As most law enforcement professionals are well aware, their external armor carrier is arguably one of the most important pieces of tactical gear they will wear.
In addition to proper training, tactics and experience, their ballistic vest plays a vital role in keeping them safe from the potential dangers of active-duty service.
So when it’s time to upgrade to a new carrier or select a carrier for the first time, you’ll want to take the right measurements so your carrier fits like it’s designed to.
Why is it such an important decision? Mainly, for three reasons, to make you safer, more efficient and more comfortable.
First, and most obvious, you’ll depend on it for your personal safety. This means it needs to function properly and be comfortable enough so that it still allows for ‘all day wear’ and mobility. You don’t want your carrier to inhibit your tactical advantage or impede your ability to carry out your duties safely. Also, a carrier that is not fit correctly may leave an officer vulnerable.
Secondly, you may need your carrier to do more than just protect you. It may need to provide double duty, like carrying a backup weapon, flashlight or a variety of other gear. Most carriers are built so that other accessories and gear can be attached and incorporated into the vest’s use. This gives the wearer the ultimate ability to customize the carrier for specific duties.
Lastly, an ill-fitting vest is likely to discourage you from wanting to wear it. An unworn vest is useless. Additionally, a poorly fitted vest can reduce the protection it was designed for while also making it harder for the officer to move freely or access their weapon or other gear.
Let’s talk comfort.
With a piece of tactical gear whose core design feature is to protect your body from gunshots, most carriers are not inherently comfortable. That’s why it’s so important to take proper measurements when shopping for your external armor carrier. Better measurements ensure a better fit, greater comfort and better performance.
A carrier is a personal purchase, similar to selecting the right pair of footwear. It’s got to fit right, feel good and work correctly so you’re protected.
So how do you measure yourself correctly?
While you can measure yourself, it’s always more accurate to have an assistant like a spouse, partner or friend work with you. We recommend using a soft measuring tape as it is flexible, easy to use and will keep all of your measurements accurate. You should also put on your duty belt and any gear that may impact your measurements. Measuring should only take a few minutes.
There are five measurements to take so you get the proper fit.
- Chest - While standing, from behind, have your assistant measure horizontally around the largest part of your chest (under the arms with arms relaxed). Prior to taking the measurement, while the soft measuring tape is in place, take a full deep breath and then breathe normally. Round up to the nearest whole inch.
- Girth - Also while standing from behind, have your assistant measure horizontally around your stomach. Prior to taking the measurement, while the soft measuring tape is in place, take a full deep breath and then breathe normally. Round up to the nearest whole inch. For males, the measuring tape should go right across or just above the navel. For females, the measuring tape should go just below the lowest rib.
- Back Height - Last measurement from behind while standing. Measure vertically from the base of your neck, “where your neck bone meets your back bone” to the top of your duty belt.
- Standing front - Now have your assistant face you and measure vertically from the jugular notch (the little divot on the bone of the V of your clavicle) to the top of the duty belt.
- Seated front – Sit down comfortably like you would in your patrol vehicle and be sure that your posture is consistent with how it would be while on duty. Measure vertically from clavicle notch to top of duty belt just like in step 4.
Armor Carrier Chest Measurements
First, you’ll want to measure the largest part of the chest. With the person being measured facing away from you, run the measuring tape across the front of their chest and then around the back, underneath their armpits. Their arms should hang loosely by their side during this measurement. We recommend rounding up to the nearest whole inch. For female officers, it’s important to measure across the largest part of the chest and not pull the measuring tape too tightly.
Armor Carrier Belly Button Measurements
With the person being measured still facing away, take the same measurement with the tape running across the belly button and meeting in the back. It’s important to stand normally without pushing out or sucking in your stomach.
Armor Carrier Back Height Measurements
With the person still facing away, you’ll want to measure back height. For the top measurement, locate where the back meets the neck. From there, measure down to where the officer would wear their duty belt. It is recommended to be wearing the duty belt for the most accurate measurement.
Armor Carrier Front Measurements
When taking the front measurement for the carrier, run the tape measure from the clavicle notch to your belly button. The clavicle notch is the little divot where your two collar bones meet, just below where the soft part of your throat begins.
Armor Carrier Seated Front Measurements
For the seated measurement, have the person being measured sit in a chair. You don't want to sit up too straight or slouch as this will affect the measurement. We recommend sitting as though you were in your vehicle. The point of the front seated measurement is to ensure your carrier fits comfortably while driving. Start again from the clavicle notch and measure to the belly button.
If you have existing armor you are putting in the external carrier it is important to confirm the panels will fit in the carrier correctly. To do this we created a form to help take these measurements. Be sure to only measure the armor panels and not an existing carrier.
Using the body and armor measurements together, Curtis Blue Line representatives can confirm the size carrier you will need to fit your armor properly.
The primary goal of armor carriers is to protect your heart, lungs and other vital organs. Your measurements will help ensure you’re maximizing comfort while also maximizing protection.
As any experienced officer will tell you, the better the fit, the more likely you are to consistently wear your armor carrier.
Remember. Good measurements equal a good fit and greater degree of comfort, both of which result in better protection.