Bulletproof Vests FAQ

Who invented the bulletproof vest?

The history of the bulletproof vests stems back to the 16th century where multiple European generals and rulers commissioned various artisans to create body armor that could protect against bullets. From Italian garrison captains to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, the race was on to create a clothing item that could protect its wearer from the otherwise fatal bullet. While many artisans have tried, the actual effectiveness of body armor created during this time is debatable. If anything, the term "bulletproof" as we know it today was invented shortly after this chaotic era.

In the 17th century, Europe saw a hard prototype of ballistic armor, particularly during the English Civil War. Anthropologists examining the armor from this period have discovered that knight armor with three layers—the first to absorb bullet's energy and the second to stop the bullet from reaching its wearer. While the armor would be severely dented, it was still usable and serviceable.

However, there would be no new developments for bulletproof vests, especially soft ones, until the 1840s. In the 1840s, the world would see its first commercially sold ballistic armor from a tailor in Dublin, Ireland. In the 1850s as well, Korea saw the invention of its first ballistic soft vest, especially in the wake of encroaching Western forces. Korean inventors found that by putting ten to thirty layers of cotton together, the density of the cotton would be enough to stop a bullet from harming the wearer.

While all of these pieces of ballistic armor were able to stop bullets, they weren't necessarily called "bulletproof vests." In fact, the man often cited for creating the modern bulletproof vest is no one other than Polish engineer Casimir Zeglen.

The first modern bulletproof vest was made from tightly woven silk. Casimir Zeglen gained the idea of using silk from the Austrian and German weaving mills he visited in the late 19th century. He was prompted to find a way to invent a more malleable and durable bulletproof vest after the assassination of Carter Harrison Sr., who was the mayor of Chicago at the time. With fellow inventor Jan Szczepanik, the pair managed to create a new bulletproof vest that could stop its wearer from lower velocity bullets.

Despite this new development in the bulletproof vest, this invention would not be used in World War I. In World War I, multiple countries invested in heavier body armor made out of metal as well as metal attachments to helmets. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, distributed neck guards for their troops made out of cloth. However, the majority of body armor proved to be impractical as it greatly hindered the mobility of troops. Instead, the body armor was mostly provided to sentry guards as well as machine gunners.

It wouldn't be until World War II when the world would see widely distributed soft ballistic armor in the form of the flak jacket. While many countries used some form of body armor made out of steel, flak jackets were essential in protecting air force members. The majority of injuries and deaths in the air force were caused by shrapnel and flak, however, the flak jacket could not protect its wearer from bullets.

The bulletproof vest that we know of today would not be invented until the 1970s. Though this is a wide gap between the wars which rattled the world, it is from the data collected through these conflicts that helped in developing the modern bulletproof vest.

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What is a bulletproof vest made of?

Traditionally, early bulletproof vests were made of heavy metals such as steel. While they were effective in blocking bullets, they also greatly reduced the mobility of the wearer and were only able to protect the upper body. Due to their impracticality, it's safe to say that early bulletproof vests did not see that much action on the battlefield—they were the exception rather than the norm and only supplied to specific units.

Besides metal, other materials used for early bulletproof vests include cotton and silk. Heavy layers of cotton, as well as tightly weaved silk, were shown to be bullet-resistant, however, there was no wide-scale use of them in modern warfare. Cotton-based ballistic vests were more commonplace in the mid-19th century, particularly used by Koreans during the American expedition to Korea. Bulletproof vests made out of silk were considered the first bulletproof vests to be invented. These silk bulletproof vests were most effective in stopping the low-velocity rounds common at the time, but most likely would not hold up to the firepower we see in the modern world.  However, these vests were incredibly expensive for the time—their average cost was higher than the mean annual income of the everyday man.

There wouldn't be much revolutionary change in the bulletproof vest until near the end of World War II. At the end of World War II, the United States invented the Doron plate, which was a piece of ballistic armor made out of a fiberglass-based substance. These plates were then fitted into vests made out of nylon and were primarily used during the Battle of Okinawa. While they weren't strong enough to protect against direct gunfire, the Doron plate could protect its wearer from shrapnel and flak, which caused a large number of injuries and fatalities during World War II. The Doron plate was also invented due to a shortage of metal, and its use was continued well into the Korean War and Vietnam War until the invention of Kevlar.
You may have heard of Kevlar and its common knowledge that Kevlar is the standard ingredient of modern bulletproof vests. But what exactly is Kevlar? And how was Kevlar discovered?

