‘Stab’ – even the word is short, sharp and violent. It is one of those words in English that sounds exactly like what it’s trying to convey.

Unfortunately, it’s also a word that British people are encountering more and more in our daily lives.

According to the UK Government, knife crime is entering its highest point in almost a decade. Some 47,000 knife (or knife-like object) related offences were recorded for the year ending March 2019 alone.

 

The year before that had seen 285 homicides (which accounts for 39% of all recorded homicides that year) being caused by people wielding knives or other sharp objects.

The numbers don’t lie. Knife crime is a serious problem facing the UK right now.

Among other professions such as police and first response teams, security personnel are often on the front lines, dealing with (and sometimes having to disarm) would-be assailants.

This is where a stab-proof vest can really help. Not only for practical protection against the dangers presented by knives, but also by boosting the wearer’s confidence and peace of mind.

In this piece, we’ll be taking a detailed look at today’s stab-proof vests.

  • What are their strengths?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • By how much do they improve the safety of the wearer?
  • Are they worth buying at all?

We’ll be answering all these questions and more.

Who Invented the Stab-Proof Vest?

Protective garments, some able to provide a measure of defence against swords and musket fire, had already been in use for centuries by the time a Polish immigrant-turned-monk-turned-inventor named Casimir Żegleń publicly demonstrated what may be considered the first ‘bullet proof’ vest in Chicago, Illinois in 1897.

It was made from layered silk, of all things, but, amazingly, it worked.

Unable to gain financial backing for his invention in the States, Żegleń returned to Europe, where he teamed with Polish inventor Jan Szczepanik in order to further refine and mass-produce the invention.

Today’s stab-proof vests owe their existence to the pioneering work of Żegleń and Szczepanik, among many others.

Though engineered to repel blades, as opposed to bullets, the technology used by stab-proof vests is similar enough to consider Żegleń as its earliest pioneer.

How Do Stab-Proof Vests Work?

Modern stab-proof vests are considerably different from their bulletproof ancestors.

In some cases, high performance polycarbonates are used.

However, the ‘stab-proof’ material most commonly used in the manufacture of today’s stab-proof vests is Kevlar.

Kevlar, also used for bulletproof vests (though arranged differently for stab-proof vests), is a synthetic fibre with a particularly high tensile strength.

In the manufacture of stab-proof materials, Kevlar fabrics are tightly woven together to the point that they become almost impenetrable, at least as far as knives are concerned.

Many vests (such as those worn by UK police) also incorporate layers of chainmail or laminate coating for added protection (see the later section regarding ‘spike-proof vests’ for more information).

The science behind stab-proof vests is quite simple. When a sharp object is thrust into the protective portions of a stab-proof vest, the Kevlar fibres of the vest move around the object’s point, which causes it to be pushed back and forth within the material. The resultant effect makes it extremely difficult to push a blade or other sharp object directly through the vest, as the object is constantly being redirected.

It should be noted that although today’s stab-proof vests are incredibly effective, no garment is truly 100% ‘stab-proof’. Even the best body armour has its weaknesses. 

Stab-Proof Vests & UK Law

The United Kingdom presently has no laws against the manufacture, sale and ownership of body armour (perhaps this explains why at least one Londoner has taken to wearing chainmail?).

However, body armour used professionally is subject to certain standards and requirements.

These standards were determined via dialogue between the UK Government and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), the Police Federation, various manufacturers and testing facilities, the Metropolitan Police Service’s Physical Protection Group and other technical experts.

All stab-proof vests (and body armour in general) are assigned a performance rating. This will be discussed in the next section.

Stab-Proof Vest Ratings

Like all body armour sold in the UK, stab-proof vests are given a performance rating. This is done to ensure that wearers acquire the right armour for the right job, as some jobs will require a greater degree of protection than others.

UK police have tested all types of vest with a variety of bladed weapons. The most dangerous of these are known as ‘engineered’ blades.

To qualify as ‘engineered’, a blade must retain its shape and effectiveness when stabbed into something thick like a block of wood.

Most other knives (i.e. those designed for use in the kitchen) will bend or even shatter if stabbed into too dense an object. These types of weapons, therefore, are considered less dangerous to the person wearing a stab-proof vest.

In order to qualify for certification, a stab-proof vest must resist attack from an engineered blade, as opposed to a basic knife or homemade ‘shank’.

A stab-proof vest will be given a ‘KR’ of ‘Knife Resistance’ rating depending on how much punishment it can withstand.

Smaller, more pointed blades, such as ice-picks, are properly categorized as ‘spikes’ rather than knives, as they are more likely to penetrate a stab-proof vest due to their having a smaller, thinner point. Accordingly, they have their own rating, known as ‘SP’.

