Bulletproof Vest

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Artemus Gordon: If I may make one last request...that she aim for my heart -- the heart that loved this country so much...
Loveless: ...shoot him in the head.
Artemus Gordon: (under his breath) Damn!


They cost about $300. They can save your life. Few non-military/police heroes ever wear one, unless they are a major character and it is dramatically required that they get shot. Then we're not told about it in advance and they'll look dead for a few moments.

In military combat, and occasionally SWAT action shows, the Bulletproof Vest goes hand in hand with the Kevlar helmet. Any character who removes his helmet after the skirmish is seemingly over or at a lull in the action, automatically takes a round in the head. A common way for the military Red Shirt to bite it.

In fiction, a bullet proof vest is capable of stopping anything up to (and sometimes even including) armour-piercing bullets. The shot might knock you down and leave you with a hole in your shirt, but you'll get up just fine. In games, vests almost universally either stop all damage or just reduce damage taken, and then are destroyed when they take enough damage(Actually ceramic plate armor protects against high caliber bullets by ablation, breaking apart to diffuse the kinetic energy. Needless to say its useless after a few rounds). Video game injuries are a matter of mathematical equation, whereas in real life there is a great deal of randomness involved and the usefulness of such armor lies in reducing injuries rather than eliminating them entirely.

In real life, however, low-level vests like those issued to police officers are only rated to stop small-caliber handgun rounds. Higher-caliber munitions require hard ceramic plates which are often shattered upon impact. Even if the vest stops the bullets from penetrating your body, you might sustain broken ribs and some nasty bruises, and knocked down. After all, a bullet has momentum, that isn't going to vanish. To put in simpler terms, being shot with your armor on often feels like being hit by a truck.

A bulletproof vest may also stop knives and other dangerous weapons in film; however, in real life, bulletproof vests are ineffective against stabbing unless they are specially reinforced to protect from being penetrated by knives. This is because the point of a knife can slip between the weave of the fabric and cut it open.

The phrase "bulletproof vest" is often a misnomer. Many military vests or helmets, particularly those made before the modern era, are actually intended to prevent injury from the fragmentation cast about by explosions. Some observers have commented that helmets or vests were "useless" because they did not stop high-power rifle ammunition. This is a fallacy, as most injuries in warfare are caused by fragmentation, against which helmets and armor were rather effective. The term "proof" historically referred to being tested (as in proof reading) not being invulnerable, the shift in meaning has lead to conscientious makers and writers calling the vests "bullet resistant".

And don't forget, when someone does get shot when wearing a vest, has been mistaken for dead, gets emotionalized over and then sits up with a bewildered look on their face, they will always, ALWAYS part their shirt to reveal the vest, usually with bullets showing in it.

When bullets are stopped by things that cover very little area in addition to being unlikely to be effective if hit, yet do so by sheer force of sentimentality, that's a Pocket Protector. Bulletproof Human Shield is the trope when bullets are stopped by an unwilling Mook or bystander. If a vest is worn by a Badass in a Nice Suit, it will overlap with Waistcoat of Style.

Examples of Bulletproof Vest include:

Anime and Manga

  • Rotton the Wizard probably one of the few people in Black Lagoon with the sense to wear one. Shouting out your presence when you have the jump on the enemy not so much.
  • Bean Bandit's famous armoured jacket seems to be multiple layers of Kevlar wrapped in leather, possibly reinforced with metal. It nearly breaks one character's foot when she accidentally pushed it off a dresser. It'll stop just about anything short of a point-blank assault rifle.
    • The same applies to his headband.
  • Desert Punk uses quite a bit of armor.
  • Kirei Kotomine in Fate/Zero is shown to have bullet-proof priest robes (they're reinforced with Kevlar), which shows just how Crazy Prepared he is for hunting enemy magi.
  • In Rail Wars!, Iwaizumi wears a bulletproof vest as a matter of course. It's almost never needed.

Comic Books

  • Most modern incarnations of Batman have him wear batsuits that are essentially advanced suits of lightweight armor that also allow him to be as nimble as he ever is. Furthermore, in the classic comic, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the yellow ellipse bat chest symbol is explained as a psychological lure for criminals to shoot at his heavy chest armor and away from his head. Why he tends to wear a similarly bright yellow belt has never been explained.
    • In the Golden Age Batman story "The Curse of the Four Fates," one of the criminals has been told that "Metal will still your beating heart." He naturally dons a protective vest. But he's forgotten that he has a bullet lodged in his chest from an earlier shooting. A strong blow against the vest dislodges the old bullet and drives it into his heart.
    • Another Golden Age story plays with this trope. Batman and Robin remember a case of three brothers who wore steel chainmail vests. The Dynamic Duo fight one brother in a junkyard. He's hoisted by an electromagnet and killed when dropped on scrap metal as a goon unwittingly shut it off. A later fight at the docks has the second brother drown; the vest made him too heavy to float. The last brother, who wanted to go straight when the others found him, left the gang. He died when he took his vest off to connect downed powerlines to help an emergency surgery and was gunned down by a vengeful goon. Batman and Robin acknowledge the last brother's good nature before he dies.
    • Yet another Golden Age story Batman comic subverts this trope. Batman is shot by a one-time villain who has a Napoleon complex and tries to conquer the world using a dirigible equipped with death rays. Batman escapes and is later seen nursing a wound from where he was shot. He even comments he lost a lot of blood.
    • Batman's armour is indeed very powerful (he takes a shot to the head from a sniper in No Man's Land on purpose), but it also has the flexibility of simple cloth fabric.
  • Marvel's Punisher originally used a similar trick, wearing heavy body-armor with a white skull that drew attention - and fire - away from his head (not to mention that the symbol's "teeth" section is a handy place to have ammo clips). Later incarnations are simply too Badass to die.
    • Spoofed with his parody Frank Casket (nom de guerre: the Pulveriser) in the parody comic What The.

Pulveriser: Bet you punks can't hit the skull!
Pulveriser's VO Box: I won the bet. My medical bills told me that after criminals, doctors would be the next to go.

    • Played straight and slightly averted during the MAX arc Up is Down and Black is White, where the Punisher survives being shot at near point blank range by a shotgun with no apparent serious injuries due to his bullet proof vest. Averted in the sense that although it didn't kill him, it hurt like hell, and it leaves him completely unable to move until help arrived.
  • Other instances can be explained by the fact that Frank has unbelievable pain tolerance.
  • In all three editions of Battle Royale (Book, film and manga) the bullet proof vest acts as one of the strongest items in the event, saving the lives of the people who carry it numerous times.
  • In Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, there is a fairly realistic portrayal of a bullet proof vest in action. Glenn is shot with a shotgun at fairly close range while wearing a suit of riot gear (including the vest) and while he does survive, he is injured quite badly with broken ribs and possible internal bleeding.
  • In one Mad Magazine "Spy vs. Spy" strip, the black spy welds together a thick metal vest and tests it against bullets, knives, etc; it's invulnerable. He confidently approaches the white spy, who is leaning on a bridge railing. The white spy tosses a large magnet off the bridge into the water below, dragging the vest and its wearer along.


