Artemus Gordon: If I may make one last request...that she aim for my heart — the heart that loved this country so much...
: (under his breath) Damn!
They cost about $600. 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 or combat fiction
, the bulletproof vest goes hand-in-hand with the Kevlar helmet. Any character who removes his helmet when a gunfight has seemingly stopped automatically takes a round in the head, unless that character is a hero
, and needs to show his face
for some dialogue. A common way for the military Red Shirt
to bite it.
In fiction, a bulletproof vest is capable of stopping anything up to including armor-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 either stop all damage or reduce it, but are often destroyed when they take enough damage. Video game injuries are a matter of mathematical equation, whereas in Real Life
there is a great deal of randomness involved.
In reality, the low-level vests issued to police officers are usually only rated to stop small-to-medium-caliber handgun rounds. Rifle rounds and very high-powered handguns usually require hard ceramic armor plates, which often shatter upon impact. The ones designed to stop the bigger bullets are also very bulky and unlikely to be worn underneath clothing. Even if the vest stops the bullet from penetrating your body, you are likely to sustain broken ribs and nasty bruises. To put it in another way, being shot while armored is like being hit by a truck.
Movie bulletproof vests may also stop blades, ice picks, or similar weapons
; however, in real life, armor vests intended only for protection against bullets are ineffective against stabbing. This is because the armor uses high-strength fiber cloth to spread out the impact of a bullet, but the point and edge of a knife can slip between the weave of the fabric and cut it open. There are
actually vests for defending against stabs, though.
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. Generally they will then immediately remove the vest, even if the danger might not be over.
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
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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 moose leather jacket is an Nigh Invulnerable monstrosity filled with ceramic plates and chain mail. It's demonstrated to protect Bean from a barrage of assault rifle fire and multiple shotgun slugs. Downside? Only an utter monster like Bean can wear something so absurdly heavy; When Misty nudges it off a dresser, it breaks her foot.
- On top of that, Bean wears a headband of the same construction. It deflects a 9mm contact shot.
- The primary function of the full-body desert suits most characters in Desert Punk wear are to protect from the weather, but they provide decent protection from bullets and fragmentation as well. One mook's vest let him take about a half dozen rounds from Kosuna's handgun at very close range and Kanta's helmet on two separate occasions protected him from sniper rifle fire. Basically every part of the suits are stated to be made of some kind of Aramid (a classification of strong, heat-resistance material that Kevlar belongs to), even the hats.
- 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 all three editions of Battle Royale (Book, film and manga) the bulletproof vest acts as one of the strongest items in the event, saving the lives of the people who carry it numerous times. 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.
- Hei's coat in Darker than Black is bulletproof.
- Ura the armor cat in El-Hazard: The Magnificent World is a living version of this. He's the cutest flak jacket you'll ever wear!
- Ooishi, that fat cop from Higurashi: When They Cry, wears a stab-proof vest at one point.
- In Pokémon Special, what appears to be a wetsuit that Rakutsu wears underneath his clothing is actually some kind of armor that allowed him to survive Genesect's Technoblast head on.
- 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 shuts it off. A later fight at the docks drowns the second brother; 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 Bad Ass to die.
- In Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, there is a fairly realistic portrayal of a bulletproof 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 "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 Bulletproof Vest, which he probably modified to stop rifle fire.. 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.
- Although surviving both a machine gun's fireblast and a shotgun at close range with either of these methods is unrealistic in anyone's book. Although it's a film. It's obviously gonna take some breaks from reality.
- In Snakes on a Plane, the witness is wearing a bulletproof vest, which later comes in handy.
- Subverted in RoboCop (1987). Lt. Murphy, wearing full body armor, is shot dozens of times and the vest gets shredded from it.
- 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. He also makes a big production about how much it hurt.
- 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 book version is also more realistic: the mithril coat prevents him from being stabbed, sure, but the sheer force from the spear thrust still knocks him out, drives the rings of the mail coat into his body and badly bruises him. Frodo needed medical attention from Aragorn soon afterward or he would not have been able to keep up with the company in their journey.
- The film Missing in Action features an on-the-run Chuck Norris buying a large raft-like speedboat made from "the same stuff that bulletproof 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.