To qualify as ‘stab-proof’ or ‘anti-stab’, a vest (or other piece of body armour) must be able to repel a 3 or 6-inch basic Bowie knife, allowing only a maximum penetration of 5mm.

A vest or other piece of armour rated as KR1 or SP1 can repel an engineered blade or spike thrust into it with considerable force, allowing a maximum penetration of no more than 7mm.

If the armour is rated as KR2/SP2, or KR3/SP3, it must be able to resist an engineered blade or spike thrust toward it with increasing degrees of force, while still only allowing for a maximum penetration of 7mm.

Can Stab-Proof Vests Stop Needles?

Some individuals have been known to threaten people with hypodermic needles. Usually, the attackers claim that the needles are infected with HIV or AIDS. However, even a simple air bubble, injected from an empty syringe, can be fatal.

In stab-proof vest trials, the ‘spike test’ is usually harder on the protective material than any testing undertaken with regular knives. In many cases, a spike will penetrate a stab-proof vest.

Given this fact, does it follow that needles, by dint of being particularly small, sharp and fine, can also penetrate a stab-proof vest?

Thankfully, most stab-proof vests will easily repel a syringe. The material is simply too dense for the needle to get through. If greater force or pressure is applied, the needle simply snaps.

Bulletproof Vests Vs Stab-Proof Vests

Along with bulletproof vests and stab-proof vests, there also exist spike-proof vests.

Bulletproof vests work by trapping and flattening the bullet within the protective material of the vest; this disperses the energy of the bullet across the vest itself, which acts as a shock absorber.

A bulletproof vest may stop or slow a bullet, but they are not especially useful against knives. For effective defence against knives, a stab-proof vest is recommended.

Most stab-proof vests work in the manner described earlier in this feature. However, they are especially suited to deflecting ‘edged’ weapons such as knives, broken bottles and improvised blades such as ‘shanks’ or ‘shivs’.

Stab-proof vests are very effective against ‘edged’ weapons, but not as effective against ‘spiked’ weapons, such as ice picks, sharpened screwdrivers, stilettos and any other piece of sharp, slender metal.

To this end, spike-proof vests have been developed. Spike proof vests are similar to stab-proof vests in most regards, except that they feature an additional layer of plastic laminate (or similar material) which blunts the initial impact of the spike.

Additionally, the development of ‘multi-threat’ body armour combines stab protection with spike protection. However this extra protection sometimes comes at the cost of decreased mobility and loss of comfort.

How to Wear a Stab-Proof Vest

Protective vests may be either ‘overt’ (worn over other clothing) or ‘covert’ (hidden beneath other clothing). However, even covert vests will be visible unless a bulkier outer layer of clothing (e.g. a coat or loose fitting jacket) is worn.

A stab-proof vest should always cover the wearer’s naval, but not their waist. If the vest reaches down to cover the waist, it can impede the wearer’s basic mobility, making actions such as bending down, walking or even sitting down quite difficult.

Limited movement is especially unwanted in those situations that require the wearer to move around a lot, such as restraining a dangerous person.

Stab-proof vests are made of denser material than most other garments. Accordingly, they may weigh as much as 1.5kg. This can be very difficult to get used to at first and will also have an effect on the wearer’s general mobility.

Even the slightest armour, with the snuggest fit, is going to limit movement on the part of the wearer – that’s the trade-off you make for staying safe.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Stab-Proof Vest

The following is a checklist of things to think about before placing an order for a stab-proof vest (or, indeed, any item of protective clothing).

What threats are you likely to encounter?

Though not unheard of, gun crime is rare in the United Kingdom. A bulletproof vest that protects against bullets but offers only minimal defence against far more commonly used weapons (such as knives) would seem to be a poor choice.

Consider the threats that you are most likely to face and opt for the vest that best protects against them.

The UK security worker will likely need to choose between a stab-proof vest, a spike-proof vest and multi-threat body armour, all of which have their benefits and drawbacks. Choose carefully.

Where will the vest be worn?

Is your new piece of body armour going to be worn over or under your clothing?

Are you looking for the kind of visible deterrent that may discourage potential attackers (but equally may put off potential customers), or are you simply looking for extra protection to be worn beneath your regular clothing? Remember to buy extra, larger-sized clothes if this is your plan.

What other requirements do you have?

Does the vest need hi-vis capability? Is it important that you be seen or easily identified while wearing it?

Will the vest need to be waterproof? Will you require pockets? What equipment will you be carrying? Are there adequate options for mounting body cams, displaying I.D etc? How many storage options will you need?

