Recently, I started back to work in a job that requires me to wear body armor, and well, I found the Force One Level IIIA soft armor vest with carrier from a state distributor, for a very reasonable price. So I ordered it, and received it in 2 days, and instantly I noticed some issues with the vest as it came from Force One. Yet I tossed the panels into my plate carrier and went to work for 1 week, and that is when I had enough of it. Granted I took all of the risk, in ordering this vest unfitted, and from Ebay, but it was from a well known police supply store in south Florida.
I purchased this vest for $420 shipped, which is a great price for a IIIA vest, that is within the 5 year range that police departments go by. The vest I got was made in December 2011, and was used as a display item in a show case, meaning, this vest is in unused condition, and like you would receive it from the manufacturer, and even had a tag on it. The price for a Safariland Vest I will be ordering, will be about $700, but will be custom fitted to me.
The quality of the carrier that came with the vest is lacking in many ways, so many that I cannot even use the provided carrier with the soft armor inserts for more than 1 day. For instance, the elastic straps on the shoulders are so stretchy that I had to overlap some of the strap and sew it into place in order to keep the carrier high on my chest. The side straps however were top notch, stiff, easily adjustable, and require no modifications, the only down side is they are very narrow, 2.5 inches wide to be exact, which is uncommon for most vests on the market, and the vest only comes with one set of straps for shoulders and sides. For reference, the vests used by my local police department offer 2 pair of 2.5 inch wide straps (for shoulders), and 2 pairs of 5 inch wide straps for the sides. Since the side straps on the Force One vest were so small, they often slipped to the top or bottom of the carrier, causing chaffing, or rubbing. The material that was used for the carrier itself is cheap, poor quality, and easily damaged with a single days use. After just one day, stitching started to come undone on the Velcro, seems were stretched to the point to where I feared failure with anymore use. The carrier was also claimed to wick away moisture, leaving your body and undershirt dry. Well, needless to say, that couldn’t be farther from the truth of my experience, as after a 12 hour shift, I felt like I could use my undershirt to wash my car. I can only imagine how bad the moisture would be in the middle of a Florida summer.
The one thing that jumped out at me the most for newer panels, was just how thick and heavy they were compared to the previous level IIIA soft armor I have had in the past. At roughly ¼ inch thick, these panels do not want to conform to the body unless you pretty much put it in a headlock and make it tap out. Driving with this vest on was very uncomfortable, and I had to sit in a near vertical position, of which made getting in and out of the patrol vehicle very difficult. The size that was stated by the company was a 52 Regular as stated on the armor sticker, yet, these panels were a 48 Short. Lastly, the shape of the panels are so odd that, the side panels will fit into a condor plate carrier, but leave the sternum area exposed due too the shape and shortness of the vest, and the shape made it hard to move properly to clear buildings, and often bunching up in the shoulder areas and falling down on the body.
This photo shows the side of the vest and can clearly see the stiffness of the inserts
I would not recommend this vest to anyone in a security or police capacity, but would tell those who are looking for armor for prepping to take a look at this company as any armor is better than no armor. I have owned a few different brands of soft armor vests in the past, and this is the only company that will not see my business again.
featured image courtesy of interamericansecurity (ebay user name) and is the exact vest I ordered from them.