Level III+ Vs. Level IV Body Armor | Which Should Federal Agents Wear?

Level III+ Vs. Level IV Body Armor | Which Should Federal Agents Wear?

Level III body armor is the threshold of where hard plate armor begins and soft inserts are no longer useful.

Level III+ Body Armor will give federal law enforcement agents the best chance to defeat the dozens of bullets that will penetrate standard NIJ Level III body armor

In most cases, Level III + body armor is enough to get the job done, but sometimes it requires Level IV body armor. 

Whether you’re from the Border Patrol, F.B.I., N.S.A., A.T.F,,D.E.A., U.S. Marshals, or the D.H.S., you need armor that will defeat the widest range of rifle threats. We strongly believe that you should be wearing at least Level III + body armor. 

This blog is meant to help federal LEOs make the decisions regarding their safety with the most accurate and up to date information. 

We have many who already wear our armor, but there are thousands that are wearing less efficient and versatile armor. 

What is Level III + Body Armor?

To remain constantly clear, the NIJ doesn’t recognize Level III+ as a legitimate protection designation. Many people ask us why we use the + if it’s not NIJ-Listed as a protection level? 

As good of a question as it is, we use it for something entirely different than a marketing ploy that some have suggested. 

Level III+ is how the industry as a whole displays Level III armor that will defeat more than just the M80 round. 

For example, our Duritium® Level III+ plates are rated to defeat 5.56x45mm 55 grain ball (M193), 7.62x39mm PS ball (MSC), and 7.62x51mm 149 grain M80 FMJ. Standard Level III body armor is only tested to see if you are protected by the M80.  5.56 rounds can be more effective penetrators,so you should request to see ballistic test results for that before buying rifle protection.

Why Should Federal Agencies Wear Level III+ Body Armor?

We believe that every agency that  is at risk of being shot should wear at least Level III+ body armor. 

As of the time I write this blog, there are at least a couple dozen bullets that will defeat Level III armor and maybe at least 50 bullets that will defeat the most common Level IIIA body armor.

I’ve learned a lot of agents prefer to wear Level IIIA body armor. The fact is that soft armor is more comfortable than hard plate inserts and are going to be lighter than most hard plates. 

We know that weight, comfort and your overall body profile comes into play when you wear armor. 

Before we get into why our Duritium® armor is the best fit for you, it’s important to consider the type of criminals faced and how dangerous each mission is. 

For example, the type of criminals that the D.E.A. and U.S. Marshals chase are most likely doing something that will result in many years of their lives behind bars if caught.

Federal agencies don’t normally get involved in a situation until the level of crime has graduated to a federal level crime.

This fear of capture and the desperation that results from this encourages international criminal organizations and fugitives to use the most dangerous ammo and weapons possible. 

Other agencies, such as the, N.S.A. and D.H.S. are chasing and tracking international terrorists daily. 

Nobody, including the government believes that these individuals are going to play fair in any way and abide by international law. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are often faced with life-threatening situations from drug and human traffickers. 

How many people are aware that our Border Patrol Agents constantly get shot at anytime they are too close to the border? 

According to the CBP, agents are getting shot at just for wearing the uniform and being near the border. For bullets to carry from concealed positions and cross the border, they must be using rifles. 

Who knows what kind of bullets they’re using, but I don’t think that’s the most important question to ask. 

The more pressing question is, do you trust your body armor to take at least a 5.56x45mm bullet? If you're not as confident in your armor as we are in ours, it’s time to buy a Duritium® armor plate. 

Which Level III+ Body Armor Should I Wear?

 The Duritium® Level III+PS plate is the pound for pound champion of Level III body armor. It’s capability and performance make it the most durable, multi-hit capable armor under the Level III NIJ-Listing. 

The highest-caliber that most agents are likely to encounter would be a handgun, shotgun, M193, or the M80 bullets.

As a gunner in Iraq, I shot a lot of the M80 rounds in multiple machine guns, including the M240B. If you’re not worried about facing off against machine guns, Level III+ is a great fit for you. 

