In order for your vest to last, it is very important to properly maintain it. This article contains all the information you need to take care of your vest, including instructions for storage, assembly, and cleaning.

The first thing to know is that the vest consists of several distinct parts:

1. A carrier for the front and the back
2. Ballistic panels for the front and back
3. A soft insert to protect against trauma
4. Straps for the waist

Putting the Vest Together

The most important thing to keep in mind when putting the vest together is that the strike face on the ballistic panels MUST face away from the body. The design used to produce each panel means that every individual layer is intended to serve a certain function in a certain order. If the ballistic panels are not placed correctly, serious injuries and/or death may occur.  Once the panels have been placed correctly into the carrier, you may use the zipper to close the carrier.

Making Adjustments to your body armor

If you are putting on the vest for the first time, we highly recommend that you have a friend or family member assist you. If there is no one around to help you, you may place the vest on a flat surface while you adjust the straps. Then, place the vest over your head so the front and back panels are against your chest and back, respectively. Use the waist straps to attach the back side panel to the front side. Once the straps have been correctly placed, you should see how the vest fits while seated. Take a seat and loosen or tighten the straps as needed. If the vest is worn too tightly, it may restrict your movements, and the panels may wear out more quickly. The vest should be about one inch beneath the clavicle notch in order to provide optimal protection. If your vest is to long, it may wrinkle or curl while you are seated. Finally, make sure the side of the vest has an overlap for additional protection.

Adding Special Threat Plates

Once your vest fits you comfortably and securely, you may add any other hard armor plates or accessories. Hard armor plates allow you to increase the level of protection offered by your vest. These may be inserted into interior or exterior compartments, depending on the model of carrier you have. For exterior compartments, undo the Velcro fastener on the front of the carrier and insert the plate. For interior compartments, unzip the bottom of the carrier, locate the pocket, and place the plate inside. In both cases, the hard armor plate should be placed in front of the soft trauma insert.

Body Armor Storage and Maintenance

If you want your armor to last, it is important to store it properly. The vest should lie flat, and should never be bunched or placed on an edge. Keep it away from direct sunlight, dirt, and moisture. Do not store the vest in your vehicle, and avoid placing other items on top of it. In order to clean the vest, you should first separate the ballistic panels from the carrier. Lay the panels on a flat surface and carefully wipe them with a damp cloth. A gentle detergent may be used for stubborn stains. Never use bleach, tape, a washing machine, a dryer, or an iron to clean the ballistic panels. In order to clean the carrier, first take out all inserts, panels, and plates, and detach the waist and shoulder straps. It is recommended that you hand wash your carriers, but they may also be machine washed with a gentle detergent and cold water on the delicates cycle. The straps may be cleaned by wiping them gently with a damp cloth. As with the ballistic panels, you may use a gentle detergent if necessary. Do not use deodorizing sprays or bleach, and do not dry clean your carriers. Finally, lay items flat to dry, or use the lowest temperature setting to tumble dry.

For more details consult your EnGarde Body Armor Care and Maintenance Manual.

Final Notes About Body Armor Care

Your ballistic vest is designed to block specific rounds. It does not provide protection against all possible threats and cannot protect any area it does not cover. Vests with only soft ballistic panels do not protect against high-powered rifles. Your vest is bullet-resistant, NOT bulletproof. Using the carrier without any ballistic panels will not protect you. Avoid combining panels and carriers from different manufacturers, as this may void the warranty.