Revisions to National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Ballistic-Resistant Body Armor Standard
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) plans to release a revised version of the current ballistic-resistant body armor standard in 2023. The draft version that was released for public comment in 2018, NIJ Standard-0101.07 Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor, draws from more than a decade of testing conducted under the previous standard (0101.06). The new draft standard was developed through an NIJ Special Technical Committee (STC) made up of criminal justice professionals and testing experts with support from NIJ and NIJ Compliance Testing Program staff. Following a robust public comment period, the STC and NIJ undertook additional research to validate ammunition selection and will publish the standard upon completion of this research.
The STC that developed the new standard took a critical look at NIJ Standard-0101.06 and—based on input from law enforcement, subject-matter experts, and test laboratories—made the necessary changes to address the needs the STC identified.
The principal changes include the following:
- Introduction of a robust test protocol for shaped or female body armor. The new test method, designed to increase confidence in the body armor’s performance, includes testing on buildup in the bust area and uses a different shot pattern to fully test female armor designs. Female (shaped) armor will be tested against the same ammunition used to test planar (not shaped) armor.
- Update of the threat rounds used in testing because changes in the threats law enforcement officers face in the field need to be reflected in the ammunition used to test the armor. Based on the input of officers, STC members, and surveys conducted by the Fraternal Order of Police, the prevalent threats to U.S. law enforcement were identified, and suitable representatives of these threats were introduced in the new NIJ Threats document. This document will serve as the central reference point for all NIJ protective equipment standards that use ammunition for testing, such as ballistic shields and ballistic materials, thus ensuring greater consistency and compatibility across all ballistic-related standards.
- Collaboration with ASTM as a recognized standards development organization. Where possible, NIJ has worked with ASTM to develop standards for universal components of the NIJ Standard—such as range configuration, measurement of backface deformation, and calibration of clay. This allows NIJ to concentrate on the performance requirements of the standard, ensuring the U.S. public safety professionals have appropriate protection for their duties, and allows ASTM to develop robust standards for laboratories to reference—leading to greater consistency in testing across differing test locations.
- A new naming convention. Type/Level IIA, II, IIIA, III, and IV will be retired. The standard naming convention will become “HG” for handgun and “RF” for rifle. Look for NIJ HG1.07, NIJ HG2.07, NIJ RF1.07, NIJ RF2.07, and NIJ RF3.07. From this list, you will notice a reduction in soft-armor levels and an additional hard-armor protection level. This was again a response to the needs and requirements identified by STC participants. The previous lowest level of soft armor (Level IIA) was seldom used in certification testing and represented a very small market share in the industry—and as such, it was retired.
- The testing of hard armors has changes to accommodate the introduction of new test threats. When developing ballistic performance standards, there are two primary options available for incrementally improving the resultant products: You can either maintain protection levels and look to reduce the weight burden on the wearer, or you can look to increase protection capabilities with minimal additional weight burden to the wearer. STC participants selected the latter for this iteration of the NIJ standard due to the STC’s opinion that the NIJ needs to look at widening the range of ammunition against which hard armors, tested to the NIJ standard, provide protection against identified threats. A number of anticipated changes to hard armor testing will allow for skillful manufacturers to offer improved performance, with little or no additional weight burden to the wearer.