National Institute of Justice Ratings for Body Armor
NIJ Standard ,
While no body armor can offer % protection in all circumstances, an adequate level of body armor will protect the wearer from the majority of pistol rounds, and can provide a significantly improved level of safety. The NIJ has developed standards to help you choose the best armor for your agencys and your personal needs.
The chart below summarizes the standards used to certify body armor performance against varying levels of threats. It can serve as a basic guide to help you determine the level you need. While considering your requirements, keep in mind that the National Institute strongly recommends the selection of armor that will protect against common street threats in your area, and at minimum, from the officers own handgun.
Consider this brief excerpt from the National Institute of Justices Publication, Selection and Application Guide to Personal Body Armor:
Body Armor Ratings
NIJ Standard ,
NIJ LEVEL I:
This armor protects against caliber Long Rifle Lead Round Nose (LR LRN) bullets with nominal masses of g (40 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of m/s ( ft/s) or less and ACP Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets with nominal masses of g (95 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of m/s ( ft/s) or less.
NIJ LEVEL IIA:
(Lower Velocity 9mm, S&W). This armor protects against 9mm Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets with nominal masses of g ( gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of m/s ( ft/s) or less and S&W caliber Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets with nominal masses of g ( gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of m/s ( ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against Level I threats. Level IIA body armor is well suited for full-time use by police departments, particularly those seeking protection for their officers from lower velocity S&W and 9mm ammunition.
NIJ LEVEL II:
(Higher Velocity 9mm, Magnum). This armor protects against Magnum jacketed soft-point bullets with nominal masses of g ( gr.) impacting at a velocity of m/s (1, ft/s) or less and against 9mm full-jacketed bullets with nominal velocities of m/s (1, ft/s). It also protects against most other factory loads in caliber Magnum and 9mm as well as the Level I and IIA threats. Level II body armor is heavier and more bulky than either Levels I or IIA. It is worn full time by officers seeking protection against higher velocity Magnum and 9mm ammunition.
NIJ LEVEL IIIA:
( Magnum; Submachine Gun 9mm). This armor protects against Magnum, Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets with nominal masses of g ( gr.) impacting at a velocity of m/s (1, ft/s) or less and against 9mm full-metal jacketed bullets with nominal masses of g ( gr.) impacting at a velocity of m/s (1, ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against most handgun threats as well as the Level I, IIA, and II threats. Level IIIA body armor provides the highest level of protection currently available from concealable body armor and is generally suitable for routine wear in many situations. However, departments located in hot, humid climates may need to evaluate the use of Level IIIA armor carefully.
NIJ LEVEL III:
(High-powered rifle). This armor, normally of hard or semirigid construction, protects against mm full-metal jacketed bullets (US military designation M80) with nominal masses of g ( gr.) impacting at a velocity of m/s (2, ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against threats such as Remington (mm FMJ), 30 Carbine FMJ, and gauge rifled slug, as well as Level I through IIIA threats. Level III body armor is clearly intended only for tactical situations when the threat warrants such protection, such as barricade confrontations involving sporting rifles.
NIJ LEVEL IV:
(Armor-piercing rifle). This armor protects against 06 caliber armor-piercing bullets (US military designation APM2) with nominal masses of g ( gr.) impacting at a velocity of m/s (2, ft/s) or less. It also provides at least single-hit protection against the Level I through III threats.
Level IV body armor provides the highest level of protection currently available. Because this armor is intended to resist armor piercing bullets, it often uses ceramic materials. Such materials are brittle in nature and may provide only single-shot protection since the ceramic tends to break up when struck. As with Level III armor, Level IV armor is clearly intended only for tactical situations when the threat warrants such protection.
Level II vs Level IIIA Body Armor
At first glance, there really doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between most level II armor and level IIIA body armor, and there really isn’t. The main difference comes when you compare the stopping power that each one brings to the table.
According to the NIJ, level II armor can stop a gr 9mm FMJ at ft per second (FPS) and a Magnum Jacketed Soft Point weighing gr at FPS. Level IIIa armor can stop a gr SIG FMJ Flat Nose at FPS and a Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point weighing gr at FPS.
There are other differences that really tend to stick out when you’re wearing them for longer periods of time.
The Difference Between Level II and Level IIIA Body Armor
The main difference comes from protection and the overall comfort level that comes with each type of armor.
|Body Armor Level||Effective Against These Calibers|
|II-A||9 mm FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) at ~1, fps|
S&W Full Metal Jacket at 1, fps
|II||9 mm FMJ, at ~1, fps|
JSP at ~1, fps
|III-A||9 mm FMJ at ~1, fps|
Magnum Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point at ~1, fps
Level II Body Armor
Level II body armor is what most people consider to be the minimum level of armor that those looking for protection from common pistol rounds should wear. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) requires level II armor to stop up to a Magnum round. This means that it will also stop all pistol rounds up to that size.
What does level II body armor protect you from?
Level II armor is capable of defeating most pistol rounds. These include the Magnum, 9mm, S&W, ACP & Special.
Keep in mind that certain very high-velocity rounds can still penetrate level II body armor. This includes some of the previously listed rounds when they’re fired from a submachinegun length barrel and all rifle rounds.
Does Level II body armor protect against anything other than bullets?
Level II body armor isn’t specifically designed to stop anything other than bullets, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t protect you from something other than bullets.
Kevlar and other ballistic materials are very good at stopping the fragmentation from things like explosions. The fibers work in a similar way to how they stop a bullet.
This reason alone makes it a good idea to have soft armor under heavier armor plates if it’s likely that you may encounter IEDs and other explosive devices. It primarily applies to those in the military, but in a scenario where there is no longer rule of law in the U.S., it could make sense for everyone.
Most level II armor isn’t rated for slash or stab protection either. There is normally a layer of chain mail or laminate material in body armor that is designed to stop knife or spike attacks. Level II armor can hold up to slashing attacks pretty well, but stabbing attacks are more likely to pass straight through the armor since narrow piercing style weapons spread the fibers of the armor allowing the weapon through.
If you need both ballistic protection and bladed/stab protection, then you should look for body armor that combines the two types of protection and is certified to stop those threats.
AR Armor and Spartan Armor Systems are great places to start looking for body armor.
Level IIIA Body Armor
Level IIIA body armor provides better protection against a full range of pistol calibers. The NIJ requires level IIIA armor to stop up to a Magnum round and almost all pistol rounds lower in caliber.
What does level IIIA body armor protect you from?
Level IIIA armor is capable of defeating most pistol rounds. These include the Magnum, Magnum, SIG, 9mm, S&W, ACP & Special.
Level IIIA armor is designed to stop most pistol rounds. It can still be defeated by certain types of very high-velocity pistol rounds and all rifle rounds.
A common question I hear from those that are new to body armor ask is, “Will Level IIIA armor stop rounds?” Unfortunately, all rifle rounds will pass through level IIIA armor. It simply isn’t strong enough to stop rounds more powerful than pistol rounds. This goes for rounds as well.
Does Level IIIA body armor protect against anything other than bullets?
Level IIIA body armor isn’t designed to protect against anything other than what it is tested for in the NIJ standard. They still provide the obvious benefit of being thicker than normal clothing so there is a certain level of extra protection from knives and other sharp objects.
The different types of fibers used to make level IIIA body armor are capable of stopping frag from explosives and explosive devices. This makes them good as a backing for heavier level III armor and level IV armor, especially for military members and police special tactics teams. This usefulness may extend to anyone in a dangerous area should the U.S. fall into a state of lawlessness after a large scale disaster.
Normal soft level IIIA armor isn’t rated for slash and stab protection. There is level IIIA soft armor rated for slash and stab resistance. It usually includes special polymers or metal inserts.
Your best option for level IIIA protection with stab and slash protection is most likely going to be steel plates. If that doesn’t work for you, there are manufacturers out there that make bullet and stab rated armor, but they’re usually in the UK where getting stabbed is a much more likely scenario than getting shot.
How Do You Choose Between Level II and Level IIIA Body Armor?
When you’re making the choice between level II and level IIIA armor, there are three things you need to consider: cost, comfort, and expected threats.
