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NIJ Body Armor Standards

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) first began testing and producing body armor (safety vests) and performance criteria for ballistic and stab resistance during the mid-1970s. And, since that time, the lives of more than 3,000 officers were saved.

Law Enforcement Around The Globe Accept NIJ Standard

This NIJ standard is widely known and accepted by police agencies all throughout the world. Thus, the standard is the performance scale for all ballistic-resistant bulletproof vests.

Understand, as it stands, there are currently no bulletproof body vests available on the market. Body armor does give protection to the wearer from various kinds of handgun ammunition. However, officers should always remember that armor’s threat level is classified and rated differently. 

When certain officers – Special Operations officers, hostage rescuers and SWAT team members – face a weapon threat that is greater than regular body armor can provide, they should wear additional protection.

Minimum Requirements Of Body Armor

The NIJ standard lays out what the minimum requirements are for performance and testing methods for all personal body armor and rates the various kinds of available body armor and notes the many threat levels.

When body armor is being tested, self-regulating NIJ-certified laboratories will put the body armor through various tests to ensure they are up to NIJ code and performance standards.

The NIJ has the authority to retest body armor already on the manufacturer’s floor to ensure performance standards are up to code as time passes. This is part of the NIJ’s excellence and audit procedure.

Their performance standards means commercially available body armor will meet the minimum performance requirements it sets forth. In fact, personal body armor’s ballistic and stab resistance standards have been published by the NIJ. An overview of both the NIJ 0101.04 Standard as the NIJ 0101.06 Standard can be found below.

NIJ 0101.04 Standard

Table Ballistic Requirements Penetration / Back Face Signature NIJ 0101.04

NIJ 0101.04 standard
- Backing is conditioned Roma Plastilina® nr. 1
- Bullet manufacturer is not specified
- All armor panels (including carriers) will be sprayed during three minutes on both sides before testing.
- Shape of impact pattern is given, shot 4 and 5 have an impact angle of 30 degrees
- Minimal distance to edge of sample is 76 mm
- Minimal distance to previous impacts is 51 mm


Table Ballistic Requirements Penetration / Back Face Signature NIJ 0101.06

- Backing is conditioned Roma Plastilina® nr. 1
- For certification Level IIA, II and IIIA, 28 complete vests must be provided
- For Level III certification, nine armor inserts are required
- For Level IV certification, 7 to 37 armor inserts are required
- All new vests and hard armor plates will be immersed for 30 minutes before testing starts. As per
section 7.8.2 NIJ STD 0101.06.
- Bullet manufacturer is specified