Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a difference between male and female models of armor?

Yes, the female vest is stitched with bust cups. Generally speaking, the difference between male and female models is that for the female body armor, most manufacturers cut and stitch the material to create bust cups. This is why the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Standard views male and female vests as separate models, even though they may be made of exactly the same type and sequence of layers of ballistic materials. When a female model is tested, the laboratory is instructed to locate the seam that is created by folding and/or stitching the material to make the bust cup, and to place one of the shots on that seam. This is done to ensure the weakest point of the vest (typically a seam) provides the minimum level of ballistic protection required by the standard. It is important to note that this is a generalization. There are many different types and styles of female vests, and ways of fitting vests to accommodate all of the various sizes and shapes needed for female officers. Some manufacturers have developed methods which 'mold' the bust cups into the material, negating te need for cutting and stitching to create a bust cup. Other manufacturers simply alter the outside dimensions of the panel (i.e., enlarging the arm hole openings) to accommodate certain types of builds and body types (commonly referred to as a 'unisex' vest).

In summary, when selecting a female vest, NIJ and the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) recommends that an agency look at and have their officers try on a variety of models from different manufacturers, which have been tested and found to comply with the NIJ Standard for Personal Body Armor. This will assist in selecting the model that provides the best combination of comfort, fit, protection capability, as well as accessories and features. Be sure to ask the manufacturer's representative about ongoing customer support, and what steps they will take to properly measure and fit the vests, as well as making adjustments once the armor have been delivered. Ask the representative for references from other agencies that have purchased their armor, and contact other agencies in your area who have recently purchased armor to learn about their experiences.

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