You should take all of these questions into account before purchasing a stab-proof vest.

Purchase the appropriate vest for your sex.

Protective vests are fashioned quite differently for male and female wearers. Where possible, choose the vest appropriate for your sex.

Consider your height.

The most important size consideration when choosing a protective vest is actually the height of the wearer.

As a general rule, any wearer between 5 ft. 8 and 6ft tall should order a ‘standard’ or ‘medium’ sized vest. A wearer shorter than 5,8 would be better served by buying a ‘short’ or ‘small’ size.

If you are in any doubt, contact the seller with your precise measurements and they should be able to help you.

Which protection rating best suits your needs?.

It isn’t usually necessary to purchase the most effective body armour on the market.

Often, body armour can be uncomfortable to wear, as well as heavy and cumbersome. There’s no point getting hold of military grade protective clothing, or the vests worn by American S.W.A.T teams, only to try and endure wearing them for a 10-hour shift on the doors of a busy nightclub.

Don’t be paranoid or reactionary, either. Think back upon the threats you’ve faced thus far and try to plan ahead for the threats you may face in the future.

Unless you’re planning on taking a bullet for the Queen at some point during the next couple of years, it’s best to stick to more practical, affordable options.

the reviews

The Guardian G1 Stab-Proof Vest

The Guardian G1 is a simple, yet smart stab-proof vest capable of handling most of your safety needs.

This vest has a lot of good qualities, especially with regards to the extra-strong steel plates on the front and back of the vest (there are 27 overlapping plates in all). These protective plates are fashioned from tungsten, a rare metal known for being very hard and durable.

The vest is ranked at level 1, which means that it can withstand 24 joules of kinetic energy, the equivalent of 253kgs worth of force. It is, however, not spike-proof.

The Guardian G1’s outer layers are fashioned from strong, weatherproof oxford cloth, which wipes clean easily and is also machine washable.

This vest also features large (25 x 30cm) pockets on both the front and the back of the garment. These can be used to store added protection layers (including bullet-proof material if required).

The aforementioned pockets feature the word ‘SECURITY’ in big letters, which is printed on and cannot be removed. This limits the jacket’s application to security personnel, although the word could be taped over if the jacket were to be worn by somebody who was not a qualified security practitioner.

On the plus side, the word is bright, clear and easy to read, which is definitely beneficial if the vest is being purchased for security staff to wear.

This vest features a protection area of 0.3 metres, so offers fairly good coverage when contrasted with the rest of its dimensions. The vest’s protection area has a height of 100mm, a length of 50mm and a thickness of 0.6mm.

The sizes offered range from M to XXL. It could be a little bigger, in all honesty, as the back and front areas wind up feeling a little bit short. The vest’s design is aimed at both men and women.

This vest is lightweight (by stab-vest standards), weighing only 2.7kgs. This means that it can be worn over long periods without causing injury or discomfort. It also offers the wearer a high degree of flexibility and movement and will not impede a security worker from doing his or her job.

Additionally, the Guardian G1 is fully adjustable, featuring well-made shoulder and stomach straps. These straps are fashioned from high quality Velcro and will not come unstuck until the vest is purposefully removed.

A negative point here, however, is that there isn’t quite enough Velcro on the straps. This means that the straps stick outward further than they should, which could be annoying for some wearers. Another negative factor is the fact that the security tab cannot be removed.

One nice feature, however, is the weatherproof carry bag that this vest comes with. This free gift allows the vest to be kept dry when not in use, which is definitely a plus point, as it would be potentially quite tough to fit into a standard backpack.

All in all, the Guardian G1 is a good product with a lot of excellent features. It’s potentially a little on the small side and suffers from one or two other minor flaws, but it is well made and offers good coverage overall.

Positive

Extra-strong steel plates on the front and back of the vest (27 overlapping plates)

Large (25 x 30cm) pockets on both the front and the back.

Can withstand 24 joules of kinetic energy.

Includes a carry bag.

Negative

Comes up a little short over the back and front areas.

Could do with a little more Velcro as the end part of the strap sticks outwards.

The security tab is not removable.

The YD Anti-Stab Vest

At 3.4kgs, the YD anti-stab vest is one of the heavier models we’ve encountered so far. There is a lighter version available, but we’ll be focussing this review specifically on the enhanced ‘heavyweight’ version, as it is the version that’s most commonly sold.

So, does the extra bulk pay off? Let’s find out, shall we?

The YD anti-stab vest features 5 layers of protective plates fashioned from high manganese tungsten steel. Manganese steel (which is also sometimes known as ‘Hadfield steel’ or ‘mangalloy’) is an alloy that is composed of between 12 and 14% manganese.

