Body Armor Use and Care

The use and care of your body armor vest is essential to maintaining its life throughout the warranted period of the vest. This use and care video will give you some important instructions on how to properly clean, assemble, maintain and store your vest.

Watch Our Video

body armor OVERVIEW

To begin, it is important to understand that your vest is made up of several components:

  1. The front and back carrier
  2. The front and back ballistic panels
  3. A soft trauma insert
  4. And the shoulder and waist straps (You should have received two sets of shoulder and waist straps. One 4-pt and one 6-pt. When assembling your vest, only use one set of shoulder and waist straps)
  5. Assembling your Vest

To assemble your vest, it is CRITICAL that the wearer ensures the ballistic panels are inserted into the carrier with the STRIKE FACE facing away from your body. This is important because our ballistic panels are manufactured using a hybrid design with each layer performing a very specific task in a specific order. Improper insertion of a ballistic panel can result in serious injury or death.

Once you have determined the proper orientation for inserting your ballistic panels, identify the Grip-Lok™ suspension system which is located on the Strike Face side of the front and back ballistic panels and is comprised of hook tabs in each area of the shoulder. This system allows the front and back panels to adhere to the inside of the carrier, holding the panels in place. When in place, tug gently on the bottom of the panels to ensure the Velcro is gripped securely. Finally, smoothen the ballistic panel in place and close the zipper on the front and back carrier.


Now you are ready to put your vest on. It is always best to have someone assist you the first time you adjust your vest, however, if you are adjusting your vest for the first time by yourself, start by laying the front and back of your vest on a flat surface and loosely adhere the shoulder straps. Your vest may come with more than one set of shoulder and waist straps. However, only one set is needed and the other set should be used as replacements when necessary. Select the length of shoulder straps that would provide you with the most comfort. Begin by, raising the vest over your head. The front panel should rest on your chest and the back panel on your back. Now, select the length of waist straps that would provide you with the most comfort. Loosely adhere the waist straps and connect the back panel to the front panel.

Next, it is important to adjust your vest in a seated position. Once seated, re-adjust the shoulder and waist straps for comfort. Remember, the vest will only protect what it covers. Therefore, it is important that you adjust the vest so that it is not too low or too high. A basic guideline is to wear the vest one inch below the clavicle notch. In addition, a vest that is too long may be subject to heavy impact on the duty belt which can cause set wrinkles or curling when in a seated position.

Finally, ensure you have an even amount of front panel over rear panel overlap on each side of your vest. Your overlap provides you side ballistic protection. If your overlap protection is uneven, re-adjust the vest and straps to provide an even amount of protection. Remember not to wear your vest too tight as it may limit your mobility and cause unnecessary wear and tear on the ballistic panels.


Now that your vest is adjusted to your comfort level, feel free to add any additional armor accessories such as soft trauma inserts or special threat plates. Special threat plates are a great way to upgrade protection to your soft armor ballistic vest. Depending on the type of carrier you have you will either place these plates in an interior or an exterior pocket.

For a carrier with an exterior top-loading plate pocket, simply unhook the Velcro tab on the front of the carrier and insert the plate in front of the soft trauma insert.

For a carrier with an interior bottom-loading plate pocket, unzip the exterior hidden zipper located at the bottom of the carrier, then reach into the inside of the carrier and locate the pocket. Open the Velcro flap on the pocket and insert the plate in front of the soft trauma insert.


Proper storage and frequent inspection of your vest can help you maintain the life of your armor. The best way to store your vest is lying flat, not on an edge and NEVER bunched. Make sure it is stored clean, dry and out of direct sunlight. Do not place anything else on top of it and never store your vest in the backseat or trunk of your car.

Regular inspection of your vest is also important for proper performance. Refer to your use and care guide for more details.

Each component should be separated prior to cleaning. Be sure that the ballistic panels have been removed from your front and back carrier. To do this, disengage the suspension tabs located in the shoulder area of the vest. Finally, be sure all trauma plates and straps have also been removed from the carrier.


To clean the ballistic panels, begin by laying them on a flat surface. Take a damp cloth or sponge and gently wipe the ballistic panels to remove dirt or stains. If necessary, you may choose to use a mild detergent. DO NOT bleach, iron, tape, machine wash or tumble dry your ballistic panels.

To clean your carrier, remove all ballistic panels, trauma inserts and plates. Next, remove all shoulder and waist straps from the front and back carrier. The preferred method of washing the front and back carrier is to hand wash, however, your carriers may also be machine washed on the gentle cycle using cold water with a mild detergent. To clean your shoulder and waist straps, take a damp cloth or sponge and gently wipe the straps to remove dirt or stains. If necessary, you may choose to use a mild detergent. Use the hook tabs to remove any debris from the Velcro attachment system. DO NOT use bleach or fabric softener to clean your carriers. DO NOT dry clean your carrier. Likewise, DO NOT use deodorizing sprays such as Febreeze or Lysol – these sprays can damage or compromise the carrier material. If carriers are machine washed with regular frequency there should not be a need for the use of these sprays. When complete, lay flat to air dry or tumble dry using the lowest temperature setting.


Remember, your vest is bullet resistant, not bullet proof. It is designed to defeat certain rounds, but it will not protect you against all threats or any area that it does not cover. Wearing your shell carrier WITHOUT the ballistic panels does not provide any protection. Do not mix and match ballistic panels with carriers from different brands or manufacturers doing so may void the manufacturer’s warranty.

If you have any further questions, you can contact your local Safariland Sales Representative or The Safariland Group Customer Service. And remember at The Safariland Group, we live by our motto, Together We Save Lives.