Officer wearing RTS Heros vest with soft armor and rifle

Soft Body Armor vs. Hard Body Armor: What’s the Difference?

Understanding the difference between soft and hard body armor is crucial for making an informed decision about your personal protection. Each type has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, making them suitable for different scenarios and threat levels. Let's delve into the specifics of soft and hard body armor to help you choose the right protection for your needs.


Body Armor: Understanding the Basics

Body armor serves as a protective barrier against ballistic threats, designed to absorb or deflect projectiles and minimize injury and has a long history of protection, dating back to ancient times.. There are two main categories of body armor:


Soft Body Armor: This type of armor is made from flexible materials and is typically worn underneath clothing for discreet protection.

Hard Body Armor: This type utilizes rigid plates to provide enhanced protection against high-velocity rounds and is often worn over clothing in tactical situations.

Soft Body Armor: Features and Benefits

man wearing sleek 2.0 with commander soft armor

Soft body armor is favored for its comfort, flexibility, and concealability. It's a popular choice for individuals seeking everyday protection without sacrificing mobility.


Soft Armor Composition and Materials


Soft armor panels are usually made of tightly woven high-strength fibers such as Kevlar, Twaron, or Spectra. These materials are lightweight, flexible, and capable of absorbing and dispersing the energy of a bullet.


Soft Body Armor Protection Levels:

 Soft armor is rated according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) levels, ranging from IIA to IIIA. These levels correspond to the type of ammunition the armor is designed to stop.


  • Level IIA: Protects against 9mm and .40 S&W ammunition.
  • Level II: Protects against 9mm and .357 Magnum ammunition.
  • Level IIIA: Protects against .357 SIG and .44 Magnum ammunition.


Use Cases

Soft body armor is ideal for everyday wear by law enforcement officers, security personnel, and private citizens. It's also suitable for covert operations where discretion is paramount.


Hard Body Armor: Features and Benefits

police officer wearing plate carrier with magazines

Hard body armor offers superior protection against rifle threats and other high-powered ammunition. It's a common choice for military personnel, tactical teams, and individuals in high-risk environments.


Hard Armor Composition and Materials


Hard armor plates are typically made from ceramic, steel, or polyethylene. Ceramic plates are lightweight and provide excellent multi-hit capability, while steel plates are known for their durability. Polyethylene plates offer a balance of weight and protection.


Hard Body Armor Protection Levels: 

Hard armor is rated from level III to IV.


  • Level III: Protects against most rifle rounds.
  • Level IV: Protects against armor-piercing rifle rounds.


Use Cases

Hard body armor is primarily used by military personnel, SWAT teams, and others facing significant ballistic threats. It's also suitable for active shooter scenarios and tactical training.


Comparing Soft and Hard Body Armor



Soft Body Armor

Hard Body Armor





More comfortable

Less comfortable


Easier to conceal

Harder to conceal

Protection Level



Threat Protection

Handgun rounds

Rifle rounds








Making the Right Choice: Soft or Hard Body Armor?

The best type of body armor for you depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Consider the following factors:


Threat Assessment: Identify the types of threats you're most likely to encounter.

Environmental Considerations: Think about the climate and terrain you'll be operating in.

Activity Level: Assess how much mobility you need to maintain.

Budget: Determine your budget and weigh the cost of each type of armor.

Innovations in Body Armor

The field of body armor is continuously evolving, with ongoing research and development leading to new materials and technologies that offer improved protection, comfort, and performance. Keep an eye on these advancements to stay informed about the latest options available.

man inserting ceramic plate in plate carrier

Choosing RTS Tactical for Your Body Armor Needs

At RTS Tactical, we understand the importance of personal protection. That's why we offer a wide range of high-quality body armor solutions, including both soft and hard armor options. Our products are rigorously tested to meet or exceed industry standards, ensuring you receive the best protection possible.


Whether you're a law enforcement officer, a member of the military, or a responsible citizen seeking to protect yourself and your loved ones, RTS Tactical has the right body armor for you. Explore our selection today and invest in your safety with confidence.
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