Is it practical to wear bullet-resistant body armor every single day? Premier Body Armor, headquartered in Gastonia, North Carolina, certainly thinks so and offers a lightweight solution with its level IIIA Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt.

I've always liked the idea of daily body armor in principle. Whether you’re hunting, hitting the range, or just going about your daily business, it would be nice to know you have that extra layer of protection. But so far, it's always come with serious downsides: weight, fit, comfort, cost, mobility, concealability. 

So, when Premier Body Armor offered to send me a set of soft plates and a shirt to carry them, I jumped at the chance to test it out. However, wearing it wouldn’t be enough, and I just knew this rig needed to face the business end of a gun before I was done.


Table of Contents

Body Armor Overview
Specs & Features
Fit & Comfort
Ballistic Testing
Pros & Cons
Final Thoughts 

Body Armor Overview


The Everyday Armor T-Shirt is not your tactical door-knocker’s SWAT kit, but rather a lightweight protection package for the everyday citizen. It certainly has merits for first responders, especially in an off-duty capacity, but the bread and butter – I must imagine – is your average concealed carry civilian looking for an added layer of protection.
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
Premier Body Armor's Everyday Armor T-Shirt can host two soft armor plates at the front and back of the shirt. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Body armor comes in a wide variety of materials, sizes, and protection levels. This T-shirt and soft-plate combo err on the side of minimalism. I think that fits well with most people’s needs. In fact, there’s even a level of modularity because you can choose to buy a single plate or opt for front and back protection. 
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
The plates have designated strike surfaces, so you'll want to have the side with the sticker label against your body. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


This type of soft armor is popular for its flexibility and weight, but it does have some differences from things like hard Kevlar, ceramic, and steel. I’ll discuss the benefits and shortcomings of hard versus soft armor in the ballistics section below. First, let’s dig into the specs of the Everyday Armor T-Shirt.
 

Specs & Features


The Everyday Armor T-Shirt set consists of two plates that slide easily into a compression-like T-shirt. There’s an elongated tail to the shirt to help you tuck it nice and deep into your pants so that it hugs your body better for concealment.
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
The plates are easily removed from the shirt for cleaning and are equally easy to reinstall. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


The inserts themselves are thin, almost thin enough to make you question how they could stop a bullet, but you can feel the density inside. When you cut through the rip-resistant and water-resistant outer layer, you’ll see a dense weave of yellow fibers that provide the actual bullet-stopping performance. 
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
Each plate is a mere 0.25 inches thick, but it's the stuff inside that really counts. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
The ballistic internals feature individual strands that are looser than hard armor and woven in multiple layers. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


These are also soft and less dense than some of the hardened Kevlar I’ve tested. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It actually lends itself to capturing – instead of ricocheting – bullets. Premier Body Armor lists its Phoenix plates as level IIIA for protection from common handgun rounds, with some additional special testing for other threats.
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
The tail of the shirt is also extra long to help hold the shirt tight to the body. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Here’s a quick breakdown of the specs and protection levels: 

NIJ Rating: Level IIIA (NIJ Standard-0101.06)
Caliber Protection: Common handgun ammo such as 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .44 Magnum 
Additional Protection: “Special Threat Tested” against 12 gauge (buckshot and slug) and FN 5.7x29 (SS197SR) + stab/slash resistant
Armor Material: Raw soft armor materials, U.S. manufactured, ISO 9000 certified facility
Shirt Material: Proprietary moisture-wicking, antimicrobial polyester, and elastane compression fabric
Length: 12.75 inches
Width: 7.75 inches
Thickness: 0.25 inches
Weight (On My Scale): 1.93 pounds (two plates), 0.96 pounds (one plate)
Warranty: 5 years
TSA Approved: Yes

It’s worth noting that Premier Body Armor also offers complete wrap-around concealment vests and tactical plate carriers. These all come with added weight and bulk. The Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt is much more minimalistic. 
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
The reinforced stitching around the area that holds the plates proved to last even with some harder use. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


There is no side protection. The shirt simply covers the vital organs with a rectangular plate at the front and the back. You could opt to only wear a front plate for extra minimalism. In short, it provides protection to the most vital areas (aside from your head) to maximize concealability and comfort. 

