NIJ Standard 0101.06 for Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor

NIJ Standard 0101.06 for Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor

The following article on NIJ Standard 0101.06 is aimed at assisting readers in getting a better understanding of what the NIJ certification on our various body armors means, and how it can help instill confidence in the armor they are purchasing. If you should have any questions about our body armor certifications, or any of our other products please contact us.

Body armor, tactical ballistic

Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor:

Firearms are one of the most dangerous threats law enforcement officers face today. During the past three decades, ballistic-resistant soft body armor has saved the lives of more than 3,000 police officers. This article is aimed at bringing to light an understanding of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) 0101.06 Standard for Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor. The purpose of this standard is to establish minimum performance requirements and test methods for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor intended to protect against gunfire. It is also worth noting that this standard is a revision of NIJ Standard–0101.04, dated September 2000 and does not render those findings invalid.

Updated NIJ Standards:

Did you know, that the vast majority of bullet proof vests available on the market are of exceptional poor quality?

People may not know this but the performance of most bullet proof vests might be of an acceptable level on the day of testing/certification, but when worn in hot and humid environments by an officer who is actively involved in serious physical confrontations, for several hours a day, several days a week/month/year, that ballistic protection level may well have been reduced by a high percentage due to the use of poor raw materials and craftsmanship and ‘cutting corners’ during the design and manufacturing process.

Which, is why the NIJ updated their standards to include conditioning in NIJ 0101.06. 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.

The full NIJ Standard 0101.06 Report with a wealth of valuable information, is available as a PDF.

How do I know what NIJ Standard Level is right for me?

The question now becomes-Which armor is really good and will do the job even after having been subjected to all types of severe wear and tear?

It is true no body armor can offer 100% protection in all circumstances. However, an adequate level of body armor resistance will protect the wearer from the majority of pistol rounds, and can provide a significantly improved level of safety. The NIJ (National Institute of Justice) has developed standards to help choose the best armor for one’s agency or personal needs. And body armor manufacturers and purchasers are called upon use this standard to help to determine whether specific armor models meet the minimum performance standards. Compliance to such standards is the only way to guarantee very specific ballistic resistance standard and in this case there is no doubt we are talking about the latest and also the most stringent version of it. I am talking here about the “NIJ Standard 0101.06 Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor”.

The NIJ standard testing method classifies personal body armor into five standard classes (IIA, II, IIIA, III, IV) based on level of ballistic performance. There is also special test class defined to allow an armor to be validated against threats that may not be covered by the five standard classes.

NIJ Standard LEVEL I:


This classification level was present in NIJ Standard 0101.04. However in the NIJ Standard 0101.06, it is removed. It essentially provided protection against minimum impact velocities, bullet masses etc.

NIJ Standard LEVEL IIA:

Level IIA armor that is new and unworn undergoes testing with 9 mm Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets with a specified mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and a velocity of 373 m/± 9.1 m/s (1225 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .40 S&W Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets with a specified mass of 11.7 g (180 gr) and a velocity of 352 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1155 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

While level IIA armor that has been conditioned is tested with 9 mm FMJ RN bullets with a specified mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and a velocity of 355 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1165 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .40 S&W FMJ bullets with a specified mass of 11.7 g (180 gr) and a velocity of 325 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1065 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

NIJ Standard LEVEL II:

Level II armor that is new and unworn undergoes testing with 9 mm FMJ RN bullets with a specified mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and a velocity of 398 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1305 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point (JSP) bullets with a specified mass of 10.2 g (158 gr) and a velocity of 436 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

Type II armor that has been conditioned is tested with 9 mm FMJ RN bullets with a specified mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and a velocity of 379 m/s ±9.1 m/s (1245 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .357 Magnum JSP bullets with a specified mass of 10.2 g (158 gr) and a velocity of 408 m/s ±9.1m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

Level II body armor is heavier and more bulky than either Levels I or IIA. It is worn full time by officers seeking protection against higher velocity .357 Magnum and 9mm ammunition.

NIJ Standard LEVEL IIIA:

A Level IIIA armor that is new and unworn undergoes testing with .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullets with a specified mass of 8.1 g (125 gr) and a velocity of 448 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1470 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets with a specified mass of 15.6 g (240 gr) and a velocity of 436 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).Type IIIA armor that has been conditioned shall be tested with .357 SIG FMJ FN bullets with a specified mass of 8.1 g (125 gr) and a velocity of 430 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1410 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .44 Magnum SJHP bullets with a specified mass of 15.6 g (240 gr) and a velocity of 408 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

Level IIIA body armor provides the highest level of protection currently available from concealable body armor and is generally suitable for routine wear in many situations.