  • In the final scene of A Fistful of Dollars, The Man with No Name wears a metal plate under his serape. He goads Ramone to shoot him in the heart, which Ramone does repeatedly to little effect. Ramone is terrified and quickly wastes all his bullets.
  • In Back to The Future, Doc Brown gets shot up at the beginning of the movie. After Marty time travels back to the 1955, he keeps trying to warn him, but Doc refuses, citing the integrity of the space-time continuum. Marty travels back to the present... just in time to see Doc get shot again. Marty runs over, mourning him... but, of course, Doc finally took the warning, and was wearing a Bullet Proof Vest. In the third movie, Genre Savvy Marty hides a stove door under his shirt to survive a gun duel, in homage to A Fistful of Dollars.
    • The stove piece is actual Truth in Television. During the era of the Wild West outlaws and sheriffs would occasionally don makeshift vests, and "iron shirt" if they heard an enemy was in town. The armor was typically the strongest flattest piece of steel or iron around, the back plate of a stove happened to be the perfect shape for this.
  • In Snakes on a Plane, the witness is wearing a bulletproof vest, which later comes in handy.
  • Subverted in Wild Wild West as quoted above; played straight by his partner who is shot in the chest but survives because of the vest sewn into his clothes without his knowledge. Note that Loveless isn't actually Dangerously Genre Savvy; he's just a jackass.
  • Lethal Weapon series
    • In Lethal Weapon Riggs is apparently killed during a drive-by shooting and does the "vest reveal" bit to explain his survival.
    • In Lethal Weapon 3, the plot revolves around the sale of "cop killer" bullets that pierce through police armor. In one scene, a character survives by simply wearing two vests on top of each other.
      • Made more baffling by the fact that earlier in the same scene the bullets are shown shooting through the front plate of a bulldozer. The bullets are also demonstrated by being fired into a vest hung on a stand. The bullet easily passes through both the front and back sides of the hanging vest, thus proving the bullets could easily penetrate a double thickness of vest.
  • In Kick-Ass, the introductory scene for Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Later she mentions that she wears kevlar all the way down to her underwear.
  • A fantasy version appears in Lord of the Rings, in the Mines of Moria. Frodo appears to be fatally stabbed by a cave troll, but soon after reveals that he's wearing an impenetrable shirt of Mithril beneath his coat. This also happens in the book, though he is stabbed by an orc and suffers a greater injury from the impact.
  • The film Missing in Action features an on-the-run Chuck Norris buying a large raft-like speedboat made from "the same stuff that Bullet Proof Vests are made of". The salesman demonstrates this by getting into his handy-dandy rotating turret machine gun and putting a few hundred rounds into it, not getting a scratch on it. In reality, some boats are made from such material, but are hardly bulletproof. Chuck Norris heroically steals the super-boat by holding up the salesman with his own turret gun and forcing him to accept a nominal sum.
  • Notably averted in Black Hawk Down, when the US soldiers remove the reinforced steel plate from their kevlar body armor before the mission to lighten their load. Because past experience had led them to assume that they would not be fired upon, the soldiers chose to sacrifice protection for maneuverability. Ultimately they find themselves in a heavy fire-fight and suffer casualties that might have been prevented by the steel plating. Ultimately the real event helped create a restructuring of military policy that prohibits soldiers in combat zones from leaving behind their assigned equipment, though some still do.
  • In Battle Royale, one student is gunned down by Kiriyama and collapses, apparently dead. The moment Kiriyama's out of sight, however, the victim jumps to his feet and gleefully declares that he's been saved by his awesome bulletproof vest. It turns out that Kiriyama was hiding nearby while stalking someone else; he hears this and uses a katana to slice the student's head off. Kiriyama then puts on the bulletproof vest, which somehow protects him from being stabbed.
    • In the manga this is treated reasonably well, in that when hit with a shotgun (at long range) it hurts quite a bit, the wearer obviously bleeding through the ruined vest. One scene earlier on when the vest takes a close range shot with a .45 caliber revolver with no effect is a little less defensible.
  • In Starship Troopers, the troopers are in a live-fire exercise. When one of the characters is complaining that his helmet isn't working, the squad leader, without permission, tells him to take it off. In the process, a robot sniper (which are shooting laser beams, not fatal) shoots at another character, who then accidentally tightens their grip and shoots the other character (who has removed his helmet), blowing his head off.
  • Subverted in Iron Man: Stark is near an exploding shell and gets knocked to the ground, seemingly dead. Then, in standard trope fashion he tears open his shirt to reveal his vest. And then blood begins oozing from the holes punched in his vest by the high-velocity shrapnel.
  • Batman Begins establishes that the Batman's suit is a $300k body armor, so it's somewhat justified that it works pretty well. In The Dark Knight, Bruce asks Fox to redesign the suit to be more resistant to dog bites, realistically showing a common weakness in ballistic armor. In The Dark Knight. Gordon takes a bullet for the mayor while wearing a standard kevlar vest and is injured badly enough to convince everyone he's dead. He's away for some time before coming back into action.
  • In the beginning of Alien Nation, Sykes and his partner interrupt an armed robbery. One crook starts shooting a shotgun at the partner, who's not only wearing a bullet proof vest but is also crouched behind a car. With all that protection he should be safe, right? The shotgun's shots go right through the car and the guy's vest, killing him. Sykes later finds out the shotgun was firing special armor piercing slugs. Later, Sykes gets a gigantic revolver and puts a kevlar vest over his shooting range target, blowing holes straight through it.
  • In Training Day, where one of the crooked cops is shot in the bulletproof vest in order to set up a crime scene. Unfortunately, they realize a few seconds later that some bullets got through the vest. Since Alonzo is a dick, he insists they finish getting their stories straight before doing anything about it.
  • In Assassins (1995), the villain Rath thinks he's killed a man who turns out to have faked his death. The man knew where Rath would be shooting from and with what weapon, so he wore a vest capable of stopping the bullet. A bulletproof glass divider in a taxi cab later provides a realistic Gunpoint Banter moment.
  • In Lucky Number Slevin, Lindsey appears to have been shot and killed by Goodkat, but it turns out she knew he was coming for her, and was wearing a bullet proof vest and a couple of blood packs for protection. Justified, in that Goodkat thought she would be unprotected and was using relatively small calibre ammunition, and in that Lindsey was very, very sore afterwards.
  • Shooter. FBI agent Nick Memphis is shot by a sniper, then (after Bob Lee counter-snipes the shooter) gets up and removes a steel trauma plate from under his overcoat, saying "I think I broke a rib." Snipers aim for center of mass, especially at such ranges, so Memphis must have relied on the professional sniper being able to hit him accurately.
  • Running Scared (1986). One of the protagonists is going to retire and, getting nervous, starts wearing a bulletproof vest. There's a stigma against wearing vests in the force, so he claims that it's because he's got a bad back. His partner snarks him on it, until an accidental discharge causes him to go for a vest, whereupon the issuing sergeant says: "Let me guess, you've got a bad back too."
    • Also when the protagonists are driving a car which has been bulletproofed, the only problem is that they can't wind down the windows to shoot back at the Big Bad who's firing at them.
  • Gomorrah (2008). Children applying to join a Camorra clan are made to wear a heavy bulletproof vest which is then shot, to test their courage.
  • Played straight in District 9. Wikus is hit while infiltrating MNU. After he kills the offending shooter (leading to a Crowning Moment of Funny), he looks at the bullets left in his vest.
  • The final battle scene in Mr. and Mrs. Smith has both protagonists take multiple bursts from submachine guns and close-range rocket strikes and they suffer almost no ill effects whatsoever. These vests are borderline Pocket Protectors as neither character takes any hits to their arms or legs.
  • In the beginning of Predator 2, Danny Glover armors his car by hanging kevlar vests over the side windows.
  • In The Evil That Men Do Charles Bronson shoots a CIA man with a shotgun, only for him to get up again. This time Bronson shoots him in the face.
  • In Super Troopers, one of the troopers insists on testing a bulletproof jockstrap. While wearing it.

(After shooting Mac, knocking him on his back.)
Ramathorn: How do you feel?
Mac: Good enough...to fuck...your mother!

    • Da Chief shows up and claims that he invented this gag. He then takes the gun they were using and fires it to the side, not realizing that they are using live ammo.

Chief: You're a sick fucker, Mac.
Mac: Thanks, Chief!