The combination I would recommend is the 8x10” Level III+PS SAPI plate. Many would think a shooters cut would be better, but you’re already reducing your level of coverage, keeping the corners higher could be like having your cake and eating it too. 

To make it even more unbelievable, no other plate that we have seen is only 2.2 lbs and can stop multiple high caliber rifle rounds to the center. 

When Should Agencies Switch to NIJ Level IV Body Armor?

As we’ve stated in our last blog, Level III Vs. Level III+ Body Armor | What's the Difference?, Level III+ armor may not stop an M855 (green tip) bullet with multiple shots.  You must check with the armor maker to see ballistic lab results to be sure.

Level III+ may also not stop the much improved M855A1 bullet, either. There are many AR-15’s out in circulation that are capable of carrying this ammo. 

The only thing we can do about the high level of danger is to be prepared to face every type of threat. 

As a general rule, if you think that in your job, you could face an AR-15 loaded with illegal ammo, you should wear Level IV body armor. Always remember, if you’re ever going into a gunfight, there is no better armor in the world to wear than Level IV plates. 

A.T.F. agents that are in direct contact with international gun runners should wear the best possible protection. 

Finally, Many criminal organizations use bullets called  “cop-killers” because they will defeat the armor most cops wear (Level IIIA & Level III). 


If you had the option of wearing a 8.75” x 11.75” Level IV armor plate that weighed only 3.8 lbs and could stop all the threats listed below, would you do it?

Although I like the 8.75”x 11.75” plate because it's so light, we have 3 other sizing options to fit any body size.

I know that if I was engaging with unknown threats at any time of the day or night, I’d want something that is light and durable. All of our plates are the standard for what qualifies as a lightweight body armor plate.

Which Level IV Body Armor Should I Wear?

Our new Duritium®  Level IV+HA plate is the most lightweight, durable, and practical level IV plate you’ve ever worn. 

We’re not exaggerating when we say that our 8.75” x 11.75” Level IV+HA plate is only 3.8 lbs per plate. It will change your entire outlook on body armor in a way that makes you want to wear your body armor more often. 

The Duritium® Level IV+HA plate features 2 separate cuts (SAPI and Shooter) for more security vs. more mobility. It’s capable of stopping every bullet fired from a handheld rifle, including a 30-06 (7.62x63mm M2 AP) and the M855A1

My complaint with wearing Level IV armor in Iraq was it was too bulky and limited my range of motion, especially with cross arm movement.

This Level IV plate is only 0.9” thick and combined with the SAPI cut, it will give you maximum mobility and unprecedented protection. 

The first time you wear a ShotStop® Plate, it feels like you’re wearing soft armor, but you don't have to worry about it bunching up in your carrier. 

The addition of another curve in the plate makes it more comfortable to wear, especially for female agents in the field. 

Our R&D team is currently working on creating body armor specifically for women, but it takes a lot of testing to perfect the new design. 

The vast majority of women are more comfortable in a multi-curve plate than a flat plate for obvious reasons. The Duritium® Level IV+HA plate is created to relieve some of the pressure on the chest with the multi-curve design.

Why Should Federal Special Agents Choose Shotstop® Body Armor?

ShotStop®’s mission as a company is printed and displayed on all forms of media for a very good reason. 

When we say we “Protect the Protectors”, we mean not just police or military soldiers. We fully support all governmental organizations in the fight to keep our families safe. 

ShotStop® will always provide the evidence that we’re NIJ-Listed for the world to see. We take keeping you as safe as possible as seriously as the situation calls for. 

Everything we say our body armor will do, it’s been proven by the federal government to be true. We understand not every agency has the funds for new body armor all the time. 

We have a 15-year warranty for all Level III+ plates and a 10-year warranty on Level IV plates to cut down on overall cost over time. 

The industry standard warranty is only 5-10 years for a Level III+ plate and 5 years for a Level IV. This means if you shop with our competitors, you’ll be buying heavier and thicker armor more often than you have to. 

If you’re interested in learning about the discounts that we offer federal law enforcement agencies, contact our sales team at sales@shotstop.com


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