As a female who wears body armor regularly, I understand the frustration and discomfort of not having proper fitting body armor. Unfortunately, companies just aren’t creating hard plate cuts for females. Despite the rising numbers of women joining the military and law enforcement based careers, we still do not have gear that fits our specific bodies. Fortunately, that will change as ShotStop® works to create cuts for women. I cannot give you a timeline for that yet, but please know we are working on it!
Hard Plates vs. Soft Armor
Now, I know what some of you are thinking, “but there is armor for women!” And you would be correct. In fact, plenty of companies have soft armor for women. That’s fine, and all, except soft armor, will not hold up to the same rifle penetrating rounds that hard plates can. And that presents a real problem. Why? Because if you work in a career as a woman needing protection against rifle rounds, you are stuck wearing heavy, uncomfortable plates meant to fit a man’s body, not a woman’s.
Body Armor for Women
Women are built differently, but that does not mean we should not be given the same level of protection, with just as much comfort as our male counterparts.
Some of you might argue here, “hard armor is uncomfortable for everyone.” In which case, you would only be partially correct. There was a time in which everyone was stuck wearing the same heavy ceramic plates. But times have changed, and hopefully, your department or unit has too. Here at ShotStop®, we make lightweight body armored plates, the lightest, and most comfortable in the industry.
Yes, women are built tough. Yes, we can carry those uncomfortable plates around all day, just like the guys do. But, because the plates are not a woman’s cut, it makes it harder to do our jobs effectively. So, if you are in the group saying armor is uncomfortable for everyone who has to wear it, you’d only be partially correct because it would depend on the company from which you are buying your hard plates.
Think about it this way. Wearing a man’s plates as a woman is like a man trying to wear a woman’s pair of pants. Sure, you might be able to fit in them, if they’re big enough. But there is one problem; a man has more body parts to cover. That’s why men have lower inseams. There is more body to cover but not enough space to put those body parts in; this creates pain.
Sticking with our example, it would be like expecting the man to walk around and run just as efficiently as if they were wearing pants meant to fit their body. Women are in a similar situation when it comes to hard body armor. We need that extra space, but we are wearing men’s armor, meaning it is not there, causing us pain. Yet, we are still expected to be just as efficient in our jobs.
And of course, despite your discomfort as a woman, you still have to wear the armor correctly. I have seen many people (both men and women) wear their armor incorrectly for comfort. They might wear their plates too low, backward, or in some cases, they choose not to wear them at all.
If you are interested in learning the proper wear of body armor, check out our blog: How to Properly Wear Body Armor.
I get it; the armor is heavy and can cause discomfort. However, consider this. What would be more comfortable? Having a rifle round shot into your plate or through your body? I think I would take the former.
Body Armor and Threat Level
Unfortunately, there’s a reason your unit or department has you wearing the heavy-duty, hard-armored plate. It’s because of the threat you are facing. If you are in situations where your most significant threat is handgun ammunition, soft armor might work great.
However, if you are in situations where rifle penetrating rounds are your most likely threat, you would need hard plates rated to those calibers, such as our Duritium® III+PA level III armor.
WHAT IS YOUR BODY ARMOR CLASS RATED FOR?
As a younger troop, I did not realize that the soft plates I was wearing were not rated for what we were facing in a combat zone. No one explained to me why I had to go from the comfortable soft armor to these rigid, hard to breathe in, uncomfortable plates.
I remember the first time I found out there was a difference. I was standing in what we called guardmount. And Our flight chief says he is doing a plate inspection—something tells me he knew there would be people who would try to get away without wearing the proper equipment.
Anyway, so he goes to each one of us and punches us in the chest—it turns out he was correct. And that’s when we were all so graciously reminded as to why we wear the equipment assigned to us. Because we were in an environment where rifle fire was not only likely but more likely than being shot at with handguns.
Not only did we have some folks not wearing their hard plates, but some did not have soft plates in either. And unfortunately, that plate carrier or IOTV, without any type of body armor inside, is like wearing a coat; it will not protect against ammunition fire.
I tell that story because:
You are given equipment for a reason. I know it is uncomfortable, especially for women*, but it can save your life.
I do not want you to end up being that person not wearing said equipment when whoever is in charge of you, and your mission does a spot inspection.
I want you to know, as a woman especially, that you’re not the only one who thinks your plates are uncomfortable**.
*ShotStop® aims to change this.
**Fortunately, ShotStop® produces some of the most comfortable armor in the industry, even for women.
Unfortunately, as a woman, you are at a disadvantage. That discomfort men feel is worse for women, which ShotStop® has realized and is working to change. Until then, what we have done is make the lightest weighing, most comfortable plates on the market.
Those plates you’re used to, know that there is better, and better is coming for our female war-fighters, too.
Heavy Body Armor
As I wrote in the beginning, women are built differently than men. You have curves that most men do not have. The current plate cuts are made for flat-chested men, not women, and especially not busty women. This means that a lot of abnormal pressure is placed on your chest, which causes that pain. This painful, heavy body armor is even heavier for our women. And we all know, “pounds equal pain.”
LIGHTWEIGHT BODY ARMOR FOR WOMEN
Unfortunately, this is still a man’s world. And looking back, women have not been involved in combat-related fields or allowed in careers where they could potentially face rifle penetrating rounds for very long.
It was not until 1943 when women were allowed to enlist in the Army, officially, and serve overseas—only in non-combat careers. We were not even considered permanent members of the military until 1948. And in 1994—only 16 years ago!—the DoD actually said women were excluded from being assigned to units where the primary mission was ground combat—not rescinded until 2013 (only seven years ago). It was not until four years ago when the DoD opened all combat jobs to women.
Considering this, the need hasn’t been around that long (comparatively speaking). Of course, we realize this is not a good excuse for not giving our women proper fitting gear. And we want to make sure we fix this issue.
If women can work in these careers, like men, we should be as protected and comfortable as the men.
If you are interested in learning more about our more superior, comfortable hard armored plates, or have questions about the right plates for your mission, check out our rifle plates or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.