According to its website, 221B Tactical is a new company with a mission to provide innovative, top-of-the-line tactical gear of all types to law enforcement personnel, military, firefighters and civilians at an affordable price. 221B’s recently introduced Tradecraft EDC CCW Jacket with optional IIIA body armor panels is one of the most innovative tactical products I have ever evaluated. The company designed the tactical jacket to provide the wearer with lightweight ballistic armor support that can be worn daily.
Body Armor Classifications
Soft body armor is classified in terms of threat-level protection by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). All body armor is tested and certified according to NIJ specifications. The armor levels are classified from the lowest threat-level protection to the highest. The current NIJ levels for concealable armor are IIA, II, IIIA and III. Level IIIA is the highest rating available for concealable armor. It is capable of stopping everything from 9mm Luger to .44 Magnum rounds. Over the years, I’ve worn IIA, II and IIIA concealable armor on duty. Remember that no soft body armor is rated to stop rifle rounds.
The Tradecraft Tactical Jacket
The Tradecraft Jacket is designed with interior pockets to carry two concealed Level IIIA front panels and a single Level IIIA rear panel. This tactical jacket is a great stand-alone everyday carry jacket even without the panels in place. It is equipped with 10 different pockets, waterproof zippers, ventilation ports under the sleeves, wind-blocking compression cuffs, an extended collar that doubles as a face covering and a hood with cutouts for improved peripheral vision. It is very warm and comfortable, plus wind- and water-resistant. It’s also quite stylish and doesn’t scream “tactical.” It can be purchased as a stand-alone item for $247.
Now Add the Legacy Armor…
The Tradecraft Jacket’s Level IIIA armor panels come from Legacy Safety and Security. The front panels are custom-cut specifically for the Tradecraft Jacket, while the rear pocket can utilize a “shooters cut” 10×12 IIIA standard panel. I requested both the front and rear Legacy panels. A point of caution here: Never, ever launder the Tradecraft Jacket with the panels in place. Washing the panels will ruin them.
When the panels arrived, I was amazed by their light weight and thinness. The panels in my first two department-issued sets of soft body armor were only Level IIA rated but much thicker and heavier than the Legacy IIIA panels.
There are two front panels: one for each side of the main zipper, protecting the rib areas on either side of your sternum. So there is an approximately 1.5-inch unprotected gap down the zipper centerline. However, this should not cause alarm. All armor — concealable and external SWAT armor — has its vulnerable spots. Armor only reduces the amount of vulnerable area exposed to bad guys.
In order to protect the wearer from rounds coming in from the front, the Tradecraft EDC Jacket must be kept zippered so the panels don’t flip or twist on impact or while moving. Zipper vulnerability is also reduced if you use a bladed Weaver shooting stance. This positions more of the front panels toward an attacker. The Legacy Armor panels are also dual-threat rated, which means they can provide some protection from edged-weapon attacks and can also soften blunt impacts. With the front and rear armor panels added in, the overall price for the Tradecraft Jacket rises to $587. That’s a great price for a quality piece of armored supportive gear.
Wearing the Tactical Jacket
Fortunately, I had several winter days to wear the Tradecraft Jacket before spring arrived. I found that the Tradecraft Jacket is a VERY comfortable and great-fitting jacket — and that’s with the front and rear panels in place. It looks and feels great! The armor panels position themselves comfortably whether the wearer is standing, sitting, driving or moving. Plus, the panels are not detectable unless someone actually touches them. The weight won’t drag you down. The panels also enhance the Tradecraft Jacket’s ability to keep you warm. It is extremely well-thought-out and covers your concealed handgun entirely. You will want to practice drawing by pulling the jacket up and away from your handgun instead of unzipping it, which would greatly decrease your front protection.
This was my first review of a 221B product. Judging from the quality of design and construction of the Tradecraft Jacket and its armor panels, I am sure it won’t be the last.
About Scott W. Wagner
Scott W. Wagner is a criminal justice professor and police academy commander from Columbus, Ohio. He has been a police officer since 1980, working as an undercover liquor investigator, undercover narcotics investigator, patrol officer, SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader. Scott is currently a patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. He has been a police firearms instructor since 1986 and is certified to instruct revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.