The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) first began testing and deciding on what the ballistic and stab resistance criteria should be for body armor (safety vests) in the mid-1970s. As a result the lives of more than 3,000 officers have been saved.
As it stands, there are currently no 100% bulletproof vests available on the market today. However, body armor does provide the wearer a substantial amount of protection from various kinds of handgun ammunition. But, it is imperative that officers be aware that the amount of protection offered varies depending on how a piece body armor is classified and rated in terms of the threat level it protects against.
When officers who perform their duties in certain types of situations – Special Operations officers, SWAT team members and hostage rescuers, face a weapon threat greater than what regular body armor can protect against, they should wear additional protection.
The NIJ standard specifies what the minimum requirements are for body armor that have undergone their performance and testing protocols and rates the various types of available body armor according to the threat levels they offer protection against.
When body armor is undergoing testing, self-regulating NIJ-certified laboratories put the body armor through a number of different tests to ensure they meet NIJ code and performance standards.
The NIJ has the authority to retest body armor that the manufacturer is already selling on its floor to ensure that the performance standards remain up to code as time passes. This is just part of the NIJ’s excellence and audit procedures.
The NIJ’s performance standards means that commercially available body armor meets the minimum performance requirements they set forth. The NIJ publishes their ballistic and stab resistance standards for personal body armor, as you can see here by clicking on these links. An overview of both the NIJ 0101.04 and the NIJ 0101.06 Standards can be found below.