Manganese is one of the toughest materials around and, when mixed with tungsten and steel, combines to form an incredibly durable alloy. The materials here are pure quality and probably do justify the extra weight, in all fairness.

The protective plates are only around 0.7mm thick, but they don’t really need to be much thicker than that, quite frankly.

The vest has a stab protection rating of 1, being able to withstand 24 joules of kinetic energy (the equivalent of 253kgs worth of force). Though it can protect against blunt force trauma and knives, this vest will not offer the wearer much protection against spikes.

The YD anti-stab vest features pockets on the front and the back, into which may be placed additional protective materials. It is even possible to turn this vest into bulletproof body armour if the appropriate materials can be used. These additional pockets measure 25 x 30cm.

The vest’s covering material is water resistant (especially good for those who frequently work in the rain or those who sweat a lot whilst working. It can also be removed and washed by hand or machine.

The vest’s covering material is water resistant (especially good for those who frequently work in the rain or those who sweat a lot whilst working. It can also be removed and washed by hand or machine.

The YD anti-stab vest also comes with a free gift. People who buy this vest will receive a free pair of stainless steel wire resistance gloves. Included also is a basic black bag which can be used to carry and store the vest when it isn’t in use.

Overall, this is a fine choice. However, the YD anti-stab vest is not without its downsides. Chief among these, in addition to the extra weight, are the gaps in the armour, which offer little/no protection for the wearer.

These gaps are located at the sides of the body and the lower part of the abdomen; two places which could prove to be easy targets should the wearer be attacked with a spike or a bladed weapon.

Positive

Includes Steel Wire Resistance Gloves + 1 Black bag

Has a pocket on the front and back that a bullet-proof steel plate can be inserted into.

Can withstand 24 joules of kinetic energy.

Negative

No pockets at the back

A bit on the heavy side

Gaps in the Armour are at the lowest point of abdomen

The Safety Work Vest

The Safety Work Vest by Armor Q Trees features high manganese steel plates wrapped in tough, waterproof Oxford cloth. The vest itself also includes an ultra high molecular weight polyethylene fibre that is strong and durable, yet supple enough to be folded like fresh laundry.

A basic design, lacking any identifying features (such as the word ‘security’ or a Velcro section where an ID patch saying ‘Security’ or similar could be attached) the SWV is an admittedly simple piece of protective clothing.

The high manganese steel layers provide level 1 stab protection, which means that they can easily withstand up to 24 joules of kinetic energy (or 253kgs’ force puncture).

The vest’s protection area is 0.3 metres, with dimensions of 100mm height, 50mm length and a thickness of 0.6mm. It will not resist spikes, however.

At 2.4kgs, this vest is lightweight enough to be worn comfortably. Crucially, it does not restrict the wearer’s movement in any major way, either.

The vest attaches via shoulder and stomach straps that are lined with Velcro. It’s solid stuff and reliable enough to ensure that the vest won’t fall off while in use.

Additionally, the SWV has a number of other little bonuses. The first of these are the pockets on the front and back of the vest (they measure 22.5 x 25cm), into which can be inserted extra protective materials. This vest can become bulletproof with just a few small additions. Other extras include the basic carry case that comes bundled with every purchase, as well as a free pair of stainless steel wire resistance gloves.

All in all, this is a basic model in terms of both design and functionality. It does the job that’s asked of it, which is all it really needs to do.

The safety work vest definitely has some nice features, such as the option to improve the vest’s overall protection level. There’s also the inclusion of the free bag and gloves, which, while very welcome, is hardly unique.

The lack of any option to attach identification or insignia to the vest, on the other hand, is not particularly impressive, demonstrating a lack of forethought on the part of the designers, while the protective material, although high quality, could definitely be better aligned and employed.

Positives

Lightweight vest, Weighs Just 2.4kgs

Comes with gloves and a carry case.

Can become bulletproof with just a few small additions.

Can withstand 24 joules of kinetic energy.

Negatives

Should have a velcro patch so you can stick a security badge

The BININBOX Body Armour

It is probably an oversight on the part of the manufacturers, but the BININBOX body armour vest is advertised as having an extra pocket at the back. In reality, this is not the case at all. There is no back pocket.

This doesn’t necessarily mean we should write this product off, however. After all, the front and back pockets are extra features, not primary features. What we really need to know is whether or not the BININBOX body armour vest is an otherwise good product/sound investment. Let’s press on and find out.

The vest itself weighs a little more than the 2.4kg inner layer that provides the actual stab proofing, making it fairly lightweight and comfortable to wear. The vest’s protective qualities are achieved via a thin set of tungsten steel plates.

