Traveling to Mexico seems to instigate a laundry list of dos and don’ts. While it can be a wonderful getaway, there are many popular myths that prevail, all of which have varying degrees of validity. One such rumor that can be found floating on some travel and self-defense message boards is that body armor is illegal south of the border—but what’s the truth?
Body armor is legal in Mexico. Generally, any products or gear used primarily for protection will be permitted when traveling abroad, with Mexico being no exception.
While it may be worthwhile to double-check the specific areas of Mexico to which you plan to travel to see if there is any local legislation prohibiting the carry and use of self-defense gear, you can feel confident that if there is nothing explicitly limiting the use of body armor, then you should face no legal issues in bringing it with you to Mexico.
Is It Legal to Wear Body Armor in Mexico?
It is legal to wear body armor in Mexico. In fact, due to the prevalence of corruption and cartel-related crime in some areas of the country, many politicians, journalists, and other civilians who spend time in public spaces actually feel more comfortable donning some anti-ballistic gear when out and about.
However, just because there is no legislation strictly prohibiting the use of body armor in Mexico does not necessarily mean that taking bulletproof gear south of the border is without caveats:
- Traveling with body armor could get you marked as a suspicious person. Sadly, due to the aforementioned crime that pervades in some areas of the country, those most interested in body armor are likely to be thought of as wanting it for unwholesome reasons.
- Moreover, it is not just this stereotype that may get body armor red-flagged in Mexico. While the United States culture has generally accepted citizens’ right to self-defense as fundamental throughout the years—with millions of average citizens owning self-defense gear, firearms, and anti-ballistic gear—in Mexico, this is viewed much more marginally.
In fact, despite Mexican citizens and foreign legal residents having the constitutional right to bear arms, there is only one gun store open in the entire country, making it difficult for citizens to obtain firearms legally.
This leads many Mexican citizens to bypass the proper channels and purchase guns from illegal sources. As such, any paraphernalia related to firearms, such as body armor and bulletproof vests, could raise suspicion for a couple of reasons:
- People who incorrectly view firearms as illegal in Mexico may erroneously lump body armor into the same category.
- It may be assumed that because many firearms are illegally obtained, the bulletproof gear is obtained unlawfully as well.
Additionally, having your every move followed is only one of the concerns with using body armor in Mexico. As self-defense gear can be thought of as a premium item south of the border, you could be the target of theft if it is known that you are carrying a quality bulletproof vest. It is said never to take anything of value that you would be unwilling to lose to Mexico, and body armor could be a hot commodity if it is brought to the wrong crowd’s attention.
Should I Wear Body Armor in Mexico?
As is the case with any country or region where the economic status lags behind that of the rest of the world, there is an increased threat of violence in Mexico.
Citizens are more compelled to turn to illicit means of making their way through life, with crimes such as assault, robbery, and murder significantly higher in Mexico than in the United States. In fact, the murder rate in Mexico’s most violent state, Colima, is 5.5 times that of the District of Columbia, the area with the highest murder rate in the United States.
Therefore, many affluent Mexican citizens and those in the public spotlight choose to wear anti-ballistic gear when out in public. In fact, there are even some fashion lines in the country that can keep people safe while still being fashionable for formal events.
If you are not a permanent Mexican resident, the investment in fashion-forward bulletproof gear may be superfluous. However, as tourists can be targets for theft in some Mexican neighborhoods, it can be worth your time to travel with body armor. Some Mexican criminals believe that tourists have the income to burn and make ideal targets for a quick score, so anti-ballistic gear can give you some peace of mind when strolling foreign streets.
Traveling to Mexico with Body Armor
Although it is legal to wear body armor in Mexico, you may run into some issues when traveling with your anti-ballistic gear. Traveling through the states should be no issue, as all 50 states legalize the ownership and use of bulletproof accessories. However, you may run into some problems at the airport, so it is best to plan for such scenarios ahead of time.
