Body armor is used to provide protection from weapons, which would cause bodily injury and/or death. Modern day armor is used to guard individuals from the penetration of bullets from guns and rifles. They prevent bullets from passing through the armor and causing injury to inner organs by catching the bullets and absorbing the energy upon impact.
There are different levels of protection from ballistic attacks; level I, level II, level IIIA, level III and even level IV. Different levels of armor provide different levels of protection. What level of protection do you need?
For handgun protection, Level II-A, Level II and Level III-A are adequate. These levels stop the most of the pistol projectiles. The main difference between Levels is the amount of blunt trauma impact protection. Their specifications and applications are as given below:
Level II-A ~4 mm thick approx: Level II-A might be the best choice if thinness, comfort and concealability are the most important factors, e.g., if wearing for long periods, or with a lot of movement. Today's body armor vest, made from highly resistant "futuristic" fabrics, is lightweight and flexible. It is convenient to wear.
Level II ~5 mm thick approx: Level II is often worn by police officers. A great balance between blunt trauma protection, versus cost, and thickness / concealability / comfort. What we recommend most often...
Level III-A ~8 - 10 mm thick approx: Level III-A is a little thicker, stiffer, heavier and more expensive, but will stop more of the uncommon pistol threats, for example, it is tested for 9mm sub-machine-gun and .44 Magnum. Plus it gives you blunter trauma impact protection – possibly better to return fire in a gunfight.
Level III and IV: Soft body armor is up to Level IIIA only and protects against handguns. If you need higher level of protection, you need Level III and IV body armor. They have special plates inserted in the front and back pockets of the vest. Level III and IV protect against rifle/machine gun fire whereas Level IV protects against armor piercing ammunition and Level III does not.
There is always a trade off between more protection and wear-ability or concealability - so the level of protection chosen is a personal choice. It can be of light weight or heavy weight. Vest shops even offer light weight vest for V.I.P. female. Better to get a lower protection level that you can wear conveniently and regularly, than the highest protection that isn't worn! The best vest for you is the one you are actually wearing when shot!