  • Near the end of Death Wish 3, the gang leader had a bullet proof after Paul shot a full round of bullets at him. When he points the gun at the chief, Paul grabs the mini bazooka and fires at him.
  • Subverted in Epoch Evolution, where the mercenary leader shoots Tower twice in the stomach. When asked about the bullets, he replies that his vest only stopped one. Realizing that they won't be able to get him medical attention, Tower asks to be read The Bible one last time. He dies from bleeding a few minutes later.
  • The Avengers 1998. After Mrs. Peel's clone shoots him, Steed reveals that his Trubshaw waistcoat is bulletproof.
  • Lampshaded in Dumb and Dumber when Harry is shot by the villain, gets up and reveals the vest, and Lloyd immediately asks "What if he shot you in the face?" The cops blithely respond that that was a risk they were willing to take.
  • In In the Line of Fire, Frank takes a bullet for the President, but survives as he was wearing a bulletproof vest. However, he does get a few cracked ribs.
  • Goldfinger. When Bond is at Q Branch a man wearing an overcoat is shot with a machine gun. He opens the overcoat, revealing a bulletproof vest - it was being tested under fire, as it were.
  • In The Devil's Rejects opening shootout scene, Sheriff Wydell takes either a shot from a rifle, shotgun, or revolver to his vest outside his uniform. It merely knocks him back slightly. He looks pissed, shakes it off and keeps up with his assault. Some of the Fireflys themselves wear homemade full body armor out of sheets of metal, complete with helmet. This might be based on the historical Kelly Gang's homemeade armor.
  • Several characters in The Adventures of Pluto Nash wear bulletproof undershirts under their clothing. These include Pluto himself, the robot Bruno, and Rex Crater.
  • V in V for Vendetta wears an armor plate under his clothing when confronting Creedy and his men. He lets them unload their clips in him and then proceeds to slaughter them all while they're reloading with his knives. However, it is revealed that some of the bullets did penetrate the armor, and he dies not long after.
  • The cops at the beginning of The One wear body armor that appears to be impenetrable to small arms. The first slo-mo scene shows Jet Li's character picking up a cop and using him as a Bulletproof Human Shield against the other cops firing rifles at full auto with all bullets bouncing off his back armor. The cop is shown to be hurt (with all the impacts still doing plenty of internal damage) but alive. Their helmet visors, though, aren't that strong. This is quite obviously not our universe, though (the guns have more electronics in them and Gore is the president).
  • In the Richie Rich movie, one of Professor Keenbean's inventions is a spray that makes clothes bulletproof (not to mention stain-proof and waterproof). Which comes in handy for Richie when the Big Bad tries to shoot him near the end of the film.
  • Raw Deal. A mafia hit squad decides to murder a rival mob boss by running their car off the road. When Arnold Schwarzenegger (playing an undercover cop posing as a Professional Killer) points out the limo is heavier than their vehicle, the leader replies: "Not if you shoot the driver." Cue an Oh Crap moment when the bullets are seen bouncing off window glass marked BULLET RESISTANT.
  • in Saving Private Ryan, a soldier's helmet is grazed by a bullet, he takes it off to gape at the hole... and gets a second bullet in the forehead. To be fair, though, the second bullet would have killed him anyway, seeing as how WWII (and modern) helmets primarily protected against fragmentation.
  • Subverted in Three Days of the Condor. A CIA clerk who is a friend of the protagonist Turner is asked to help bring him in for debriefing and is issued a bulletproof vest "just in case". In reality the meeting is a set-up to kill Turner—when it goes wrong the wounded killer aims carefully and shoots the clerk in the throat.
  • In the remake of New Police Story, Jackie Chan's character takes a gunshot point-blank to the chest while negotiating with a hostage taker, and is able to take the guy down immediately after. Subverted immediately after, in which it's indicated that he was lucky he was wearing two bullet proof vests or the first wouldn't have protected him at that range.


  • In Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, Butler is shot point-blank while wearing a Kevlar vest. He dies. But he gets better. Justified, since as Artemis' bodyguard he has to be constantly prepared for danger. Also, the I printed on the inside (As in FBI) imprints on his chest.
    • And played straight in a new way, as saving him caused the Kevlar fibers from the vest end up replicated through his chest - which are immediately pointed out by the medic to provide practically no value as armor, and will in fact for the rest of Butler's life permanently hamper his breathing and movement.
  • In a couple of Urban Fantasy Mercedes Lackey books, the hero has not just a vest, but a bodysuit made out of dragon scales. These resist cutting, will stop bullets, and also have some protection against magic, but he can still be crushed through them.
  • Snow Crash. Hiro Protagonist has a full set of motorbike "leathers" made of Arachnofiber, which appears to be Kevlar In Space. While wearing them, he is hit in the back by a volley of small arms fire, which he describes as like being massaged with several ball-peen hammers. And, of course, there is Raven, whose monomolecular-edged glass daggers and spears slice right through kevlar armor.
    • Spider silk is impressive stuff. Bullet proof vests woven from almost any sort of silk-like material would put steel and kevlar to shame... but such materials are still totally impractical to make in bulk at the moment.
  • Able Team (the 1980's Heroes-R-Us spin-off of The Executioner) wore kevlar vests with a steel trauma plate insert, which came in useful when Carl Lyons got shot at point-blank range with an AKA-47 in Cairo, leading to quips that he'd been shot in the head, and the terrorists had better issue armor-piercing ammo when 'The Ironman' came around.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Warhammer 40,000 Ciaphas Cain novel For The Emperor, Gunner Ferik Jurgen proves that imperial guard armor is not as useless as some people say: His helmet allows him to survive a bolter[1] shot to the head, though it's made clear that a second shot would have killed him (the helmet is destroyed). Granted, it was stormtrooper Carapace armor, not standard-issue Flak armor.
  • In the Adam Hall spy novel Quiller's Run the protagonist runs into a problem when he wears an anti-knife vest to a confrontation with a villainess who, up till now, has used knives—only she pulls out a revolver and blasts him six times in the chest. Fortunately the vest still stops the bullets.
  • In the Harry Turtledove Alternate History novel The Guns of the South a Confederate soldier is surprised when one of the time travellers survives a musket ball to the chest because of what he calls a 'flak jacket'.
  • Bubushka's life is saved twice by the bulletproof corset she wears under in her clothes in the Young Bond novel By Royal Command.
  • In the Alex Rider book Snakehead, Ash reveals that his entire team was wearing bulletproof vests, and the mission completely went wrong because when Yassen shot him in the chest, he got back up. Yassen, being smarter than the average bear, then proceeds to shoot the rest of the team in the head. And then Ask screwed up the mission even more.
  • Harry Dresden has his duster enchanted to be very resilient, to the point where the only thing that has penetrated it after enchantment is a shot from a .50 caliber rifle. In an aversion, the readers found out that his duster was enchanted pretty early in the book. Played straight with Murphy's reaction to the shot, however.
    • Butters is luckily wearing a conventional vest when he's shot in Changes.
    • Murphy, a professional Action Girl, never forgets to wear her west when it's time to do some ass kicking. As Aftermath revealed, working with Dresden has convinced her to also let Charity Carpenter (wife of a modern-day Paladin) reinforce her vest with chainmail to deflect bladed weapons.
    • Speaking of Ms. Carpenter, in Death Masks, there's some discussion between her husband Michael and fellow Knight of the Cross Sanya, about the latter's use of a Kevlar tactical vest and an AK47, and the former relying on his platemail and sword exclusively. Later on, Michael takes several bullets to the chest and falls out of sight, apparently dead. Later on, he explains that Charity had gone the extra mile on his armor.

Michael: My faith protects me. My Kevlar helps.

