Safeguard Clothing CoolMax IIIA Body Armor

Shortly after the development of the sword, came the birth of the shield. By nature offense and defense make up the balance of conflict. However in today's world for the average concealed carrier, half the equation is missing. Its purely a "shoot first, don't get shot" paradigm that relies on the element of surprise or who is the quicker draw to win a confrontation with an armed aggressor. For those who actually go through training to receive their concealed weapon licenses, the only real defense taught is using cover to block bullets while firing your weapon at the attacker. The problem is, the availability of an object suitable as cover is entirely based on your environment, and unless you have sufficient training to react 100% correctly in a shooting scenario, you could end up taking a hit.

This problem has often interested me, as someone who carries concealed on a daily basis and takes an active stance on personal protection. Body armor is the obvious solution, but systems like heavy steel plates and military grade carriers are bulky and entirely overkill unless you are in the armed services in an active theater, or as a first responder to law enforcement. For the Average Joe body armor isn't practical to wear everyday, and you would be hard-pressed to find many people who keep a form of body armor in their vehicle or in the home for easy access incase of an emergency involving a violent attacker.

Another factor to consider, is body armor often carries a stigma similar to the firearm its designed to protect against. What would happen if you wore body armor while you ran out to the grocery store? It's not a common thing to see a civilian wearing armor casually in public, so it will surely draw attention. The majority of people will assume you are prepared for initiating violence or committing robbery, and then resisting an armed response. Others will ask if you are a cop or with law enforcement, and a "no" answer will prompt the previous assumption. Pretty much the same assumptions uninformed bystanders make about seeing someone open-carrying a sidearm in public. It's ironic, as a ballistic vest itself is not a weapon... however the act of wearing one in public will only raise eyebrows and suspicions faster than you can say "Tactical Timmy."

Thats why I was particularly interested in the body armor made by Safeguard Clothing. Similar to what hostage negotiators or undercover officers wear in real life (or when portrayed on TV), their vests can be worn under clothing comfortably for long periods of time. Wearing armor that is ballistically rated is the best way to ensure you don't die from a gunshot wound if you are involved in a shooting (assuming you weren't shot in the face or other unprotected area without receiving medical treatment).

The CoolMax IIIA Bullet and Stab Proof Vest is designed to be affordable and attainable by the average civilian. The internal Kevlar armor panels are refurbished, which is how SafeGuard is able to sell them at a reduced price. This factor isn't entirely apparent to the average consumer, and is only hinted at in the product description via the bullet point: "Armor worth over $470 when new." Imagine shopping for a truck at a dealership glancing over the fineprint to see "Vehicle worth over $20,000 when new" but there wasn't a USED sticker on the windshield.

Admittedly this troubled me at first, but after speaking with Communications Manager at SafeGuard, I learned the whole story. SafeGuard Clothing refurbishes vests by inspecting, extracting and testing armor panels from ex-contract vests sold to larger organizations from the Safeguard Armor brand. Those organizations tend to purchase new vests once the warranty has expired, so the armor is essentially recycled and resold under the SafeGuard Clothing brand at a lower price point to reach a different market. I was assured the Kevlar panels used in the refurbished vests are inspected and tested to ensure they have not been damaged in any way which compromise meeting the stated level of protection.

With that out of the way, I'd like to point out the real benefits that the CoolMax IIIA vest has to offer. Starting with protection, the panels of this vest are ballistically rated by the NIJ (National Institute of Justice) to protect against most pistol calibers up to 44 magnum. This includes 380ACP, 9MM, 45ACP, 40SW, 38SPL, and 22LR/SHORT. The panels also have an edged weapon rating of Level 1, which is a baseline level for knife resistance and spike protection. Basically it is rated for a object with a mass of 1.9 kg traveling a maximum of 5 m/s, and totaling 24 joules of energy. This is the E1 figure, which like I said is the baseline for edge weapons, and there are higher levels of protection in better armor, especially if its designed for stab protection and not ballistic protection as well.