The TSA states: “Generally, body armor is allowed in carry-on or checked bags. Please note, however, that even if an item is generally allowed, our officers make the final decision on whether an item is allowed through a checkpoint.”
While this is good news, there are some best practices you should keep in mind when flying with your body armor to Mexico:
Make Sure Your Armor is in Good Condition
Thoroughly examine your armor and make sure that there are no sharp edges or protrusions that could be deemed as dangerous by a TSA official. Remember, body armor is protective equipment, so give the TSA no reason to think otherwise.
Fly Directly to Mexico
Although most countries permit the ownership and use of body armor, some will give you a hard time. For example, in Australia, it is not permissible to import anti-ballistic gear without prior approval from the Minister for Home Affairs. As such, if you plan on making Mexico one of your stops on a worldwide tour, you increase the chances of running into a snag at a different foreign airport along the way.
Communicate with The Airport and Airline.
Contact the airport ahead of time to make sure that there are no obscure policies that may prohibit traveling with body armor. Also, look through your airline’s restricted items list on its website and ensure that body armor is not listed.
Know Your Weight
Whether checking or carrying on, it is essential to know the weight of your anti-ballistic gear. While most modern polyethylene body armor is incredibly lightweight for its protective capabilities, it can definitely add up, especially if you are packing a full-scale tactical vest. Most bags are allowed a weight limit of up to 50 pounds, so make sure you pack accordingly.
Arrive at the Airport Early
This especially applies if you are carrying on your body armor. If you get denied by the TSA agent, you want to give yourself plenty of time to take your armor back to your car or make other arrangements to pick it up when you get back. It can be confiscated and difficult (if not impossible) to recoup if left at the security checkpoint.
Check Your Srmor, if Possible
While it is difficult to check precious items, you should consider checking your armor. Steel armor will set off metal detectors at security checkpoints. No matter how amicably you cooperate, it will likely lead the TSA to perform more extensive checks, which could delay your travel to Mexico. The good news is that body armor is plenty tough to handle any jostling around in the cargo stow.
Have All Documentation Readily Available
Even though your intentions in taking your body armor to Mexico are completely wholesome and self-defense related, its appeal to criminals will place you under greater scrutiny than the average airline passenger. Be sure to keep all product documentation, licenses (if applicable), and receipts on hand when you travel so that if you face questioning regarding your armor, you can prove that it has been legally purchased and is safe to carry aboard an airplane.
Do Not Wear Your Body Armor in The Airport.
It is also essential to remember never to try and wear your body armor in the airport terminal or through security checkpoints. There is simply no way to don your body armor at an airport and avoid setting off all kinds of red flags, so leave it tucked away until you arrive in Mexico.
How to Wear Body Armor in Mexico?
If you decide that body armor is a prudent investment for the area of Mexico to which you plan to travel, it is essential that you make a selection that does not draw attention to yourself. As mentioned, body armor could make you the target of suspicion or robbery, so you do not necessarily want to be advertising that you are donning anti-ballistic protective gear.
Obviously, if you are in the country performing some type of police, military, or security role, then the rules are a bit different, and you have to do what you have to do. However, if you are a civilian simply wanting to add a layer of protection, there are some points you should keep in mind for wearing body armor in Mexico:
- Keep the protection as covert as possible, putting it on underneath a normal layer of street clothes.
- Choose a vest that is lightweight and without any noticeable protrusions. You will want to be able to perform natural, everyday motions.
- If you feel like soft armor under vests are not sufficient for your protection needs, look into vests that can allow you to subtly insert hard armor.
- Consider the benefits of armored backpacks. Carrying a backpack is very natural for a tourist, and while slightly bulkier than what you may take when sightseeing in a new country, it can be a very sneaky way to add some quality protection.
Where and When to Wear Body Armor in Mexico?
Just as you will not wear your body armor 24/7 in the United States, do not think that traveling to Mexico requires you to be blanketed in your anti-ballistic gear around the clock. In fact, the common-sense uses of body armor are remarkably consistent between the two countries. The most important factor is knowing the reputation of the area to which you plan to travel.
