Concealed carry only gets you so much protection. It’s a reactionary measure, one that punishes those who have already taken action against you. But what about surviving that initial exchange? And what if you’re in a place that doesn’t allow concealed carry? In that case, SafeGuard Armor‘s Stealth series ballistic vests may be just the ticket for you . . .
When the folks at SafeGuard Armor offered to send us a ballistic vest to test (and they MEANT that testing part), naturally I jumped all over it. I mean, what’s cooler than a freaking bullet proof vest?! Especially one that you get to shoot! But before we got to the shooting part, I took it out for a test drive.
And before you get your hopes up too much, at no point were any TTAG writers downrange of a live gun. We might be looking for the truth, but broken bones and possible additional orifices aren’t on the menu. And definitely not covered by our medical insurance.
First things first. We’re trying out their Level II vest (with the stab protection) which is their lower end model. Then again, in this business “lower end” is relative. The vest itself is made of some high quality materials, and the fit and finish on it is perfect. On the outside is a “CoolMAX” carrier. It uses some sort of padded moisture-wicking material that makes up the shoulders and the inside portion of the vest, which adds a ton of comfort to the thing. And in the heat of the Texas sun, oh boy do you need it.
Wearing the thing around on your daily appointed rounds, it does add some noticeable weight to your body. The website lists it as an additional 2.5 kg of mass, and while it does feel pretty light by itself, there’s something about the way it hangs that makes it feel heavier. But once you’ve worn the vest for a while, you no longer really notice the added weight. It just sort of blends into the background, like any other garment.
Wearing it around town, no one noticed a damn thing. I wore the vest under the tightest fitting and thinnest shirt I could find, and not one person realized anything was different. Or if they did, they didn’t say a word. I even wore the thing to work, and the only person to notice was my boss (the former police officer and Air Force NCO). Even then, the only tip-off was the lack of definition in my, erm, chest. We heavier guys have some “man cleavage” going on sometimes, and the vest has a tendency to flatten that whole situation out.
One thing that will be a dead giveaway, though, is getting out of cars.
While I was wearing the vest, every single time I got out of my car, I forgot to take my seatbelt off. I’m so used to feeling the seatbelt and using that as a cue to remove it that when the vest took away the sensation of being strapped in, I completely forgot. I had a couple strange looks from people as I tried to extricate myself from my seatbelt while half way out the door. According to my former LEO boss, that’s a common occurrence with police officers and to be expected. Just make a mental note and you’ll start to remember.
So, the vest is comfortable, and concealable. But does it work?
In a word, “yes.”
In fact, we tested this vest wrong. The actual test requires a block of clay as the backing, to simulate the “give” of human flesh (as the more time a projectile has to slow down, the less likely it is to penetrate the material). We used wood instead, which is, obviously, much more rigid. But the vest still stopped every applicable round that we threw at it and performed as expected.
But we couldn’t let it stop at that — we tested this thing up to and past the breaking point. And FYI, full size rifle cartridges didn’t even slow down. So while the vest protects from everything up to and including a 9mm round fired at contact distance, it isn’t 100% perfect.
As for the stab protection, let me put it this way. I was sitting at home trying to dig the rounds we fired out of the vest with my set of knives and probes in front of me, and I couldn’t get through the material. In fact, this vest dulled all of my knives. I couldn’t penetrate it at all. And upon closer inspection, the metal chain mail that’s woven into the vest would seem to deter all sorts of stabby sharp implements from doing much damage.
So, the vest works. But are there any drawbacks?
In the immortal words of Sterling Archer, “Shut up! That vest is bullet-proof! But it is, y’know, a vest.” And a vest it is, indeed. The only places where the vest provides protection are the front and rear panels, meaning the arm holes, as well as the top of the vest, is pretty much as useful as a couple of shirt layers.
At the end of the day, the best defense is still a good offense. But it doesn’t hurt to have some extra insurance on your side, just in case a bad guy gets in a lucky shot. The SafeGuard Armor Stealth vest provides an excellent level of protection against the bullets it’s rated to stop as well as edged weapons. And it does so without any telltale signs that you’re wearing much at all under your shirt. The vest was designed to protect all (well, most of) your vital squishy bits, and as far as I can tell it does a fantastic job.
My only regret is that they only gave me one to test (which is now thoroughly ventilated, thanks to Tyler Kee). Now I don’t have a spare to wear.
Specifications: SafeGuard Armor Level II Stealth Vest
Weight: 2.5 kg
Sizes: XS to 3XL
Price: $581 (as reviewed…and destroyed)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Ease of Use * * * * *
The velcro straps make adjusting the thing a breeze. As simple as putting on those shoes when you were a kid.
Utility * * * * *
It stops bullets and doesn’t give you away. For concealed carry, it’s perfect. But if you expect some higher velocity threats, you might want something with some steel plate inserts.
Overall * * * * *
Honestly, my only regret is that they didn’t send two and I had to shoot up the one I got.