Here, we encounter another minus point, namely that the plates, advertised at being 25cm, in fact only measure 23cm. Although an admittedly minor quibble, this mistake is quite difficult to excuse. Precise measurements are easy enough to obtain and can be very important to some customers, especially those purchasing online who do not have physical access to the product before it arrives on their doorstep.

The protection area for this vest measures 0.3 square metres, which is spread across a height of 100mm, a length of 50mm and a thickness of 0.6mm. The plates are stab proof to level 1, meaning that they can withstand 24 joules of kinetic energy (or 253kgs of force). The vest will not resist spikes, however.

The material used for the outer layers is hand or machine washable Oxford cloth. Oxford cloth is tough, durable and generally easy to wipe clean. It also offers the wearer a decent amount of water resistance.

The vest attaches to the wearer via adjustable shoulder and stomach straps that are securely fastened with strong Velcro. This allows the wearer to adjust the vest to his or her specific body shape in order to achieve comfort as well as functionality.

Instead of coming in a variety of sizes, the BININBOX body armour vest is fully adjustable, easily fitting most wearers.

The main issue with this particular vest, however, lies with its sizing. The BININBOX vest is considerably smaller than UK standards.

However, even taking into account the vest’s smaller size, the BININBOX body armour vest does not hamper or limit the wearer’s movement in any serious way. This is a definite plus.

Now, we return to the issue of the pockets. The missing pocket at the back of the vest means that while additional protective (even bulletproof) layers of material may be added to the pocket at the front, the back remains considerably less well defended.

The BININBOX body armour vest is still a solid product; it just isn’t the best we’ve seen. It is considerably smaller than UK standards require, the plates are smaller than advertised and its missing a pocket that really ought to be included (indeed, a pocket that is advertised as a feature by the vest’s manufacturers).

Having said that, this vest does come bundled with a free pair of stainless steel wire resistance gloves and a decent carry bag for transporting the vest when it isn’t in use. Overall, this one is neither the best, nor the worst: file it somewhere near the middle.

Positives

Main material is made from strong Oxford cloth

Lightweight vest

Bundled with a free pair of stainless steel wire resistance gloves.

Can withstand 24 joules of kinetic energy.

Negatives

NO POCKET at the back as advertised 

Sizes a a lot smaller than uk standards

Plates smaller than stated (23cm not 25cm)

The Timbert Stab-Proof Vest

Smart, lightweight and highly durable, the Timbert stab-proof vest was obviously designed with practicality and functionality right at the forefront.

The vest itself is fashioned from 6000D nylon. Nylon is generally quite a bit tougher than most other fabrics. It is often used in tactical vests and banner signs, among many other things. While nylon isn’t quite as breathable as cotton or some other fabrics, it is weatherproof and very strong.

In this case, the use of nylon (arranged in a netting design) actually allows more breathability to the fabric, which will be very useful if the vest is going to be worn for extended periods of time, especially in warmer weather.

Adding to this feature is the vest’s weight, which, at just 2.3kgs makes it one of the lightest vests we’ve seen. The Timbert stab-proof vest will not impede movement and attaches via a padded hook-and-loop enclosure, which allows the wearer to adjust the vest to suit their specific size, sex and/or body type.

The protective area of this vest covers approximately 95% of the overall surface area of the garment, covering the wearer’s chest, back and sides (an often overlooked area). Reliable protection is achieved via 5 layers of high manganese tungsten steel. The inclusion of multiple protective layers, forged from a combination of three of the toughest materials on Earth, will help the wearer to feel a lot safer.

This vest is scored at level 1, meaning that it will withstand 24 joules of kinetic energy, which is the equivalent of 253kgs worth of force. It is worth pointing out that this vest, along with most others, is not spike proof, though it does offer some improved coverage by dint of having a better protective area than many other stab vests.

Additionally, because the vest is lightweight and rather thin, as well as slightly better at hugging the contours of the wearer’s body (even the waistline is adjustable), it can be discreetly worn beneath a layer of outdoor clothing.

The vest is not machine washable, which is a negative point, but only requires a wipe down with a sponge to clean, rather than full immersion in detergent and warm water.

It also offers no option to add extra elements, so this vest can never be ‘bulked up’ or made bulletproof should the wearer wish to do either.

Overall, this is a streamlined, (some might stay ‘stripped back’) vest that combines design efficiency with high functionality. It is lightweight, comfortable to wear and well made, definitely among the best we’ve seen so far.

Positives

Breathable, light weight and covert

5 layers of reinforced High Manganese Tungsten Steel

Metal parts cover approximately 95% of the vest

Can withstand 24 joules of kinetic energy.

Negatives

Comes in one size only

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