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Ballistic Levels

While no body armor can offer 100% protection in all circumstances, an adequate level of body armor will protect the wearer from the majority of pistol rounds, and can provide a significantly improved level of safety. The NIJ has developed standards to help you choose the best armor for your agency’s and your personal needs.

The chart below summarizes the standards used to certify body armor performance against varying levels of threats. It can serve as a basic guide to help you determine the level you need. While considering your requirements, keep in mind that the National Institute strongly recommends the selection of armor that will protect against common street threats in your area, and at minimum, from the officer’s own handgun.

Consider this brief excerpt from the National Institute of Justice’s Publication, Selection and Application Guide to Personal Body Armor:

The first step in selecting the appropriate protection level of body armor is to establish the level of protection
that users need based on the realistic weapon threat they face. To date, body armor has not been known to
fail to prevent the penetration of a bullet constituting a threat equal to or less than the protection rating of the
armor. However, officers have died from wounds received from weapons or ammunition exceeding the rated
protection of the armor. While 100-percent protection in all circumstances is impossible, the routine use of
appropriate body armor significantly reduces the likelihood of fatal injury. Body armor selection is to some
extent a tradeoff between ballistic protection and wear-ability. The weight and bulk of body armor are generally
proportional to the level of ballistic protection it provides; therefore, comfort decreases as the protection level
increases. All departments should strive to select body armor that their officers will wear, consistent with their
ballistic protection requirements. Agencies should ensure that each officer knows and understands the
protection that it affords, as well as its limitations.

The weapons and ammunition commonly found on the street may vary significantly with geographic location.
Therefore, information concerning weapons and ammunition that are confiscated in both the local jurisdiction
and nearby surrounding areas must be considered, as well as statistics concerning gun sales by local firearms
dealers. Such data will permit an assessment of the current threat  from street weapons. The National Institute
of Justice (NIJ) strongly recommends the selection of armor that protects against both the street threat and the
officer's handgun. A review of reports on officers killed during the period from 1980 to 2000 shows that 163 of
the 1,058 officers killed with a handgun, or on average one in six officers, was killed with his or her own service weapon.

Here is a link with full NIJ Report, including a wealth of valuable information.

 

Body Armor Ratings
NIJ Standard 0101.03, 0101.04

 

Armor LevelProtection
Level  I
(.22 LR;.380 ACP)
This armor would protect against 2.6(40 grain) .22 Long Rifle Lead Round Nose (LR LRN) bullets at a velocity of 329 m/s (1080 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 6.2 g (95 gr) .

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-.22_LR.jpg<<<<22 Long Rifle

380 ACP Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets at a velocity of 322 m/s (1055 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It is no longer part of the standard.

 http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-9mm_short.jpg<<<<380 ACP

Level  IIA
(9 mm;.40 S&W;.45 ACP)
New armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9×19mm Parabellum Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets at a velocity of 373 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1225 ft/s ± 30 ft/s); 11.7 g (180 gr).

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-9mmLuger.jpg<<<<9×19mm Parabellum

40 S&W Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets at a velocity of 352 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1155 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 14.9 g (230 gr) .

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-CartridgeComparison.jpg<<<<40 S&W

45 ACP Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets at a velocity of 275 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (900 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Conditioned armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 355 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1165 ft/s ± 30 ft/s); 11.7 g (180 gr) .40 S&W FMJ bullets at a velocity of 325 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1065 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 14.9 g (230 gr) .45 ACP Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets at a velocity of 259 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (850 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Type I].

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-45caliberACP.jpg<<<<45 ACP  

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-Walther_P99_9x19mm.png<<<<A 9x19 mm Walther P99, German semi-automatic pistol

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-Magnum44_900pix.jpg<<<<.44 Magnum revolver and bullet, photographed with an air-gap flash. At one time "the most powerful handgun in the world".

Level  II
(9 mm;.357 Magnum)
New armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 398 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1305 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 10.2 g (158 gr) .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point bullets at a velocity of 436 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Conditioned armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 379 m/s ±9.1 m/s (1245 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 10.2 g (158 gr) .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point bullets at a velocity of 408 m/s ±9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I and IIA].

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-357_Magnum.jpg<<<<.357 Magnum

Level IIIA
(.357 SIG; .44 Magnum)
New armor protects against 8.1 g (125 gr) .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullets at a velocity of 448 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1470 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 15.6 g (240 gr) .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets at a velocity of 436 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/220px-JSP_and_JHP_bullets.jpg<<<<Hollow-point bullet

Conditioned armor protects against 8.1 g (125 gr) .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullets at a velocity of 430 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1410 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 15.6 g (240 gr) .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets at a velocity of 408 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against most handgun threats, as well as the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, and II].

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-44-cartridge.jpg<<<<<.44 Remington Magnum

Level III
(Rifles)
Conditioned armor protects against 9.6 g (148 gr) 7.62×51mm NATO M80 ball bullets at a velocity of 847 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2780 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, II, and IIIA].

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-NATO_7.62x51.jpg<<<<7.62×51mm NATO

Level IV
(Armor Piercing Rifle)
Conditioned armor protects against 10.8 g (166 gr) .30-06 Springfield M2 armor-piercing (AP) bullets at a velocity of 878 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2880 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides at least single hit protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, II, IIIA, and III].

http://www.magicgsm.com/images/NIJ/300px-30-06_Springfield_rifle_cartridge.jpg<<<<.30-06 Springfield

Body armor is more than just a bullet proof vest.  Today's body armor is more comfortable, more durable, and more safe.  Body armor now comes in many different shapes and sizes.