Ballistic-Resistant Body Armor

The National Institute of Justice Compliance Testing Program (NIJ CTP) administers a product conformity assessment system for ballistic-resistant body armor to determine a specific armor model’s compliance with NIJ Standard-0101.06. This testing is conducted in accordance with the NIJ CTP Ballistic Body Armor Initial Type Testing Scheme. This involves initial type testing and evaluation of a specific model design combined with surveillance activities (i.e., follow-up inspection and testing, or FIT) of production armor.

Because ballistic-resistant armor performance testing is destructive in nature, it is not possible to test each armor before it is supplied to an end user. Therefore, end users gain confidence from surveillance of manufacturing activities that verifies production armor models are manufactured consistently with the samples provided for initial type testing and evaluation.

Initial Type Testing

An applicant (i.e., body armor manufacturer) that registers with the NIJ CTP submits an application package through the NIJ CTP Testing Information Management System for each model they wish to have tested. Once the NIJ CTP reviews and accepts the application package, the applicant submits samples for testing to one of the NIJ-approved independent test laboratories. Each applicant selects, and directly negotiates and pays for testing services to, the NIJ-approved laboratory of their choice.

After completion of the laboratory testing process, a selection of the tested samples is sent to the NIJ CTP, which conducts their own review of the laboratory’s test report and tested samples to verify the test was performed correctly. The NIJ CTP also maintains tested samples for each model in a secure facility for future comparison and analysis as part of ongoing surveillance activities or in response to requests for assistance from criminal justice agencies.

After successfully meeting all NIJ CTP requirements, the NIJ CTP will present information about the model and a recommendation to NIJ about whether to approve the model. If NIJ approves the model, the applicant will receive an NIJ Notice of Compliance for the model and it is added to the Compliant Product List (CPL). Once an applicant receives the Notice of Compliance and the model is added to the CPL, the applicant can begin producing the model and place the NIJ mark on the label of units sold to criminal justice agencies.

To maintain a model’s compliance status, the applicant agrees to participate in ongoing product surveillance FIT. Learn more about the FIT process below.

For further information or assistance, please contact the NIJ CTP at 919.485.2717 or bactp@nijctp.org

Follow-Up Inspection and Testing (FIT)

For ballistic-resistant body armor, the FIT program is governed by the procedures set forth in the NIJ CTP Ballistic Armor FIT scheme, which sends independent third-party inspectors to all manufacturing locations (identified by the applicant) of models currently listed on the NIJ Consumer Product List (CPL). As part of these random, unannounced inspections, inspectors verify the manufacturer’s material traceability records, then select armor samples for testing and inspection by the NIJ CTP. After an abbreviated series of tests conducted at an NIJ-approved test laboratory, the NIJ CTP inspects the samples that were used during the initial evaluation to verify the construction matches the records.

If test or inspection results suggest variations from the original construction, the NIJ CTP investigates to determine if additional actions are needed. This may include issuing an NIJ Advisory or Safety Notice, testing and inspecting additional samples, and making production stops and/or possible recalls.

The ballistic-resistant body armor FIT program also uses management system audits to BA 9000 (ISO 9001 dependent) to provide additional confidence that armor is produced consistently. Learn more about BA 9000 here.

Additional Resources for Criminal Justice Practitioners 

If you are a law enforcement, corrections, or courts practitioner; or have administrative policy or purchasing authority for body armor and would like additional information about the selection, purchasing, and care of ballistic- or stab-resistant body armor, please visit our PoliceArmor.org website.  

You may also contact CTP staff for more information or for answers to specific questions by email at askctp@nijctp.org.   

To learn more about the Patrick Leahy Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act (BVPGA) program administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, please visit the BVP Program website here 

Additional Resources for Body Armor Manufacturers 

If you are a body armor manufacturer interested in participating in the NIJ CTP, or if you have questions about how to submit items for testing, contact CTP staff at 919.485.2717 or by email at bactp@nijctp.org 

CTP Program Mailing / Shipping Address: 

  • NIJ Compliance Testing Program (NIJ CTP)
    3040 E. Cornwallis Road
    Hermann Building, Room 216
    Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2194