    • In Small Favor, Michael is permanently put out of commission when someone shoots him in the lower back and side from below, and his reinforced Kevlar vest keeps the bullets from simply exiting on the other side, causing what the medical help estimated to be far more damage than if he hadn't been wearing a vest in the first place. When Jim Butcher plays with a trope, he plays hard.
  • Burke from Andrew Vachss's books often wears Kevlar, but consistently notes that it still hurts to be shot.
  • One character in Battle Royale gets one of these instead of a weapon, and survives pretty well through Faking the Dead and the use of a belt as an improvised weapon. Then the main villain turns his head into "a bowl of sauce" with a machine gun and takes the vest for himself.
  • Matthew Reilly usually Averts this trope by having most characters wear body armor that don't provide complete protection (bullets mostly go through it). It still gets played straight with the Black Knight's utility vests.
  • A high-tech version of the bulletproof vest was a plot point in Lois McMaster Bujold's Mirror Dance. There's a brief rundown of all the different types of armor available to combat soldiers of the day, from neural netting which protects against energy weapons to plasma mirror shields. Unfortunately for Miles, the anti-ballistic chestplate he borrowed was not rated for anti-personnel grenades....
  • Toward the end of one of the Retief books, Retief's immediate boss Magnan shows up because Retief had notified him of corruption among certain Terran officials. One of the criminals pulls a needler; Magnan demands his surrender, and the man instead shoots. Magnan glances down at the needles sticking out of his chest and sniffs, "I had a feeling this chest armor might be useful in dealing with a bounder of your stripe."
  • In the Dick Francis book Wild Horses the protagonist attempts to protect himself from knife attacks by wearing a jockey's body armor (apparently plastic slabs in some kind of fabric vest) and later by having a doctor make him a removable body cast, complete with throat protection. He survives the attacks, but just barely.
  • Honor Harrington has to wear specially reinforced clothing because her Sphynxian Treecat tends to ride around on her shoulders, using his rather long and sharp claws to maintain his grip. The special fabric, while strong, won't stop a Pulser Dart, the standard ammo used in modern sidearms in that universe (At least, not in anything above the smallest calibers). However, for several of the earlier books, Pulsers are not common weapons on the planet Grayson, and the clothing turns out to be at least moderately bullet resistant when an assassin attempts to kill her—and it helped that the bullets were slowed down by someone else's body before they hit her. She still looks like hell when she makes it to a very important meeting soon after, but that has slightly more to do with her being in an aircar crash before she was shot.
    • In addition, various more robust forms of armor are seen, ranging from the protective skinsuits to Powered Armor, and also including robust, low-tech "clamshell" torso armor.
  • A few characters wear vests in Time Scout. It's a realistic portrayal in that only one character actually gets shot wearing them and when he does, it's with a handgun, and the force knocks him down and stuns him.
  • The nightsilk garments of the Corean Chronicles series is impact resistant when worn in a skintight outfit, making a body stocking of this material effectively a set of bulletproof underwear. The material is very expensive though, so the reason the hero of the first trilogy can afford to wear it constantly is because his family manufactures it.
  • Fate/Zero revealed that, in the Nasuverse, Church Executioners wear bullet proof priest robes.

