Is a bulletproof clothing really a thing?
Yes it is! You will be surprised by the level of fashion provided in today's bulletproof clothing.
In our recent article about the best Bulletproof Backpacks, we investigated how useful these bags are for protecting our children against gun violence. While doing our research into Bulletproof Backpacks we discovered a whole world of other bulletproofed clothing too. We were impressed by the range and quality of what is available so we thought that would share some of what we found.
These clothes have been specially fitted with lightweight flexible bulletproof panels. It may not be full body protection but it could still save your life if used properly.
This article has only scratched the surface about the actual bulletproofing part of the story but you can read about how personal bulletproofing works on our Bulletproof Backpacks page.
We would like to be very transparent about what went into writing this article. We do not own any bulletproof clothing. We have relied directly on manufacturer input for our research.
Much of our research was done mainly through conversation directly with the manufacturers. Most of them were very accommodating and very keen to share their testing data with us.
What's on This Page:
Bulletproof clothing is no different from any other clothing except that it contains a special soft and flexible bulletproof panel installed in either the side or bottom. This clothing is made in many different shapes and sizes.
You can buy everything from a bulletproof business suit to a bulletproof hoodie and everything in between. For practical reasons, most of the bulletproof items featured here are coats and jackets.
The armor used in bulletproof clothing is soft and flexible for comfort and concealment. So much so that you would never know that the fashionable person sitting next to you is wearing one.
Most bulletproof clothing is made with no more than an NIJ Level IIIA rating. This level of armor will protect against most handguns.
Whether you are an executive going to the office or a just going grocery shopping, if you are going to throw on a coat, why not make sure that it is bulletproof?
Bulletproof Clothing with their soft protective panels fall into the category of soft body armor. There are three main materials used to create these bulletproof panels: Kevlar, Twaron and Dyneema. They are all designed to be lightweight and bullet resistant. These materials often go by other brand names so be sure to know which you are buying. You can read more about soft armor materials on our Bulletproof Backpack page.
You don't often see bulletproof clothing (other than bulletproof vests) made with hard plate armor due to the weight. This type of armor is much heavier than soft body armor but it provides protection against a much wider assortment of firearms. There are two main materials used to create these hard bulletproof panels: Commercial Ballistic Steel and Ceramic. You can read more about hard plate armor materials on our Bulletproof Backpack page.
If you live in the United States then yes, it is legal to own bulletproof clothes. There are some exceptions though; owning bulletproof clothing - or even a bulletproof vest is completely legal in the United States. Some state laws restrict convicted felons from owning bulletproof vests so they may not be able to own bulletproof clothing either. Louisiana prohibits wearing armor on school property or school-sponsored functions. Connecticut forbids the sale of bulletproof vests over the phone or Internet - you must buy in person.
If you plan to travel outside the US, you should check before you leave as some countries like Canada and Australia take a dim view of civilians wearing body armor.
Most retail American manufacturers are not allowed to sell bulletproof products outside of the United States.
Yes, it seems that lately, most mass shooters used an AR15. Would it surprise you to learn that statistically, there are far more shooting incidents using handguns than assault rifles? It sure surprised us! The chart below is the FBI Homicides by weapon used for the year 2019. This chart reveals that most NIJ level IIIA bulletproofing may have saved one of these lives.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) sets minimum performance standards for bulletproof protection in their 0101.06 Armor Protection Levels Standard. The current standard is broken down into five different threat levels.
As all handbag and briefcase bulletproofing is NIJ Level IIA, we only focus on it's abilities. You can read more about the NIJ standards and what level will stop what ammunition on our Bulletproof Backpack page.
NIJ Level IIA (handguns) - This level of protection is becoming less and less common.
NIJ Level II (handguns) - This level of protection is an improvement on the performance of Level IIA products. It not only protects again larger rounds but it also protects the wearer against more of the impact force from the projectile. This is one of the more common materials used in lightweight vest and clothing.
NIJ Level IIIA (handguns) - This level is the most widely used for soft armor although some hard plate armor is also rated at the NIJ IIIA level. NIJ Level IIA is the protection most commonly used in manufacturing most Bulletproof Clothing.
NIJ Level III (Rifles) - These plates are designed to withstand up to six spaced rifle bullet strikes. Level III plates can be heavy.
NIJ Level III+ (Rifles) - This is not a recognized NIJ Rating but it is one that has been adopted by plate armor manufacturers to recognize their ability to stop more and faster rounds.
NIJ Level IV (Armor Piercing Rifles) - This is the highest rated in the 0101.06 standard.
Unfortunately, most Americans are very aware that bulletproof backpacks exist. Many have even gone out and purchased them for their children. We have looked into these bags and have discovered some interesting facts that you should know about. Please take a look at our Bulletproof Backpacks page.
Of course they make all kinds of bulletproof bags, purses and briefcases. There is everything from real Bulletproof Louis Vuitton bags to real Gucci bulletproof bags! Please take a look at our Bulletproof Bags and Purses page.
Bulletproof clothing can be very expensive. You can expect to pay at least $700 at the bottom end of the spectrum for a simple jacket or coat and all the way up to several thousand dollars for designer bulletproof clothes.
In the United States, it is legal to own personal bulletproof clothing. You do not need to be a police officer. You can read more at the top of this page.
Bulletproof clothing is essentially normal shirts, vests and jacket that have been modified with special pockets that conseal bulletproof armor plates.
Yes, bulletproof clothing is comfortable. It is normal clothing with flexible bulletproof plates mounted in special pockets.
Yes bulletproof clothing are stab resistant. Having said this, most manufacturers do not pay to have this tested so they cannot represent them as stab proof.
Because of the weight of hard plate (metal) armor, you almost never see this type of panel used in a handbag or a briefcase design. Soft armor is much lighter and therefor much more desirable for use in a bulletproof clothing.
Yes bulletproof clothing is washable because it is normal clothing. The bulletproof panels can be removed so that you can launder the clothing as you would any other clothes. The actual protective panels may be cleaned with a damp cloth to remove and dirt but it is not recommended for machine washing.
The weight of a bulletproof panel is directly related to how much protection it provides. A soft panel will be much lighter than a hard steel plate panel.
Soft Panel Bulletproof Panel (Level IIIA): The average soft panel weights between 1 and 2 pound.
The clothing part itself is about as durable as any normal clothes. The protective panels are very durable (they are designed to stop bullets for Pete's sake).
Most manufacturers warrantee their bulletproof panels for five years. Some will extend that to as much as ten years. There are even some that offer twenty year warrantees. The clothes will wear as normal clothing does.
As most bulletproof clothing employ NIJ Level IIIA protection, they are not certified to stop high velocity rounds from weapons such as an AR-15 or AK-47. At best it may slow the bullet down a little.
In order to stop a bullet from an AR-15 or AK-47, you would need a NIJ Level IV panel. Unfortunately, these panels are made from metal or ceramic so they would be too heavy to be of any practical use.
Yes, soft panel bulletproof panels (level IIIA) are TSA compliant. Having said this, the TSA state that the final decision is up to the officer at the checkpoint.
You can read more at the TSA website.