by Bruce Jackson, PCI #239T/EMSCI #325T
Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy
During the 2016 IPMBA Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, I was drooling my way through the vendor area and the Silent Auction when something I had to have caught my eye.
There on the Silent Auction table was a tee-shirt equipped with Level IIIA panels that weighed almost nothing. Seriously, an armored tee-shirt. It was a modular set up in that it was a tee-shirt with four internally sewn pockets to hold four separate ballistic panels. It came with two 10” x 12” panels configured in the “Shooters Cut”, and two 6” x 6” side panels. Each panel fits within its own pocket inside the shirt, and due to the compression design, there is no need for any type of Velcro straps to secure them into the shirt. After I thoroughly pawed over it, I had to put a bid in. I got outbid a couple of times, but I persevered and when Maureen called to tell me I was the highest bidder, I was thrilled. Shortly thereafter, a box arrived at my front door, containing my very own armored tee-shirt.
After getting the blessing of the boss, I decided to give the vest a good wear test. As I mentioned earlier, the shirt relies on compression to hold the panels in the pockets and in place on your body, which means the shirt needs to fit snugly. Because there are seams inside the shirt where the openings for the armor panels go, the dealer will tell you to wear an athletic style compression tee-shirt against your body, followed by the armored tee-shirt, and finally your uniform shirt. This will prevent chafing and the shirt will be more comfortable. I will admit that the shirt did feel very snug at first, but because the material is so flexible, I quickly got used to it.
I wore the vest daily under my uniform shirt as well as on plainclothes assignments. The one comment I got more than any other was, “El-Tee. Where’s your vest?” The armor is so thin and light, they questioned if I was even wearing armor. This was even more beneficial when I was on a plainclothes assignment in coat and tie during the endless cycle of political events leading up to the election. Wearing the armored tee-shirt underneath a dress shirt and not having the obvious “printing” of a vest was really sweet. Finally, I wore the shirt during several basic Police Cyclist Courses, and no one even noticed that I had the armor on.
It is very lightweight and comfortable. The panels are rated Level IIIA, which means they will protect against most modern handgun rounds up to 44 magnum. You may end up with some broken ribs, but the vest will prevent lead poisoning.
Tee-shirts are available in black, white, red, camo, tan, light blue, and dark blue, so getting shirts to match the uniform should not be a problem. Remember though: it is a crew neck compression shirt that will be visible from an open collar, so follow your agency policy if you have one.
The vest is a modular design, so there are four separate panels. When you don the shirt, you will find gaps in between the panels. In my case, the gaps were about one-and-a-half to two inches. However, I believe that wearing your armor is a balancing act. Weight, stopping ability, and comfort all have to be considered. If the vest isn’t comfortable, it won’t get worn. That said, this won’t work for those who want or are required to have full, wraparound protection.
The panels are not custom cut. The side panels are 6” x 6”, and the front and back panels are 10” x 12”. Legacy also offers 11” x 14” panels for taller officers, and since I got my set, they have upgraded the side panels to 6” x 8” to provide more protection.
Finally, because the vest is worn close to the body, it doesn’t allow you to take it off as readily as an external carrier. On hot days, you may find yourself pulling the shirt away to let it vent and get some air down the front to cool off, but to be honest, I didn’t really notice it.
The important thing for me is comfort. If it isn’t worn, it isn’t protecting. I don’t worry about the bullet that has my name on it. When I’m done, I’m done. The bullet that I worry about is the one addressed “To whom it may concern”, and that’s why I wear my armored shirt.
The MSRP on the website is $229.99 for the armored shirt, and extra shirts are $74.99. They also sell an armor kit for $349.99, which includes an armored tee-shirt, the four panels and an external tactical MOLLE carrier that will hold the soft panels, rifle plates or both.
For more information, visit www.legacysafetyandsecurity.com and/or contact Rob Hausman at email@example.com. Rob is awesome to work with, and he told me that he can provide a coupon code for 10% off anything purchased from their site.
Bruce Jackson retired from the George Mason University Police Department in November 2016, at the rank of Lieutenant. He now serves as a Professional Development Coordinator for the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy, which allows him to teach as much as he wants while constantly seeking out new and exciting training opportunities for the Academy’s member agencies. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy Bruce Jackson.
(C) 2017 IPMBA. This review appeared in the Spring/Summer issue of IPMBA News.