- 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 bulletproof 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 bulletproof vest and a couple of blood packs for protection. Justified, in that Goodkat thought she would be unprotected and was using relatively small caliber 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, 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!
- Near the end of Death Wish 3, the gang leader had a bulletproof 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 Devils 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 homemade 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, even an armor plate has its limits, and that many bullets is enough to make sure V doesn't live long after winning.
- 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 bulletproof vests or the first wouldn't have protected him at that range.
- The suit Jack wears for most of Oblivion (2013) is a pretty effective Space Clothes kind of armor. We see how effective it is when Sergeant Sykes shoots him in the chest during the interrogation scene. At the least, it can take 9mm rounds with nothing to show for it but one hell of a scare.
- In Ronin, Sam wears a vest, but gets shot with an armor-piercing bullet and needs medical attention.
- In Super, the Crimson Bolt and Boltie wear bulletproof vests before going to the final battle, but Reality Ensues. Boltie's vest is too large and heavy for her small body, slowing her down. When Crimson Bolt gets shot in the chest, the force of the bullet knocks him down and knocks the wind out of him for several minutes. Afterwards, the bad guys aim for his unprotected areas like his arms. The bad guys shoot Boltie in the head at the first opportunity, killing her instantly.
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Sherlock's typical Bad Ass take-down of a Cossack assassin is interrupted by a Gypsy woman throwing several knives into the Cossack's chest. Cue Eye Awaken as it's revealed the assassin has wooden boards sewn into his coat as protection.
- Colombiana. An FBI agent is trying to convince a CIA Jerk Ass to hand over information on the Columbian cartel member the hitwoman protagonist wants revenge on. The CIA dude refuses, even when the FBI guy says she's threatening his family. CIA dude then gets a red dot on his chest, but isn't impressed as the windows are armoured against a direct hit from a 57mm shell. She promptly fires a warning shot through the glass. Guess the CIA went to the cheapest bidder.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Nick Fury is targeted for a Conspicuously Public Assassination with his car rammed, then riddled with machine gun fire — the vehicle is armoured, but the hail of bullets weaken the glass until the Genre Savvy mooks pull up a hydraulic ram to finish the job. It does give Nick's Cool Car enough time to repair itself so he can escape.
- 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.
- Used in the Discworld novel Unseen Academicals, when a character is given "micromail" trousers which prove extremely handy later.
- 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. Bulletproof 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 AK47 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 bolternote 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.
- Which even averts Gameplay and Story Segregation, given that a bolter round is AP 5 and thus ignores the 5+ save from Flak Armor, but not the 4+ save from Carapace Armor.
- Would still need a 3+ to wound, though...
- 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.
- The Dresden Files: 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.
- 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 Nasu Verse, Church Executioners wear bulletproof priest robes.
- John Birmingham's Axis of Time has nigh-impenetrable nano-weave body armor used by "uptime" troops, which stops any round that isn't aimed at the head or extremities. Julia Duffy's personal armor is actually of a much higher quality than standard-issue 21st century military. It saves her countless times, especially when the Waffen-SS put her and a bunch of US Army Rangers in a line and machinegun them all. She still requires immediate medical attention from hydrostatic shock (even though the armor is also designed to spread the force of the impact) and spends weeks recovering.
- In Halting State, by Charles Stross, one of the main characters, Sue, is described as wearing an "anti-stabbie" vest as part of her standard policewoman's kit. That said, she never ends up needing to use it for protection.
- 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 F/X: 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 pursue 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 & 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. Mac does let him have it later about defying orders though.
- 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.
- Series/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.
- NCIS: Los Angeles This show is very good about character wearing their vests, as well as showing the limitations. When Kensi was shot in Blye, K Part One, she was in a lot of pain and with obvious bruising through the next episode. She also makes reference to the show being off-center (she was running) or the sniper bullet would have torn through the vest and killed her.
- Averted in "Parley." The criminal assisting them is gunned down and shown to be wearing a bulletproof vest. While the vest clearly stopped the bullet, she is still badly injured and unable to get up, requiring the agents to call an ambulance for her.
- 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.
