Bullet Proof Blog — body armors

What Do The NIJ Protection Levels Mean?

What Do The NIJ Protection Levels Mean?

For many centuries, warriors and soldiers have continuously searched for better and more feasible methods to protect themselves from oncoming attacks and deadly weapons.

From the knights of the medieval age in their shining armor to Japanese samurai and their softer body armor, personal protection has always been a priority of people who go into battle. Steel, chainmail, and leather are examples of past armor materials, which served as adequate in a time of blades and arrows.

Fast forward to several decades, and large-scale melee warfare has become obsolete. Now firearms and artillery reign on the battlefield. The heavy, bulky, and rigid materials of the past are replaced with much lighter and more rigid synthetic fibers, sewn together to form ballistic vests worn over clothing or even concealed.

How does a body armor work and how much force is required to stop a bullet?

The body armor’s interior is where the stopping force takes action. The exterior is primarily meant to either try to first deflect or impair the direction of the round and secondarily focuses on aesthetic features to match uniforms of the Military/PMC or also act as camo. Then the interior, composed of a variety of synthetic fibers work together to absorb and then spread the impact over the surface area of the entire vest.

There are many types of body armor that you can find today, and while many police departments or military divisions issue bulletproof vests, they don’t necessarily make for the perfect fit. There are organizations that allow their operatives to personally select their own body armor and there are others who are firearms enthusiasts looking to safely and responsibly enjoy their hobby in the wild or at the range. Whatever your reason might be, below is a quick description of the different levels of body armor.

Level I Body Armor

Level I protection is the lowest available level in terms of bulletproof vests. At this level, a vest is rated for 2 types of small caliber rounds, .38 and .22 caliber rounds to be precise. Due to higher caliber rounds being very common, Level I vests are not considered up to NIJ standards.

Level IIA Body Armor

Level IIA is the next tier up. At this level, protection is slightly more flexible additionally protecting the body from 9 mm rounds as well as .40 Smith and Wesson rounds. The “A” distinction refers to having similar properties as Level II vests but somewhat weaker.

Level II Body Armor

Level II vests provide the same level of protection as IIA but can sustain damage from 9 mm rounds at higher traveling speeds (up to 1245 ft/s) and additionally protects against the .357 magnum rounds.

Level IIIA Body Armor

Level IIIA protection covers all previous protection levels as well as 9 mm rounds traveling at speeds of up to 1400 ft/s. IIIA vests also protect against .44 magnum and .44 caliber rounds.

There are suppliers that offer level IIIA+ vests that protect against shotgun rounds, 9 mm Civil Defense rounds, and FN 5.7. While such vests are not officially certified by the NIJ, it is an exploratory option for additional firearm resistance.

Level III Body Armor

Level III body armor is the first level that protects against rifle rounds. These vests usually consist of hard metal plates as opposed to soft plates. Vests must be able to withstand six shots from a 7.62x51 NATO round traveling up to 2780 ft/s to be considered as Level III.

Level IV Body Armor

Level IV body armor is the highest basic level which protects against armor piercing rounds. They also consist of hard plates as opposed to Level IIIA plates and below.

NIJ Ballistic Level Wheel

Special Level Armor

Special type body armor can go beyond the standard protection rating. Level IIIA+ falls under this classification for example. Special type armor usually has very specific protection ratings in terms of caliber and traveling speed of the round.

NIJ Standards

The threat levels for ballistic vests are set by the NIJ (National Institute of Justice). If you like to know more about the particular threat levels, you can visit the NIJ’s website for more information.

With this information, you can now browse through various types of bulletproof vests with an idea of the level of protection you want in mind. Be aware that the highest rating possible is not necessarily the best choice due to factors like the cost and the weight or maneuverability of the vest.

Take note of the conditions that you operate in and make the best decision that would cover your needs without breaking your budget or rendering you immobile out on the field.