Cost is both the least important and possibly the most important all at once. Overall, it’s the least important factor because it’s nearly impossible to put a price on your life. If you can afford it, spend as much as you need to in order to protect yourself.
Cost becomes the most important factor if money is tight and you’re in a position to either eat or get body armor. At that point, it’s hard to say that any body armor is worth the trade-off for food. I hope you’re not in that place!
Comfort should only a part of your thought process if you’re in a low threat area. Police officers that work in areas where getting shot is basically a statistical impossibility can probably get away with wearing the most comfortable armor available to them.
If you just can’t stand wearing level IIIA armor, understand that you’re choosing comfort over protection.
Expected threats should be the driving factor in your overall decision between level II and level IIIA. If you’re in an area that may face higher-powered handgun rounds or fast-moving common rounds (coming from subguns) then level IIIA is the option that you should go with. If you’re only expecting common handgun calibers then you can probably get away with level II armor.
Other Options When Choosing Soft Armor
Just because you’ve chosen which soft armor you should buy doesn’t mean that you won’t face a greater threat at some point in the future. Police officers should have the option to grab a plate carrier with hard armor plates in it and those that are prepping probably should as well.
Having a plate carrier available is a great way to have the comfort of soft armor on a regular basis while still having the option to get more protection when you need it!
Not all soft armor is the same and not all soft armor provides the same level of protection. When you’re looking for the best armor for day to day wear it makes sense to take the cost, comfort, and expected threat into consideration before you make a choice.
Whatever you choose, just make sure that it’s going to give you the protection that you need!
Looking for high-quality level IIIA soft body armors? You are at the right place! At Tactical Scorpion Gear we have several years of experience in providing durable and reliable body armors at affordable prices. Here are some awesome features of the body armors on our collection.
Soft and Comfortable Wear
Unlike conventional body armors, our Level 3A soft body armors are extremely comfortable to wear. They provide a snug fit that is neither too tight, nor too loose. The soft and comfortable wear allows tactical advantages in dire situations, allowing you to move freely and quickly without assistance. The Level IIIA body armors are nearly weightless; therefore, you won’t even feel that you are wearing such a protective armor underneath your shirt.
Level IIIA Protection
The Level IIIA compliance on these body armors is proof that they can easily sustain damages from bullets as well as cuts. We offer the most versatile and affordable collection of Level IIIA soft body armors on the internet today.
Our aramid Level 3A soft body armors are lightweight as well as thin. You can easily wear the armor under your shirt without adding any bulkiness to the overall body frame.
Body Armor Plates
Apart from the complete Level IIIA body armor sets, we also offer a wide range of body armor plates. Therefore, you don’t need to purchase body armor every time it sustains minor damage. Instead, you can just replace the plates in the armor to continue using them without compromising the overall safety of the armors.
Hard and Soft Cover Plate Options
We currently have two different types of plate options in our collection. These include hard and soft cover plates. Depending on your use, you can choose to install either one of them in a durable armor weave.
You can rely on our high-quality body armors for complete body protection. Want to know more? Get in touch with a friendly customer representative from our team today!
Get educated before you decide
We want you to make an educated decision when you purchase your body armor. Most people don't know the basics, even many police officers and military veterans who wear armor everyday don't know. Read on and learn so you can shop smartly.
You need to purchase both armor and a way to carry the armor. That means you will need a plate carrier or a backpack capable of holding an armor plate as well as the armor. If you have neither armor nor a carrier, then you can purchase a combo that includes both (you get a discount by purchasing them together).
Different levels of armor.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the governing body over the standards and levels of body armor for the United States. Basically, there are two types of ballistic armor categories. One is designed to only stop bullets from pistols and the other will stop bullets from pistols and rifles. You should purchase armor for what you believe you are most-likely to encounter.
- Level IIIa (3a) will stop traditional pistol rounds and is rated to stop a magnum. I say traditional because there are rifle cartridges that can be fired from pistols. Level IIIa will stop 9mm, 40cal, 45cal, etc. Our Level IIIa will also stop knives (both slashing and jabbing). It's very lightweight (~1lbs/square foot) and flexible.
- Level III (3) is rated to stop six rifle bullets. However not all level III armor is created equally. Some plates, like "pure poly" UHDPE are very lightweight and pass the NIJ's test for level III, but will not stop rounds. ALL of our armor is additionally tested to ensure they will stop and x39 rounds. This includes full metal jacket (FMJ), hollow point (HP), etc. Level III will not stop a direct hit from an 30 caliber Armor Piercing (AP) bullet. However, our AR armor has been tested by the US Army and has been proven to stop AP bullets when they strike at a 30 degree angle. Sometimes level III that can stop the additional rounds is refered to as level III+, but that is not an official NIJ rating.
- Level III+ (3 plus) is not an official NIJ rating. Plates in this category exceed NIJ level 3, but don't meet the level IV requirements. Our Level III+ plates have been special threat tested to defeat AR15 rounds as well as Armor Piercing Incendiary (API) rounds.
- Level IV (4) is the highest rating of personal body armor. Level IV will stop pistol rounds and rifle rounds, including a direct shot from a 30 caliber AP bullet. This bullet is the same size that is fired from a NIJ only requires one test shot per plate with an Armor Piercing (AP) round. We've conducted additional threat tests against our level 4 plates to ensure optimal protection.
What level armor should you buy? Most customers purchase the level III or level IV because they believe that in the day they will need to wear body armor, they won't be facing pistol threats any longer. However, the fact is that today you are x's more likely to be shot with a pistol in an armed encounter in America, which is why professionals (like police officers) usually wear level IIIa on a day-to-day basis. Weight is another factor. If you are not physically fit or strong enough to carry a ~20 pound nap sack for a few hours, you might consider the level IIIa or purchasing the level III or IV and begin working out to reach the fitness level you desire. Our level III+ lightweight plates are only pounds each and represents the lightest plates available that can stop the M greentip and M
Ceramic or Steel?
- Our level 3 plates are made from AR Ballistic Steel that is made in the USA; AR is 10% harder than AR This is the same type of steel that is used to up-armor military HUMVEEs and other vehicles. It is 1/4" thick. Steel is harder than the lead and copper bullets that are fired at it and it causes the bullets to explode/shatter on impact. We coat it with a high density rubber material called poly-urea. That rubber traps the bullet fragments and helps to prevent secondary injury from bullet shrapnel. Level III plates can take a LOT of hits (s) before failing.
- Our Level IV plates (Currently out of stock and not listed) are made of a Ceramic Composite with an Ultra High Density Poly-Ethylene (UHDPE) backing and then covered in denier fabric (thick). Ceramic works by slowing and trapping the bullet between the ceramic (which becomes shattered) and the UHDPE. Because of the way Ceramic works to stop the bullet, it is limited in the number of bullets it can stop. While most other ceramics can only stop a handful of bullets before failing, ours can stop up to 30 rounds from an AR
What plate carrier should you buy? Most customers will be perfectly happy with the Viper Modular Operator Plate Carrier. The Viper is inexpensive and adjusts to fit most body shapes and sizes from medium to XXL. It has adjustable shoulder straps and an adjustable cumberbun. It is recommended by the National Tactical Officer Association (NTOA); however it is manufactured in China. If you are a Big and Tall man (6 feet or taller and +) then you may consider the Defender. The benefit to the Defender is that it fits large people very well and it can accommodate the BALCS armor (which is two large panels of level IIIa that go from your neck to your waist and under your arm pits).
Colors? Many people like black because it looks cool (it does) and it may match their uniform or other equipment. However, black is not commonly found in nature; so, if you think you may have to hide or want to blend in with your environment (including crowds), you might consider a different color. I always recommend camouflage (in any variety) since it works to break up the visual pattern (that's why the military and hunters use it). If you want to go with a solid color (it's cheaper) I'd recommend Olive Drab (OD) green or Coyote Tan. These are colors that are found in nature and you can always add camouflage Molle gear to dress it up (more on that below).
MOLLE? The carriers we sell are covered in Molle webbing (pronounced 'Molly'). Molle webbing is a strap system that allows you to attach pouches like first aid kits, magazine pouches, holsters, and more. I recommend that everyone carry an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) and at least four extra magazines for the rifle they will carry. There's a tendency to go overboard with attachments, and I urge you to keep it as minimalist as possible. You can add a hydration bladder, canteen(s), knives, holsters, flashlights, food pouches, gloves, cleaning kits, mess kits, and more. If you need to carry more stuff, use a backpack.