- It also saves Mitchell, when they are ambushed by the Sodan Jaffa.
- 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, and tipped with the strongest metal in the known universe (still doesn't work because of their metabolism).
- 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 bulletproof vest.
- 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 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, Wordy is shot by the subject, and the bullet does little more than make him sit out the rest of the episode. Wordy is hit again in season 2, and is in considerable pain but still participates in the take-down of the subject at the end of the episode. Also seen in the ridiculously fast recovery of Roy Lane after being hit in the vest in "The Other Lane."
- Subverted in the series finale when Parker gets shot in the vest by a Mad Bomber which briefly stuns him but he then gets up and continues to disarm the bomb. However, the next shot hits him in the leg and is followed by a shot that hits just under the armpit in an area not protected by the vest. He survives but it is a Career-Ending Injury
- 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!
- Castle's vest finally sees use in Season 6. The bullet dots the "I" in "Writer".
- 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 disguising himself as a Metro PD officer to get close to his victims. 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?
- Played straight in another episode where one character is forced to shoot Scorpius, then crouches by the "body" later to apologize:
Scorpius: How did you know I was wearing body armor?
Rygel: I wasn't sure, but... Not so bad for me either way.
- 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. Both the good guys and the bad guys survive getting shot in the vest but it knocks them out of the fight and leaves them seriously bruised afterwards.
- When Reese goes undercover as an armored truck guard, he is shot in the back. While he survives due to his vest, he loses consciousness and wakes up in the hospital. The other guard also survived getting shot in the vest but while he was lying stunned and defenseless on the ground, the bad buy finished him off.
- When Reese is fighting a sniper, he grabs the guy's sniper rifle and shoots him from close range. He is astounded when the sniper's vest absorbs the shot. The sniper's boss is Crazy-Prepared and made the guy wear a military-grade top-of-the-line vest that can stand up to a rifle bullet. However, the sniper is still completely knocked out by the force of the bullet and is likely to have internal injuries.
- 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.
- Garcia even addresses this when Morgan gets shot by an Unsub, but leaves with some bruises
Morgan: I got shot in my bulletproof vest babygirl, I'm fine.
Garcia: Why don't they make better vests? That's not bulletproof. It's like when you fall in the pool and your watch stops working, that's water resistant not water proof-
- The Wire has a tendency of making bulletproof vests useless. In season 1 it's noted that while a bulletproof vest was found on one of Omar's men, it didn't do him much good against the 46 spent shell casings found around him. In season 4, The Dragon for Marlo teaches his soldiers to aim for the head if close enough, or to shoot low enough to get under where a vest would protect. And ultimate badass Omar, who seemingly never leaves home without his vest on, gets killed by a kid that shoots him in the back of the head while buying a pack of cigarettes.
- One character on The Unusuals is paranoid about dying (he's 42, his father was 42 when he died, his father was 42, etc.) so he always wears his vest.
- Barney Miller: In one episode the squad gets issued bulletproof vests, which only appear in that episode.
- One time on The Mentalist Rigsby didn't wear his vest while going to interview a suspect, while Van Pelt did. She got shot in the vest and went to the hospital with internal injuries.
- Human Target: Chance buys one, and tests it by putting it on and having Guererro shoot him.
- Breaking Bad. Two assassins test out a bullet proof vest by shooting the Arms Dealer who's trying to sell it. After seeing that he's still alive, they decide to purchase two, tossing the money down on the moaning arms dealer's chest. Later, one of them is shot several times in the vest and No Sells it.
- In Haven, Dwight Hendrickson wears a vest at all times because he attracts bullets to himself. Getting shot in the vest still knocks him down and hurts.
- In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), the demons who possessed Navy soldiers put these on, which is odd since demons can only be killed by bullets from the Colt. Maybe they were trying to be nice to their meat suit.
- The demons were working for Abaddon, who they had previously defeated by carving a devils trap into the bullet and shooting it into her. She was taking precautions to make sure it didn't happen again to either her or her followers.
- In Murdoch Mysteries, Science Hero Detective Murdoch develops a proto-version in episode "Big Murderer on Campus". It's used on Constable Crabtree during a lecture in which the criminal was revealed.