The discovery of Kevlar was in 1971 by Polish-American chemist Stephanie Kwolek. Kwolek at DuPont laboratories. At the lab, Kwolek discovered a liquid crystalline polymer solution that was extremely durable and stiff. The discovery of this solution led to the creation of Kevlar, which is a synthetic fiber material with five times the strength and durability of steel. Kevlar has multiple applications, but the application it's most known for is bulletproof vests. In fact, Kevlar would soon be tested as a potential material for future bulletproof vests by the mid-1970s, and the rest is history. Because it is relatively lightweight in comparison to heavier ballistic armors, Kevlar-based bulletproof vests were incorporated into the United States’ police force by the end of the 1970s.

Nowadays, Kevlar-based bulletproof vests aren't the only ones sold on the market. As more and more synthetic materials are discovered and incorporated into bulletproof vests, many bulletproof vest sellers are moving away from Kevlar. Some of the contemporary materials developed are stronger than Kevlar. Bulletproof vests sold through the Bulletproof Supply Store are made from Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene, also known as High Strength Polyethylene for short. This material is the same one used in the United States’ military interceptor body armor. High Strength Polyethylene is also stronger than your average Kevlar-based bulletproof vest. At Bulletproof Supply Store, we emphasize safety first and our mission is to use the best materials to protect your clients and loved ones.

How does a bulletproof vest work?

Regardless of if the bulletproof vest was from an older or current era, the mechanism is the same. Bulletproof vests essentially absorb the impact and energy of a bullet and prevent the bullet from reaching the internal organs of its wearer. While bulletproof vests from multiple centuries ago used materials such as steel, cotton, and silk, modern bulletproof vests rely on synthetic materials to soften the impact of a bullet.

Technically speaking, bulletproof vests aren’t necessarily “bulletproof” but “bullet-resistant” instead. The term “bulletproof” implies that the vest is impervious to all types of projectiles. In reality, the amount of gunfire your bulletproof vest can withstand is dependent on its make and whether or not it has a ceramic plate. Most bulletproof vests, including the ones made by Bulletproof Supply Store, are equipped to handle handgun rounds. However, for those who are in riskier occupations, such as war photographers, you may want to consider investing in a ceramic plate so your bulletproof vest can endure rifle rounds.

Keep in mind that while bulletproof vests soften the impact of a bullet, and protect the wearer from fatal injury, it’s common to still have bruises, broken ribs, or scratches after being shot while wearing a bulletproof vest. Bulletproof vests can only dampen the energy of a bullet, but a bruise is a lot better than a ruptured organ or death. Essentially, you are trading death for a few minor inconveniences.

Another thing to consider as well is that a bulletproof vest can eventually lose its effectiveness over time from multiple bullets. At Bulletproof Supply Store, we make sure to test our bulletproof vests thoroughly. When testing our bulletproof vests, we shoot the vest six times in six different areas to test its durability. You may be wondering: what happens if you shoot the vest in the same spot? When shooting the bulletproof vest in the same spot, we found that the vest was able to stop the bullet but the bullet was able to penetrate deeper into the vest. This is unsurprising as a bulletproof vest is meant to only absorb a bullet’s energy, but not stop it completely.

Especially for those who work in law enforcement or as a security guard, always be sure to check your bulletproof vest for any tears or creases. If your bulletproof vests took significant damage during a gunfight, we suggest replacing your bulletproof vest right away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and at Bulletproof Supply Store, we believe the safety and security of our customers comes first.

When caring for your bulletproof vest, be sure to store it properly at home. Do not expose your bulletproof vest or your ceramic plates to high temperatures. Do not put your bulletproof vest in the washing machine or the dryer. Do not bring your bulletproof vest to the dry cleaners either. If you want to clean your bulletproof vest, use a little soap, water, and a clean cloth to wipe down sweat and dirt. Go easy on the water as Kevlar can degrade when exposed to too many liquids. To minimize the amount of dirt and sweat accumulated by your vest, we suggest wearing a shirt beneath the bulletproof vest when using it. Last but not least, always make sure to keep your warranty on file in the unfortunate circumstance that your bulletproof vest comes with a defect. While this is rare with bulletproof vests supplied by the Bulletproof Supply Store, we do our best to honor customer requests and to refund appropriately when necessary.

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How much do bulletproof vests cost?

There are two factors that come into play when one determines the cost of a bulletproof vest: the reason you are buying the vest and the type of vest plus supplementary materials you are buying. For example, a cautious gun hobbyist does not have to shell out as much money as someone who must wear a bulletproof vest every day due to their occupation. Depending on the level of protection you want as well, the cost will differ.

In general, the average bulletproof vest from the Bulletproof Supply Store will cost $300. Our bulletproof vests are capable of stopping handgun rounds and even heavier rounds such as .44 magnum. However, if you want extra protection, then a ballistic plate may be necessary. You can slip ballistic plates into your bulletproof vest to get protection from rifle fire. However, for most individuals, a ballistic plate isn’t necessary. If you work in an occupation with a higher risk of encountering gunfire, such as being a security guard, a ballistic plate may come in handy. If you have a loved one who is in the army and is stationed in a combat zone, a ballistic plate is also a good option to send as extra protection.

