Does Body Armor Have an Expiration Date?
Posted by Safe Life Defense on 20th Feb 2023
Does Body Armor Have an Expiration Date?
Does body armor expire and if it does, what does that really mean? Can you use body armor after the expiration date? If so, what kind of protection will it offer
The short answer is yes, body armor expires. Expiration is due to the fibers in the vests breaking down over time. Just like your regular clothes, simply wearing your armor causes fibers to break down and that’s completely normal. It is important to keep this fact in mind, as you wouldn't want your body armor to be in a weakened state when you need it to protect you most.
At Safe Life Defense we use the finest materials, the most stringent quality controls during the manufacturing process, and utilize rigid testing protocols. We make sure our products give you the protection need. Additionally, we sell body armor care products so you can keep your armor in the best shape, ensuring you get the most of out of it.
How Long Does Body Armor Last?
Body armor will last years with proper care. If protective gear is abused and mistreated, its useful life drastically decreases.
At Safe Life, we recommend replacing your panels at least every 5 years, which is directly in line with what the NIJ recommends. If you care for your vest properly, it can absolutely protect you for more than 5 years, but all body armor companies will recommend 5 years as the replacement timeline for soft armor as this is the industry standard.
However, if you are very active, you may need to replace them more often, due to sweat or rain saturating the panels. Being aware of these factors is vital because if your life is on the line, you want to be confident that you are equipped with the best protection possible.
Safe Life Defense panels are warranted for 5 years. However, there is an exception to this: in the unfortunate event that you are shot while wearing our armor we will replace it free of charge if there is a police report filed for the incident and it occurs within our warranty period.
While we hope this is never the case for any of our customers, if the circumstances arise, you can be assured that Safe Life will happily provide you with a new set if we are provided a police report specific to the incident.
Our carriers are warrantied for 2 years. You may see the carrier wear out depending on what you do while wearing armor. The carrier will also be replaced during the warranty period if you are shot while wearing it, as the carrier must be intact to hold the panels in place.
Our belts come with a lifetime warranty, and we are sure it will be the last one you’ll ever need. So, if your belt breaks, or simply wears apart from use, send it to us and we will get a replacement on the way to you.
Below we’ve listed our suggested methods for caring for your vests and carriers, which will help expand their useful lives.
Safe Life Defense Product Care :
- Take the panels out of the carrier.
- DO NOT machine wash or dry the panels. Instead, wipe the panels down with mild soap and water.
- Let them air dry on a flat surface.
- Dry clean, hand wash or use the delicate cycle in your washing machine to clean the carrier.
- Be sure to close the Velcro strap BEFORE cleaning the carrier. Use medium temp water. DO NOT use bleach, as bleach can weaken the fabrics, causing them to tear more easily.
- You have options for drying the carrier. 3 suggested methods are listed below:
- Hang the carrier up to dry naturally (recommended)
- Lay it on a flat surface to dry
- Put in the dryer on tumble setting at low heat - you can also iron it on low heat if needed.
7.Before you put everything back together, make sure all the parts are completely dry.
Should Body Armor Be Replaced After It's Been Shot?
Yes - if your bulletproof vest gets shot, then it has done its job, and it's time to replace it.
Safe Life Defense's products are rated to stop multiple impacts. Stronger armor will stop more bullets. However, with each bullet strike, the armor weakens. When our products do their job by stopping a bullet, we will replace them for free if a police report is provided and the incident is within our 5-year warranty period.
Our warranties are structured the way they are due to our overall business goal to stand behind our products and most importantly, your protection.
This is also why you should never test your armor by shooting it. We understand you may want to do ballistic testing with ammo or a gun, but if you do, use an expired vest hanging on a target at the range. Of course, never shoot at someone wearing the vest for ballistic performance testing.
If you want to see the level of protection, get a gel block or cardboard to put behind the panels. However, it is important to keep in mind that the material is expired, and that fresh armor will provide far more protection than expired products.
Causes of Body Armor Degradation
The problems with breakdown, especially in soft body armor, is well researched. In fact, this kind of study has led the United States National Institute of Justice to change the way it ranks armor and what material it recommends. Law enforcement agencies use the NIJ's ranking system when purchasing protection for their officers. Safe Life's products start at the second level of protection and go all the way to the maximum level that a person can wear.
What can cause body armor to break down? Several things contribute to the breakdown, because while body armor is rugged and durable, it is not impenetrable under all conditions. Listed below are a few of the common factors that impact armor effectiveness.
I. Moisture & Humidity
Humidity is a major factor that contributes to how fast some soft body armor breaks down. This can be from sweat, rain, or other water. Water can ruin soft armor. As the fibers get wet, they begin to relax and spread apart, weakening the overall structure of the weave, which allows gaps in coverage. Simply spilling a glass of tea on your vest is not going to harm it - as breakdown more so refers to long-term use and regular exposure.
Studies show para-aramid fibersstand up to humidity with little change over time. Safe Life uses this material because we know it provides the best long-term protection possible.
It’s also important to note that with sweat, it’s the body oils, salts, and overall acid content of sweat that can be degrade your armor, which can cause more damage than plain water alone can do. As a result, you need to carefully wash your Safe Life products (see above for instructions) to clean these contaminants out of the fibers in the panels and carriers.
Armor panels and carriers can’t be exposed to temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. High heat like this will weaken the ballistic fabric body armor is made from. On the flip side, freezing temperatures will also influence your body armor’s useful life, as exposure to temperatures under -10 degrees Fahrenheit might cause your armor panels to crack.
Bullets immediately break down armor. While different materials react to a bullet strike differently, armor that absorbs a bullet should be replaced before being worn again. Bullet fragments can rip fibers apart and hard panels can crack, causing material weakness at and around the point of impact. Ballistic protection is reduced with each shot, leaving you with armor that more than likely isn't going to optimally perform.
Do Different Types of Body Armor Last Longer?
Keeping in mind that both use and wear affect the useful life of the protective equipment, yes, different types of body armor last longer. Soft armor made with para-aramid fibers has a limited life, and we recommend replacing these panels every five years.
The Safe Life FRAS ballistic vest is also recommended for replacement every 5 years, but it has a much longer useful life. FRAS is made from overlapping panels of composite material and will stop the most common handgun and shotgun rounds, as well as strikes, slashes, stabs, and tasers.
FRAS also comes in ballistic panels, so you can place them where you need them in a carrier.
A key benefit of FRAS is that it is much lighter than an armor plate, and flexes where hard armor does not. The main difference between the two is that the plates in some ceramic body armor can shatter, but while FRAS may break apart, it will not shatter.
Purchase Quality Body Armor from Safe Life Defense
Safe Life Defense is a premier body armor manufacturer. We sell to public safety agencies and the public. In fact, police officers who buy their own protective gear often buy from us. In addition, we also work with agencies that receive grant funding to buy material for their departments.
Our armor meets or exceeds the NIJ standard for personal protection, so you can count on Safe Life to keep your life safe. When you suit up with Safe Life Defense, you know you have the best protection that money can buy. Every purchase comes with our warranty of either 2 or 5 years depending on which product you buy, and our fit guarantee, which ensures that if your vest doesn’t properly fit you, you can exchange it free-of-charge if its within 30 days of delivery. (*vest must be returned in its original condition)
We also have free shipping on all orders over $500 and back it all up with our satisfaction guarantee. For more information about our different guarantees, visit our support page.