The beauty to this vest design is it's comfort. If you aren't wearing the vest because its hot, heavy, and overall uncomfortable... then it does not do you any good whatsoever! The Safeguard vest is lower profile than other ballistic vests, and is perfectly suited to be worn underneath clothing or on top. I have worn this vest in particular for a several days, only removing it for bathing and sleeping. Unless you are wearing it under thin fabrics like thin polyester athletic shirts or light jackets, the added bulk is very unnoticeable. Often I would just wear a zippered hoodie over it, and no one was the wiser. While wearing it, I was able to drive, walk around, and do some light jogging without any severe hinderances. It does take awhile to get used to the sensation of wearing the vest, but after about the 3rd or 4th day I found myself forgetting it was on underneath my jacket.

The real reason why this vest in particular is well suited for concealed wearing under another garment is the CoolMAX lining. The poly-cotton mesh netting helps with breathability and thus the evaporation of sweat, keeping the wearer cool when in a warm environment. The layers also help retain body heat, thus helping you keep warm when in colder climates. I'm normally very prone to getting overheated even with light layers of clothing, but I found wearing the CoolMax vest I did not sweat that much.

The outer shell of the vest is made of Cordura fabric, which is highly used in the firearms industry for its scratch resistance and incredibly durable. It does not have any "tactical" features such as MOLLE Webbing or straps for adding accessories. I actually like this simplicity, as it only makes it easier to conceal, but if I had thrown the vest on over my street clothes, it looks far more non-threatening than a fully kitted out vest.   

Overall, I would highly recommend the CoolMax Ballistic Vest to anyone looking for an affordable, no frills level of protection to add to their everyday carry system, or as a first response vest to keep in your vehicle or place of work. Although the term refurbished doesn't inspire confidence when applied to ballistic protection, don't let it fool you. These vests are extremely affordable and functional, and I would rather be wearing one when encountered with an armed attacker then not have one at all. If your opponent brings a sword to a swordfight, bring a sword AND a shield. You're chances of surviving drastically go up.

Firearms Insider Reviews – 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:  The Covert/Overt Bullet Proof Vest is suitable to wear underneath or on top of clothing in all climates, and offers advanced poly-cotton netting to help excessive heat escape for ease and comfort amongst all conditions.

Target Market: Civilians seeking affordable and comfortable body armor

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Ballistic Level: NIJ Level IIIa, 6mm thickness
  • Stab (Edged Blade) Level: Level 1
  • Made from DuPont Kevlar®
  • Ultra Lightweight
  • Delivered in 1-2 working days
  • Weight: Approx. 5.5lbs
  • Armor worth over $470 when new
  • Brand New Covert/Overt Cover worth $100
  • Available in sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Available in lengths short, normal, and long
  • Lightweight Bullet & Stab Proof Vest
  • Armor comes with a 1 year warranty
  • Outer vest carriers are covered with a 1 year warranty against any manufacturer faults.

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black in color, various protection levels available

What others are saying?: "I believe the quality of the product gives this vest an edge versus other “cookie cutter” budget armor that is available on the market today. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend SafeGuard Clothing, or to use their products. In fact, I use the Covert/Overt vest at my full-time job. I would never endorse an armor product unless I would use and trust my life with it, and this vest is no exception. From versatility to conceal-ability and quality to price, this “budget” vest is a great value and has you covered. Literally." We Like Shooting Review

Price point:

  • Retail: $390

I need it now! Availability: Direct from SafeGuard Clothing

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Able to wear underneath a jacket, sweatshirt, etc OR over clothing
  • Easy to throw on under duress, elastic side straps with velcro easy to secure and tighten quickly
  • CoolMax lining keeps body cool via airflow when in warm climate, and helps retain body heat when working in colder climate
  • Does not impede range of motion
  • Coverage includes sternum to above belly button, as well as sides of torso when worn correctly
  • When using correct length, user is still able to conceal carry IWB or AIWB
  • Carrier is machine washable
  • Kevlar panels can be removed for replacement

Cons:

  • The refurbished condition of the inner Kevlar armor is downplayed in product description
  • No expiration date is given for armor. Typically after 10 years Kevlar should be replaced, but if this armor is reused from preexisting vests, how old are they really?

Score: 7.5 Good

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