- 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.
- The bulletproof 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.
- 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.
- Flak jackets in Warhammer 40,000 are standard equipment for basic Imperial Guard units. They're nicknamed "t-shirts" because they're so flimsy in comparison to the much heavier armors available in the game.
- In the RPG (Dark Heresy), guardsman flak is actually one of the best armours that can be obtained regularly. Mesh armour is a little worse, but weighs around 2kg for a full-body suit (and is ridiculously hard to get without the right connections), carapace armour is heavier and a little stronger (and about equally hard to get) and Powered Armour finally means pretty much nothing short anti-vehicle rounds can touch you - if you can get your hands on a set and are not too distraught about the civilian capacitors only lasting for between one and five hours of operation... Still, against normal weapons (autoguns and lasguns), flak armour works pretty well.
- Imperial Guard flak armour shines through in Only War. In fact, it's even better this time round, because you can acquire it right from the get-go if you choose/create the right regiment for your characters, and upgrading the armour to Good Craftsmanship is relatively inexpensive - even Best Craftmanship is somewhat reasonable.
- The second edition of the role-playing game Recon had a somewhat confusing discussion of body armor. In a description of a soldier getting ready for a mission, he chooses not to take body armor, it being "useless dead weight". However, he does volunteer to carry the squad's machinegun ammo belts, because they provide good protection from bullets. (The rules didn't actually rate ammo belts as protection.)
- 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 Golden Eye 1997, Nightfire, TimeSplitters, 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, except that it does block head shots.
- 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.
- In the 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.
- 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.
- Note that all body armour bring stat penalties for wearing it. Heavier armour, use of chemicals, ceramic or titan plates increase the effect.
- 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.
- See this list for all weapons stats. Basically, every weapon has a pre-assigned damage value for each part with and without armor. Against grenades and most sub-machine guns, shotguns, and pistol it can reduce damage by 40-50%, but only reduces damage from rifles by about 20-30% and does basically nothing against sniper 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 bulletproof 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-type weapons are the only ones that can hurt them. And even then, the first burst only knocks the soldier down, and you have to wait until he gets back up to finish the job. Makes you wonder what Blake himself is wearing.
- Huge, heavy, and customized battle armor is worn by both Rios and Salem in Army Of Two. This includes steel masks to protect the face.
- 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) 7.62x54mm 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.
- vests are also depicted very realistically: they can only protect from a handful of shots, some damage can still get through, and even if they protect you from any damage you'll still get stunned by the impact. The concealable vests without the ability to accept plates are especially weak, and typically they're only good enough to protect the victim from being instantly killed or incapacitated. And since they don't last forever, your mercs will need to constantly buy, find, or scavenge new vests (hope you missed the armor when you killed that soldier!).
- 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; fortunately, this also applies to mooks wearing them. As a result, you can kill armoured mooks much faster by going for Boom, Headshot.
- SWAT 4 has you and your team wear light Kevlar vests and helmets by default. You can take heavy armor in multiplayer, and the expansion pack allows you use no armor if you so please. AI-controlled suspects also get armor in some missions. Due to the game being big on realism, armor is really only effective against hollow point ammunition, while most players will be packing full metal jacket rounds that are effective against all targets.
- 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.
- At the end of his route in Metro PD: Close to You, Kirisawa takes a bullet to the chest. Thinking it has killed him, the protagonist goes into an emotional meltdown complete with Anguished Declaration of Love... until the rest of the team, who've been standing around observing with great interest, remind her that they're all wearing protective vests. Turns out the impact of the bullet broke a rib and knocked the wind out of him, but aside from that, Kirisawa is just fine.
- 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 "bulletproof" 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).
- Subverted for the most part in Survival of the Fittest; while bulletproof 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 bulletproofing.
- 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.
- 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 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 — indeed, it is so statistically difficult to say that any piece of armor is guaranteed to stop a give bullet that vests usually report what test loadings the vest has a 50% chance of stopping. The shift in meaning has led to conscientious makers and writers calling the vests "bullet resistant".