Side Plates? There is a study by the Department of Defense that said that between % of Marine fatalities could have been avoided had they been wearing side plates. 6 months after that report, every deployed Marine was issued side plates. My personal opinion is that it's better to have them available than to not have them at all. Assess the situation and make the decision to wear them when the time comes.
What about other companies' armor? They say that 'Imitation is the best form of flattery'. We were among the first to commercially coat level III steel plates with anti-spall/ anti-shrapnel poly-urea in Since then, a lot of competition has sprung up with cheaper alternatives. Consider the source of the metal: is theirs made in China or elsewhere? Others use the same metal as us but often lack in their application skills of the poly-urea causing premature wear of the carrier and unreliable results when shot. Lastly, ask if they warranty their plates. We warranty our plates for life! When purchasing armor, it might not be the best practice to go with the lowest bidder.
How fast will I get it? Unless noted otherwise on the product description page, it will ship via UPS or USPS with business days. We ship ground from Queen Creek, Arizona, so it will reach most parts of the country within business days. We'll send you the tracking number as soon as we process it so you can track it the whole way in.
So, now that you know the difference in the levels of armor, the differences in the plate carriers, what accessories you should add and why you should buy from us, where do you go now? Begin by clicking on Carriers & Armor in the menu to the top left and then select the plate carrier you want to purchase. In the drop down selections, you can pick the level of armor you want.
Training? For training on use of firearms and armor in a combat role, you'll need to search out qualified instructors not commonly found at your local gun range. You'll want to find teachers that have been in Special Operations, like Green Berets, Rangers, SEALS, etc. I highly recommend you go to www.BriggsCoreDynamics.com to see what is available.
We also produce training videos that you may find useful.
More questions? Try our FAQ.
Iiia body armor level
Difference between Level III and Level IIIa Body Armor
Probably the biggest confusion in the world of personal defense is the difference between Level III and Level IIIa body armor. Not only do they sound very similar, but it is also confusing that IIIa refers to a significantly lower level of ballistic protection than Level III.
Also, even though the standard is to write the NIJ ballistic levels of protection in Roman numbers, there are blogs and even manufacturers who will use regular numbers and issue products as NIJL3a and NIJL3, putting even more confusion.
But, once we get a hold of the nomenclature, all differences, advantages, and drawbacks, become apparent.
- NIJ Protection Level IIIa is soft armor that defends from:
- 9mm FMJ
- cal S&W FMJ
- cal Magnum JSP
- cal SIG FMJ
- Magnum SJHP
- NIJ Protection Level III is a hard plate that defends from:
- Everything IIIa defends
- x45mm NATO
- cal Remington
- x39 FMJ
- x39 Steel core
- x45 Steel core
The differences are very significant when it comes to weight as well. The relatively small hard plate rated at NIJ Level III that is meant to go inside a plate carrier will weigh as much as a whole NIJ Level IIIa vest.
NIJ Level IIIa – Soft but Sturdy Armor
There are a lot of arguments for Level IIIa being the best option for civilians. This vest is light, it is comfortable, and it will protect from anything but the biggest domestic threats. While it will leave some bruising, this armor will save you from even the biggest handgun rounds.
Also, IIIa is the only level of protection that can be made both as a hard plate and as flexible fabric, depending on the requirements of the user.
Additionally, while it can be about 6mm (about ¼ inch) thick, it can be worn covertly under your clothes. And, if you don’t need to stay inconspicuous, you can wear it as an external carrier and have other gear attached to it.
The versatility of this level of protection is what makes it so special, as it can adapt to various situations. Both law enforcement and paramedics will find that having such armor is beneficial both for protection and for utility reasons.
If you opt for an external carrier, you will also be able to take it on and off whenever you like. This makes life easier in warm weather when you don’t want to spend a whole day with armor under your shirt.
NIJ Level III – Lightest Hard Plates
For most combat situations, Level III plates will be an ideal option because of their weight. Using ultra-light materials like UHMWPE you can have a plate that will stop a bullet from most common anti-personnel rifles and still able to run and jump for hours.
Most divisions that rely heavily on mobility and infantry maneuvers, like recon, will prefer these plates to anything heavier.
That being said, they can’t be worn for a whole day, especially if you have additional gear as well. Wearing hard plates is not for pedestrian patrols or casual carry. After a few hours, you will become tired and lose some of your combat capability that way. And fatigue leads to a decrease in focus, which can be fatal.
Best of Both Worlds
There are external NIJ Level IIIa carriers that have pockets where you can slide in a hard plate. This is an ideal choice for most dangerous jobs and can allow for protection against rifle fire without needing to carry that weight everywhere you go.
With such a carrier, you can have a hard plate stashed somewhere in your car and keep the soft armor on you. Then, the first moment you even glimpse an enemy rifle, you can slide in the panel and get protected.
The Difference Between Level II and Level IIIA Soft Armor
Before buying any body armor, it is important to know the difference between the different levels of protection that are available. Everyone wants to be as safe as they can possibly be throughout the day and making sure that they are wearing body armor in dangerous situation is the best way for them tobe able to do that. Wearing the right body armor for the situation can be the different between getting home alive and
The two main types of body armor that may be the right choices for you are level II and IIIA. Taking the time to find to the difference between the two levels will ensue that you are able to get the protection that you really need.
Level II body armor is designed to be lightweight and still very protective. The panels protect from 9 mm Sub-Machine guns, 44 Magnums, and even 9 mm handguns. The body armor is made of multiple layers of Kevlar. The Kevlar provides a very lightweight protection option that can be worn in many different types of carriers.
The level II body armor provides ideal protection for the council workforce, officers, and even civilians. It is enough protection to ensure that someone is able to withstand an assault without having to feel weighed down by the protection. The lightweight material makes it easy to be able to run or maneuver during stressful situations and will fit into the front and back of the carrier to provide ample protection from both angles.
Level IIIA is a type of soft armor. The materials used to create the Level IIIA and the Level III options are different. The Level III armors are made of a hard material. The hard body armor that is used to make the Level III body armor can be used on the outside of the softer options to provide maximum protection.
The level IIIA body armor will provide protection from many small arm weapons. The 9 mm, 44 magnums, and just about any other handgun will not be able to cause serious injury to someone that is shot in the chest, while wearing one of these types of body armor. When the armor is used in conjunction with other protective panels, maximum protection is provided.
Both the Level II and Level IIIA body armors will provide ample protection when needed most. You need to be sure that you take the time to choose a carrier that fits you properly. Both types of body armor can be worn on the exterior or the interior of your clothing. You need to get the right type of carrier for however you plan to wear the body armor though.
When buying the overt or covert carrier, you need to make sure that the panel you choose will fit into the carrier with ease. There are carriers that are designed for specific panels and if you do not buy the right panel for that carrier, you will not be able to use them in conjunction.
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Form of body armor that protects the torso from some projectiles
A bulletproof vest, also known as a ballistic vest or a bullet-resistant vest, is an item of body armor that helps absorb the impact and reduce or stop penetration to the torso from firearm-fired projectiles and fragmentation from explosions. The vest may come in a soft form, as worn by many police officers, prison guards, security guards and some private citizens. Prison guards and police may wear soft vests designed to resist stabbing attacks, using metallic or para-aramid components. Some Hostage Rescue Teams, and special mission units wear hard armors, either in conjunction with soft armor or alone. This allows for protection against rifle ammunition or fragmentation.
Early modern era
In , Francesco Maria della Rovere commissioned Filippo Negroli to create a bulletproof vest. In , Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor is recorded as testing his armor against gun-fire. Similarly, in Sir Henry Lee expected his Greenwich armor to be "pistol proof". Its actual effectiveness was controversial at the time.
During the English Civil WarOliver Cromwell's Ironside cavalry were equipped with Capeline helmets and musket-proof cuirasses which consisted of two layers of armor plate (in later studies involving X-ray a third layer was discovered which was placed in between the outer and inner layer). The outer layer was designed to absorb the bullet's energy and the thicker inner layer stopped further penetration. The armor would be left badly dented but still serviceable.