This simple two-plate system also keeps the cost around three bills. The shirt is machine washable, and the plates just require a quick wipe-down for cleaning. Plus, these USA-made plates also come with an incident replacement policy, but let’s hope it never comes to that.
 

Fit & Comfort

 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
If it isn’t clear from my face, I hate being a part of fashion shows. Not that I have any fashion really. Regardless, the Everyday Armor T-Shirt is a fairly minimalist armor offering. (Photos: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


If you are imagining these as invisible shields you can hide under a skin-tight running shirt, I’ll stop you right there. Realistic expectations are important. Just like concealing a firearm, you do have to put some thought into what you wear with these plates. 

Overall, I found most of my wardrobe worked well with these plates from a concealment and comfort perspective. My biggest struggle was non-patterned cotton T-shirts. Because the plates are cut to a square shape instead of a shooter's/swimmer's cut, which would angle at the top corners, my collarbone does tend to push the top out and print on T-shirts. 

I also tested them with a host of other outfits I regularly wear, and I even pulled out a rarely used “dress shirt” for some testing. Here are the results:
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
I love a good flannel in the fall. (Photos: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
You could even make do with something a bit fancier, not that I wear such things often. (Photos: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
Cotton T-shirts were a bit harder to make work with my body type, and you can just see the squared edges of the plate under this one. Something with a pattern would help a lot here. (Photos: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Your body shape will impact how the shirt and plates conceal for you. I have more of a barrel chest, which accounts for some of my issues. In fact, I think I could have actually elected for a smaller shirt to pull the plates tighter against my body.
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
Personally, I prefer to wear my shirts untucked when carrying concealed, but tucked and untucked are both options. (Photos: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Still, I found the plates easy enough to conceal – especially at the price point – and I also found them easy to wear even during strenuous activity. After more than 100 hours of wearing the shirt, I did not notice any uncomfortable rubbing, discomfort, overheating, excessive sweating, sticking, or other issues, whether I was just going about my daily chores to hiking up hills on a humid 84-degree day (That’s hot for someone from Wisconsin, for the record).
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
I found the plates quite comfortable even on hikes or when doing other more strenuous tasks. The minimalistic design lends itself to preventing overheating. (Photos: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


At under 2 pounds spread across your shoulders, chest, and back, it’s easy enough to almost forget the shirt is there. Even on a short jog, the plates proved easy to wear. I would have liked more of an angle to the two top edges, but the plates are narrow enough that you are risking important protection if you chop them down to a shooter's/swimmer's cut.

I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of concealability. What you cannot sacrifice is actual bullet-stopping performance. Let’s take a look at how it handled some ballistic testing.
 

Ballistic Testing

 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
For testing, I strapped one of the Phoenix plates to a jug of water so it had weight and a bit of flexibility behind it. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


All testing was done at a distance of 15 feet, which Premier Body Armor says is also the distance for conducting its tests. While the body armor is rated to protect against rounds as powerful as .44 Magnum, I elected to test a single plate with two shots from some of the most common handgun ammo you are likely to encounter in a self-defense situation: .45 ACP and 9mm.

I shot the top center of the Phoenix plate with a Federal 115-grain FMJ 9mm round with a muzzle velocity of 1,180 fps from a 4.46-inch barrel. I then shot the bottom half with a Sellier & Bellot 230-grain FMJ round with a muzzle velocity of 853 fps from a 5-inch barrel. Naturally, on my last shot I drifted my sight alignment and struck the plate 3 inches to the left. However, that actually proved to be somewhat lucky for testing purposes.

Here are some quick images to show the results:
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
The 9mm bullet (left) was embedded in the plate but did not rupture the jug. The .45 ACP round landed a bit to the left – bad sight picture on my part – but you can see it also did not penetrate the armor. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


It’s reasonable to assume a plate is likely to be struck more than once in a self-defense scenario. So, testing the same plate with two shots made sense to me, and the Phoenix plate stopped and captured both the .45 ACP and 9mm bullets. I think it’s notable that a 115-grain FMJ 9mm bullet moving at 1,180 fps and striking directly in the center of the chest plate not only didn’t penetrate, but it failed to rupture the jug. Sure, there was plenty of energy transferred, but clearly a lot of that was captured and spread out by the soft plate. 
 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
The .45 ACP bullet mushroomed nicely with no fragmentation or loss to the metal jacket. (Photos: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
I had to fish the 9mm round out of both the soft Phoenix plate (left) and the hard Kevlar on the right that I tested. However, it's pretty clear that the hard Kevlar tended to act like a wall that splattered the bullet. The soft plate spread out the impact and mushroomed the 9mm bullet. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Stopping a bullet is only one part of what body armor must do to be effective. It also must do something about the pure energy transferred by a round when it impacts. This is where backface deformation comes into play. Simply put, that’s the armor flexing backward into the body, which can cause serious blunt-force trauma behind the plate.

