Wearing Body Armor in Public: Is It Allowed?

Body armor looks cool and serves a great purpose, but for some reason, many believe it is illegal to own and wear in public if you are not military or law enforcement. This is not true for most states. Body armor is legal to purchase and wear in public in all U.S. States except New York.

*New York recently issued a ban on soft body armor for civilians, with the exception of professions that require protective gear. Please note that as of this writing in 2023, this ban does not affect hard body armor plates that can be worn in plate carriers.

This is great news for me since I own body armor and don’t live in a communist state like New York that bans life-saving gear. Woohoo for Arizona.

While it is legal to own and wear body armor for Americans not convicted of a felony (again, excluding soft body armor in New York), some laws differ by state and depending on how the body armor is used.

Some states have stricter body armor laws than others, specifying that armor cannot be worn during a crime or by past convicts. The best bet for finding out whether body armor can be worn in public is to look up your state’s body armor laws

If you want to know more about body armor regulations and how to find out whether you’re allowed to wear your armor in public, then keep on reading! Or check out our post that outlines every US State and their current body armor laws here.

Can You Wear Body Armor in Public?

If you’ve already purchased your body armor, you may be itching to wear it out in public- after all, you can’t go wrong with self-protection. But it is wise to pump the brakes. You need to make sure that wearing body armor in public is allowed.   

Laws Vary by State

In Arkansas and many other states, it is illegal to wear a bulletproof vest if you’ve been convicted of a felony. In Illinois, it is illegal for anyone to wear body armor when they also have a weapon other than a firearm in their possession. In Louisiana, you cannot wear body armor on school premises. As you can see, there is a clear variation in body armor laws.

How to Find Body Armor Regulations in Your State

In most states, it is okay to wear body armor as long as you are not an ex-convict. However, it is a mistake to assume that this is the law in your state. Since the laws governing body armor use vary widely from state to state, you should do your research to find out what the current laws are. Do the following to obtain information about body armor regulations:

  • Hop on your computer or smartphone and search for body armor laws in your state. It’s important not to go by what you see on forums or non-governmental websites. The more reliable websites will end in “.gov” or “.org.”
  • Call your local law enforcement and ask them whether wearing your armor in public is permitted. Be sure to ask if there are any conditions in which you should not wear the armor. If the person you speak to on the phone does not have time to give you detailed information, see if they can direct you to a website.
  • Contact your local government. Your local government is another good resource that you can use if you’d rather not call the police department. You can find the number to your local government through an internet search in most cases. 

It’s also important to check regulations regularly, as they are subject to change at any point. You don’t want to end up in trouble because you weren’t aware of a law change.

Buy Your Armor Legally

It is important to know that there are also laws governing the sale of body armor. In certain states, it is unlawful to order your armor online. For instance, in Connecticut, you must purchase body armor through a face-to-face transaction. Do your due diligence and find out what laws apply in your state regarding body armor purchases. 

Why the Use of Body Armor is Regulated?

There are several reasons why the use of body armor is heavily regulated- the main reason being that body armor can be dangerous when it’s worn by the wrong person. If a person who is committing a crime uses body armor, their chances of getting away with the crime are increased. In the event that law enforcement officer needs to incapacitate a suspect, they will have a harder time doing so if the suspect is wearing armor. In addition, someone who is wearing armor will have an inflated sense of confidence and may try to get away with riskier behavior. 

Best Times to Wear Body Armor in Public 

After you have determined that you can wear body armor, it may be helpful to know when you should wear it for maximum protection. The following sections will examine when you, as a civilian, should wear your body armor. 

In Risky Areas

If you will be in an area known for high crime activity, you should wear your body armor. Some common places that are high risk include: 

  • Night clubs. Shootings happen way too often in nightclubs and similar gatherings where there will be alcohol and potential drug use. While it may sound extreme, if you are worried about potential crossing paths with someone dangerous, you can wear your armor under your clothing. If you choose a low-profile vest, no one will know you’re wearing it. 
  • Certain neighborhoods. Drive-by shootings have become commonplace in some neighborhoods. If you know that you’re going to be in a risky neighborhood for any amount of time, wearing your body armor could come in handy. 

At Work

If you work with money or in a risky business, it may be worthwhile to wear your body armor. The following situations are particularly high risk: 

  • Banker. While bank robberies do not happen all the time, there is always a chance that a criminal could attempt to rob the establishment. So, it would be a good idea to protect yourself while you work. 
  • Gas station clerk or attendant. Gas stations are high-risk places where your armor could come in handy. If you work as a clerk or attendant at a gas station, you could find yourself in situations that are life-threatening. 
  • Bouncers. Not only should you wear body armor when you go to the club, but if you work as a bouncer in a club, you may find yourself surrounded by intoxicated individuals with weapons on a regular basis. If body armor is not already supplied to you, you can purchase it on your own and use it yourself.
Testudo™ Gen 2 Plate Carrier (Source).

Choose the Right Armor for You

Not all body armor is created equally. Some body armor types are best suited to defend against knife attacks, while other types of body armor protect the wearer from gunfire. Knowing the different types of body armor will be helpful to you as you decide what your body armor needs are. 

Vests with Ballistic Protection

Bulletproof vests are the best option for you if you want ballistic protection. Keep in mind that not all bulletproof vests can protect you from all bullets. This is where armor levels come in. Higher levels of protection will protect you from stronger bullets. So, when you go to buy a bulletproof vest, be sure to ask your seller which bullets a particular piece of armor can stop. 

Vests with Stab Protection

To protect you from getting stabbed in a vital organ, you should purchase a vest that is made specifically for this. Stab-proof vests are often made to withstand both stabs and bullets. However, you should check with your seller to be sure. 

Communicate with your body armor retailer and tell them exactly what threats you expect to be up against. The best armor companies will offer a build-your-own option where you can choose your armor’s protection level, whether you want side plates, and more. 

Final Thoughts

Now you know that if you are not a convicted felon, it is most likely legal to wear body armor. But it cannot be stressed enough to check the laws for your state. We hope that this article has answered your armor-related questions. Don’t forget to take a look at the state’s regulations about wearing body armor in public from this page.


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Kevin was born and raised in Texas and loves all things tactical. His hobbies include shooting, hunting, rock climbing, and hiking with his dog Jax.

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