In addition to the aforementioned Colima, the states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Juarez, and some parts of Mexico City feature crime rates far above the national average (and definitely above that of the United States), so donning your body armor in these areas may be prudent.
There will also be different times and situations in which it is better to wear your body armor. While many travel guides say to never go out at these times, if you find yourself needing to be out and about in any of the following situations, it may be worthwhile to have on your bulletproof gear:
- When walking around after dark
- When exploring parts of an area with which you are not familiar
- When carrying or transporting items of value
- When going out in areas where adult entertainment is present, as alcohol can cause arguments to escalate and get you caught in the crossfire
At the end of the day, it is incumbent upon you to know why you are going to Mexico and if your purpose for visiting may put you in harm’s way for any reason.
However, suppose you are a responsible tourist traveling to places such as the safer side of Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, or Huatulco. In that case, you should not feel that being in Mexico will put you at any additional risk of danger; you can wear your body armor as you would in the United States.
The Best Body Armor to Wear in Mexico
As mentioned earlier, the best type of body armor to wear in Mexico should be as covert as possible. Although body armor is legal, it is best to not draw unwanted attention to yourself, as some entities may view you as a suspicious person. Openly flaunting body armor could also make you the target of robbery from some unsavory individuals. As such, the following pieces are your best bet if you want to suit up with body armor while visiting Mexico.
Safariland Armor F1 Covert Shirt Carrier
The Safariland Armor F1 Covert Shirt Carrier was designed for those individuals who want to don their body armor all day long while remaining undercover in the process. It is a lightweight internal carrier that will allow you to comfortably insert hard armor plates while fitting snugly under a button-down shirt. The 4-way stretch fabric provides unrestricted movement, lightweight compression, and breathability. It also comes with the other highlighted features:
- Pullover one-piece design with no zippers or straps, limiting the likelihood of any noticeable protrusions
- Internal side entry for easy hard armor panel insertion
- High performance cooling spacer mesh liner to reduce the temperature by 3-4 degrees
Mars Armor Model 12 Enhanced Protection
The Mars Armor Model 12 Enhanced Protection may be the best anti-ballistic option for people traveling to Mexico. While the base product is a soft armor vest that fits comfortably under an outer clothing layer, it comes with removable ballistic panels that can easily beef up your level of protection. Like the Safariland F1 Covert Shirt Carrier, this product is lightweight. It offers a high degree of comfort and mobility, giving the wearer sufficient protection for the front, back, and sides in a concealable fashion. Other outstanding features include:
- Inner mesh spacer fabric for ventilation, which can be very beneficial in Mexico’s warm, humid climate
- Adjustable straps to ensure that the vest is tight-fitting around the body, limiting the chance of notable protrusions
- An easy-care, dry-cleanable polycotton or polyester outer shell
Firebird Armored Backpack
If you follow the logic of how an armored backpack could be the ideal way for a tourist to hide body armor in plain sight while visiting Mexico, look no further than the Firebird Armored Backpack. While larger and with more surface area than many armored backpacks, the Firebird Armored Backpack is still less than three pounds in its lightest configuration and capable of stopping 95% of all bullets that encounter it. Besides its chic and stylish design, other outstanding features include:
- A generously-sized primary compartment capable of housing nearly every laptop design
- Large front lower pocket, complete with key lanyard and pencil pouches
- Hypalon accented upper pocket designed for compatibility with all smartphones
While the right to self-defense is standard in many countries, many circumstances, such as the difficulty in legally obtaining firearms, have caused the legality of body armor in Mexico to be discussed in some online circles. To clear all confusion, it should be noted that it is perfectly legal to wear body armor in Mexico.
While it is legal to wear body armor in Mexico, there are several extenuating circumstances that you will want to consider before casually donning your bulletproof gear south of the border. Safely getting your body armor through airport security, knowing where and when to use it, and choosing the correct armor for the occasion are all critical steps in feeling your safest on your trip to Mexico.
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