New NIJ Standard for Body Armor Sets Performance and Testing Requirements for Ballistic Resistance
November 10, 2009 at 11:30
Body armor is changing for the better, thanks to new performance standards set by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The NIJ is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice and is dedicated to researching crime-control and justice issues. The new NIJ Standard-0101.06, as it’s officially called, specifies revised minimum-performance requirements that body armor must meet to satisfy the needs of criminal-justice agencies. It also establishes the methods that are used to test this performance. The updated standard and testing procedures ensure that officers will be getting the best body armor and the most comprehensive protection available.
The NIJ’s testing procedures are extremely rigorous and account for numerous factors that could affect the performance of body armor. The most significant changes in the new standard include:
Increase performance velocities ensure that officers are protected against current and emerging threats. Including a velocity increase and round change for the IIIA threat type, from the 9mm to the .357 Sig.
More diverse shot placement provides increased area of reliable coverage regarding edge shots. Edge shot performance also reduces the number of officer injuries and fatalities due to shots impacting close to the edge. The standard now requires the testing of five fixed template sizes to provide equal threat performance across a range of sizes.
More rigorous environmental conditioning of armor prior to testing helps simulate real-world conditions, in which armor is subjected to heat, moisture and mechanical wear. Things can get pretty hot in the trunk of a patrol car, which is where a lot of body armor resides when not being worn. Under the previous standard, test vests were sprayed with a moderate mist for six minutes. Under the new standard, test vests are submerged for thirty minutes prior to testing.
In addition to the NIJ’s testing procedures, the NIJ will also have the authority to pull armor off a manufacturer’s floor for retesting to assure performance standards are upheld over time as part of their quality and audit process.
The new standard sets the bar high for manufacturers. Good ones, though, fully support it.