Hard armor is a type of vests that are designed to be worn underneath heavy duty clothing. They are designed for very long range operations where protection from chemical agents or other hazardous conditions is required. Some are made with an inner liner which will protect the wearer against puncture wounds while others will be tightly woven on one or both sides to offer protection from tear gas or other gases. Hard armor vests were originally used in the military as protective coverings against chemical and biological weapons and are still being used as such in the modern army.
Soft armor is an upgrade of hard armor and it is what most modern soldiers wear under their uniform. Soft armor is typically used for a lighter load, although the use of this type of vest is not common in law enforcement. It is made of a thick nylon material that will withstand impact energy and any type of force applied to it. There are some soft jackets available that can handle impacts up to and including a direct blow from a M.R.A.P. (Mobile Rockets Anti-Propellant) round.
Hard and soft armor plates have their pros and cons. Hard plates have more rigidity and are used in close quarter fighting situations and by soldiers who need greater stopping power against a target. Soft plates, generally, weigh less and are easier for a person to carry around and transfer from one place to another when needed. Because of their weight, they do not help much in improving the wearer’s maneuverability or their ability to withstand impacts. It is usually best to combine the two types of armor plates to provide the best possible protection to the wearer.