One of the first examples of commercially sold bulletproof armour was produced by a tailor in Dublin, Ireland in the s. The Cork Examiner reported on his line of business in December 
Another soft ballistic vest, Myeonje baegab, was invented in Joseon, Korea in the s shortly after the French campaign against Korea. The Heungseon Daewongun ordered development of bullet-proof armor because of increasing threats from Western armies. Kim Gi-Doo and Gang Yoon found that cotton could protect against bullets if 10 layers of cotton fabric were used. The vests were used in battle during the United States expedition to Korea, when the US Navy attacked Ganghwa Island in The US Navy captured one of the vests and took it to the US, where it was stored at the Smithsonian Museum until The vest has since been sent back to Korea and is currently on display to the public.
Simple ballistic armor was sometimes constructed by criminals. During the s, a gang of Australian bushrangers led by Ned Kelly made basic armour from plough blades. By this time the Victorian Government had a reward for the capture of a member of the Kelly Gang at £8, (equivalent to $2 million Australian in ). One of the stated aims of Kelly was the establishment of a Republic in North East Victoria. Each of the four Kelly gang members had fought a siege at a hotel clad in suits of armour made from the mouldboards of ploughs. The maker's stamp (Lennon Number 2 Type) was found inside several of the plates. The armour covered the men's torsos, upper arms, and upper legs, and was worn with a helmet. The suits were roughly made on a creek bed using a makeshift forge and a stringy-bark log as a muffled anvil. The suits had a mass of around 44kg (96lb) but eventually were of no use as the suits lacked protection for the legs and hands.
American outlaw and gunfighterJim Miller was infamous for wearing a steel breastplate over his frock coat as a form of body armor. This plate saved Miller on two occasions, and it proved to be highly resistant to pistol bullets and shotguns. One example can be seen in his gun battle with a sheriff named George A. "Bud" Frazer, where the plate managed to deflect all bullets from the lawman's revolver.
In , Tombstone physician George E. Goodfellow noticed that a faro dealer Charlie Storms who was shot twice by Luke Short had one bullet stopped by a silk handkerchief in his breast pocket that prevented that bullet from penetrating. In , he wrote an article titled Impenetrability of Silk to Bullets for the Southern California Practitioner documenting the first known instance of bulletproof fabric. He experimented with silk vests resembling medieval gambesons, which used 18 to 30 layers of silk fabric to protect the wearers from penetration.
Fr. Kazimierz Żegleń used Goodfellow's findings to develop a bulletproof vest made of silk fabric at the end of the 19th century, which could stop the relatively slow rounds from black powder handguns. The vests cost US$ each in , a small fortune given the $/1oz-Auexchange-rate back then, equivalent to ~$50, circa , exceeding mean annual income.
A similar vest, made by Polish inventor Jan Szczepanik in , saved the life of Alfonso XIII of Spain when he was shot by an attacker. By , US gangsters were wearing $ silk vests to protect themselves.
On 28 June , Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary was fatally shot, triggering World War I; despite owning a silk bulletproof vest, which tests by Britain's Royal Armouries indicate would likely have stopped a bullet of that era, and despite being aware of potential threats to his life including an attempted assassination of his uncle a few years earlier, Ferdinand was not wearing his on that fateful day. However, the point is mostly moot, due to the Archduke having been shot in the throat.
First World War
The combatants of World War I started the war without any attempt at providing the soldiers with body armor. Various private companies advertised body protection suits such as the Birmingham Chemico Body Shield, although these products were generally far too expensive for an average soldier.
The first official attempts at commissioning body armor were made in by the British Army Design Committee, in particular a 'Bomber's Shield' for the use of bomber pilots who were notoriously under-protected in the air from anti-aircraft bullets and fragmentation. The Experimental Ordnance Board also reviewed potential materials for bullet and fragment proof armor, such as steel plate. A 'necklet' was successfully issued on a small scale (due to cost considerations), which protected the neck and shoulders from bullets traveling at feet per second with interwoven layers of silk and cotton stiffened with resin. The Dayfield body shield entered service in and a hardened breastplate was introduced the following year.
The British army medical services calculated towards the end of the War, that three quarters of all battle injuries could have been prevented if an effective armor had been issued.
The French experimented with steel visors attached to the Adrian helmet and 'abdominal armor' designed by General Adrian, in addition to shoulder "epaulets" to protect from falling debris and darts. These failed to be practical, because they severely impeded the soldier's mobility. The Germans officially issued body armor in the shape of nickel and silicon armor plates that was called sappenpanzer (nicknamed 'Lobster armor') from late These were similarly too heavy to be practical for the rank-and-file, but were used by static units, such as sentries and occasionally machine-gunners. An improved version, the Infantrie-Panzer, was introduced in , with hooks for equipment.
The United States developed several types of body armor, including the chrome nickel steel Brewster Body Shield, which consisted of a breastplate and a headpiece and could withstand Lewis Gun bullets at 2,ft/s (m/s), but was clumsy and heavy at 40lb (18kg). A scaled waistcoat of overlapping steel scales fixed to a leather lining was also designed; this armor weighed 11lb (kg), fit close to the body, and was considered more comfortable.
During the late s through the early s, gunmen from criminal gangs in the United States began wearing less-expensive vests made from thick layers of cotton padding and cloth. These early vests could absorb the impact of handgun rounds such as Long Rifle, ACP, S&W Long, S&W, ACP, Special and ACP traveling at speeds of up to m/s (ft/s). To overcome these vests, law enforcement agents began using the newer and more powerful Super, and later the Magnum cartridge.
Second World War
See also: Steel Bib
In , the Medical Research Council in Britain proposed the use of a lightweight suit of armor for general use by infantry, and a heavier suit for troops in more dangerous positions, such as anti-aircraft and naval gun crews. By February , trials had begun on body armor made of manganese steel plates. Two plates covered the front area and one plate on the lower back protected the kidneys and other vital organs. Five thousand sets were made and evaluated to almost unanimous approval – as well as providing adequate protection, the armor didn't severely impede the mobility of the soldier and were reasonably comfortable to wear. The armor was introduced in although the demand for it was later scaled down. The Canadian Army in northwestern Europe also adopted this armor for the medical personnel of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division.
The British company Wilkinson Sword began to produce flak jackets for bomber crew in under contract with the Royal Air Force. It was realised that the majority of pilot deaths in the air was due to low velocity fragments rather than bullets. Surgeon of the United States Army Air Forces, Colonel M. C. Grow, stationed in Britain, thought that many wounds he was treating could have been prevented by some kind of light armor. Two types of armor were issued for different specifications. These jackets were made of nylon fabric and capable of stopping flak and fragmentation, but were not designed to stop bullets. Although they were considered too bulky for pilots using the Avro Lancaster bombers, they were adopted by United States Army Air Forces.
In the early stages of World War II, the United States also designed body armor for infantrymen, but most models were too heavy and mobility-restricting to be useful in the field and incompatible with existing required equipment. Near the middle of , development of infantry body armor in the United States restarted. Several vests were produced for the US military, including but not limited to the T34, the T39, the T62E1, and the M The United States developed a vest using Doron Plate, a fiberglass-based laminate. These vests were first used in the Battle of Okinawa in 
The Soviet Armed Forces used several types of body armor, including the SN ("Stalnoi Nagrudnik" is Russian for "steel breastplate", and the number denotes the design year). All were tested, but only the SN was put in production. It consisted of two pressed steel plates that protected the front torso and groin. The plates were 2mm thick and weighed kg (lb). This armor was generally supplied to SHISBr (assault engineers) and Tankodesantniki. The SN armor protected wearers from 9×19mm bullets fired by an MP 40 at around meters, and sometimes it was able to deflect Mauser bullets (and bayonet blades), but only at very low angle. This made it useful in urban battles such as the Battle of Stalingrad. However, the SN's weight made it impractical for infantry in the open. Some apocryphal accounts note point blank deflection of 9mm bullets, and testing of similar armour supports this theory.
