2023 Ballistic Level Standards
Military, law enforcement and other government agencies must often send personnel into hazardous situations. Providing them with appropriate protection is vital to ensure their safety and performance in challenging circumstances, and understanding NIJ ballistic levels is essential to choosing the most appropriate ballistic protection levels for your application.
The Importance of Ballistic Protection Levels
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 assesses whether or not a bullet perforates the vest and the vest’s ability to protect against blunt force trauma. In addition, body armor must meet workmanship and labeling requirements.
To ensure body armor is safe and reliable under pressure, manufacturers must pass six additional NIJ follow-up inspections and testing over a five-year period to determine whether the products are constructed like the original samples. Testing must be conducted at an NIJ-approved laboratory independent of political conflicts of interest.
The British, Australian and German governments have set international standards that also provide criteria for body armor durability. Defenshield has created this overview to help you assess which body armor level is appropriate for the dangers you may encounter in the field.
NIJ 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 Although there is an armor level one, it’s now outdated and no longer approved by the NIJ because of its weak resistance level.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 and ballistic protection equipment are 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. The wearer is protected from 9mm and .40 Smith & Wesson bullets.
- Level II: Level II is still easy to conceal and light yet offers greater protection than level IIA. It’s designed to protect the wearer from 9mm and .357 magnum ammunition from short-barrel handguns.
- Level IIIA: Level IIIA is soft for easy flexibility but offers excellent protection against .357 SIG and .44 Magnum ammunition 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 most powerful body armor available. It’s designed specifically for military applications and can withstand .30cal steel core armor-piercing rifle ammunition.
NIJ standard levels
Other Types of Bullet-Resistant Ratings and Standards
Several other standards exist for bullet-resistant armor. In addition to NIJ ballistic ratings, 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: This standard determines the ammunition resistance of building components, including walls, windows and barriers.
- ASTM F-1233: The primary purpose of this standard is to evaluate security glazing materials and systems against ballistic and forced entry attacks.
- European Standard DIN EN 1063: This standard regulates testing procedures for bullet-resistant glass in nine different ballistic classes.
- British Standards Institution BS 5051: BS 5051 regulates and tests bullet-resistant glazing for interior use.
- Councils of Standards Australia/New Zealand AS/NZ 2343: This standard provides manufacturers and suppliers with requirements and testing methods for bullet-resistant panels and other elements that protect against the effects of ballistic attacks.
- German Deutsche Institut fur Normung (DIN) 52-290: The German Institute for Standardization acts in many industries developing norms and standards across the country. Its ballistic standards document is detailed and covers a wide range of ballistic protection.
The Benefits of Defenshield NIJ-Level-Rated Products
Defenshield NIJ-level-rated products have considerable benefits in the field. They are combat-proven and high-quality items constructed according to the intended application and level of protection they provide. Using these products has many benefits, some of which include the following:
- Appropriate Protection: Defenshield products are aligned with NIJ standards and independently tested, so you can rely on them to keep your personnel safe in their specific environment. With Defenshield, you can make appropriate choices for your application, ensuring the highest protection level.
- Mobile and permanent installations: Whether you’re looking to provide protection at a static location, mount a ballistic shield on a vehicle or utilize mobile full-body protection, Defenshield has innovative, high-quality and NIJ-rated options, like the Mobile Defensive Fighting Positions (MDFPs) on wheels to provide entry control point ballistic protection.
- Injury and fatality prevention: For people at risk of gunfire and other ballistic threats, ballistic shields and other NIJ-level-related products create a physical barrier between an aggressor and their intended target, which can save lives in the field.
- Robust and durable protection: Defenshield products fill the gap between personal body armor and brick-and-mortar buildings with combat-proven designs.
- Aesthetically appropriate solutions: Powder coating and appropriate finishes allow the products to blend seamlessly with their surroundings.
Find NIJ Ballistically Certified Armor from Defenshield Today
Defenshield is a global industry authority focused on engineering and producing of the highest quality ballistic protective equipment and tactical gear. Our clients include the U.S. government and military, United States law enforcement and foreign partners. They know they can trust Defenshield to provide the highest quality equipment solutions in the most challenging environments.
As a service-disabled veteran-owned business, when you work with us, you have more than a vendor — you have a partner committed to rigorous testing to ensure our solutions will perform as intended during an assault or attack. We know the importance of addressing your unique needs with a global leader in engineering and manufacturing ballistic protective equipment.
Defenshield has a guide to national and international armor standards to 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 email us at email@example.com.