During the class I took a couple weeks ago some considerations regarding body armor became clear.
The second day we had heavy rain and of course we ended up soaking wet. Even if you had rain gear on doing pushups in a few inches of water meant that your armor got wet.
Soft body armor, usually made of Kevlar or other synthetic fabric loses up to 40% of its ballistic resistance when wet. Constant exposure to water and UV will deteriorate the material as well, so you want to avoid storing them wet, and sun drying.
Expensive gear that ruins because of water and sunlight? Who wants that? Well... you probably own guns, correct? Maybe its worth considering then that 80% of the people that died in gunfights would have survived if they had body armor on. Puts things into perspecitve, doesn't it? In my bedroom witihn fast reach, there's my gun, flashlight and body armor.
The panels come with a waterproof protection but still the stitches and small cracks in the material means water can still get inside. I had to cut up the plastic in mine so that they would dry up, used a hair dryer in slow mode to patiently remove the humidity.
This is not much of a problem if you replace your panels periodically but its still important to check and make sure they are not wet after rain of heavy sweating. Again, wet fabric reduces the level of protection and eventually ruins the material, so check often.
Now, during high crime yet "normal" times, you’d use you BA in specific circumstances. Going to pick up large amounts of cash from the bank, visiting or traveling through bad parts of town for some reason, meeting up with strangers and sure, attending medium or advanced shooting classes where the risk factor is considered high due to people shooting in group, sometimes finding yourself in a situation where you have to trust a stranger with a loaded gun at your back.
Another example where you may not avoid having your armor soaking wet may be when organizing a neighborhood watch or standing guard on your own after some disaster like a huricane or earthquake, Chile comes to mind. Wet armor panels ? Imagine Katrina and worrying about keeping your armor dry when everything around you is covered by 6 to 12 feet of water.
One of our sponsors, bulletproofme.com, has Ceramic Rifle plates starting at $200, remember to mention "FerFAL".
During that day I found myself wishing I had stand alone rifle plates instead. Plates aren’t that sensitive to water ( but they do break so be careful not to abuse them much). You don’t want to leave them or their carrier wet but they are much easier to dry up and don’t deteriorate because of humidity.
Its true that its best to combine both, soft body armor and plates, so as to have side protection as well, but its good to know you have plates that resist humanity and UV better.
Those of us that buy our own armor wont have replacement for it any time soon. Decades will go buy and you’ll have the same gear, and while soft body armor may still be effective if you took good are of it, plates aren’t that delicate.
Get both. Sometimes you’ll want to be discrete and use soft BA, maybe decades from now you wont be able to replace those panels for one reason or another, but the plates will still be serviceable.
Maybe you want to keep a kit in your car/weekend cabin that includes body armor, but you just want something you can lave there and forget about it until you need it, 5 or 20 years from now. For that, stand alone rifle plates are a good idea.