I am a firearms instructor with more than 30 years experience including concealed carry and home / vehicle defense. Most people that I come across have been influenced by common opinions which they heard at the gun store, safety class, shooting range, magazines, videos, etc:
- You must carry at least a .380 / .38 Special or better, and preferably a 9 mm or something larger. Anything smaller is useless.
- You must buy a high quality gun from a top manufacturer. Low or average quality guns are unreliable and will not work when you need them.
- You must train and practice often or you will be unable to defend yourself under stress and you will be killed.
- Etc. etc. etc. we have all heard the popular opinions ad nauseum.
Now as an instructor I do know all of the facts about guns, ballistics, stopping power, importance of training, etc. but people are being misled by these opinions which are often misrepresented as facts. You must consider the following:
- Any gun is A LOT better than no gun at all. Give me a .22 LR gun over an empty hand any day.
- A cheap gun now is A LOT better than an expensive gun later. Buy the best you can afford now and then save your money to trade up later.
- A gun owner with minimal training is much safer than a person that is waiting to buy a gun because they can't afford to take the expensive classes.
- Many criminals will use cheap guns or even simple weapons like a knife or a bat, and they usually have no training at all.
So I always teach people the facts first, followed by the options with pros and cons, then let them form their own opinions on what is best for their situation. But in general I will still recommend any gun now rather than a better gun later.
The same argument applies to ballistic vests. Any cover is better than no cover. Even a magazine, book, heavy coat, pane of glass, sheet of drywall, mattress, etc. is much better than being shot without any protective barrier. Any protective vest is better than no vest, and a cheap Level 1 vest can easily be improved by adding a trauma plate or even wearing two of them together if needed. And some of the cheapest vests will give you decent protection from knives, sticks, bats, fists, etc.
So my advice is to get the cheap Level 1 vest now and enjoy it. Save up and get a better vest later then sell your old vest to recover part of the cost. Of course if you can afford more now then by all means get a better vest now. But don't go without just because of all the popular opinions which are readily tossed around. That cheaper vest just might keep you alive long enough to trade up.