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National Institute of Justice

Ballistic Threat levels and NIJ Standards

The National Institute of Justice (N.I.J.) is a part of U.S. Department of Justice. Under the N.I.J., the Law Enforcement and Corrections Standards and Testing Program was established to set minimum performance standards for law enforcement equipment, thus setting national standards for police body armor. These standards have been updated and revised through the years to meet the ever increasing threat to police officers. Because of these standards, U.S. made body armor is the most advanced and effective armor in the world today. The current N.I.J. standards are fully endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chief of Police, the Police Executive Research forum, and the Technology Assessment Program Advisory Council.

For further information on the National Institute of Justice,
please visit their web site at http://www.nlectc.org or to request additional testing information write to:

National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center
P.O. Box 1160
Rockville, MD 20849-1160

NIJ Standards

Soft Ballistic Threat Levels

  • Level I offers protection from .22lr & .380acp.
  • Level IIA offers increased protection
    (9 mm and 40 S&W)
  • Level II offers greater protection
    (.357 Magnum and High Velocity 9 mm)
  • Level IIIA offers the highest protection
     (.357sig & .44 Magnum)

Remember: These are the minimum standards that a vest manufacturer MUST achieve in certification before they can claim an NIJ level. Some manufacturers will submit their Level 3A to a Level 2 certification just to pass the test. Some manufacturers will only build their ballistic package to just reach these minimums. Take a look at these charts below; If the vest you're currently wearing does not stop the rounds coming out of Wal-Mart®, you better buy a new vest. There should be no one wearing a Level 2A vest these days. The cartridges found on today's streets will turn them into Swiss-cheese.

N.I.J. Ballistic Standards 0101.06 for Ballistic Protection
N.I.J. THREAT LEVELROUNDS (+/- 50)0101.06 VELOCITIES
Before Conditioning
0101.06 VELOCITIES
After Conditioning
Level IIA9mm 124 gr. FMJ RN
.40 Caliber 180 gr. FMJ
1250 f/s
1155 f/s
1165 f/s
1065 f/s
Level II9mm 124 gr. FMJ RN
.357 Magnum 158 gr. JSP
1305 f/s
1430 f/s
1245 f/s
1340 f/s
Level IIIA.357sig  125 gr. FMJ FN
.44 Magnum 240 gr. SJHP
1470 f/s
1430 f/s
1410 f/s
1340 f/s
Level III HARD
(Stand-Alone)
.762 mm NATO 148 gr.
(.308 Caliber) FMJ
N/A2780 f/s
Level III HARD/SOFT
(In Conjunction)
.762 mm NATO 147 gr.M802780 f/s2780 f/s
Level IV HARD
(Stand Alone)
30.06 166 gr. (.30 Caliber)
M2AP Armor Piercing
N/A2880 f/s
Level IV
(in Conjunction)
30.06 166 gr. (.30 Caliber)
M2AP Armor Piercing
2880 f/s2880 f/s
All 0101.04 Certified Level IIAs continue to protect against 4" .357 Magnums, as evidenced by a minimum .357 Magnum 158 gr. JSP V-50 Ballistic Limit of 1400 f/s. This policy adoption was made necessary by N.I.J.'s removal of the .357 Magnum 158 gr. JSP bullet at Level IIA, replacing it with the less stringent .40 S&W 180 gr. FMJ.

 

Mechanics of Blunt Trauma

When body armor defeats an impacting bullet through expansion and deformation, kinetic energy is transferred to the body. The resulting damage to tissue is called blunt trauma. To comply with the N.I.J. Body Armor Standard, this deformation cannot exceed 44 millimeters in Roma Plastina #1 Clay.

  • Panel Thickness: (or Thinness): Thickness is measured in inches.

  • Areal Density: Is a measured in pounds-per-square-foot (not including the carrier) and is the most accurate method for comparing vests since vest sizes and their accompanying weights differ.

N.I.J. Spike Levels

 

N.I.J. Standard 0115.00 For Spike Protection

LEVELSPIKE CLASS 1SPIKE CLASS 2SPIKE CLASS 3
Strike Energy"EI" = 25 joules
(17.7 ft. lbs.)
"EI" = 33 joules
(24.3 ft. lbs.)
"EI" = 43 joules
(31.7 ft. lbs.)
Overstrike Energy"E2" = 36 joules
(26.6 ft. lbs.)
"E2" = 50 joules
(36.9 ft. lbs.)
"E2" = 65 joules
(47.9 ft. lbs.)

 

The National Institute of Justice rates body armor on resistance to hand-delivered stab threats.

 

Penetration Testing

  • The N.I.J. Standard 0115.00.
    Maximum penetration of 0.28"/ 7mm is allowed
  • An "Overtest" is also applied, to push the breaking point of the armor, where 0.79"/ 20mm of penetration is allowed
  • Testing is done in two different categories of threat: "Edged Blades" (standard knives) or "Spike" weapons (ice-pick or improvised)
NIJ Tested Cartridges
BALLISTIC LEVELS OF PROTECTION (By the Numbers)

* NIJ certification round when used in concert with a Soft Trauma sternum plate
NIJ Level IIA
1 .22 Magnum 40 gr. JHP (1209 FPS / 369 MPS)
2 .32 ACP 60 gr. Silvertip JHP (936 FPS / 285 MPS)
3 .380 ACP 95 gr. FMC (902 FPS / 275 MPS)
4 .38 Special 125 gr. Nyclad SWHP (1009 FPS / 308 MPS)
5 .38 Special +P 110 gr. JHP (1049 FPS / 320 MPS)
6 .38 Special +P 140 gr. JHP (869 FPS / 265 MPS)
7 9mm 124 gr. FMC (1173 FPS / 358 MPS)*
8 9mm 125 gr. JSP (1121 FPS / 342 MPS)
9 9mm 147 gr. Black Talon (1010 FPS / 308 MPS)
10 9mm 147 gr. Golden Saber (1083 FPS / 330 MPS)
11 9mm 147 gr. Hydra Shok (1011 FPS / 308 MPS)
12 .357 Magnum 158 gr. JSP (1308 FPS / 399 MPS)*
13 .357 Magnum 110 gr. JHP (1292 FPS / 394 MPS)
14 .357 Magnum 125 gr. JHP (1335 FPS / 407 MPS)
15 .40 Caliber 180 gr. FMJTC (992 FPS / 302 MPS)
16 .40 Caliber 170 gr. FMJTC (1095 FPS / 334 MPS)
17 10mm 155 gr. FMJTC (1024 FPS / 312 MPS)
18 10mm 170 gr. JHP (1137 FPS / 347 MPS)
19 .41 Magnum 210 gr. LSWC (1141 FPS / 348 MPS)
20 .44 Magnum 240 gr. LFP (1017 FPS / 310 MPS)
21 .45 Long Colt 250 gr. LRN (778 FPS / 237 MPS)
22 .45 ACP 230 gr. FMJ (826 FPS / 252 MPS)
23 12 ga. 00 Buck (9 pellet) (1063 FPS / 324 MPS)

NIJ Level II (in addition to Level IIA)
24 9mm 124 gr. FMJ (1215 FPS / 370 MPS)*
25 9mm 115 gr. Silvertip JHP (1252 FPS / 382 MPS)
26 9mm 124 gr. Starfire JHP (1174 FPS / 358 MPS)
27 .357 Magnum 158 gr. JSP (1453 FPS / 443 MPS)*
28 .357 Magnum 145 gr. Silvertip JHP (1371 FPS / 418 MPS)
29 .357 Magnum 125 gr. JHP (1428 FPS / 435 MPS)
30 10 mm 175 gr. Silvertip JHP (1246 FPS / 380 MPS)
31 .41 Magnum 210 gr. JSP (1322 FPS / 403 MPS)
32 .44 Magnum 240 gr. SJHP (1270 FPS / 387 MPS)

 

NIJ Level IIIA (in addition to Level II)
33 9mm 124 gr. FMJ (1440 FPS / 439 MPS)*
34 9mm 115 gr. FMJ Israeli (1499 FPS / 457 MPS)
35 9mm 123 gr. FMJ Geco (1372 FPS / 418 MPS)
36 9mm 124 gr. FMJ Cavim (1259 FPS / 384 MPS)
37 .44 Magnum 240 gr. LSWC (1448 FPS / 441 MPS)*
38 .44 Magnum 240 gr. HSP (1320 FPS / 402 MPS)
39 12 ga. 1 oz. Rifled Slug (1290 FPS / 393 MPS)
40 12 ga. 1 oz. Rifle Slug (1254 FPS / 382 MPS)

Bullet Abbreviations:
The following standard abbreviations are used to designate types of bullets or projectiles contained in the rounds tested.
FMC/J Full Metal Case/ Full metal Jacket
FMJTC Full Metal Jacket Truncated Cone
HSP Hollow Soft Point
LRB Lead Round Ball
LRN Lead Round Nose
LSWC Lead Semi-Wadcutter
JHP Jacketed Hollow Point
JSP Jacketed Soft Point
LFP Lead Flat Point
SJHP Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point
SWHP Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point

 

 

Active NIJ Standards and Comparative Test Methods

Access ASTM Standards

ASTM and NIJ are criminal justice professionals access to relevant ASTM Standards and Test Methods. Learn more.

The following are active NIJ standards. Standards are revised on an as-needed basis.
You also may review a list of inactive standards, which are no longer supported, updated or revised; and a list of standards under development

Active NIJ Standards and Test Protocols

EquipmentNumberStatusPublished
Criminal Justice Restraints Standard​NIJ Standard 1001.00​Active2014​
Standard Practice for Measurement of Body Armor Wearers Exit Notice
Note:
This standard was produced by ASTM and is available for purchase from their website. NIJ staff served on the developing subcommittee.
ASTM E2902Active2012
Public Safety Bomb SuitNIJ Standard-0117.00Active, n underway. Comment period open!March 2012
CBRN Protective EnsembleNIJ Standard-0116.00ActiveNovember 2010
Body Armor — Ballistic Resistance
See also:
List of compliant armor
Selection and application guide
NIJ Standard-0101.06 Supersedes 2005 Interim Requirements and NIJ Standard-0101.04, September 2000Active July 2008
Body Armor — Stab Resistance See list of compliant armorNIJ Standard-0115.00Active,
selection guide update underway
September 2000
Ballistic Helmets (pdf, 15 pages)NIJ Standard-0106.01
Supersedes NILECJ-STD-0106.00, September 1975
Active,
revision underway
December 1981
Ballistic Resistant Protective Materials (pdf, 16 pages)NIJ Standard-0108.01
Supersedes NILECJ-STD-0103.00, Portable Ballistic Shields, May 1974, and NIJ Standard-0108.00, December 1981
ActiveSeptember 1985
Riot Helmets and Face Shields (pdf, 19 pages)NIJ Standard-0104.02
Supersedes NIJ Standard-0104.01, August 1980
Active,
revision underway 
October 1984
These are our numbers that we use in our testing !

NIJ Level II-A * Soft Armor Threats

.22 Magnum 40 GR, solid point, 6.5 inch barrel
1180 ft./sec. + 50-0

.38 Cal. Special 125 GR, SJHP + P, 6 inch barrel
1050 ft./sec. + 50-0

.38 Cal. Special 158 GR, lead + P, 6 inch barrel
1090 ft./sec. + 50-0

.38 Cal. Special 110 GR, JHP + P, 6 inch barrel
1235 ft./sec. + 50-0

.40 Cal. Auto 180 GR, FMJ, 5 inch barrel
1055 ft./sec. + 30-30

.40 Cal. Auto 180 GR, FMJ, 4 inch barrel
1050 ft./sec. + 50-0

.40 Cal. Auto 180 Gr, Hydra Shock 5 inch barrel
1015 ft./sec. + 50-0

.45 Cal. Auto 230 GR, FMJ 5 inch barrel
810 ft./sec. + 50-0

.357 Magnum 158 GR, JSP, 4 inch barrel
1250 ft./sec. + 50-0

.357 Magnum 158 GR, lead, 4 inch barrel
1250 ft./sec. + 50-0

.357 Magnum 158 GR, lead, SWC, 4 inch barrel
1300 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 124 GR, FMJ, 5.5 inch barrel
1120 ft./sec. + 30-30

9 mm 124 GR, FMJ, 4 inch barrel
1090 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 115 GR, JHP, 4 inch barrel
1175 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 115 GR, Subsonic JCE, 5 inch barrel
1050 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 124 GR, Black Talon, 4 inch barrel
1100 ft./sec. + 50-0

12 Gauge OO Buck, 9 Pellet, 20 inch barrel
1200 ft./sec. + 50-0

Level II * Soft Armor Threats

.44 Magnum 240 GR, lead, 4 inch barrel
1200 ft./sec. + 50-0

.357 Magnum 125 GR, JHP, 6 inch barrel
1450 ft./sec. + 50-0

.357 Magnum 158 GR, JSP, 6 inch barrel
1430 ft./sec. + 30-30

.357 SIG 125 GR, JHP, 5 inch barrel
1350 ft./sec. + 50-0

.357 SIG 125 GR, JHP, 4 inch barrel
1350 ft./sec. + 50-0

.357 SIG 125 GR, Gold Dot JHP, 4 inch barrel 1374 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 124 GR, FMJ, 9.5 inch barrel
1205 ft./sec. + 30-30

9 mm 124 GR, FMJ, 6 inch barrel
1175 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 115 GR, FMJ, 6 inch barrel
1300 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 115 GR, JHP, 6 inch barrel
1450 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 147 GR, Win. Ranger +P JHP, 4.5 inch barrel 1325 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 123 GR, Geco steel case, lead core
1250 ft./sec. + 50-0

