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What You Need To Know About NIJ Standards When Buying Body Armor

When shopping for personal protection, you should never wonder about the legitimacy of the body armor you are purchasing. Luckily, the ballistic industry has testing standards and classifications to give you peace of mind.

In this article we will explain the regulations around body armor and how to tell if you are buying an “NIJ Certified” product or just an armor imitation.

What is the NIJ Standard?

Since 1972, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Standard has been recognized as the only nationally accepted specification for life saving equipment. The NIJ regulates all body armor worn by law enforcement, correction officers and military operators. In July of 2008 the NIJ 0101.06 standard was released, replacing all five previous publications (NIJ 0101.04). Although there have been revisions and rumors around the future NIJ 0101.07 specification, the NIJ-06 supersedes all versions to this date.

The NIJ-06 breaks down five levels of ballistic performance for body armor. The first three levels- IIA, II and IIIA are used for handgun threats mostly to accredit soft armor. The two remaining levels, III and IV, are designed to protect against rifle threats.

NIJ 0101.06 Laboratory Testing Protocols

There are two components to the NIJ’s rigorous testing method. The first test measures the Perforation and Backface Signature (P-BFS) and the second is designed to determine the Ballistic Limit (BL). Temperature controlled clay is used to emulate the human body during testing. Once a projectile has impacted an armor sample, the P-BFS, or “V0” is determined by measuring the depth of indentation.

The BL test, otherwise known as the “V50” is the velocity at which there is an equal chance of complete or partial penetration. In other words, the BL test ensures that the armor in question can withstand velocities much higher than the ammunition’s advertised striking velocity.

Level IIA, II and IIIA

There are various handgun threats facing our agencies and private security members. Although those threats can change over time, the NIJ level IIA, II and IIIA covers all major handgun threats.

  • Level IIA: 9mm FMJ RN; .40 S&W FMJ
  • Level II: 9mm FMJ RN; .357Magnum JSP
  • Level IIIA: .357 SIG FMJ FN; .44 Magnum SJHP

Reference the NIJ Levels Chart to learn more information, including the velocities covered under P-BFS testing.

Level III and IV

Rifle threat protection is designated by level III and IV of the NIJ’s standard. Upon testing, the lab must be provided enough samples to complete the P-BFS (24 shot) and BL (12 shot) test. As a supplier of LTC’s rifle plates, Next Day Armor ensures its products have been tested and approved by the NIJ. When purchasing your armor pay attention to the NIJ markings to conclude your rifle protection level.

  • Level III: 62 mm FMJ M80
  • Level IV: .30 Cal APM2

How Can I Verify That My Armor Is NIJ Certified?

Body armor that has been tested to the NIJ standard at approved, accredited test laboratories can be verified in two ways…

The NIJ Label Stamp

All armor products come with a water and element resistant label on the back (hard armor) or inside panel (soft armor). Only labels that feature the NIJ’s official seal of approval are certified. When looking for NIJ approved armor, read the label closely and avoid any products that claim to be “Tested to NIJ Standards” without the NIJ seal.

Compliant Products List (CPL)

The CPL is a comprehensive list for NIJ compliant armor. It is wise to confirm your armor’s legitimacy by searching the CPL for the manufacturer and model designation. You will find information such as the NIJ threat level, size range, warranty duration and verification of the NIJ compliant status of your armor.

In your search for personal protection, Next Day Armor is committed not only to equip but inform your decision. All resources and charts can be found in this article and throughout the NDA site.

Ballistic Armor Compliant Products List:

Compliant Product Lists


Body armor is an essential piece of equipment for anyone who wants to protect themselves from bodily harm in high-risk situations.

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