Soft body armor, mainly designed to protect against handgun rounds, faces challenges when it comes to rifle rounds or sharp-edged/pointed weapons like knives. However, advancements in materials and design have led to the development of armor that can offer some level of protection against these threats. Below is a breakdown.
Protection against rifle rounds
Using upgraded materials and layering: Some soft body armors add materials like ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) or more Kevlar layers. This improves their ballistic resistance.
Adding trauma plates: To really protect against rifle threats, you can put trauma plates or ballistic inserts into the front, back, and sometimes side pockets of the vest. These plates, usually made of ceramics, steel, or polyethylene composites, help absorb and disperse the energy of high-speed rifle bullets.
Protection against knives and sharp-edged weapons
Dense weave fabrics: The fabrics used in soft body armor, such as Kevlar, can be woven more densely to create a tighter network that makes it harder for sharp edges to cut through.
Extra layers: Additional layers of material increase the armor’s resistance to cutting and stabbing. The multiple layers work together to catch and stop the blade.
Specialized coatings: Certain stab-resistant coatings can be applied to the layers of the armor to enhance their resistance to puncture and cutting. These coatings are designed to be tough and durable, providing an extra layer of protection.
Protection against pointed weapons (stab and spike protection)
Laminated or coated fibers: For protection against spikes and stabs, the fibers may be coated or laminated to create a tougher surface that is difficult for pointed objects to penetrate.
Adding chainmail or metal mesh: Including a layer of chainmail or a fine, hard metal mesh within the armor can provide additional resistance against pointed and edged weapon penetration.
Keep in mind that making armor strong enough to stop rifle bullets or sharp weapons can make it heavier and less flexible, which might affect how comfortable and easy it is to wear. Also, any armor that says it protects against these tougher threats should be officially tested and certified (like by the NIJ in the U.S.) to make sure it really offers the level of protection it claims.
In summary, standard soft body armor is primarily made to stop handgun bullets, but it can be modified to provide some level of defense against rifle rounds, knives, and other sharp objects. This is done by adding stronger materials and extra pieces like trauma plates. However, these changes might make the armor less comfortable and harder to move around in.