During the Korean War several new vests were produced for the United States military, including the M, which made use of fibre-reinforced plastic or aluminium segments woven into a nylon vest. These vests represented "a vast improvement on weight, but the armor failed to stop bullets and fragments very successfully," although officially they were claimed to be able to stop ×25mm Tokarev pistol rounds at the muzzle. Such vests equipped with Doron Plate have, in informal testing, defeated ACP handgun ammunition. Developed by Natick Laboratories and introduced in , T plate carriers were the first vests designed to hold hard ceramic plates, making them capable of stopping 7 mm rifle rounds.
These "Chicken Plates" were made of either boron carbide, silicon carbide, or aluminium oxide. They were issued to the crew of low-flying aircraft, such as the UH-1 and UC, during the Vietnam War.
In , American Body Armor was founded and began to produce a patented combination of quilted nylon faced with multiple steel plates. This armor configuration was marketed to American law enforcement agencies by Smith & Wesson under the trade name "Barrier Vest." The Barrier Vest was the first police vest to gain wide use during high threat police operations.
In , research chemist Stephanie Kwolek discovered a liquid crystalline polymer solution. Its exceptional strength and stiffness led to the invention of Kevlar, a synthetic fibre, woven into a fabric and layered, that, by weight, has five times the tensile strength of steel. In the mids, DuPont, the company which employed Kwolek, introduced Kevlar. Immediately Kevlar was incorporated into a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) evaluation program to provide lightweight, able body armor to a test pool of American law enforcement officers to ascertain if everyday able wearing was possible. Lester Shubin, a program manager at the NIJ, managed this law enforcement feasibility study within a few selected large police agencies, and quickly determined that Kevlar body armor could be comfortably worn by police daily, and would save lives.
In Richard A. Armellino, the founder of American Body Armor, marketed an all Kevlar vest called the K, consisting of 15 layers of Kevlar that also included a 5" × 8" ballistic steel "Shok Plate" positioned vertically over the heart and was issued US Patent #3,, for this innovation. Similarly sized and positioned "trauma plates" are still used today on the front ballistic panels of most able vests, reducing blunt trauma and increasing ballistic protection in the center-mass heart/sternum area.
In , Richard Davis, founder of Second Chance Body Armor, designed the company's first all-Kevlar vest, the Model Y. The lightweight, able vest industry was launched and a new form of daily protection for the modern police officer was quickly adopted. By the mid-to-late s, an estimated 1/3 to 1/2 of police patrol officers[where?] wore able vests daily. By , more than 2, documented police vest "saves" were recorded, validating the success and efficiency of lightweight able body armor as a standard piece of everyday police equipment.
During the s, the US military issued the PASGT kevlar vest, tested privately at NIJ level IIA by several sources, able to stop pistol rounds (including 9mm FMJ), but intended and approved only for fragmentation. West Germany issued a similar rated vest called the Splitterschutzweste.
Kevlar soft armor had its shortcomings because if "large fragments or high velocity bullets hit the vest, the energy could cause life-threatening, blunt trauma injuries" in selected, vital areas. Ranger Body Armor was developed for the American military in Although it was the second modern US body armor that was able to stop rifle caliber rounds and still be light enough to be worn by infantry soldiers in the field, (first being the ISAPO, or Interim Small Arms Protective Overvest,) it still had its flaws: "it was still heavier than the concurrently issued PASGT (Personal Armor System for Ground Troops) anti-fragmentation armor worn by regular infantry and did not have the same degree of ballistic protection around the neck and shoulders." The format of Ranger Body Armor (and more recent body armor issued to US special operations units) highlights the trade-offs between force protection and mobility that modern body armor forces organizations to address.
Newer armor issued by the United States armed forces to large numbers of troops includes the United States Army's Improved Outer Tactical Vest and the United States Marine CorpsModular Tactical Vest. All of these systems are designed with the vest intended to provide protection from fragments and pistol rounds. Hard ceramic plates, such as the Small Arms Protective Insert, as used with Interceptor Body Armor, are worn to protect the vital organs from higher level threats. These threats mostly take the form of high velocity and armor-piercing rifle rounds. Similar types of protective equipment have been adopted by modern armed forces over the world.
Since the s, several new fibers and construction methods for bulletproof fabric have been developed besides woven Kevlar, such as DSM's Dyneema, Honeywell's Gold Flex and Spectra, Teijin Aramid'sTwaron, Pinnacle Armor's Dragon Skin, and Toyobo's Zylon. The US military has developed body armor for the working dogs who aid soldiers in battle.
Since , U.S. Special Operations Command has been at work on a new full-body armor that will rely on rheology, or the technology behind the elasticity of liquids in skin care and automotive products. Named TALOS, this new technology may be used in the future.
Main article: List of body armor performance standards
Due to the various types of projectile, it is often inaccurate to refer to a particular product as "bulletproof" because this implies that it will protect against any and all threats. Instead, the term bullet resistant is generally preferred. Vest specifications will typically include both penetration resistance requirements and limits on the amount of impact force that is delivered to the body. Even without penetration, heavy bullets can deal enough force to cause blunt force trauma under the impact point. On the other hand, some bullets can penetrate the vest, but deal low damage to its wearer due to the loss of speed or small/reduced mass/form. Armour piercing ammunition tends to have poor terminal ballistics due to it being specifically not intended to fragment or expand.
Body armor standards are regional. Around the world ammunition varies and as a result the armor testing must reflect the threats found locally. Law enforcement statistics show that many shootings where officers are injured or killed involve the officer's own weapon. As a result, each law enforcement agency or para-military organization will have their own standard for armor performance if only to ensure that their armor protects them from their own weapons.
While many standards exist, a few standards are widely used as models. The US National Institute of Justice ballistic and stab documents are examples of broadly accepted standards. In addition to the NIJ, the UK Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB – formerly the Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB)) and VPAM (German acronym for the Association of Laboratories for Bullet Resistant Materials And Constructions), originally from Germany, are other widely accepted standards. In the Russian area, the GOST standard is dominant.
Because of the limitations of the technology a distinction is made between handgun protection and rifle protection. See NIJ levels 3 and 4 for typical requirements for rifle resistant armor. Broadly rifle resistant armor is of three basic types: ceramic plate-based systems, steel plate with spall fragmentation protective coating, and hard fiber-based laminate systems. Many rifle armor components contain both hard ceramic components and laminated textile materials used together. Various ceramic materials types are in use, however: aluminum oxide, boron carbide and silicon carbide are the most common. The fibers used in these systems are the same as found in soft textile armor. However, for rifle protection, high pressure lamination of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene with a Kraton matrix is the most common.
The Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) and the enhanced SAPI plate for the US DOD generally has this form. Because of the use of ceramic plates for rifle protection, these vests are 5–8 times as heavy on an area basis as handgun protection. The weight and stiffness of rifle armor is a major technical challenge. Density, hardness and impact toughness are among the materials properties that are balanced to design these systems. While ceramic materials have some outstanding properties for ballistics, they have poor fracture toughness. Failure of ceramic plates by cracking must also be controlled. For this reason many ceramic rifle plates are a composite. The strike face is ceramic with the backface formed of laminated fiber and resin materials. The hardness of the ceramic prevents the penetration of the bullet while the tensile strength of the fiber backing helps prevent tensile failure. The U.S. military's Small Arms Protective Insert family is a well-known example of these plates.
When a ceramic plate is shot, it cracks in the vicinity of the impact, which reduce the protection in this area. Although NIJ requires a Level III plate to stop six rounds of x51mm M80 ball ammunition, it imposes a minimum distance between shots of inches (51mm); if two rounds impact the plate closer than this requirement permits, it may result in a penetration. To counter this, some plates, such as the Ceradyne Model AA4 and IMP/ACT (Improved Multi-hit Performance/Advanced Composite Technology) series, use a stainless steel crack arrestor embedded between the strike face and backer. This layer contains cracks in the strike face to the immediate area around an impact, resulting in markedly improved multi-hit ability; in conjunction with NIJ IIIA soft armor, a lb IMP/ACT plate can stop eight rounds of x45mm M, and a lb plate such as the MH3 CQB can stop either ten rounds of x45mm M or six rounds of x39mm BZ API. The Model AA4, which does not require a soft armor backer, weighs pound (kg) and is able to stop twelve rounds of x39mm BZ API, or one or more hits of x51mm RUAG Swiss P AP ammunition; its successor, the Model AA4+, maintained this level of protection while weighing a mere pound (kg). For reference, the x51mm Swiss P AP is an armor-piercing round superior to M; it is capable of penetrating most NIJ level IV plates out to meters.
