With many photographers travelling to places where body armour/bullet-resistant vests (colloquially but incorrectly called bulletproof vests) are essential equipment but often being unaware of the different options out there, here’s a round-up of most of the offerings available for members of the media. In choosing a vest, remember that the type and size of ballistic plates used are as important as the vest itself – both in terms of bullet-resistance and weight & comfort. Compared to the older ceramic plates, the ones using newer lightweight plastic materials such as Dyneema & Famostone/Aristone can be a lot lighter and provide similar protection. It’s an obvious point but if the vest is too heavy to work in, and consequently you don’t wear it, it’s no use at all – so comfort is a serious issue not to be overlooked. If anyone has used a good vest not mentioned here, please let me know by leaving a comment.
Companies based in the UK:
Jack Ellis (UK) – good vests using Protexa material from Lorica Research
Lorica Armour Vest (UK)
NP Aerospace (UK)
Body Armour UK
Praetorian Associates (UK)
LBA International (UK)
Armourshield Ltd (UK)
Companies based in Europe:
SEMA (France) – well-fitting ‘press’ vest with lightweight plates
Swedish Body Armour (Sweden)
Companies based in the USA:
Point Blank (US)
LightFighter Tactical (US)
American Body Armor (US)
Inter-American Security Products (US)
Black Armor (US)
RBR Tactical Armor (US)
Reliance Armor (US)
Diamondback Tactical (US)
PACA Body Armor (US)
First Choice Armor (US)
Second Chance (US)
U.S. Armor Corporation (US)
Armour of America (US)
Protech Tactical (US)
LifeTek Armor (US)
T.G. Faust (US)
U.S. Military Interceptor Vest (US) – Standard issue for U.S. Marines, article on it here
Pinnacle Armor (US) – Impressive but expensive “Dragonskin/SOV” flexible body armour
Gentex Helmet Systems (US)
Protective Products International – Makers of the new Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) currently being issued to the US Marines.
Companies based in other countries:
Craig International Ballistics (Australia)
KATA (Israel & elsewhere) – new range of well-designed vests & anatomically shaped plates.
Israel Military Products (Israel)
Hagor Industries (Israel)
W.W.D.C. Group (Israel and elsewhere)
Mofet Etzion (Israel)
Global Armour (South Africa)
Ballistic Body Armour (South Africa)
Pacific Safety Products (Canada)
Wikipedia has some basic info here
For info on some of the latest body armour technology from a more military, but very informative perspective, take a look at the body armour topic section at DefenseReview.com. They also have a list of web links for other manufacturers. BodyArmorNews is another website reporting developments.
The International News Safety Institute has a good list of body armour and other safety equipment and also copies of the BBC kit lists for different hostile environments.
Reporters sans Frontières (Reporters without Borders) will lend vests to freelancers heading to war-zones if you show them your air ticket, press card and identification and pay a deposit of 900 euros. Details here. They also offer an affordable insurance policy for freelance media, and some useful information and advice on related issues.