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January 22, 2018

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) began setting standards for body armor in 1972. The NIJ is the only nationally accepted standard for body armor worn by law enforcement personnel. The NIJ ballistic resistance standard classifies body armor by levels of ballistic performance.

What does the NIJ test protocol require? It requires that for any performance level, the bullet does not perforate the vest. The NIJ runs a program that tests commercially available armor to determine if the body armor vest meets minimum performance standards.

Why is having a body armor standard important?

  • To have armor that will protect against the current threats to law enforcement.
  • To have reliable armor that law enforcement can count on in life or death situations.
  • To determine durability of armor and whether it will hold up to daily use.

When your department is going through the process of deciding what body armor to purchase, they need to determine the threats their officers will most often face, and that will help them decide which classification the body armor needs to have.

The most recent standard, 0101.06, was published in 2008. It “established minimum performance requirements and test methods for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor intended to protect against gunfire.

The standard established five classifications for vests. Classifications are listed as Roman numerals and classified as follows:

  • Type IIA (9mm; .40 S&W)
  • Type II (9mm; .357 Magnum)
  • Type IIIA (.357 SIG; .44 Magnum)
  • Type III (Rifles)
  • Type IV (Armor Piercing Rifle)

This means that depending on the classification, under certain circumstances, a vest should be able to withstand a bullet from that particular weapon.