Body armor illegal?

I’ve heard several times, and again today at work, that it’s illegal for a civilian to wear body armor. I checked snopes and these boards, and didn’t find a direct answer to this question.
Now I can see why cops would prefer that some people didn’t, but a law that say’s I can’t protect myself from the various shrapnel in some of the ‘hoods I’ve lived in doesn’t make sense.
I live in California. Is wearing a ‘bullet proof’ vest illegal here or anywhere else?
BTW; I don’t see any way a thinking person could possibly turn this into another friggin’ gun debate. :wink:

The last time I checked, it’s illegal for convicted felons to have body armor; for everyone else it’s okay.


What is body armour? Just multiple layers of kevlar or must they be a special grade of kevlar bonded together in a particular way? I have kevlar jeans and the guy who makes them will usually add some more of the lining at no addtional cost. So what if I had him make me some of his T-shirts but with heaps of extra lining? Would it become illegal at some point?

An early version of the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban” included a provision, added by sponsors on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police, that made it illegal to wear body armor while in the commission of a crime. However, my reading of it at the time is that it was so broadly worded that it essentially banned the wearing of any and all body armor. It was removed from the bill before signing, as a compromise.

I tried to find an answer on google, but I’m getting 38,000 returns. I’ll just have to wing it.

Body armor is protective clothing. Motorcycle racers, for example, wear “armor” on their knees, forearms and elbows, back, and of course, head. But what is being discussed here is commonly called a “bullet proof vest”. The purpose of a bullet proof vest is to prevent a bullet from entering the body. As you are aware, this is done by layers of kevlar and/or steel or ceramic plates, and padding. The vest is designed to dissipate the energy of a projectile over a wide area instead of the very small area represented by the nose of the bullet. It is not uncommon for a person to be severely bruised, knocked unconscious, or even sustain broken bones when a bullet hits his vest.

If you costructed something like that, it would be a “bullet proof vest” if it indeed could stop a bullet. Vests are graded by type: I, IA, II, IIA, III and IIIA. I don’t know the specifics of the protective ability of the various grades. A given vest will not stop all bullets. IIRC, most are designed to stop most pistol ammunition. Most. Some vests will stop some rifle ammunition. Even your skin and bones can keep a bullet from entering your body under certain circumstances, for example at long range. Personally I wouldn’t want to wear home-made body armor. I’d rather have the certification.

I don’t know what the laws are in Oz; but as long as you are not a felon who had been convicted of a violent crime or are using the armor in the commission of a crime, it’s not illegal in the U.S.

Please note I haven’t studied this at all and am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert on the subject.


I think our laws might be somewhat similar to various US legislation if not a little more restrictive. Anyway, the little I do know about this stuff is from It’s an excellent article from my limited perspective and it’s what got me thinking about the level at which you can start calling an item armour in the ballistic sense. IIRC, you need to move up to ceramic plates for protection from rifles. Even still, some of those Aramid (Kevlar) fibres must be susceptible to certain handguns and ammunition.

Vests definitely are not the super hero capes that movies sometimes make them out to be. I imagine a shotgun will knock you over and immobilise you for a head or groin shot.

Body armor is not illegal in the US as a whole, though some states forbid felons from possessing it and provide additional penalties if its used in the comission of a crime. IIRC California is one of the ‘no felons’ states.

Oh, and Mersavets, while a shotgun probably would knock someone around enough for them to fall over (or penetrate if using slugs), it won’t knock someone off thier feet like you see in a movie. There’s just not enough force coming from the gun to send someone flying, if there was then the shooter would get thrown back when he fired the gun.

I like the article on howstuffworks too. Also, this site is one that I’ve run across before that sells various sorts of body armor and has some reasonable inofrmation (this might be from that article). The variety of styles is kind of interesting, and I especially like the vests for dogs.

All I had to do was look;
CA Penal code, 12370
Which say’s, in part;

Only violent felonies. And there are exceptions (sub b) even to that, Sounds reasonable to me.
Mike, who I work with, said his sister (who’s sister is a cop) tried to buy body armor as a gift. The store would only sell to cops. Probably store policy.
Thanks for the replies. I suspected this was a small-time urban legend because it just didn’t make sense.
Groin shot, Mersavets? Boy, you’re a mean one. :wink:

Sorry, it’s just that my gonads are usually on the top of my safety check list. I’d like to know how many men here, given the choice, would take the groin shot over the head. Eeeeeew!

Don’t be one for half measures mangeorge. If you’re going to get body armor get body armor!

Maybe you should make your checklist out of Kevlar and put your gonads behind it. :smiley: