What are the Different Levels of Body Armour: NIJ Protection Levels

What are the Different Levels of Body Armour: NIJ Protection Levels

There are a range of different levels of protective body armour. Each plate, or vest, is designed for a different purpose.

To decide which level of body armour you require, you must understand each level. The NIJ levels of protection are a standard set to define what each level of body armour is designed to stop. By following NIJ standards, and equipping yourself with NIJ standard gear, you can ensure you are using the correct armour in the right circumstances.

In this comprehensive guide from the body armour manufacturers at Sarkar Tactical, we explain each level of body armour. This will help you decide which one you require, or just understand the various protection levels.

Table of Contents

National Institute of Justice Protection Levels (NIJ)

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice. It is dedicated to advancing scientific research, development, and evaluation in the field of criminal justice. 

One critical aspect of their work is the establishment of standards for body armour or ballistic-resistant vests used by militaries and police.

NIJ Protection Levels are a standardised framework. These levels categorise body armour based on its ability to provide protection against various ballistics. These protection levels are crucial in determining the specific capabilities and intended use of different types of body armour.

Levelled body armour is generally used in plate carriers or bulletproof vests. Find out more about what a plate carrier is, how to set up a plate carrier, or what bulletproof vests are made of.

Sarkar Delta-3

SARKAR DELTA 3

This lightweight 10” x 12” Level III plate reduces spall and has a multi-curved shape to fit the body comfortably…
The Sarkar Delta 3 plate is designed to meet the complete requirements of NIJ level III. This Dyneema® plate…
This single-curve 6” x 6” Side Plate has been independently tested to defeat the 7.62 x 63mm AP round…
This high performing 10” x 12” Type III/IV plate remains our most economical and popular offering…
This high performing 10” x 12” Type IV plate offers the most comprehensive stand alone protection from Level…
This 10” x 12” plate is our ultra-light NIJ Level IV insert and utilises a Hot Pressed Boron Carbide/Dyneema…

NIJ Level IIA

Soft, Concealable

NIJ Level IIA body armour is designed to mitigate the impact of certain handgun ammunition. It can provide defence against lower-velocity ammunition commonly found in typical handgun calibres.

While NIJ Level IIA offers protection against various handgun rounds, it’s important to note that it might not provide defence against higher-velocity or larger-calibre firearms.

What Does Level IIA Protect Against?

Level IIA can provide protection against handgun rounds, such as:

  • 9mm FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) rounds
  • .40 Smith & Wesson FMJ rounds
  • .45 ACP FMJ rounds

NIJ Level II (NIJ HG1)

Soft, Concealable

NIJ Level II body armour provides increased defence against a wider range of handgun threats compared to Level IIA. It can offer protection against various low-velocity handgun rounds. Similarly to Level II body armour, this is also still relatively flexible and lightweight. This means it can be easily concealed.

What Does Level II Protect Against?

Level II can provide protection against rounds such as:

  • 9mm FMJ rounds
  • .357 Magnum JSP rounds
  • .40 Smith & Wesson FMJ rounds
  • .45 ACP FMJ rounds

NIJ Level IIIA (NIJ HG2)

Soft, All-round, Concealable

NIJ Level IIIA body armour provides protection against a wider spectrum of ballistic threats compared to IIA and II. It effectively defends against various handgun ammunition. Additionally, NIJ Level IIIA body armour offers protection against blunt trauma from impacts. This reduces the risk of injury from blows or falls.

What Does Level IIIA Protect Against?

This level is designed to resist:

  • 9mm FMJ rounds
  • .357 SIG FMJ FN rounds
  • .44 Magnum SJHP rounds

NIJ Level III (NIJ RF1)

nij level 3 armour plate

Hard, Rifle Defence

NIJ Level III body armour defends against rifle rounds and high-velocity ammunition. This is a broad spectrum of ballistic threats that lower levels can protect against. NIJ Level III body armour provides wearers with crucial protection against higher-velocity ballistic threats that surpass handgun ammunition.

What Does Level III Protect Against?

Level III body armour can protect against:

  • 7.62mm FMJ rounds
  • 5.56mm NATO FMJ rounds
  • .308 Winchester FMJ rounds

NIJ Level IV (NIJ RF3)

nij level 4 armour plate

Hard, High Velocity Rifle Defence

NIJ Level IV represents the highest level within the NIJ standards for body armour. It provides maximum protection against the most potent ballistic threats. NIJ Level IV body armour is engineered to withstand high-powered rifle ammunition and armour-piercing rounds.

What Does Level IV Protect Against?

This level offers protection against:

  • .30-06 M2AP rounds
  • 7.62mm NATO AP rounds
  • .300 Winchester Magnum AP round

Body Armour Levels Chart

Here is the current body armour levels chart from the NIJ:
   

Threat Level Table

Former Threat Level New Threat Level Notes
NIJ Level II NIJ HG1 HG = handgun
NIJ Level IIIA NIJ HG2
NIJ Level III NIJ RF1 RF = rifle
NIJ RF2 NIJ RF2 is a new intermediate rifle protection level that includes all the threats at the NIJ RF1 protection level plus an additional threat
NIJ Level IV NIJ RF3

Conclusion: The Different Levels of Body Armour

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Protection Levels delineate a crucial hierarchy of defence against ballistic threats. From the foundational protection of Level IIA, up to Level IV, each level has different protective capabilities. Understanding these levels is not just about the technical specifications of body armour. It’s about making informed decisions that could potentially safeguard lives in combat situations.

Find NIJ Level Certified Armour at Sarkar Tactical

Looking for tactical body armour? Explore Sarkar Tactical’s range of NIJ level certified armour. We design, craft, test, and supply all of our equipment, including helmets, armour, EOD and demining equipment, and tactical communications gear View our range of tactical vests, plate carriers, or ballistic armour plates Alternatively, learn how we test our armour, or explore our blog section.

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FAQs

What is the standard for armour testing?

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Standard 0101.07 introduced a suite of standardised test methods and laboratory practices published by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for body armour evaluation. This updated standard represents a collaborative effort involving NIJ, the U.S. Army, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), ballistics laboratories, body armour manufacturers, materials suppliers, and other stakeholders.

Is there level 5 body armour?

The NIJ does not have a specific “Level 5” designation for body armour within its standardised levels. NIJ Standards for body armour typically range from Level IIA to Level IV at this point in time. Each level is designed for specific ballistic protection capabilities against various threats.
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