What are the Different Types of Body Armor?

plate carrier bullet proof vest body armor type

Body armor is an essential piece of safety equipment that provides protection against various dangerous threats such as penetrating attacks by weapons, slashing, bludgeoning, etc. It is commonly known to be used by military personnel, police, security guards, and bodyguards, however, it is now being used by private citizens who also need protection against said threats. If you are a private citizen who wants body armor for your personal protection, you should have a better understanding about body armor before you actually buy one. This article will provide you relevant information about the different types of body armor so that you can choose the appropriate armor for your needs.

Ballistic Protection

Hard plate armorBallistic protection is the most common type of body armor and is also popularly known as ‘bulletproof vest’ or ‘bullet resistant armor’. This type of body armor provides resistance to bullets, though exactly what types of bullets to resist depends on the level the armor is categorized at. Ballistic protection levels are assigned based on the ammunition the body armor can stop, with higher levels capable of resisting stronger ammunition.

Bulletproof armors can be categorized as Level IIA, Level II, Level IIIA, Level III, or Level IV armors. Levels IIA to Level IIIA armors are designed to offer protection against most of the commonly available firearms such as 9mm, .357 magnum, and .44 magnum firearms. Bulletproof vests at these levels use soft materials like Kevlar, which is strong and can trap and slow bullets to a complete stop. These levels of armor are also referred to as ‘soft armors’.

On the other hand, higher ballistic armors of levels III and IV are designed to provide protection against large, high-velocity bullets such as from rifles and submachine guns. Body armors at these levels are in a form of hard rigid plates made from materials like ceramics, polyethylene, steel or titanium. That’s why they are also referred to as ‘hard armors’ or ‘hard plated armors’. The plates are incorporated to the vests or plate carriers.

If you intend to buy ballistic body armor, you have to determine the ballistic threat level you might encounter. It is unnecessary to buy a higher level armor if you are not in the military or if you will not go into dangerous places such as in a war zone. Contrariwise, if you’re in the military or any special action units, lower level armors are not appropriate for the job. Aside from that, there are other criteria to consider such as cost, comfort, and weight of the body armor. For more factors you can refer to our guide about the 10 Things to Consider when Buying a Bullet Proof Vest.

Edged Blade Protection

Commonly referred to as stab protection or stab proof, this type of body armor provides protection against attacks using cutting tools or weapons such as knives, swords, axes, broken bottles, etc. This type of armor differs from bulletproof armor in the way it was designed and made. Many may think that a bulletproof vest is capable of stopping edged blade attacks when in fact it was the contrary. An edged blade weapon, like a knife, cuts through the protective fabric of the vest instead of getting trapped within the fibers like a bullet does so there is still the possibility to be injured. Aside from Kevlar or similar materials used for bulletproof vests, material like chain mail or laminate is being applied to stop edged weapons from cutting the protective fibers.

Spike Protection

Some may interchangeably use the words spike and stab to refer to any sharp objects that may cause a threat, the terms are actually not significantly different. Spike refers to objects like long nails, needles, ice picks, screwdrivers and stilettos which can penetrate or pierce through the tiny spaces between the threads in the fabric of the body armor. So spike protection in a body armor has been developed to stop or to resist those sharp objects.

Layers of laminated plastic are being applied to create a solid surface. Spike proof vests will usually have Kevlar and probably chain mail beneath this plastic laminate, which helps absorb the impact of an attack.

Multi-threat Armor

We have already identified the different types of body armor that provide protection against specific threats, however, those body armors cannot possibly provide protection against the other threats. A bulletproof vest does not guarantee resistance against spike weapons, same goes to stab proof vest which cannot prevent bullets.

Fortunately, it is now possible to purchase multi-threat armor that provides protection against other types of weapons. For example, it is possible to have the Kevlar plates in stab proof vests laminated to make them spike proof. Of course, this setup is expected to be costly, however, a life that will be saved by this armor system cannot be compared to any price. The multi-threat armor will be helpful for those who will be facing multiple threats, or those who may not know what weapons their attackers will use against them. For the people in the law enforcement, it is necessary to have complete protection against a wide variety of threats that’s why a multi-threat vest is a must-have.

No matter what type of body armor you choose to use, you must always remember to be safe because no other things can guarantee your safety but yourself.