The standards for armor-piercing rifle bullets are not clear-cut, because the penetration of a bullet depends on the hardness of the target armor, and the armor type. However, there are a few general rules. For example, bullets with a soft lead-core and copper jacket are too easily deformed to penetrate hard materials, whereas rifle bullets intended for maximum penetration into hard armor are nearly always manufactured with high-hardness core materials such as tungsten carbide. Most other core materials would have effects between lead and tungsten carbide. Many common bullets, such as the ×39mm M43 standard cartridge for the AK/AKM rifle, have a steel core with hardness rating ranging from Rc35 mild steel up to Rc45 medium hard steel. However, there is a caveat to this rule: with regards to penetration, the hardness of a bullet's core is significantly less important than the sectional density of that bullet. This is why there are many more bullets made with tungsten instead of tungsten carbide.
Additionally, as the hardness of the bullet core increases, so must the amount of ceramic plating used to stop penetration. Like in soft ballistics, a minimum ceramic material hardness of the bullet core is required to damage their respective hard core materials, however in armor-piercing rounds the bullet core is eroded rather than deformed.
The US Department of Defense uses several hard armor plates. The first, the Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI), called for ceramic composite plates with a mass of 20–30kg/m2 (4–5lb/ft2). SAPI plates have a black fabric cover with the text "mm M80 Ball Protection"; as expected, they are required to stop three rounds of x51mm M80 ball, with the plate tilted thirty degrees towards the shooter for the third shot; this practice is common for all three-hit-protective plates in the SAPI series. Later, the Enhanced SAPI (ESAPI) specification was developed to protect from more penetrative ammunition. ESAPI ceramic plates have a green fabric cover with the text "mm APM2 Protection" on the back and a density of 35–45kg/m2 (7–9lb/ft2); they are designed to stop bullets like the AP (M2) with a hardened steel core. Depending on revision, the plate may stop more than one. Since the issuance of CO/PD D on January 14, , ESAPI plates are required to stop three rounds of M2AP. The plates may be differentiated by the text "REV." on the back, followed by a letter. A few years after the fielding of the ESAPI, the Department of Defense began to issue XSAPI plates in response to a perceived threat of AP projectiles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over , inserts were procured; however, the AP threats they were meant to stop never materialized, and the plates were put into storage. XSAPI plates are required to stop three rounds of either the x51mm M or x45mm M tungsten-carbide armor-piercing projectiles (like newer ESAPIs, the third shot occurs with the plate tilted towards the shooter), and are distinguished by a tan cover with the text "mm AP/WC Protection" on the back.
Cercom (now BAE Systems), CoorsTek, Ceradyne, TenCate Advanced Composites, Honeywell, DSM, Pinnacle Armor and a number of other engineering companies develop and manufacture the materials for composite ceramic rifle armor.
Body armor standards in the Russian Federation, as established in GOST R , differ significantly from American standards, on account of a different security situation. The ×25mm Tokarev round is a relatively common threat in Russia and is known to be able to penetrate NIJ IIIA soft armor. Armor protection in the face of the large numbers of these rounds, therefore, necessitates higher standards. GOST armor standards are more stringent than those of the NIJ with regards to protection and blunt impact.
For example, one of the highest protection level, GOST BR5, requires the armor to withstand 3 x54mmR B32 API hits fired from m away with 16mm of back-face deformation (BFD). NIJ Level IV-rated armor is only required to stop 1 hit of , or x63mm, M2AP with 44mm BFD.
Main article: Bomb suit
Bomb disposal officers often wear heavy armor designed to protect against most effects of a moderate sized explosion, such as bombs encountered in terror threats. Full head helmet, covering the face and some degree of protection for limbs is mandatory in addition to very strong armor for the torso. An insert to protect the spine is usually applied to the back, in case an explosion throws the wearer. Visibility and mobility of the wearer is severely limited, as is the time that can be spent working on the device. Armor designed primarily to counter explosives is often somewhat less effective against bullets than armor designed for that purpose. The sheer mass of most bomb disposal armor usually provides some protection, and bullet-specific trauma plates are compatible with some bomb disposal suits. Bomb disposal technicians try to accomplish their task if possible using remote methods (e.g., robots, line and pulleys). Actually laying hands on a bomb is only done in an extremely life-threatening situation, where the hazards to people and critical structures cannot be lessened by using wheeled robots or other techniques.
It is notable that despite the protection offered, much of it is in fragmentation. According to some sources, overpressure from ordinance beyond the charge of a typical hand grenade can overwhelm a bomb suit.
In some media, an EOD suit is portrayed as a heavily armoured bulletproof suit capable of ignoring explosions and gunfire; In real life this is not the case, as much of a bomb suit is made up of only soft armor.
Stab and stab-ballistic armor
See also: Stab vest
Early "ice pick" test
In the mids the state of California Department of Corrections issued a requirement for a body armor using a commercial ice pick as the test penetrator. The test method attempted to simulate the capacity of a human attacker to deliver impact energy with their upper body. As was later shown by the work of the former British PSDB, this test overstated the capacity of human attackers. The test used a drop mass or sabot that carried the ice pick. Using gravitational force, the height of the drop mass above the vest was proportional to the impact energy. This test specified joules (81ft·lb) of energy and a kg (16lb) drop mass with a drop height of cm (60in).
The ice pick has a 4mm (in) diameter with a sharp tip with a m/s (17ft/s) terminal velocity in the test. The California standard did not include knife or cutting-edge weapons in the test protocol. The test method used the oil/clay (Roma Plastilena) tissue simulant as a test backing. In this early phase only titanium and steel plate offerings were successful in addressing this requirement. Point Blank developed the first ice pick certified offerings for CA Department of Corrections in shaped titanium sheet metal. Vests of this type are still in service in US corrections facilities as of
Beginning in the early s, an optional test method was approved by California which permitted the use of 10% ballistic gelatin as a replacement for Roma clay. The transition from hard, dense clay-based Roma to soft low-density gelatin allowed all textile solutions to meet this attack energy requirement. Soon all textile "ice pick" vests began to be adopted by California and other US states as a result of this migration in the test methods. It is important for users to understand that the smooth, round tip of the ice pick does not cut fiber on impact and this permits the use of textile based vests for this application.
The earliest of these "all" fabric vests designed to address this ice pick test was Warwick Mills's TurtleSkin ultra tightly woven para-aramid fabric with a patent filed in  Shortly after the TurtleSkin work, in DuPont patented a medium density fabric that was designated as Kevlar Correctional. These textile materials do not have equal performance with cutting-edge threats and these certifications were only with ice pick and were not tested with knives.
HOSDB-Stab and Slash standards
Parallel to the US development of "ice pick" vests, the British police, PSDB, was working on standards for knife-resistant body armor. Their program adopted a rigorous scientific approach and collected data on human attack capacity. Their ergonomic study suggested three levels of threat: 25, 35 and 45 joules of impact energy. In addition to impact energy attack, velocities were measured and were found to be 10–20m/s (much faster than the California test). Two commercial knives were selected for use in this PSDB test method. In order to test at a representative velocity, an air cannon method was developed to propel the knife and sabot at the vest target using compressed air. In this first version, the PSDB ’93 test also used oil/clay materials as the tissue simulant backing. The introduction of knives which cut fiber and a hard-dense test backing required stab vest manufacturers to use metallic components in their vest designs to address this more rigorous standard. The current standard HOSDB Body Armour Standards for UK Police () Part 3: Knife and Spike Resistance is harmonized with the US NIJ OO15 standard, use a drop test method and use a composite foam backing as a tissue simulant. Both the HOSDB and the NIJ test now specify engineered blades, double-edged S1 and single-edge P1 as well as the spike.