Live-Action TV

  • Rarely seen on Blue Bloods, but whenever Danny wears a vest, it's because he expects trouble, and ESU is right behind him.
  • Subverted in the finale of season six of Homicide: Life on the Street, in which Det Bayliss is shot through his vest.
    • Subverted earlier, when Detectives Bolander, Felton, and Howard were all seriously wounded despite their vests, by an insane gun-nut conspiracy theorist who "probably used Teflon bullets".
    • In the non-fiction book on which the series is based, one of the detectives was wounded in the line of duty when he was shot through his department issue vest.
  • Leo McCarthy from FX the Series stated that a bulletproof vest would not help against the sniper that he's trying to catch.
  • Season two of Alias, when Jack, Irina and Sydney were in Kashmir. Jack is shot, is knocked to the ground. It turns out he was wearing a bulletproof vest, but he is on top of a landmine.
  • A very unusual subversion in the Jonathan Creek episode "The Coonskin Cap", in which the police all wear bulletproof vests to persue an armed killer, only for one officer to be strangled in an empty room. Jonathan eventually realises she was strangled by a device built into the vest itself.
  • In Law and Order, the featured detectives usually don vests when they have time to prepare for a raid, or a similar dangerous situation on the job.
    • The series also subverts it in an episode where a defective military vest that failed to protect its user is a key plot point.
  • In Twin Peaks, Agent Cooper's life is saved by a bullet-proof vest, although he is wounded by one of the bullets because he had pulled the vest up to get at a wood-tick. He describes the experience as "the sensation of having three bowling-balls dropped onto your chest from a height of about nine feet."
  • CSI: Miami features Calleigh getting shot and us discovering that she was wearing a (rather low-cut) vest, after the obligatory "Is she dead?" moment.
    • CSI New York has featured Stella Bonasera's low-cut vest on a number of occasions.
    • The New York show also had an interesting play with this. In the episode after making shippers' dreams come true by marrying Lindsay, Danny Messer forgets his vest and arrives at a crime scene. Mac and Flack, knowing the suspect is present and has a gun, armour up and go inside, telling Danny to stay by the SUV. There is the sound of gunfire. Danny draws his weapon and goes inside. He exchanges fire with the suspect- and does not get hit. In fact, he mortally wounds the suspect and gets a dying confession.
  • Kind of subverted in Walker, Texas Ranger, where any main character who wears a bulletproof vest will take the shot, recoil, then continue, while any secondary character or redshirt will either have the round penetrate the vest anyway via "cop killer" armor piercing bullets or just get shot in the head instead.
    • Played straight (and more realistically) in the last episode of the Chairman arc, when Trivette actually goes down from a shot to the chest. After about a minute of appearing to be dead, he manages to recover and get up. Body armor to the rescue!
  • Subverted in cop show High Incident, in which a police officer is fatally shot in the chest with a 9mm pistol, despite wearing a vest. Another officer later examines the vest and comments on its futility.
  • Chuck: Bryce shoots Chuck, who's wearing a bulletproof vest. It makes sense, since Chuck is an important government resource, but the viewer doesn't know about the vest until afterwards. A semi-subversion, since Chuck complains that it still hurts. Something of an Unspoken Plan Guarantee; Bryce asks Chuck "Are you wearing a vest?" but he says it in Klingon.
  • Firefly plays this one just about to the letter. During a gunfight in the pilot the second in command goes down hard from what looks to be a shotgun blast and is out for awhile, but later comes to and manages to shoot a fleeing villain. As she's getting up she grunts "Armor's dented" but shows no ill effects and is able to ride a horse back to their ship just fine.
    • The Big Damn Movie plays with this later on. When Mal confronts the Operative, the Operative tells him that he's unarmed. Mal shoots him, turns around to leave, and is jumped from behind. The Operative is of course wearing full body armor; he is not a moron.
  • NCIS uses this, one hopes, in combination with a big ol' pack of fake blood, to convince a suspectedly traitorous agent that a militia leader is well and truly serious. But only the most bastardly of writers would dare to kill off Leroy Jethro Gibbs in so ignominious a fashion. Though admittedly, it was shocking.
    • NCIS also toys with this trope in the season 2 finale when Kate takes a bullet for Gibbs, protected by her bulletproof vest. The characters spend some time joking about it, until Kate is shot in the head.
  • Stargate SG-1 In "Smoke and Mirrors," when Senator Kinsey is shot by a sniper. Anticipating the attack, he was wearing a bulletproof vest that saved his life... though the shot still dropped him like a sack of hammers, and necessitated that he be hospitalized and operated upon.
    • "Heroes Part 1" had Sgt. Siler demonstrate new body armor made to resist Jaffa weapons (the regular sort don't- in fact making it worse). A test shot blasts him clear off his feet and lightly sets him on fire, but he's able to get back up with help. The new armor saves Col. O'Neill when he's shot later on, but he still gets knocked out, and has to spend quite some time in the infirmary afterward.
    • This becomes a major plot point when Anubis' Kull Warriors are introduced. Their armor disperses energy blasts and is also made of a kevlar-like material to stop ballistics. In order to capture one, the SGC resorts to tranquilizer guns, on the logic that the darts will penetrate between the fibers.
    • Another episode plays with it, where toward the end O'Neill, who was clearly wearing a vest, is shot in the arm to prevent him from capturing an escaped Goa'uld. Carter reaches him, and O'Neill groans that next time, he wants sleeves on his bullet proof vest.
    • In the episode Prometheus Unbound, Daniel attempts to shoot a super-soldier in the back. He shoots once, nothing happens. After an uncomfortable pause he shoots again. Still nothing! Then the soldier (who is in fact Vala mal Doran) shoots him and he immediately collapses swearing.
    • Inverted in later seasons. During Earth-based operations, strike teams often wore kevlar vests over their shirts instead of hiding them. Naturally, they never get shot (with bullets, anyway - and kevlar is useless against zat'n'ktel).
  • Right after Charlotte is introduced in the Lost episode "Confirmed Dead," Ben shoots her. Because Anyone Can Die, the audience believes she's dead, but then it turns out she was wearing a vest. A few lines are dedicated to her resulting pain and nausea.
    • Later, in "There's No Place Like Home," Richard shoots Keamy several times at close range, and Keamy appears dead, but it turns out his body armor saved his life.
      • He was still pretty fucked up by it, whereas Charlotte is no worse for wear.
  • Knife variant: In the second season The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "Alexander the Greater Affair, Part II", the titular villain Alexander moves to complete his plot by stabbing the premier of an Asian country at a diplomatic reception, the first step in a coup attempt. The premier, knife sticking in his chest, falls off the dais onto a cart and cake as the U.N.C.L.E. agents rush into the room to apprehend Alexander. It is then that the premier rises from the cart, and reveals that, having been warned of the murder attempt, he was wearing body armor that saved him.
  • Subverted in The Shield, when Shane is shot through a door during a raid, while wearing a kevlar vest. He is knocked down by the impact, and sustains heavy bruising from the impact (it's noted in the show that the door slowed down the bullet, which prevented him from sustaining broken ribs on top of the bruising).
  • In an early episode of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, Commander Doggie "Boss" Kruger is shot right as he returns home from an off-world Deka meeting by Monster of the Week Gigantes (AKA Deka Blue's old friend Vino), immediately after Hoji realizes what Gigantes was up to. Fortunately, he was wearing a Bulletproof Vest and survived little less for wear (it's implied that Hoji warned Swam about Gigantes and she alerted Doggie just in time), though considering how he's shown to be Made of Iron in later episodes, one wonders if he really needed it...
  • One episode in True Blue had two criminals rob a bank wearing full body armor, requiring the police forces to use a high-powered rifle to take down one of the criminals.
  • The sequence in 24 where Jack was forced to shoot Nina. She had fortunately been given a bulletproof vest before hand. Tony Almeida's line asking why this had happened (when he saw the giving on CCTV) was one that many a fan would ask when she was revealed to be The Mole. She did receive some bad bruising from being shot, though, giving the writers a reason for her to examine herself and thus a Lingerie Scene. In addition, Jack was shot while wearing a vest in season four, where he and Secretary Of Defense James Heller are trapped behind a vehicle while terrorists are shooting at them. Once hit (in the shoulder), Jack exclaims that he's fine, and then keeps shooting.
    • Subverted in Season 8. Jack is shot by an assault rifle while wearing a bullet-proof vest. The impact knocks him down, and temporarily unconscious. Renee Walker and a field medic are both worried that it may have broken a few ribs, or even collapsed a lung. Whether or not it did, Jack insists that he's "fine".
  • An episode of Crossing Jordan subverts the vest's effectiveness. A cop died when he got shot. The bullet bounced around inside his body because it couldn't penetrate the vest.
  • Averted in Flashpoint: Jules gets shot with by a sniper, and nearly dies. Averted again in the Season 3 finale, when Ed is shot several times while wearing a vest and has to be hospitalized.
    • Played straight in the same show, in the episode First in Line, Lou is shot by the subject, and the bullet does little more than make him sit out the rest of the episode.
  • The X-Files. Mulder is infiltrating a secret government lab when he's spotted by the Gray-Haired Man who opens fire on him, but the bullets are stopped by a bullet-resistant glass door. However the Gray-Haired Man contines to fire, blasting a hole in the glass and them shooting through that—fortunately Mulder is able to get through the next door in time.
    • In "Young At Heart" Scully is shot by a criminal during a sting operation, but she's saved by a hidden vest.
  • Mocked on Reno 911!. The ladies are all issued new vests in the form of Kevlar corsets. Pleased with the amount of attention they're getting, they just pin their badge to the vest itself and go out on patrol. They're loving it until, on a drunken dare, Junior shoots at Kimball and it goes right through the vest like butter.
    • Parodied another time where the department is testing new bulletproof vests. Suffice it to say, the shot landed elsewhere.
  • Private Schulz. On his first mission, Schulz's commanding officer proudly boasts that their car is completely bulletproof, which comes in useful later on when British agents start shooting at them...except the man with the car keys gets killed outside the car, preventing them from driving away. Fortunately ex-con Schulz knows how to hot-wire the vehicle.
  • On The Bridge Billy, a police officer, is wearing her vest when doing a routine traffic stop and gets shot with a shotgun to the chest at close range. She survives that but the pellets the vest did not stop did some serious damage and she is in critical condition in the hospital for the rest of the season.
  • Richard Castle has one, as do the NYPD cops he hangs out with, but nobody's been shot while wearing one. Not yet anyway.
    • When Beckett says he doesn't have a vest, Castle breaks his out - and it says "writer" where the cops' say "police." It's actually returned several times!
  • Subverted in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Gets Jury Duty". The two FBI agents escorting the captured drug dealer are shot by his fiance, who was on the jury as a way to free him. Both are saved by their bullet-proof vests, but are left incapacitated from the impact of the gunshots.
  • Early in one episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, one of Steve Austin's friends had developed a vest of new design and asked Austin to give it a try. The new design proved its worth later in the episode when a heavy-machine-gun burst at pointblank range knocked Steve down but didn't penetrate. He made a point of murmuring a "Thanks" directed at the inventor.
  • The District: Sgt Brander wears one when he's shot by a panicked driver during a routine traffic stop, due to a rapist Impersonating an Officer in the episode. Unlike many shows, though, they skip the part about ripping open the outer shirt to reveal the vest, which is only mentioned after the fact in a "he would've been dead if..." comment.
  • In Family Matters, the bulletproof vest which Eddie wears during his beginnings as a police officer had its abilities accurately portrayed.
  • In the third season of Farscape, it's revealed that Scorpius, on top of being Made of Iron, wears body armour under his gimp suit. This leads to a rather interesting scene in which Crichton uses him as an invincible human shield while trading smartass remarks with him:

That's some damn nice set of body armour! Does that come in blue?

