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The NIJ Body Armour Specification

Vests are also tested for stopping penetration, Blunt trauma protection the blow suffered by the body from the bullet's impact on the vest. Blunt trauma is measured by the dent suffered by a soft clay backstop to the vest a maximum of 1.7" (44 mm) is allowed. NIJ test rounds are listed below tested vests stop many other comparable rounds, and lesser threats.

NIJ 0101.03 Standard

Thickness Tested for: Comment

.38 Special at 850 fps (feet per second)
(259 mps - meters per second

.22 at 1,050 fps
Early generation ballistic fibers, though bulkier, only stop fragmentation and low velocity pistol ammunition.

Sometimes PASGT army surplus flak jackets are passed off as about Level II-A, but in our tests 9 mm penetrated. Excellent riot gear or paintball equipment, but not recommended for pistol ballistic protection.

NIJ level II-A

9 mm FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) at ~1,090 fps
(332 mps)

.357 Magnum JSP (Jacketed Soft Point) at ~1,250 fps
(~381 mps). Minimum Recommended...

...for the vast majority of threats encountered on the street, though you would sustain more blunt trauma injury than Level II or III-A. The thinnest and best for concealability and comfort.

NIJ level II

9 mm FMJ, at ~1,175 fps
(~358 mps)

.357 JSP at ~ 1,395 fps
(~425 mps). A great balance...

...between blunt trauma protection, versus cost, and thickness / comfort / concealability. Handles the blunt trauma of higher velocity +P rounds better.

What we recommend most often for concealable wear.

NIJ level III-A

9 mm FMJ at ~1,400 fps
(~427 mps)
(e.g., sub-machine-gun velocity)

.44 Magnum Lead Semi-Wadcutter at ~1,400 fps
(~427 mps). The highest blunt trauma protection rating in soft body armor. The best for very high-risk situations to cover more of the uncommon or unusual threats.
Minimizes blunt trauma injury to allow more effective return fire.

Detailed Data on Rounds Stopped...

NIJ Standard 0101.04 & .05

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has modified the 0101.03 ballistic standard for the testing of Body Armor. In general, the new 0101.04 standard is almost identical, but just slightly tougher. The interim 05 standard is simply an assurance that no Zylon is used in the manufacture of 04 Certified vests.

"Is armor that complies with NIJ Standard-0101.04 "better" than armor that complies with NIJ Standard-0101.03?

NO. It has only been tested to a different version of the standard."

...Guide to Police Body Armor, National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (

"NIJ Standard-0101.04 is not intended to restrict or otherwise influence the procurement and use of NIJ Standard-0101.03 compliant body armors...

... this revision for new model compliance testing does not invalidate or render unsuitable any body armor models previously determined to be compliant using NIJ Standard-0101.03 requirements."


So, on either standard, you can rest assured you are getting a high-quality vest. There are MUCH more important factors to consider – such as how well the vest covers your body, and how comfortable it is.

The 9 mm FMJ test rounds are exactly the same, it is the secondary test round has been slightly changed - noted in bold below

NIJ 0101.04 & 05 Standard

Level Tested for: Difference from the 03 to the 04 / 05 Standard

9 mm FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) at ~1,090 fps
(332 mps)

.40 S&W Full Metal Jacket at 1,025 fps
(312 mps) Threat round changed from
.357 Magnum at 1,250 fps to
.40 S&W at 1,025 fps

NIJ level II

9 mm FMJ, at ~1,175 fps
(~358 mps)

.357 JSP at ~ 1,400 fps
(~427 mps). .357 Magnum round increased in velocity from 1,395 to 1400 fps

Increase in velocity of 5 fps or 0.4%

NIJ level III-A

9 mm FMJ at ~1,400 fps
(~427 mps)

.44 Magnum Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point at ~1,400 fps
(~427 mps). .44 Magnum changed from Lead Semi-Wadcutter to Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point

It is important to note that Level II-A, II and III-A all stop the overwhelming majority of pistol projectiles you are ever likely to encounter (plus 12 gauge, OO buckshot), and also to know that NO armor is ever 100% ‘bulletproof’ under ALL conceivable circumstances.
However, these ratings often have a safety margin for penetration because blunt trauma is usually the limiting factor in certification. For example, Level II body armor would likely stop the III-A test standard, (9 mm submachine gun at 1400 fps) from actually PENETRATING through the Level II vest. But, the Level II vest would fail on blunt trauma impact (the NIJ deems any dent greater than ~1.7" (~44 mm.) on the soft clay test surface, a FAIL).

So, the advantage in increasing protection Levels from II-A, to II, to III-A, is NOT so much protection from PENETRATION of pistol fire, but a significant reduction in the blunt trauma received.

To see with your own eyes
just how effective soft body armor is...

How Does Body Armor Actually Work?
Kevlar®, one of the most popular ballistic fibers, is a synthetic material developed by DuPont, with about 5 times the tensile strength of steel by weight.

When a handgun bullet strikes body armor, it is caught in a web of very strong fibers. These fibers absorb and disperse the impact energy that is transmitted to the vest from the bullet, causing the bullet to deform or mushroom.
Additional energy is absorbed by each successive layer of material in the vest, until such time as the bullet has been stopped.

...Guide to Police Body Armor, National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC)

HARD Body Armor
- Rifle Plate Protection Levels
Level Tested for Comment

.308 Winchester Full Metal Jacket =
7.62 X 51 mm NATO

6 rounds at ~ 2,750 fps
( ~838 mps).
~1/4" Ballistic Steel (6 mm)
~1/2" Ceramic (13 mm)
~1" Polyethylene (25 mm)

NIJ Level IV
.3006 Armor-Piercing
.30 M2 AP

One round at ~ 2,850 fps
(~869 mps)
The highest rating for Body Armor.
~ 3/4" Ceramic (18 mm)
~1/2" Ballistic Steel (12 mm)

Body amour and anti stab vests

For more information on Body amour and anti stab vests click here
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