Special thanks to Bullet Proof ME for providing the photos used in this article.
Humans have been wearing armor for thousands of years. Ancient tribes fastened animal hide and plant material around their bodies when they went out on the hunt, and the warriors of ancient Rome and medieval Europe covered their torsos in metal plates before going into battle. By the 1400s, armor in the Western world had become highly sophisticated. With the right armor, you were nearly invincible.

Photo courtesy Bullet Proof ME
A Pro MAX bulletproof vest, designed for easy concealment under normal clothing

All that changed with the development of cannons and guns in the 1500s. These weapons hurl projectiles at a high rate of speed, giving them enough energy to penetrate thin layers of metal. You can increase the thickness of traditional armor materials, but they soon become too cumbersome and heavy for a person to wear. It wasn't until the 1960s that engineers developed a reliable bullet-resistant armor that a person could wear comfortably. Unlike traditional armor, this soft body armor is not made out of pieces of metal; it is formed from advanced woven fibers that can be sewn into vests and other soft clothing.

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll look at soft body armor and other modern armor technologies to see how they can stop bullets. We'll also find out about the range of body armor options available and see how the government tests and rates body armor.