"You want to key what you are wearing to what you are carrying," recommends Georg Olsen, a former law enforcement officer and general manager of U.S. Armor. "More than 10 percent of police officers are shot with their own weapons or friendly fire, so you need to stop at least what your agency is carrying."
What the criminals on the street are packing varies greatly depending on location. Olsen recommends an easy, quick test that helps determine this threat. "Ask yourself, what were the guns I took off the last 10 guys I arrested?" he says. Because the criminal's primary source of obtaining weaponry is robbery, he is getting bigger caliber and better weapons. Olsen notes the .380 automatic that once topped the list of criminal weapons, and is resistant to a Level IIA vest, has quickly been replaced by the 9mm.
Therefore, as a manufacturer, U.S. Armor recommends officers wear Level IIIA. The protection range granted by the Level IIIA far surpasses the weight difference between the IIA and IIIA. "You're talking about a weight difference between the Level IIA and Level IIIA of half a pound per square foot — less than 2 pounds over the entire vest," says Olsen. "The weight is more psychological than anything else. It's really all about the officer's perception of fit, comfort and flexibility. "