9mm 124 GR, CZ steel case, lead core
1250 ft./sec. + 50-0

10mm 180 GR, JHP, 5 inch barrel
1010 ft./sec. + 50-0

.22 40 GR, LR FMC, 22 inch barrel
1850 ft./sec. + 50-0

Level III-A * Soft Armor Threats

.44 Magnum 240 GR, SWC, 8 inch barrel
1400 ft./sec. + 50-0

.44 Magnum 240 GR, JHP, 8 inch barrel
1430 ft./sec. + 30-30

9 mm 127 GR, JHP, 9.5 inch barrel
1425 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 124 GR, FMJ, 9.5 inch barrel
1430 ft./sec. + 30-30

9 mm 123 GR, Laupa FMC, 4 inch barrel
1300 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 116 GR, Norma FMJ, 4 inch barrel
1300 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 116 GR, Canadian FMJ, 5 inch barrel
1300 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm 147 GR, Winchester Ranger +P+ JHP, 6 inch barrel 1450 ft./sec. + 50-0

.357 Magnum Remington, 125 GR, JSP, 6 inch barrel 1610 - 1700 ft./sec.

7.62 mm x 25 mm Steel case, lead core
1390 - 1450 ft./sec.

9 mm 124 GR, FMJ, 12 inch barrel
1600 - 1650 ft./sec.

12 Gauge, 1oz. Rifled Slug, 20 inch barrel 2 3/4"  1400 - 1450 ft./sec.


We have adopted two intermediate in-house threat levels (III-A+ & III-B) as there is no NIJ rating for these rounds.

Level III-A+  * 'Special Threat' handgun

7.62 x 25 mm Steel case, lead core
1440-1540 ft./sec.

Level III-B  * 'Armor Piercing' Handgun

9 mm 107 GR, KTW Teflon coated brass
1250 ft./sec. + 50-0

7.62 x 25 mm steel core
1450 ft./sec. + 50-0

9 mm CZ steel core, steel case
1250 ft./sec. + 50-0

.357 Magnum 107 GR, KTW Teflon coated brass
1400 ft./sec. + 50-0

7.62 mm x 25 mm 85 GR, solid steel
1450 ft./sec. + 50-0

12 Gauge, 1oz. Rifled Slug, 20 inch barrel, 3" chamber 1450 - 1500 ft./sec.

5.7 x 28 mm 31 GR, SS190, 4.8 inch barrel
2050 ft./sec.

5.7 x 28 mm 27 GR, SS192, 4.8 inch barrel
2132 ft./sec.

Level III * Hard Armor Threats

7.62 x 63 mm 180 GR, SP
2540 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 54 mm 147 GR, FMJ
2786 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 54 mm 180 GR, FMJ
2630 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 51 mm 148 GR, FMJ
2780 ft./sec. + 30-0

7.62 x 39 mm 150 GR, FMJ
2400 ft./sec. + 100-0

5.45 x 39 mm 54 GR, FMJ
3000 ft./sec. + 100-0

5.56 x 45 mm 55 GR, FMC
3000 ft./sec. + 100-0

Level IV Hard Armor Threats

7.62 x 63 mm 166 GR, M2 AP
2880 ft./sec. + 30-0

7.92 x 57 mm 156 GR, mild steel core (LPS)
2650 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 54R mm 155 GR, steel case, armor piercing incendiary B32
2850 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 54R mm 184 GR, steel case, armor piercing B30 2850 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 54R mm 153 GR, steel case, armor piercing incendiary type 53 2675 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 54R mm 148 GR, steel case, hardened steel core type 53 2850 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 54R mm 147 GR, steel case, mild steel core (LPS) 2723 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 51 mm 151 GR, M61 AP
2800 ft./sec. + 100-0

7.62 x 39 mm 120 GR, armor piercing incendiary BZ 2500 ft./sec. + 50-0

7.62 x 39 mm 118 GR, armor piercing incendiary type 56 2500 ft./sec. + 50-0

7.62 x 39 mm 122 GR, steel case mild steel core (PS) 2300 ft./sec. + 100-0

5.56 x 45 mm 62 GR, M855 (SS109 Green tip) 3200 ft./sec. + 100-0

5.45 x 39 mm 53 GR, 7N6
2920 ft./sec. + 100-0

5.45 x 39 mm 57 GR, 7N10
3051 ft./sec. + 100-0

Level V * Hard Armor 'Special Threats"

7.62 x 54R mm 187 GR, steel case, armor piercing incendiary BS40 Classified

7.62 x 51 mm GR, M948 Classified

7.62 x 51 mm 126.5 GR, M993 Classified

5.56 x 45 mm 52.5 GR, M995 Classified

 

       

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