are two main designs of soft armour. One where an armour can be inserted into a carrier or an integrated system which incorporates the protection into the vest or clothing.
Soft armour achieves its protective capabilities through the use of interwoven synthetic fabrics. These fabrics are composed of interwoven high-tensile threads which are capable of stopping bullets. The net that is formed by this interweaving of threads, allows the net to “catch” bullets by dispersing the impact energy of the bullet throughout the entire thread system.
Think of a spider’s web – in order for it to be effective in catching prey a spider must weave a very strong web in a manner that is able to hold an object heavier than itself. A single strand from a spider is very weak but when woven together with other strands the result is a strong yet lightweight mesh. This is exactly how soft body armour works.
The interwoven synthetic fiber systems used in soft body armour replicates a spider’s net system. As such, the fibers rely on, and at the same time, support one another in a high impact energy system. This effectively allows soft body armour the ability to stop small arms ammunition from penetrating. Due to the increased movability and lighter materials, people who require these traits like security and police officers, often choose soft body armour systems.. Another added benefit of soft body armour systems is that they allow for better concealment and can generally be worn under a shirt to avoid attracting attention.
Hard Armour Composition
The other option for body armour is referred to as hard armour. The main difference is that these plates commonly incorporate a ceramic, metal or composite material called poly plating. These denser and harder materials increase the amount of energy deflection and therefore can better prevent larger caliber bullets penetrating, like those from a rifle.
Ballistic steel is the most common choice as it is readily available and cheaper to purchase than ceramics or dense plastics, however as users want lighter or better protection other materials are being offered.
Hard armour is generally worn overtly, i.e over the wearer’s clothing, however it can be worn covertly. If the additional weight is not a problem then hard armour is recommended as it can offer better protection against a wider range of firearms.