  • Used commonly and (more or less) sensibly in Bones. Expect the characters to break them out whenever Booth is raiding something.
  • In The Lost Room miniseries, the Coat is now shown to have any special powers. However, since it's an Object and is, therefore, indestructible, it can be used as a bulletproof vest, although it still hurts like hell, and you can probably still die from internal bleeding. After all, it does nothing to spread the impact of the bullet.
  • Played With in the Smallville episode Shield. Clark catches a bullet just before it can hit Cat Grant, then proceeds to imbed it into her vest while pretending to tackle her to the ground, allowing him to save her life without revealing his superpowers.
  • Rookie Blue has two incidents where officers wearing vests are shot, leaving bruising and broken ribs. Hence played fairly realistically.
  • Depicted very realistically in Person of Interest.
  • A rare lapse of realism in Forbrydelsen in the second-season finale. Lund gets shot three times at point-blank range while faking Exposition Victim to bait the murderer, and five minutes later is mobile enough to knock them out from behind.
  • Raylan gets one in the vest in an early episode of Justified. He's in some pain, but still manages to gun down the shooter. Afterwards he's coughing up blood.
  • MacGyver: In "The Coltons" we learn that both Frank and Jesse wear these: a fact that saves their lives.
  • The Criminal Minds team suit up in Kevlar vests Once an Episode.
  • Subverted in Lost. Ben shoots Charlotte and she is saved by her vest. Despite this, she is knocked unconscious, suffers extreme injuries from the impact and is in a lot of pain from getting hit with a bullet.
  • The title character of the Korean drama Strong Girl Bong-soon makes use of a bulletproof vest in a manner almost exactly matching the first paragraph of the main text, after learning that the criminal she's chasing has purchased a Soviet-era sniper rifle.


  • A bulletproof vest is one of 50 Cent's signature pieces of clothing. Since he based his entire schtick on surviving 9 gunshot wounds, it made sense. Reportedly, the men that murdered Jam Master Jay were actually looking for him, and also supposedly the first runs of G-Unit clothing only came in XXL specifically so they could be worn over the top of the vest.

Tabletop Games

  • The Imperial Guard of Warhammer 40,000 come standard with flak jackets or higher-quality "carapace" armor. These work decently against lasweapons or autoguns, but are practically useless against a good bolter (.75 Caliber AP-HE rockets), let alone the more exotic weapons employed by alien species. However, it's important to note that this flak armour isn't some wussy vest and helmet... the whole uniform blocks bullets.
    • Players prefer to call them 'T-shirts', to match the lasgun's 'Flashlight'. That's Warhammer 40k for ya: stuff the Spetznaz would die for is considered bottom-rung...
    • It gets better in RPG (Dark Heresy / Rogue Trader / Only War). By the stats, a full suit of Flak Armor (gauntlets, pauldrons, helmet, chest/back/abdomen, greaves, and boots) weighs 11 kg, basic vest+helmet kit 7 kg. "T-shirt" stops (weakens down to non-injuring annoyance) 1/2 of hits from SMG ("autopistol") or laspistol, 1/3 of hits from assault rifle ("autogun") or lasgun, and significantly weakens whatever does get through. It's useless against armor-piercing bullets, protects adequately from knife slashes (something at which modern light armor is not very good) and even somewhat helps against mono knives; it works well against shrapnel (blast damage that isn't a direct hit) - an incoming frag grenade is very likely to leave typical conscripted cannon fodder in full flak armor lightly injured, rather than permanently maimed or dying like half of those without it. It's still considered one of the weakest armors in 40k with its users fairly well-known for dying in droves. Grimdark indeed.
      • Mesh armour (both alien originals and human-made imitation) is equal to or slightly better than Flak, but weighs around 2 kg for a full-body suit +0.5 for cowl; it's also expensive and hard to get without the right connections, but rich Imperial folk often wear it under clothes. Carapace armour is heavier and a little stronger (and about equally hard to get) - full suits are mostly reserved to Stormtroopers and other elites, but a carapace chest plate is easily added to flak, and this even became standard issue for some Guard units. Powered Armour finally means pretty much nothing short of anti-vehicle rounds can touch you - if you can get your hands on a set (which aside of ultra-elite troops and Inquisition is feasible almost exclusively for Imperial nobles such as Rogue Traders) and are not too distraught about the civilian capacitors only lasting for between one and five hours of operation...
  • Body armour in Shadowrun just gives you a better chance of shrugging off injury, rather than actually preventing damage per se. Unless one has a ridiculously high Body attribute (easily gained by, say, being a Troll), just one layer of ballistic armour won't cut it against anything above light pistol fire. But that's civilian- and security-grade armour. Military-grade armour makes one totally immune to anything of too low a penetrating power, but still does not save one against being shot with an Assault Cannon set to full-auto.
    • Very little protects you against Assault Cannons. Be happy that only one model has a semi auto or full auto mode, and you have to beat a very skilled military unit to get one without lots of nuyen.
  • The bullet proof vests available in GURPS do not inspire confidence, but they can make the difference between dead and dying.
  • Flak vests (and flak helmets, jackets, pants, and suits in the expanded 2nd and 3rd editions) are the most widely available armor in the Mechwarrior tabletop role playing game and are actually reasonably useful against most of the common weapons a player character might face, such as slugthrower pistols and melee weapons. Once lasers and other exotic weapons come into play (particularly flamers and heavy needlers, basic flak armor generally falls by the wayside for something sturdier.