- Anti-ballistic armor works by dispersing the force applied to the person by the bullet across a wide area of the body, preventing the bullet from piercing the body and wreaking havoc on blood vessels and organs. Compare the lethality of fists with knives: They deliver about the same amount of energy to the target, but the latter attacks a much smaller area. For the same reason, bullet resistant armor protects nicely against shrapnel produced by fragmentation explosives like typical grenades, but is far less effective against an explosion itself (which will apply the same amount of force anyway).
- 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. However, such body armor can only withstand one or two hits - at medium range.
- 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. Puns abound, obviously.
- A black joke appreciated by British troops in Northern Ireland (and probably today in the Sandpit) is that wearing the issue flak jacket/protective armour ensures that if you are blown up by a terrorist bomb, at least the jacket will keep enough of you together in the same place afterwards to justify a coffin at your funeral, and make it easier for Forensics to identify the bits. So always paint your name on the flak jacket to make sure your family get the right corpse.
- 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 made out of 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. Matasareanu 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 WW1, 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.
- Modern aluminum alloys are stronger than low-grade steel and weigh one-third as much. Titanium weighs 2/3rds as much as steel and is even stronger; however, unlike aluminum, which can be reasonably priced, titanium is ludicrously expensive—until the FFC Cambridge process enters the public domain in 2018, soon after which the bottom will drop out of the titanium market. We may be due for a maille-armor re-renaissance.
- The popular Society For Creative Anachronism song "I'll See Your Six" tells of Sir Trude, the first of the Lady Knights, who wore her SCA armor home through the streets of New York City. She was accosted by a mugger and his three cronies...whose switchblade failed to so much as faze her due to the heavy chain-mail she wore. All four were chased off when she responded by drawing and brandishing a three foot broadsword at them that they hadn't noticed her carrying earlier. Mugging the Monster at its finest as well as an example of how chain-mail can at the very least reduce damage from blade slashes.
- 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.
- Thailand is a rare case of a country using silk because it is cheaper for them to do so, since they have a thriving silk production industry.
- During the USA's campaign to subjugate the Phillipines, natives would wrap thick ropes around themselves as armor against the the standard .38 Long Colt revolver round the Army had at the time. This led the Army to temporarily bring the Single Action Army in .45 Colt back into service, and led to the development of the more powerful .38 Special round and the M1911 pistol with its even more powerful .45 ACP rounds. 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 Special 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, essentially a light machine gun.
- These vests had a very unfortunate consequence for the criminals wearing them: to not lose the police market to Colt and a M1911 pistol variant chambered for the proprietary .38 Super round (that could pierce those bulletproof vests), Smith & Wesson and Winchester developed the .357 Magnum round (including armour-piercing variants) with the Model 27 revolver. The bulletproof vest disappeared very quickly.
- Also worth noting, many types of ammo were less powerful than their modern-day counterparts, due to newer guns being made of stronger materials. Very important if you buy a vintage gun and try loading it with modern ammunition, which can easily overpressurize the firing chamber and cause the gun to explode.
- 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-hardest material on Earth. Nobody Doesn't Like Molten Boron? Not as effective as it sounds, because the material's hardness means it would fracture where softer materials like steel would bend against similar impacts.
- In Mexico, there is a clothes designer who specializes in making very stylish, bulletproof sports jackets, coats, T-shirts and the likes which cannot be easily visually distinguished from their normal brethren.
- 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 MP5SD, 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 mannequin, 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).
- Also, the personal bodyguard units for high command officers were wearing Dragon Skin before the ban and continued to do so afterwards, which dramatically hurt the credibility of Dragon Skin's critics even if the armor really was not performing as advertised.
- Bulletproof armor is much Older Than They Think. Back in the Middle Ages, the invention of fire arms didn't immediately end knights in shiny armor. Blacksmiths actually shot their own armor, showing their customers that the armor would protect them. However, the armor needed to protect knights from firearms kept getting heavier and heavier until it was too heavy and expensive to be practical. Nevertheless, armour survived in the breastplates worn by the cuirassier type of heavy cavalry in many countries throughout the 19th century and into WW1. While it was vulnerable to medium and short-range musket fire during the Napoleonic Wars, it was effective against swords, lances, and bayonets, and also had a great psychological effect on both cuirassiers and the enemy.