Another cost to factor in when it comes to bulletproof vests are handy accessories as well. Some handy accessories we recommend are side protectors and even a special hanger for your bulletproof vest. Bulletproof vests tend to be heavier compared to normal clothing items, so we’ve designed a special hanger to withstand a bulletproof vest’s weight. Not only is it important to store your bulletproof vest properly, but we want to make sure your hangers last for the long run. These types of accessories typically run between $25 to $150 depending on what you buy and how many.

One more factor to consider is how often you will be using your bulletproof vests as well. For those who only wear a bulletproof vest while practicing their shooting at a range, it’s unlikely that your bulletproof vest will go through as much wear and tear as say a police officer or someone who runs into gunfire more frequently due to their job. The more wear and tear your bulletproof vests go through, the sooner you will have to swap out your current bulletproof vest for a new one. In general, bulletproof vests have a lifespan of five years. This lifespan may be shortened if the bulletproof vest gains tears, burns, or creases. However, on the other hand, a bulletproof vest can last beyond five years if it’s seldom worn and doesn’t have its structure compromised in any way. Proper care and storage of your bulletproof vest, while you’re not using it, is important for your well-being while on the job and the overall usability of the bulletproof vest.

If you are a business owner who hires several security guards and provides for them, we suggest buying our vests in bulk. By buying in bulk, you receive a price discount as well as freebies such as a free metal detector scanner and service patches for your employees.

In the situation you want some type of ballistic protection but don’t want to go as far as purchasing a bulletproof vest, we suggest buying a bulletproof panel. These plates can fit easily in a backpack or a laptop bag, essentially providing protection against gunfire in a school, work, or public commute setting. Costing only $100, these panels are reusable even if your backpack or work bag starts to fall apart because of wear-and-tear. While it’s an unfortunate reality in the United States that gun violence has reached our schools and public areas, buying the tools and equipment necessary to keep you and your loved ones safe are more important than ever.

Outside of these incidents, the majority of fatal gun injuries and general gun violence in the US are caused by handguns. While this is an unfortunate reality in our country, this doesn’t mean there are no options to keep you safe. The Bulletproof Supply Store strives to provide the best in bulletproof vests and ballistic protection equipment. Whether you’re an ATM technician or a gas station attendant, your safety and your health are important to us.

How much does a bulletproof vest weigh?

The weight of a bulletproof vest is dependent on the size you buy. At Bulletproof Supply Store, we provide bulletproof vests in six different sizes: S, M, L, XL, 2XL, and 4XL. Our smallest vest weighs five pounds while our larger vests tend to go up to seven pounds. Our vests are close to the average weight of most bulletproof vests, which is five to six pounds. Our vests are also built to be comfortably fitted to the wearer’s body and to provide ample protection while being lightweight and allowing freedom of movement. Especially for individuals who need to wear a bulletproof vest throughout the entire day, we design our vests to be the most comfortable while providing maximum protection.

Especially when picking a bulletproof vest, be sure to check our handy chart in determining which size is best for you. As a bulletproof vest is usually fitted over a t-shirt, we do not recommend using your t-shirt size when trying to buy the best fitting bulletproof vest. Not only is a bulletproof vest thicker than your average t-shirt, but you don’t want to buy a bulletproof vest that will constrict your body. If you are between two sizes and are lean, we suggest choosing the smaller size. For those who have more weight in their torso, we suggest picking the larger vest.

When fitting a bulletproof vest, the most important thing is to make sure the vest covers your mid-section. The length of a vest doesn’t matter as most bulletproof vests have adjustable straps. However, it’s difficult to adjust the width of a bulletproof vest. When trying on your bulletproof vest, make sure to see how it fits around your belly. It should be a snug fit but it shouldn’t be constricting your movement. It’s important that a bulletproof vest fits well and covers your torso for maximum protection. Wearing a bulletproof vest that doesn’t fit you properly is a risk to your well-being and safety.

Our bulletproof vests are also light enough to be shipped to all states in the US except for Connecticut. If needed, you can also pick up your bulletproof vest from our warehouse. No one is barred from purchasing a bulletproof vest for their safety and security, except for those who have been convicted with a felony.

At the Bulletproof Supply Store, we understand the everyday risks and challenges that come with occupations such as security guards or armored car escorts. While local law enforcement institutions are able to purchase vests from specific suppliers, we felt that the everyday working man was not able to buy the average bulletproof vest due to high costs. For over thirty years, we have studied how to provide high-quality bulletproof vests without breaking the bank. Though our company debut was in 2013, we strive to offer affordable bulletproof vests for the everyday working man. No matter what your occupation is or who you are, everyone has a right to a sense of security and the best bulletproof vests on the market.

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