Video Games

  • In F.E.A.R., the player can pick up protective helmets and vests which not only protect him from pistol rounds, but also from rifled rounds, shotgun blasts, explosives and laser guns! However, melee attacks still do a great deal of damage.
  • In Goldeneye, James Bond 007: Nightfire, Perfect Dark, Time Splitters, and Command & Conquer: Renegade you can pick up a bulletproof vest that essentially acts as a second health bar. Headshots still hurt, though.
    • Perfect Dark uses an energy shield that has the same effect though, except that it does block head shots.
  • Similarly, XIII lets you and other characters wear vests and helmets to soak up extra damage. If you shoot an armored opponent to death, their armor will disintegrate, so sneaking up to take them down from behind is the best way to loot pristine armor.
  • Army Men series, Sarge can pick up "flak jackets", which take up an equipment slot and reduce damage until destroyed. Though in real life, "flak jackets" were too bulky for regular troops.
    • Not an issue, as Army Men is about the little green plastic kind of army men (Who shoot the little tan, red, and blue plastic kind of army men) and never pretends to be any more accurate about details than a toy would be.
  • The game Postal 2 has Kevlar and Ceramic Armor, which reduce damage until destroyed.
  • The Jagged Alliance games come with a range of body armour, helmets and, in Jagged Alliance 2, armoured trousers, as well as handy chemicals with which to reinforce them. These range from the common or garden flak jacket and steel helmet, which is about as effective as putting on an extra T-shirt, to full-body Spectra, which will let you survive a point-blank burst from an M16 with only multiple flesh wounds (and sudden severe exhaustion on account of having the wind knocked out of you). There's also a kevlar-reinforced leather biker jacket, which is the only body armour upgrade one character will agree to wear.
    • Jagged Alliance 2 also allows various attachments to armour like knee protectors and armour plate inserts. Full SWAT gear with inserts and no damage gives an insane amount of damage resistance that can make non-armour-piercing rounds do 0 damage if they hit. You don't even want to know how much damage the EOD Suits can resist. Really.
  • All the Grand Theft Auto games have body armor that act as a second health bar. Depending on the game, it won't protect you from drowning, hunger, car explosions (while inside them) and high falls.
  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory actually plays this quite realistically; if Sam triggers two or more alarms, guards will don body armor and helmets. While the armor is relatively effective against his rifle and renders his pistol practically useless except for headshots below the helmets' brims, his knife goes straight through their armor, and his nonlethal unarmed attacks, which aim for the base of the skull or nose, still knock enemies unconscious.
  • Just like in real life, kevlar armors in Counter-Strike do little more than increasing your firefight life expectancy from 2 seconds to 3 seconds. Kevlar helmets, meanwhile, are only effective against pistols and maybe against 5.56 mm rifles.
  • In the X-COM games unarmoured soldiers will die with disgusting ease. Personal Armour and even Power Armour is available but by the time it's in use, most aliens are packing weapons which will still inflict lethal damage no matter how heavy the armour, and mobile nightmare objects the Chryssalids ignore armour anyway.
    • Primarily because the RNG is horrible/evil, and your soldiers can take up to 200% of the listed damage shown in the UFOpaedia. On the other hand, they can also take 0% of the listed damage, depending on what the RNG rolls. So your troopers can literally survive a point blank headshot without taking a single point of damage. Sometimes, the RNG only ever rolls 200s or 0s. This can lead to interesting situations where a soldier survives half a dozen heavy plasma shots only to get pinged to death by a plasma pistol shot the next turn.
    • Apocalypse, the third game in the series, breaks from the mold of the previous two by giving your characters armor at the beginning of the game, rather than forcing you to send your troops into battle wearing cloth jumpsuits. However, the armor still isn't very effective: the aliens will start the game firing Brainsuckers at your troops, which are completely unfazed by armor, and spitting acid, which the armor isn't effective against. In addition, the armor either slows soldiers down (standard Marsec armor), or is prohibitively expensive while being barely more protective (flying armor).
  • Syphon Filter plays this fairly realistically. The player always comes equipped with a flak jacket which will completely protect you from bullets until destroyed, with headshots being the only exception. Armored enemies, on the other hand, can be damaged by shots to the extremities, and can be taken down with headshots. This is usually how you want to kill them, since you can take their flak jackets to restore your armor.
    • The final boss of the second game is equipped with Nigh Invulnerable full body armor that is apparently impervious to even grenade blasts and doesn't seem to slow him down (impossible).
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2 Raiden's sword easily damages Solidus Snake through his armored suit, although the sword is, itself, made of Phlebotinum. Metal Gear Solid 4 gives Raiden some karmic payback; the non-metal parts of his armor don't stop Vamp's blades. Minutes before is a subversion, if a thin one; Old Snake, unseen by the enemy, takes the time to line up a perfect shot with his M4 on Vamp's un-armored head. His shot hits dead-center in the forehead, but Vamp, effectively immortal, spins around once as a startled reaction to the momentum, lands on one knee, catches his cell phone from falling to finish talking, gives his troops an order, and then informs them he'll be "taking a nap" before falling over dead. He re-animates shortly thereafter.
  • A good number of Mega Man X games feature body armor that gives 50% damage reduction, but not invincibility. It started in the X series, and in some games gave a new weapon, but later spread out into the other series.
  • The Rainbow Six franchise plays the bullet proof vest trope fairly realistically, even in the more action oriented games, such as Vegas. Light body armor will not save a player from most types of gunfire, and armor that can reliably stop bullets is bulky and slows the wearer down.
  • A certain type of soldier in Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold wears a bullet-proof vest; the machine-gun-like guns are the only weapons that can hurt them. And even then, the first burst only knocks them down, and you have to wait until they get up to finish them off. Makes you wonder what Blake's wearing...
  • Huge, heavy, and customized battle armor is worn by both Rios and Salem in Army of Two.
    • Which also includes steel masks to protect the face.
  • Nobody in Yo-Jin-Bo wears armor, except for Mon-Mon, who wears chain mail under his clothes. He uses it to survive several kunai in the back.
  • Resident Evil - Rebecca Chambers wears one which effectively stops a bullet, but is otherwise realistically useless against the monster slashing slaws. The fifth game plays with this by allowing different types of armor for gunshots and knife attacks.
  • 7.62 High Calibre has several types of armor and helmets available. The first one available, the M200 Concealable Vest, is stated as being suitable for stopping small caliber ammunition. Unfortunately, 50% of the bandits you're likely to run across are carrying sawed-off Mosin Nagants, which fire a (admittedly slower velocity) 7.62mm rifle round, meaning the vest is almost worthless. Later vests are slightly better at stopping higher caliber ammunition, and can include ceramic or titanium inserts for better protection (ceramic is stronger, but breaks after a few shots, while titanium is weaker, but more durable). There's also a game setting that can be toggled on so that vests actually provide full body protection. Otherwise, in addition to considering how heavy and protective a vest is, you also have to take into account just how much of your body that vest actually covers.
  • In Alpha Protocol, bulletproof vests are generic sources of Hit Points, which also block knives and fists and explosions. You can also convince Ronald Sung to wear a bulletproof vest if you uncover a plan to assassinate him. Doing so will save him from being killed by a sniper with a high-powered rifle, which makes one wonder just how much kevlar was in that vest.
  • The Godfather 2 has bulletproof vests as a reward for completing the diamond smuggling crime ring. They only reduce damage and don't guard the head or limbs.
  • SWAT 4 has you and your team wear light Kevlar vests and helmets by default, and the expansion pack allows you to use Heavy or even no armor in multiplayer. Suspects get armor too in some missions, but due to the game being big on realism, said body armors are only marginally effective in most situations.
    • The user modification Elite Force revamps the base game body armor system to be more punishing if you're not equipped with armor-piercing rounds. Heavy ceramic armor is now virtually immune to handgun ammunition but is appropriately heavy and bulky.
  • ARMA III is the first game in the franchise to offer body armor simulation, which controversially allows both friendly and hostile soldiers to withstand considerably more damage than they could in the mostly one-shot-to-kill Arma II.
    • Modmakers have dramatically augmented this system and created numerous user modifications with various flavors of "realism".


  • Riff from Sluggy Freelance wears one during the "Dangerous Days" arc. Since he took the blast from a shotgun, however, it still hurts like hell.
    • Later on there's a bit of discussion about the difference between "bullet proof" and "knife proof" vests.
  • Nearly all the soldiers, mercenaries, and guards in Cry Havoc wear body armor, most of it military grade plate armor. It also becomes a plot point when Freyja develops a 'formula' for armor that adapts to changes in its wearers physiology (an important issue for werewolves).

Web Original

  • Subverted for the most part in Survival of the Fittest; while bullet proof vests appear rather often they tend to be treated very realistically, and indeed, in many instances have been no use at all - the foe of the vest's owner just aims for the head for the most part or the vest just has no effect. However, this is also played straight in the case of Shannon McLocke, who takes a close range shotgun blast to the chest and gets up with barely a scratch. Bobby Jacks also takes a carbine round to the chest and gets up relatively unharmed a minute or two later in v3, but the carbine used weak enough ammunition for this to be justified.
  • In The Return Darkstar's Brood are eventually convinced to replace their Stripperiffic outfits with more sensible ones with bullet proofing.
  • Subverted in a Cheat Commandos toon, where Gunhaver shoots Flashfight playfully, falsely believing that the latter is wearing a bulletproof vest that they were playing around with at the beginning of the toon.

Western Animation

  • Who could forget Duck Dodgers' Disintegration-Proof Vest from the Looney Tunes classic Duck Dodgers in the 24th-1/2 Century? It can survive a blast from a Martian disintegrating pistol very well - which is more than can be said for the wearer. (Good thing the Eager Young Space Cadet had a reintegrating gun handy.)
  • Daffy Duck advertises one in the Looney Tunes episode The Stupor Salesman adding, "Guaranteed to get your money back if it fails to work!"
  • Parodied in Robot Chicken, where in the spoof of Police Academy and X-Men movies, one of the graduates shoots himself in the head after Xavier's introduction of the bulletproof uniforms. After which, Xavier says "Of course, they can only protect the parts of you that are covered."
  • In The Simpsons episode "The Monkey Suit" Homer is shown being allowed to wear one of these and repeatedly shoot himself for the fun of it at a weapons exhibit at the local museum.
  • In Futurama, in Bender's Big Score, the lead nudist scammer wears a platinum doom-proof vest. So that's what the purple thing he was wearing was. Afterwards he regrets he hadn't been wearing doom-proof pants too.
    • Futurama also has an odd moment when Fry becomes a cop and tries to foil Bender stealing the Maltese Liquor. The robot that predicted the robbery notes that it was a trap - then Bender gets shot by Fry accidently when his shot ricochets off the safe, and the predictor robot shoots Fry. However, it's really a sting to catch the predictor robot, since Fry reveals he's wearing a bulletproof vest, and Bender - opens his door to show his bulletproof vest with a bullet lodged in it on a clothes hanger.
  • In American Dad, Stan has to wear braces to prevent teeth grinding, making him sound like a geek. His coworkers plant a "Shoot Me" sign on him, and then shoot at him.

