How Body Armor is Made: The History, Materials, & Process

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Humans have been producing and wearing some sort of body armor for thousands of years. Technology has advanced since the time the first tribes fastened animal hides to themselves for protection, so how is body armor made today and how does that differ from past centuries of man-made body armor?

History of Body Armor

Body Armor has been around in some fashion since the beginning of the human race. Thousands of years ago hunters in ancient tribes would use animal hides and plant materials around their bodies to protect themselves from other invading tribes and even animal attacks. According to Time magazine, Chinese warriors in the 11th century B.C. covered themselves in rhinoceros skin while ancient Greek warriors used shields made of bronze, reinforced with layers of hide and wax. As we moved into medieval times, knights wore chain mail as body armor. These mails were extremely expensive and made by forging tiny links of steel — a grueling process for any blacksmith. By the mid 1300s, it was the advances in weaponry that forced the progression of body armor.

As high powered crossbows and other arrows became standard during warfare, soldiers progressed to steel-plated body armor from head to toe. We didn’t see any advances of soft or hard body armor made to protect from gunshots until the 1700s. These early ‘bulletproof vests’ were made of dozens of layers of cotton. These layers helped to prevent bullets from penetrating the skin, but only worked against very basic firearms. In 1870, Austraiian outlaw Ned Kelly became one of the first people in modern times to try to perfect a suit of armor. He had blacksmiths forge steel from plough shares then added leather and iron bolts to create a 5-piece body armor system with a separate helmet and visor.

In order to prepare for the wars of the 1900s, tactical body armor was advanced. During the Korean War, US soldiers wore body armor made of fiberglass, nylon and heat-treated aluminum. In the 21st century, military personnel and law enforcement have a wide variety of tactical body armor options — from soft concealable armor to full hard body armor systems.

Body Armor Made in the 21st Century

Today, there are standards put in place by the National Institute of Justice that dictate the way body armor should be manufactured and different levels of protection it needs to meet for military and law enforcement. NIJ’s Technology Assessment Program (TAP) researches new technologies that can better assist the criminal justice community & helps agencies make informed equipment-purchasing decisions. TAP allows NIJ to run their body armor testing program ensuring everything manufactured meets the minimum requirements for body armor compliance.

So, how is body armor made today? At the heart of any well-made piece of body armor is essentially a very strong net. This net operates like a goal in soccer or hockey. If a player scores, the interlaced net pushes back from one side to the other helping to disperse energy from the point of impact over a wider area. When vests are made, there are layers of bullet resistant fabric like Kevlar, which are sandwiched between other layers of graphene or a type of plastic film. All of these layers work together to provide protection within the bullet resistant vest which is generally covered in another layer of material.

When it comes to production, Angel Armor works tirelessly to ensure our body armor products are made with the highest degree of attention and quality materials. Tactical body armor is made using layers and layers of fabrics like Kevlar. As the materials layer, they become increasingly harder to penetrate. Angel Armor uses a variety of materials as a proprietary blend in RISE ballistic panels to provide revolutionary bullet-resistant protection. Laser-cut panels are included on most of our RISE carriers for PALS/MOLLE-compatible attachments to give officers flexibility and customization. We also focus heavily on body armor comfort. Unlike medieval times where knights were expected to fight in 80 lbs of sharp steel, First Responders need to maneuver with ease, comfort and flexibility. Patented technology, like the QuadCore® Belt System, provides unprecedented comfort through innovative weight distribution. 

Though materials and production processes have changed over the past several centuries, the essential function of body armor remains — protect human life. At Angel Armor, we will continue to keep a pulse on the threats in the marketplace and commit to innovative armor design for relevant ballistic protection. This is the essence of our brand promise — to develop and offer Protection at a Higher Level.


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