NIJ Standard LEVEL III (Rifle):

Level III hard armor or plate inserts are tested in a conditioned state with 7.62 mm FMJ, steel jacketed bullets (U.S. Military designation M80) with a specified mass of 9.6 g (147 gr) and a velocity of 847 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2780 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

Level III flexible armor are tested in both the “as new” state and the conditioned state with 7.62 mm FMJ, steel jacketed bullets (U.S. Military designation M80) with a specified mass of 9.6 g (147 gr) and a velocity of 847 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2780 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

Level III body armor is clearly intended only for tactical situations when the threat warrants such protection, such as barricade confrontations involving sporting rifles. Our Level III plates can be found in either our Spartan Armor Systems or HighCom Security brands.

NIJ Standard LEVEL IV (Armor-piercing Rifle):

Level IV hard armor or plate inserts are tested in a conditioned state with .30 caliber armor piercing (AP) bullets (U.S. Military designation M2 AP) with a specified mass of 10.8 g (166 gr) and a velocity of 878 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2880 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

Level IV flexible armors are tested in both the “as new” state and the conditioned state with .30 caliber AP bullets (U.S. Military designation M2 AP) with a specified mass of 10.8 g(166 gr) and a velocity of 878 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2880 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

Level IV body armor provides the highest level of protection currently available. Because this armor is intended to resist “armor piercing” bullets, it often uses ceramic materials. Such materials are brittle in nature and may provide only single-shot protection since the ceramic tends to break up when struck. As with Level III armor, Level IV armor is clearly intended only for tactical situations when the threat warrants such protection. Our Ceramic/Composite Level IV plates are also available in our Spartan Armor Systems or HighCom Security brands.

Special Threat Testing:

A purchaser having a special requirement for a level of protection other than one of the above standard types and threat levels could specify the exact test round(s) and reference measurement velocities to be used and indicate that this standard shall be his/her reference governing all other aspects. This protocol is called special threat testing. An example of this can be found in the RSTP plates from HighCom Security available in the Build Your Own Kit Section.

That having been said, let’s now try to understand why the need for the body armor test protocols changed. Updating to the NIJ Standard-0101.06 adds additional levels of safety, which has always been the key objective. This is brought about by the following tests:

FLEXIBLE (SOFT/CONCEALABLE) ARMOR CONDITIONING:

This protocol is designed to subject test armors to conditions that are intended to provide some indication of the armor’s ability to maintain ballistic performance after being exposed to conditions of heat, moisture, and mechanical wear.

This protocol will not predict the service life of the vest nor does it simulate an exact period of time in the field.

HARD ARMOR CONDITIONING:

This protocol is designed to subject hard armors or plate inserts to conditions that are intended to provide some indication of armor’s ability to maintain ballistic performance after being exposed to conditions of heat, moisture, and mechanical wear; and is only applied to rigid systems.
However it does not predict the service life of the armor nor does it simulate an exact period of time in the field just like the former.

As with the Flexible Armor Conditioning protocols, the hard armor conditioning do however mimic the normal wear and tear of the armor during routine wear and use, giving the wearer more confidence that their armor will still function as intended in the situation it was designed for.

BALLISTIC TEST METHODS:

This section specifies the methods and performance requirements for ballistic testing of body armor and includes the formal test procedures for the Perforation-Backface Signature (P-BFS) and baseline Ballistic Limit (BL) tests.

Test One:

The first test series is P-BFS testing and requires the armor to demonstrate consistent ballistic resistance to both perforation and excessive blunt force trauma. Ultimately this can allow the wearer to have more confidence in the armor they are wearing. Knowing that even if the armor was to be struck by a round or rounds, the P-BFS test conducted by the NIJ is designed to help mitigate the additional blunt force trauma. Including in some rare cases death due to the blunt force trauma of the round striking the vest that the wearer experienced in a gun battle. For instance, the armor may have stopped the round preventing penetration, but the blunt force trauma created by the impact still severely injured the wearer. Which, although not required to meet the NIJ certification it is another reason we recommend adding Soft Armor Plate Backers or “Trauma Pads” to your hard armor kits to add even additional backface deformation mitigation.

You can purchase Soft Armor Backers as an option with all of our kits. “Trauma Pads” are available for purchase with our Spartan Armor Systems AR650 Armor Package or as an add on for your HighCom Security Armor Plates.

Test Two:

The second test series is BL testing and is designed to statistically estimate perforation performance. In addition, for flexible vests and jackets, a portion of the sample set is subjected to the flexible armor conditioning protocol described above. For hard armor and plate inserts, the entire sample set is be subjected to the hard armor conditioning protocol. The conditioned samples are then subjected to ballistic testing.

Hence, before any armor model complies with this standard, all the tests described above have to be met for an appropriate number of samples. At ROE Tactical we have paired with some of the industry leaders to ensure that we offer a wide selection  of Body Armors  tat meet or exceed the NIJ Standards compliance protocols.

Better Testing : Better Armor : Better Protection

Ultimately this means increased protection for you, reassurance and peace of mind, which can only be brought by knowing that you are wearing protective equipment based on the very latest design and manufacturing technologies. Check out our selection of body armor kits by visiting our Armor Kit Builder Page.

NIJ Standard 0101.06 Table
NIJ Standard 0101.06 Perfermance Test Summary

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