When Should I replace My Body Armor?
Unfortunately, the shelf life of body armor isn’t forever. Even if you never get shot, there are various considerations to make regarding your body armor’s replacement. There also might be circumstances requiring a new purchase before the expiration date.
Did you drop it? Could it have a hairline fracture? are the questions you need to ask yourself. In today’s blog, we’ll be covering when it’s appropriate to replace your body armor.
Replace Body Armor After It’s Been Shot
The more obvious reason to replace body armor, but we’ll still cover it, is after your vest has been shot. Depending on the type of material your vest is made with, it can take more shots than other vests and still be effective.
This, however, doesn’t mean just because your vest is rated to take more hits, that you should keep wearing it. Why? Because with every shot the material is degraded just a little more, making it more likely that the vest won’t stop the next round.
Even if you were trying to be cheap and didn’t want to replace your armor because it was “barely even skimmed,” you should consider backface deformation. Since we’ve already covered this in great detail, I’ll do a quick review. Backface deformation is basically how the armor is deformed and presses into your body due to the bullet’s kinetic energy/momentum, causing the body trauma. Once this happens, it’s not going to be very comfortable to wear, depending on the armor’s quality and how much or little backface deformation occurred.
What you should take away: If your body armor gets shot, no matter what, you need to replace it.
Replace Body Armor After It’s Been Dropped
This reason is a little less apparent. Without knowing anything about body armor, the first thing one might think is, “well, if it’s meant to stop a bullet, surely dropping it won’t hurt it.” And in some cases, you might be correct.
Replacing dropped armor depends on the material it’s made with. For instance, ceramic plates are heavy, cumbersome, and not nearly as strong as some of the other stuff out there, such as our Duritium® technology.
Unfortunately, when it comes to ceramic plates, it’s tough to tell if they’ve been cracked without an x-ray, which gets expensive. This is because ceramic is known to get hairline fractures.
And since it’s so expensive to get an x-ray done, it’s often better to just buy a new plate.
This is one of the many reasons why some would say you shouldn’t purchase ceramic plates, that, and it’s typically heavier and more uncomfortable.
What you should take away: For ceramic plates, if you drop your gear on hard concrete, for example, it’s probably best to go ahead and replace it or get an x-ray to confirm it’s still safe to use. But, if you own ShotStop’s Duritium PA, PS or ICW models, you do not have to replace it. These plates can be dropped from an airplane (literally, while flying) and it wouldn’t compromise the ballistic performance.
Replace Body Armor After Its Expiration Date
Yes, body armor does have an expiration date. In most cases, this expiration date is around 5 years. This, of course, depends on materials used to produce said armor. Make sure when you’re reviewing body armor to take a look at this date, particularly if you’re buying for a department. This will be a huge consideration when it comes to department funding.
It may seem like a better idea to go with the cheaper material, but if you’re paying that cost every 3-5 years, you’re probably spending more than if you would have purchased a better armor with an expiration date of 10-15 years, which by the way, ShotStop® offers.
What you should take away: When the expiration date passes, replace your body armor. And consider the full cost of ownership over full life. A plate that lasts 15 years is usually far cheaper to own than a plate that needs to be replaced three separate times due to warranty restrictions.
Why Does Body Armor Expire
Now you know that body armor has an expiration date; exactly why does body armor expire, and what makes it less effective when it does?
There are several reasons why body armor expires, such as weather or light, but what it comes down to is the chemical compounds that make up the armor. And those chemicals tend to break down over time. That means the chemicals responsible for making armor bullet-resistant won’t be as capable, meaning it might not actually stop the bullet.
HUMIDITY CAN CAUSE BODY ARMOR TO DEGRADE
As with most things, humidity causes a lot of harm to your body armor. And it can actually cause your body armor to break down even quicker. This means if you work in really humid climates, that armor may become ineffective much sooner than you’d expect.
One thing to keep in mind as well, material plays a part in how harmful humidity is to your ballistic protection. For instance, soft armor and hard armor are made with different materials. If you’re wearing soft armor in these humid climates, it’s likely going to expire more quickly than hard plates.
LIGHT CAN CAUSE BODY ARMOR TO DEGRADE
If you’re wearing body armor out in the sunlight, where UV rays are constantly hitting the armor, it can break down the compounds of that armor more quickly. Whereas, if you were to work inside where harmful UV lights aren’t likely to be a concern, your vest could last until its expiration date.
Basically, constant or consistent UV light exposure can cause the chemical compounds in your body armor to break down more quickly than in other environments.
How to Care for Body Armor
While you can’t keep your body armor from expiring, you can work to make sure it doesn’t expire any sooner than it should. One way is to store it in a cool, dry place. Don’t throw it around either. It may be tempting to toss your plates on the ground after a long, hot shift, but don’t do that.
If you are in LE or a warfighter, it’s very likely that you’ve accidentally been rough with your plates. Weather in training or on active duty/mission; accidental pings and dings happen. Unless you're using a Duritium plate, you should pay attention to the industry standard 5-year offering.
If you’re working with soft plates, also keep them in a cool, dry place and hang them to dry after a shift working in the heat so that they can dry out more quickly.
For more advice on caring for your body armor, check out our Ultimate Guide to Understanding Body Armor.
Replace Your Body Armor With ShotStop®
No matter how well you care for your body armor, you will have to replace it, eventually. When you do, consider ShotStop® armor. Not only do we offer the best warranty on the market, at 15 years, we also have some of the thinnest, lightest, and comfortable ballistic plates.
If you’re interested in learning more about what we have to offer your department, don’t hesitate to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org