Does Your Body Armor Have Enough Stopping Power?

Does Your Body Armor Have Enough Stopping Power?

What You Don’t Know WILL Hurt You.

ShotStop® is fortunate and privileged to have experienced many conversations with field operators and officers that work tirelessly every day to protect our freedom and serve our communities. One strong motivator for the founding of ShotStop® was how selfless these officers are and helping to identify ways where we could better protect them while they’re protecting us. In these conversations, we learned a lot about the challenges officers face as it relates to threat levels from active shooters. Most challenges were related to acquiring optimal protection equipment and the constant concern of not making it home to see their families. 

It’s very common for an officer to double up on armor or to be looking for other possible ways to be protected as active shooter situations continue to rise. For these reasons, we want to share more information on the differences in body armor and specifically, what stopping power we believe is an absolute necessity in the law enforcement space. Before we can make a recommendation or share information about what stopping power is most needed, let’s break down what the industry offers as standards.

Most officers have soft body armor vests, which often times qualifies for NIJ Level IIIA, protecting against handguns up to a 44 magnum. We found some agencies provide their officers a Level IIA which stops .40 cal or a Level II that stops .357 and 9mm. 

We're not finding these two levels to be common in the soft armor realm, but it's worth noting. Most officers aren't aware of what rating their armor is and its ability to stop which ammunition. To learn more, see below on the chart what ratings stop what specific bullet caliber. 

You can find the PDF of the NIJ Standards information here. A graphic is represented below…

understanding NIJ.jpg

NOTE: Your Armor Needs to Match Your Threat Level. To properly use the above chart above, ask yourself:

  • What threat levels do you anticipate/or want to be protected from?

  • If you’ve seen threatening situations, what levels of threat were they?

  • What are the ammunition sales trends in your region?

  • What does the historical data of active threat show in your region?

You Need to Consider Possible Threat Levels

If you refer to the chart above, it provides a quick reference to protection stats with various firearms. We need to remember, however; active shooter situations never follow charts or statistics. The real world requires additional protection assistance. For example, it’s imperative to have access to a plate that protects against “green tip” rounds. Known as M855 in US service (also commonly referred to as SS109 Green Tip), this ammunition contains a lead core with a steel penetrator at the tip, enclosed in a full metal jacket painted green at the nose. It has been in service as the standard ball ammunition of the US and other NATO countries for decades. The reality is, police officers do not face active shooter situations often, however when they do, confidence levels increase knowing he or she has the ultimate protection to match the extreme bullet threat sourced by subjects. 

Unfortunately, most officers aren't aware that their standard armor protection may not hold up against green tip rounds, putting them at an increased risk. While ceramic plates can stop green tip ammunition as well, it’s often extremely heavy and bulky. On the other hand, ShotStop’s Duritium III+GT plate – proven to stop multiple rounds of green tip ammo – is only .55 inches thick and weighs just over 5 pounds. This is definitely something to consider when evaluating your body armor options.

Not All Body Armor is Created Equal

Even if they claim to be the exact same NIJ rating level, not all body armor is created equal. This is where confusion will set in; however, rule one is you need to confirm that the product has been tested by a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) accredited third-party ballistics laboratory. Did they actually test the product outside of their own internal testing? IMPORTANT: Internal testing should not be taken seriously. Your life is at stake and nothing less than a test from a third-party NIJ accredited lab will suffice. It’s also important to understand the back-face deformation rating. Back-face deformation can be explained like this: the projectile impacts the front of the body armor. As the armor stops the projectile, which takes time and distance, the backside of the body armor is deformed toward the body. How much it is deformed depends on the protective level of the armor and the speed/weight/energy of the projectile. The heavier the projectile and the faster it’s going, the more kinetic energy it delivers. That distance of deformation is commonly referred to as “back-face deformation,” and by itself can still be lethal. In many cases, trauma pads can be used to lessen the effect of back-face deformation.

Consider the Warranty

In addition to evaluating every armor solution and understanding the threat levels needed to protect yourself and your officers, ShotStop also suggests looking into the product warranty, or as we describe it, “the product life guarantee.” We find agencies have a difficult time convincing decision makers to spend more on body armor that officers feel is more comfortable to wear. For this challenge, we have found that describing the “product life” (warranty) is powerful. In many cases, ShotStop® is double, maybe triple, the length of the product life, thus, making it easier for buyers to purchase. While keeping that in mind, pricing of our body armor might very well be 80-100% more expensive; however, a ShotStop® plate may have two to three times the product life. With this life expectancy, now we're significantly less than the next best body armor option.

As you can see, there is quite a bit to consider when it comes to the necessary stopping power your body armor needs. It truly is a potential “life or death” situation in which you may find yourself. When it all goes down, you need the right body armor solution with the stopping power that will keep you alive.

Want to learn more?

Reach out to us at or call (330) 686-0020 or (800) 986-0795.

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