In addition to the stab standards, HOSDB has developed a standard for slash resistance (). This standard, like the stab standards, is based on drop testing with a test knife in a mounting of controlled mass. The slash test uses the Stanley Utility knife or box cutter blades. The slash standard tests the cut resistance of the armor panel parallel to the direction of blade travel. The test equipment measures the force at the instant the blade tip produces a sustained slash through the vest. The criteria require that slash failure of the armor be greater than 80 newtons of force.
Combination stab and ballistic vests
Vests that combined stab and ballistic protection were a significant innovation in the s period of vest development. The starting point for this development were the ballistic-only offerings of that time using NIJ Level 2A, 2, and 3A or HOSDB HG 1 and 2, with compliant ballistic vest products being manufactured with areal densities of between and 6kg/m2 ( and lb/ft2 or 18 and 20 oz/ft2). However police forces were evaluating their "street threats" and requiring vests with both knife and ballistic protection. This multi-threat approach is common in the United Kingdom and other European countries and is less popular in the USA. Unfortunately for multi-threat users, the metallic array and chainmail systems that were necessary to defeat the test blades offered little ballistic performance. The multi-threat vests have areal densities close to the sum of the two solutions separately. These vests have mass values in the –kg/m2 (–lb/ft2) range. Ref (NIJ and HOSDB certification listings). Rolls Royce Composites -Megit and Highmark produced metallic array systems to address this HOSDB standard. These designs were used extensively by the LondonMetropolitan Police Service and other agencies in the United Kingdom.
Standards update US and UK
As vest manufacturers and the specifying authorities worked with these standards, the UK and US Standards teams began a collaboration on test methods. A number of issues with the first versions of the tests needed to be addressed. The use of commercial knives with inconsistent sharpness and tip shape created problems with test consistency. As a result, two new "engineered blades" were designed that could be manufactured to have reproducible penetrating behavior. The tissue simulants, Roma clay and gelatin, were either unrepresentative of tissue or not practical for the test operators. A composite-foam and hard-rubber test backing was developed as an alternative to address these issues. The drop test method was selected as the baseline for the updated standard over the air cannon option. The drop mass was reduced from the "ice pick test" and a wrist-like soft linkage was engineered into the penetrator-sabot to create a more realistic test impact. These closely related standards were first issued in as HOSDB and NIJ (The Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB) was renamed the Home Office Scientific Development Branch in )
Stab and spike vests
These new standards created a focus on Level 1 at 25 joules (18ft⋅lbf), Level 2 at 35J (26ft⋅lbf), Level 3 at 45J (33ft⋅lbf) protection as tested with the new engineered knives defined in these test documents. The lowest level of this requirement at 25 joules was addressed by a series of textile products of both wovens, coated wovens and laminated woven materials. All of these materials were based on Para-aramid fiber. The co-efficient of friction for ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) prevented its use in this application. The TurtleSkin DiamondCoat and Twaron SRM products addressed this requirement using a combination of Para-Aramid wovens and bonded ceramic grain. These ceramic-coated products do not have the flexibility and softness of un-coated textile materials.
For the higher levels of protection L2 and L3, the very aggressive penetration of the small, thin P1 blade has resulted in the continued use of metallic components in stab armor. In Germany, Mehler Vario Systems developed hybrid vests of woven para-aramid and chainmail, and their solution was selected by London's Metropolitan Police Service. Another German company BSST, in cooperation with Warwick Mills, has developed a system to meet the ballistic-stab requirement using Dyneema laminate and an advanced metallic-array system, TurtleSkin MFA. This system is currently implemented in the Netherlands. The trend in multi threat armor continues with requirements for needle protection in the Draft ISO prEN ISO norm. In many countries there is also an interest to combine military style explosive fragmentation protection with bullet-ballistics and stab requirements.
Vest sizing, carriers and encapsulation
In order for ballistic protection to be wearable the ballistic panels and hard rifle-resistant plates are fitted inside a special carrier. The carrier is the visible part of a ballistic vest. The most basic carrier includes pockets which hold the ballistic panels and straps for mounting the carrier on the user. There are two major types of carriers: military or tactical carriers that are worn over the shirt, and covert law enforcement type carriers that are worn under the shirt.
The military type of carrier, English police waistcoat carrier, or police tactical carrier most typically has a series of webbing, hook and loop, and snap type connectors on the front and back face. This permits the wearer to mount various gear to the carrier in many different configurations. This load carriage feature is an important part of uniform and operational design for police weapons teams and the military.
In addition to load carriage, this type of carrier may include pockets for neck protection, side plates, groin plates, and backside protection. Because this style of carrier is not close fitting, sizing in this system is straightforward for both men and women, making custom fabrication unnecessary.
Law enforcement carriers in some countries are concealable. The carrier holds the ballistic panels close to the wearer's body and a uniform shirt is worn over the carrier. This type of carrier must be designed to conform closely to the officer's body shape. For concealable armor to conform to the body it must be correctly fitted to a particular individual. Many programs specify full custom measurement and manufacturing of armor panels and carriers to ensure good fit and comfortable armor. Officers who are either female or significantly overweight have more difficulty in getting accurately measured and having comfortable armor fabricated.
A third textile layer is often found between the carrier and the ballistic components. The ballistic panels are covered in a coated pouch or slip. This slip provides the encapsulation of the ballistic materials. Slips are manufactured in two types: heat sealed hermetic slips and simple sewn slips. For some ballistic fibers such as Kevlar the slip is a critical part of the system. The slip prevents moisture from the user's body from saturating the ballistic materials. This protection from moisture cycling increases the useful life of the armor.[full citation needed]
Non-standard designs of hard armour
The vast majority of hard body armor plates, including the U.S. military's Small Arms Protective Insert family, are monolithic; their strike faces consist of a single ceramic tile. Monolithic plates are lighter than their non-monolithic counterparts, but suffer from reduced effectiveness when shot multiple times in a close area (i.e., shots spaced less than two inches/cm apart). However, several non-monolithic armor systems have emerged, the most well-known being the controversial Dragon Skin system. Dragon Skin, composed of dozens of overlapping ceramic scales, promised superior multi-hit performance and flexibility compared to the then-current ESAPI plate; however, it failed to deliver. When the U.S. Army tested the system against the same requirements as the ESAPI, Dragon Skin showed major issues with environmental damage; the scales would come apart when subjected to temperatures above °F (49°C) - not uncommon in Middle Eastern climates - when exposed to diesel vehicle fuel, or after the two four-foot drop tests (after these drops, ESAPI plates are put in an X-ray machine to determine the location of cracks, and then shot directly on said cracks), leaving the plate unable to reach its stated threat level and suffering 13 first- or second-shot complete penetrations by M2 AP (the ESAPI test threat) out of 48 shots.
Perhaps less-well known is LIBA (Light Improved Body Armor), manufactured by Royal TenCate, ARES Protection, and Mofet Etzion in the early s. LIBA uses an innovative array of ceramic pellets embedded in a polyethylene backer; although this layout lacks the flexibility of Dragon Skin, it provides impressive multi-hit ability as well as the unique ability to repair the armor by replacing damaged pellets and epoxying them over. In addition, there are variants of LIBA with multi-hit capacity against threats analogous to ×51mm NATO M AP/WC, a tungsten-cored armor-piercing round. Field tests of LIBA have yielded successful results, with 15 AKM hits producing only minor bruises.
Progress in material science
Ballistic vests use layers of very strong fibers to "catch" and deform a bullet, mushrooming it into a dish shape, and spreading its force over a larger portion of the vest fiber. The vest absorbs the energy from the deforming bullet, bringing it to a stop before it can completely penetrate the textile matrix. Some layers may be penetrated but as the bullet deforms, the energy is absorbed by a larger and larger fiber area.
In recent years, advances in material science have opened the door to the idea of a literal "bulletproof vest" able to stop handgun and rifle bullets with a soft textile vest, without the assistance of additional metal or ceramic plating. However, progress is moving at a slower rate compared to other technical disciplines. The most recent offering from Kevlar, Protera, was released in Current soft body armor can stop most handgun rounds (which has been the case for roughly 15 years), but armor plates are needed to stop rifle rounds and steel-core handgun rounds such as ×25mm. The para-aramids have not progressed beyond the limit of 23grams per denier in fiber tenacity.