Stan: Oh, ha ha! Very funny guys! You're lucky I'm wearing my vest!!


Real Life

  • Modern military body armor:
    • U.S. soldiers in Iraq have reported being hit by rifle fire and not knowing they were hit, due to the modern heavy body armor they are wearing. Many injuries are due to explosives, which pierce the armor, or more often, damage parts of the body which are not protected. The force of the blast also is not reduced by much, which can cause brain damage when the brain is bruised against the skull.
    • The amount of American soldiers who were wounded instead of killed due to the effectiveness of their armor overwhelmed the capacity of military hospitals, leading to deplorable conditions in some. In one case that leaps to mind, a soldier lost both arms but survived three shots to the torso with just broken ribs.
    • The effectiveness of body armor is highly underestimated. As this article demonstrates, modern body armor can receive a full-contact grenade blast.
    • Many army medics in Iraq reported that soldiers who survived an IED blast would often have shrapnel injuries on the limbs that would stop in a very neat line where their body armor started.
    • The latest trend in body armor? Ballistic shorts which provide coverage to the groin area. This being intended to address a major problem for troops riding in vehicles that roll over landmines or IEDs. Various styles are being evaluated, including "ballistic boxers" to shorts made from more conventional body armor materials. Incredibly Lame Puns abound, obviously.
  • A primitive version of such a vest is reputed to have been used by tax-gatherers. It consisted of a plank of wood hanging under the clothes on their back, and apparently it was not unknown for them to go about their business with arrows sticking out of it.
  • Ned Kelly, outlaw and Australian Folk Hero, is famous for his standoff with the police with him and his gang dressed in body armor forged from plow parts. Unfortunately for the gang, they didn't armor their legs and only Ned survived to sit trial.
  • The infamous shootout in North Hollywood persisted because the two robbers were well-armored. Police, unable to penetrate their armor with their service pistols and shotguns, nonetheless put up great resistance without any loss of life. Then the SWAT team arrived. Like Ned Kelly above, these guys suffered from both a lack of mobility and leg protection, which is how they got cornered. Phillips eventually committed suicide (and was shot in the spine with a rifle) after his gun jammed and he was shot in the arm. Mătăsăreanu was crippled by gunfire to his legs and died before aid reached him.
  • People who make chainmail as a hobby can make good money not only by making costume-armor for Renaissance fairs but also selling mail vests to police officers looking for greater knife-protection than what their standard-issue body armor provides. However, according to research carried out by the British army in WW 1, chainmail will actually make a gunshot worse. It's not strong enough to stop a bullet and will actually fragment, carrying more shrapnel into the body, as well as making it hard to reach the wound for treatment. Additionally, any stabs that do get through the chainmail will drive part of the mail into the wound, which can easily lead to infection. Also, while high quality chainmail coupled with effective padding is effectively knife proof, lower grade chain is not.
    • Chainmail is also pretty heavy and cumbersome as it hangs from the shoulders. Thin steel panels are much lighter and provide comparable knife protection.
  • Silk armor:
    • Silk was used in various items of medieval armour, notably by the Samurai and the Mongol warriors. Though it wouldn't stop a blade or arrow, rather than being cut it would stretch and be pushed into the wound allowing for easier extraction of arrowheads which would otherwise require (probably fatal) surgery or result in (also probably fatal) infections.
    • When he was shot dead in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was wearing a silk bullet-proof vest. These vests were starting to become obsolete due to faster bullets, but the point was moot because he was shot in the throat.
    • A new method of making silk layers in bulletproof vests was adopted by the Thai police, in an effort to reduce costs in having to import kevlar by using their own Thai silk instead.
  • During America's colonial expansion in the Phillipines, natives would wrap thick ropes around themselves as armor against the the standard .38 revolver bullet the Army had at the time. This led the Army to temporarily bring the Single Action Army back into service, and led to the development of the 1911, with more powerful .45 caliber ammo. The ropes actually didn't provide much protection against bullets, but they did restrict circulation, making it take longer to bleed to death from bullet wounds.
  • During the 1920s/30s, a typical bulletproof vest worn by a bank robber or bootlegger was just a vest with thick layers of cotton padding and cloth.
    • These vests, up to 20 layers of cotton, with a few thin steel plates, were still quite effective against the standard issue .38 revolvers used by most police officers at the time. One rather well known hitman, (if anybody remembers his name please place it here), was killed while wearing one by a officer using a BAR.
  • Scientists from China, the US, and Switzerland developed a body armor made from cotton t-shirts. The process involves soaking the shirts in a boron/nickel catalyst, then heating them to over 2,000 degrees Farenheit, which turns the fibers into boron carbide, the third-strongest material on Earth. Nobody Doesn't Like Molten Boron?
    • NOW we know where the Imperial Guard gets its armour from...
  • The Dragon Skin vest, a scale armor developed by Pinnacle Armor, is designed with overlaying 2-inch circular discs, which are said to provide better protection and more mobility than standard-issue body armor. The vest was tested in an episode of Future Weapons and was able to withstand numerous hits from an AK-47, an MP5 SD, and an M4 Carbine without penetration. To top it off, they threw a mannequin with the vest on top of a live M67 grenade. While the explosion did damage the vest, penetration was again averted. This doesn't help the poor manequin, whose head and limbs were blown off. Besides, anyone actually wearing said vest who was hit this many times would probably have massive internal injuries, even though Pinnacle Armor claims the vest is designed to spread the force of the impact over its entirety.
    • The problem with the Dragon Skin, according to testing done by the US military, was that while it was very effective when it worked, it often didn't work due to poor quality control in construction. In addition, it was more likely not to work in very hot climates. Taking into consideration where American troops often deploy nowadays, and it becomes easy to see why they were less than thrilled with the test results.
    • In 2006, the US Army banned the use of privately purchased armor (making any deaths while wearing non-approved armor not eligible for certain death benefits), specifically the Dragon Skin, although some elite troops are known to hold on to their Dragon Skin after the ban, prefering it over the standard-issue Interceptor Body Armor.
      • The decision was likely also driven by a nasty collapse of accountability for body armor during the War in Iraq. The upsurge in privately-purchased body armor was driven by a breakdown in the supply of armor in the run-up to the war (the Army switched body armor types right before the war).
  • The term bulletproof comes from the process of bulletproving, that is, proving something resists bullets by shooting at it. Specifically seventeenth and eighteenth century arsenals after producing breastplates (still issued to some heavy cavalry units) would fire muskets at them. That is why some of the models in museums have dents; the dent is proof that they have been properly tested (for the rigors of their own time) at the factory.
  • In the April 1907 issue of Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine, Harry Houdini told the story of a 19th-century Stage Magician who had invented a primitive Bulletproof Vest and used it as part of his act:

For the benefit of those who have not heard of this sensational attraction—which was indeed a great novelty for a brief time—I will explain that the man was a German who claimed to possess a coat that was impervious to bullets. He would don this coat and allow anyone to shoot a bullet of any caliber at him. Alas! One day a marksman shot him below the coat, in the groin, and eventually he died from the wounds inflicted. His last request was that his beloved invention should be buried with him. This, however, was not granted, for it was thought due the world that such an invention should be made known. The coat, on being ripped open, was found stuffed or padded with powdered glass.

Houdini later bought the coat. However, the name of its creator appears to be lost to history.
  1. miniature rocket-propelled grenade