Can paintball chest protectors be considered body armor? That is one of the big debates; it is considered a type of body protection but it’s not graded for use with live rounds. Hard shell paintball body armor is usually constructed of EVA / Ethylene Vinyl Acetate. This is strong enough to lessen the impact of a paintball but it is not something that is going to offer protection from any type of bullet. Short styled paintball armor offers a little more coverage protection and improved maneuverability but less impact protection. Mass produced paintball body armor is not illegal to own; it is not in the same classification of military or police issued body armor.
The laws regarding modified body armor are extremely vague; in essence any change you make to a piece of body armor could make it a ‘modified’ piece. This is where things could become worrisome for paintballers with a criminal record. Possession of body armor (undefined) is not a crime unless you are a convicted felon. If that sounds like an absurd statement then you need to investigate the case made against John Michael Barton in July of 2009 in Longview, Texas. He was found guilty of a drug felony previously and was stopped on a routine traffic stop. Two ‘bulletproof vests’ were found in a duffle bag that he admitted to owning. They were not modified in any way but he was still arrested for a parole violation.
Unless modified, body armor made for the purpose of protecting the chest, arms and back from paintball impact are not considered bulletproof. According to Texas law, where Barton resided and was arrested, Penal Code § 46.041 clearly states what body armor is by definition. ” (A) In this section, “metal or body armor” means any body covering manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of protecting a person against gunfire. (B) A person who has been convicted of a felony commits an offense if after the conviction the person possesses metal or body armor. (C) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree.”
I would have to argue with the defense in this case; the paintball armor (owned by the defendant’s son) was not modified in any way, shape or form so it is not something that could protect any part of the body from gunfire. There were two arguments in the case against Barton, one being possession of the paintball body armor and the other regarding his prior knowledge of the two vests being placed inside the bags.
Penal codes do vary from state to state but almost all of them have a strict enforcement of felons owning, possessing, wearing, purchasing borrowing any type of bullet proof body armor. Without a clear cut explanation of how this carries over to paintball chest protectors and pieces of body armor for the sport, it leaves a lot of people wondering if the next time they step on the field that could be violating their probation.