When you step into the line of fire to do your duty, you want to know that you have the proper gear for the application. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) provides scientific research and development for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). This government agency sets the voluntary national standard for ballistically certified body armor worn by law enforcement and corrections officers.
The NIJ also provides commercial testing to evaluate armor for compliance with its performance standards. The test evaluates whether or not a bullet perforates the vest and the vest’s ability to protect the wearer against blunt force trauma.
The British, Australian and German governments have set international standards that provide criteria for body armor durability as well. Defenshield has created this overview to help you assess which body armor level is appropriate for the dangers you may encounter in the field.
Protection Levels and Types of Ammunition Explained
The NIJ provides five armor protection level classifications — IIA, II, IIIA, III and IV. The “A” in some levels refers to the fact that the vest offers more protection than the level before but cannot meet the standard of the next level, so it’s generally a half-step up. Although there is an armor level one, it’s now outdated and no longer approved by the NIJ because of its weak resistance level.
Soft body armor is typically level IIIA and below, while hard body armor is generally level III and up with body armor plates included. Each of the five armor levels has distinct advantages against different types of ammunition:
- Level IIA: This soft body armor is light and undetectable. It can stop 9mm and 40 S&W bullets.
- Level II: Level II is still easy to conceal and light yet offers greater protection than level IIA. It can stop 9mm and .357 Magnum ammunition fired from a short barrel handgun.
- Level IIIA: Level IIIA is soft for easy flexibility but offers excellent protection against .357 SIG and .44 Magnum ammunition fired from longer barrel handguns.
- Level III: This hard body armor uses metal plates or other composite materials to withstand rifle rounds. The NIJ tests this armor to withstand 7.62mm FMJ lead core rifle ammunition.
- Level IV: Level IV is the strongest body armor available and it’s designed specifically for military applications. It can stop .30cal steel core armor-piercing rifle ammunition.
Other Types of Bullet-Resistant Ratings and Standards
A number of other standards exist for bullet-resistant armor. In addition to NIJ armor, the U.S. has standards from the State Department. Countries around the world and independent testing organizations have also produced their own standards, some of which include:
- UL 752
- ASTM F-1233
- European Standard DIN EN 1063
- British Standards Institution BS 5051
- Councils of Standards Australia/New Zealand AS/NZ 2343
- German Deutche Institut fur Normung (DIN) 52-290
Find NIJ Ballistically Certified Armor from Defenshield Today
Defenshield is a global industry authority focused on the engineering and production of the highest quality ballistic protective equipment and tactical gear. Our clients include the U.S. government and military, law enforcement and foreign partners.
Defenshield has a guide to national and international armor standards you can browse for more information. If you have questions or want to make a purchase, reach out to our sales team online, call us at 904-679-3942 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.