Modest ballistic performance improvements have been made by new producers of this fiber type. Much the same can be said for the UHMWPE material; the basic fiber properties have only advanced to the 30–35 g/d range. Improvements in this material have been seen in the development of cross-plied non-woven laminate, e.g. Spectra Shield. The major ballistic performance advance of fiber PBO is known as a "cautionary tale" in materials science. This fiber permitted the design of handgun soft armor that was 30–50% lower in mass as compared to the aramid and UHMWPE materials. However this higher tenacity was delivered with a well-publicized weakness in environmental durability.
Akzo-Magellan (now DuPont) teams have been working on fiber called M5 fiber; however, its announced startup of its pilot plant has been delayed more than 2 years. Data suggests if the M5 material can be brought to market, its performance will be roughly equivalent to PBO. In May , the Teijin Aramid group announced a "super-fibers" development program. The Teijin emphasis appears to be on computational chemistry to define a solution to high tenacity without environmental weakness.
The materials science of second generation "super" fibers is complex, requires large investments, and represent significant technical challenges. Research aims to develop artificial spider silk which could be super strong, yet light and flexible. Other research has been done to harness nanotechnology to help create super-strong fibers that could be used in future bulletproof vests. In , the US military began conducting research into the feasibility of using artificial silk as body armor, which has the advantages of its light weight and its cooling capability.
Textile wovens and laminates research
Finer yarns and lighter woven fabrics have been a key factor in improving ballistic results. The cost of ballistic fibers increases dramatically as the yarn size decreases, so it's unclear how long this trend can continue. The current practical limit of fiber size is denier with most wovens limited at the denier level. Three-dimensional weaving with fibers connecting flat wovens together into a 3D system are being considered for both hard and soft ballistics. Team Engineering Inc is designing and weaving these multi layer materials. Dyneema DSM has developed higher performance laminates using a new, higher strength fiber designated SB61, and HB DSM feels this advanced material provides some improved performance, however the SB61 "soft ballistic" version has been recalled. At the Shot Show in , a unique composite of interlocking steel plates and soft UHWMPE plate was exhibited by TurtleSkin. In combination with more traditional woven fabrics and laminates a number of research efforts are working with ballistic felts. Tex Tech has been working on these materials. Like the 3D weaving, Tex Tech sees the advantage in the 3-axis fiber orientation.
Ballistic nylon (until the s) or Kevlar, Twaron or Spectra (a competitor for Kevlar) or polyethylene fiber could be used to manufacture bullet proof vests. The vests of the time were made of ballistic nylon & supplemented by plates of fiber-glass, steel, ceramic, titanium, Doron & composites of ceramic and fiberglass, the last being the most effective.
Developments in ceramic armor
Ceramic materials, materials processing and progress in ceramic penetration mechanics are significant areas of academic and industrial activity. This combined field of ceramics armor research is broad and is perhaps summarized best by The American Ceramics Society. ACerS has run an annual armor conference for a number of years and compiled a proceedings – An area of special activity pertaining to vests is the emerging use of small ceramic components. Large torso sized ceramic plates are complex to manufacture and are subject to cracking in use. Monolithic plates also have limited multi hit capacity as a result of their large impact fracture zone These are the motivations for new types of armor plate. These new designs use two- and three-dimensional arrays of ceramic elements that can be rigid, flexible or semi-flexible. Dragon Skin body armor is one of these systems. European developments in spherical and hexagonal arrays have resulted in products that have some flex and multi hit performance. The manufacture of array type systems with flex, consistent ballistic performance at edges of ceramic elements is an active area of research. In addition advanced ceramic processing techniques arrays require adhesive assembly methods. One novel approach is use of hook and loop fasteners to assemble the ceramic arrays.
Nanomaterials in ballistics
Currently, there are a number of methods by which nanomaterials are being implemented into body armor production. The first, developed at University of Delaware is based on nanoparticles within the suit that become rigid enough to protect the wearer as soon as a kinetic energy threshold is surpassed. These coatings have been described as shear thickening fluids. These nano-infused fabrics have been licensed by BAE systems, but as of mid, no products have been released based on this technology.
In an Israeli company, ApNano, developed a material that was always rigid. It was announced that this nanocomposite based on tungsten disulfidenanotubes was able to withstand shocks generated by a steel projectile traveling at velocities of up to km/s. The material was also reportedly able to withstand shock pressures generated by other impacts of up to metric tons-force per square centimeter ( gigapascals; 3,, psi). During the tests, the material proved to be so strong that after the impact the samples remained essentially unmarred. Additionally, a study in France tested the material under isostatic pressure and found it to be stable up to at least tf/cm2 (34 GPa; 5,, psi).
As of mid, spider silk bulletproof vests and nano-based armors are being developed for potential market release. Both the British and American militaries have expressed interest in a carbon fiber woven from carbon nanotubes that was developed at University of Cambridge and has the potential to be used as body armor. In , large format carbon nanotube sheets began being produced at Nanocomp.
In late , researchers began studying and testing graphene as a material for use in body armor. Graphene is manufactured from carbon and is the thinnest, strongest, and most conductive material on the planet. Taking the form of hexagonally arranged atoms, its tensile strength is known to be times greater than steel, but studies from Rice University have revealed it is also 10 times better than steel at dissipating energy, an ability that had previously not been thoroughly explored. To test its properties, the University of Massachusetts stacked together graphene sheets only a single carbon atom thick, creating layers ranging in thickness from 10 nanometers to nanometers from layers. Microscopic spherical silica "bullets" were fired at the sheets at speeds of up to 3km (mi) per second, almost nine times the speed of sound. Upon impact, the projectiles deformed into a cone shape around the graphene before ultimately breaking through. In the three nanoseconds it held together however, the transferred energy traveled through the material at a speed of km (mi) per second, faster than any other known material. If the impact stress can be spread out over a large enough area that the cone moves out at an appreciable velocity compared with the velocity of the projectile, stress will not be localized under where it hit. Although a wide impact hole opened up, a composite mixture of graphene and other materials could be made to create a new, revolutionary armor solution.
In Australia, it is illegal to import body armour without prior authorisation from Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. It is also illegal to possess body armour without authorization in South Australia,Victoria,Northern Territory,ACT,Queensland,New South Wales, and Tasmania.
United States law restricts possession of body armor for convicted violent felons. Many U.S. states also have penalties for possession or use of body armor by felons. In other states, such as Kentucky, possession is not prohibited, but probation or parole is denied to a person convicted of committing certain violent crimes while wearing body armor and carrying a deadly weapon. Most states do not have restrictions for non-felons.
In all Canadian provinces except for Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba, it is legal to wear and to purchase body armour such as ballistic vests. Under the laws of these provinces, it is illegal to possess body armour without a license (unless exempted) issued by the provincial government. Nova Scotia has passed similar laws, but they are not yet in force.
According to the Body Armour Control Act of Alberta which came into force on June 15, , any individual in possession of a valid firearms licence under the Firearms Act of Canada can legally purchase, possess and wear body armour.
Under Schedule C (item ML13) of Cap. 60G Import and Export (Strategic Commodities) Regulations, "armoured or protective equipment, constructions and components" are not regulated "when accompanying their user for the user's own personal protection".
In European Union import and sale of ballistic vests and body armor are allowed, except protections that are developed under strict military specifications and/or for main military usage, shield above the level of protection NIJ 4, thus considered by the law as "armament materials" and forbidden to civilians. There are many shops in Europe that sell ballistic vests and body armor, used or new.
In Italy, the purchase, ownership and wear of ballistic vests and body armor is not subject to any restriction, except for those ballistic protections that are developed under strict military specifications and/or for main military usage, thus considered by the law as "armament materials" and forbidden to civilians. Furthermore, a number of laws and court rulings during the years have rehearsed the concept of a ballistic vest being mandatory to wear for those individuals who work in the private security sector.
In the Netherlands the civilian ownership of body armour is subject to the European Union regulations. Body armour in various ballistic grades is sold by a range of different vendors, mainly aimed at providing to security guards and VIP's. The use of body armour while committing a crime is not an additional offense in itself, but may be interpreted as so under different laws such as resisting arrest.
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