Body Armor Protection Levels Explained

body armor

Did you know wearing body armor gives you a three times better chance of surviving a firearms attack? This statistic varies based on the quality and correct wearing of the items. Are you familiar with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) rating levels?

When choosing the best protective products, it’s important to understand these ratings. New options offer lighter weight and more comfortable fitting armor. Keep reading to learn about what to look for.

FBI LEOKA Reports Regarding Use of Body Armor

The FBI LEOKA Reports looked at why individuals didn’t consistently wear protective vests. This 2017 study focused on law enforcement. Several reasons were summarized:

Type of Assignment

Uniformed patrol officers are more likely to face armed situations. Plainclothes detectives, commanders, and management often face fewer encounters. Thus, they’re less likely to consistently wear their body armor.

Location in the U.S.

The study found that law enforcement in western states had a high rate of ballistic vest use. Those located in southern states were less likely to wear protective vests. This may be related to the higher temperatures or cultural influences.

Level of Policy Enforcement

Each department has its own policies addressing the rules for body armor wear. The expectation and enforcement of the protocol affect compliance. Departments with supportive leadership and monitoring have higher rates of protective vest use.

Individual Body Size

Often, older officers have a lower rate of wearing body armor. Larger individuals often face difficulty in finding a comfortable fitting vest. This can be especially true for female members.

What Are the Different Products Used for Body Armor?

Most people first think of bulletproof vests. Yet, there are many other products that help protect other parts of your body from injury. Examples include the following:

Some of these items provide protection to teachers and healthcare providers as well. Working with mentally challenged students or patients can increase the risk for bites. Law enforcement and correction officers may also need protection from body fluids like spit.

Overview of the NIJ Levels

The NIJ 0101.06 standard established levels of protection for ballistic body armors. Items that meet these rates are placed on the Compliant Products List (CPL).

There are four protection body armor levels. Higher levels afford more resistance to ballistic impact.

When choosing body armor, you want to think about more than just the ability to stop a bullet. Also consider its material composition, shape, and shock distribution. Ask about the blunt force backface and trauma signature as well.

You can choose between soft and hard armor. Soft armor offers lightweight protection for the torso. It’s more flexible and comfortable.

Hard armor has layers of sturdy, thick materials such as metal, laminate, or ceramic. This provides a higher level of protection. Choose the NIJ protection level that best meets your risk.

Specific NIJ Body Armor Ratings

NIJ rating Level I is now obsolete. This 1970 rating doesn’t provide the protection needed for today’s weapons. Thus, you should never wear armor with this rating.

The following defines each NIJ level.

Soft Armor Level II

This armor stops .357 Magnum and 9mm Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) from short-barrel handguns. This rating doesn’t protect against rifle ammunition.

Soft Armor Level IIIA

Tests show that this armor protects against .44 Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP). It also stops .357 SIG FMJ FN (Flat Nose) and 9mm rounds from long barrel handguns. This still doesn’t provide protection against rifle ammunition.

Hard Armor Level III

Hard armor Levels III and above provide the best protection on the CPL. Level III stops 7.62FMJ lead core ammunition fired from a rifle.

Hard Armor Level IV

This is the highest level. It stops .30cal (7.62 x 63 mm) M2 Armor Piercing (AP) steel core ammunition.

New NIJ Standard 0115.91 for Stab and Slash Resistance

A draft of the new NIJ Standard 0115.01 focuses on protection against knife and spike injuries. It includes two categories of protection.

One focuses on commercially manufactures sharp weapons. The second includes improvised weapons often made by prisoners.

Testing is currently underway to evaluate the protection against this threat. Researchers are looking at the stitching and bust cups on female armor.

The standard requires that the vest undergo “tumbling” for many days before testing. The goal is to check its ability to withstand mechanical damage.

Choose the Best Body Armor for Your Risk Level

Body armor provides protection by transferring energy. The fibers in the plates are woven in a tight perpendicular pattern. This creates a solid layer to stop bullets.

Hard armor adds additional layers to increase strength and thickness. Newer materials are providing increased protection with lighter weight.

Wearing body armor increases your chance of avoiding serious injury or death. Thus, it’s vital to find products that provide protection and comfort. This will help you maintain the habit of following safety protocols.

Are You Looking for Top Rated Body Armor?

Body armor can be the difference in life and a critical injury or worse. BAC Tactical provides the thinnest, lightest, safest, and most affordable body armor. We’ve protected military, intelligence, private security, and law enforcement for 27 years.

Our products include protective, cut-resistant, bite-resistant, and bulletproof clothing. We offer ballistic plates, bulletproof and stab-proof vests. You’ll also find bullet-resistant backpacks and other items.

Our team developed Cut-Tuff®, a breathable, lightweight, and cut-resistant material. This provides ASTM F2992 to Tomodynamometer (TDM) 100 Level A4 or A5 cut protection.

Get in touch today to find the products you need.

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