There’s also the issue of fragmentation and ricocheting rounds. Harder armor tends to deflect or splatter bullets, which creates a risk to other parts of the body and other people. Soft armor may be flexible, but it still has to solve all of these problems. To test this, I strapped the Phoenix plate to a water jug to give the plate something dense and heavy but somewhat flexible to rest against for testing. These plates are tested to NIJ standard, so the acceptable deformation that certification meets is only 1.7 inches. 
 

Bullet on body armor
That harder Kevlar armor worked, but the bullet did suffer some fragmentation. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
On the left, you can see the stress marks from the 9mm round on the water jug. On the right, which hit off-center with the heavier .45 ACP bullet, you can see the force did split the jug. In fairness, the edges of the jug are also where it becomes the most brittle. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


You’ll notice the .45 ACP round actually split the water jug at the bottom, likely due to its proximity to the side and the added weight of the projectile. But the armor itself mushroomed that round well to spread out the force being transferred. All in all, the plate got a solid pass for stopping these two common handgun rounds. 

I also took some time to run the test on a mil-surp hard Kevlar body panel and helmet. The .45 ACP round notably ricocheted off the body panel, and the helmet – circa 1995 – clearly showed the aftermath of the backface deformation.
 

Body Armor
On the left, you can see how the 9mm bullet embedded inside the hard Kevlar up top. Below that, you'll notice the .45 ACP bullet actually ricocheted off the armor to who knows where. Notice on the right that even the hard armor had backface deformation that would impact anyone wearing it. (Photos: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Helmet shot by bullet
The Kevlar helmet captured the 9mm bullet as well, but you can clearly see that anyone wearing it would still have some serious backface deformation injuries that may impact any future career in math or engineering. (Photos: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


What do we take away from this? Well, firstly that the soft armor will stop common rounds like the ones tested even after previously being shot. Secondly, hard armor is also effective, but it comes with its own issues. For a lightweight minimalist setup like the Everyday Armor T-Shirt, it seems you’re getting a good deal of protection in a package under 2 pounds.
 

Pros & Cons

 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
On the whole, there are a lot of outfit options in my wardrobe that work with the Everyday Armor T-Shirt. You still have to remember that concealing anything requires some consideration when it comes to clothing choices, in my experience. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


First, I want to note that no body armor is 100-percent guaranteed. With that out of the way, here’s a summary of my pros and cons for the Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt:

Pros:

  • Affordable option for a two-plate kit
  • Concealable with the right outfits
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable for all-day wear
  • Effective at stopping common handgun rounds
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Sold as a set or individually
  • Five-year warranty and incident replacement

Cons:

  • Somewhat squared edges to the plates impact concealability
  • No shooters/swimmers cut options
  • No side protection
  • Will not stop rifle rounds
     

Final Thoughts

 

Premier Body Armor Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt
Lightweight, comfortable, and effective in this testing, the Phoenix Everyday Armor T-Shirt has a lot going for it as far as affordable and concealable body armor goes. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


I’ve known a few people who have been shot while wearing body armor. Some simply took shrapnel to their protective armor. Others were hit by far more powerful 7.62x54mm rounds – still a main battle cartridge for Russia and numerous other militaries. The general consensus? It sucks. Or, as one acquaintance recalled after taking multiple shots to the chest, it was like getting kicked in the chest by a horse. 

But that’s not the takeaway. The fact is that they were around to say how much it sucks to get shot. Premier Body Armor’s offering has been a solid performer if you are looking for comfortable, unobtrusive, but effective body armor for defense against common handgun rounds. 

What’s equally exciting for me is the focus on practical, concealable armor for everyday people. It’s 0.25 inches of soft armor that could make a big difference.

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