NIJ Body Armor Levels Explained

NIJ Body Armor Levels Explained

The NIJ has set up five different threat levels for body armor, which are based on the armor's ability to stop specific rounds at specific velocities.

These levels are known as Level IIA, Level II, Level IIIA, Level III, and Level IV.

At ShotStop, we provide body armor that meets and exceeds NIJ body armor ballistic standards of IIIA and higher. 

We'll provide you with a detailed breakdown of Level IIIA, Level III, Level III+, and Level IV. Although Level IIA and Level II are outdated soft armor ballistic levels, some people still use them to create lighter and thinner armor panels. 

However, with our ShotStop Duritium armor, we can achieve the same level of weight and thinness while offering a higher level of protection.

NIJ Level 3a

Level 3A soft body armor is a type of protective gear that offers defense against most handgun rounds. It is engineered to stop bullets traveling at a velocity of up to 1,400 feet per second, which includes popular calibers such as 9mm, .357 Magnum, and .44 Magnum. 

The construction of Level 3A body armor often involves a combination of aramid fibers (such as Kevlar) and other synthetic materials. This type of armor is designed to be lightweight, flexible, and comfortable to wear for extended periods.

NIJ level 3a

Level 3A body armor is specifically engineered to provide protection against the most common type of ballistic threat encountered by law enforcement officers and civilians, which are handgun rounds.

Additionally, Level 3A body armor is often designed to be concealable, allowing users to wear it under their clothing without attracting attention.

While Level 3A body armor provides effective protection against handgun rounds, it is important to note that it may not provide sufficient protection against more powerful or high-velocity rounds. 

In such situations, a higher level of protection, such as Level III or Level IV armor, may be necessary to ensure the safety of the user

NIJ Level 3

NIJ Body Armor Ballistic Level III rifle plates are engineered to provide protection against six consecutive hits of 7.62x51mm NATO FMJ M80 bullets traveling at a velocity of approximately 2780 feet per second. 

According to the NIJ, Level 3 plates will stop the following rounds.

  • .38 Special
  • 9mm Luger
  • .40 S&W
  • .45 ACP
  • .357 Sig
  • .357 Magnum
  • .44 Magnum
  • 7.62x51mm (M80)

Level III+ armor is a designation used by the industry to describe Level III body armor that is capable of stopping a wider range of ballistic threats beyond the M80 round. 

Our Duritium® Level III+ plates, for example, are designed to defeat not only the M80 round but also the 5.56x45mm 55 grain ball (M193), 7.62x39mm PS ball (MSC), and 7.62x51mm 149 grain M80 FMJ.

NIJ Level 3+

It is important to note that standard Level III body armor is only tested to determine its effectiveness against the M80 round. 

However, the 5.56 rounds, in particular, can be more effective penetrators, which means that it is essential to request to see ballistic test results before purchasing any rifle protection. 

By doing so, you can ensure that you are adequately protected against the specific types of ballistic threats that you may encounter.

NIJ Level 4

NIJ Body Armor Ballistic Level IV plates are the most highly rated hard armor plates that meet NIJ standards. 

They are specifically designed to withstand a single hit from an Armor Piercing 30.06 bullet (U.S. military designation M2 AP) traveling at a velocity of 2880 feet per second. 

NIJ Level 4

Level IV armor meets the ballistic standard by stopping a single bullet, unlike Level III armor, which is required to stop six bullets. 

However, our Level IV+HS plate can stop at least six rounds of 30-06 M2AP, M855A1, and .308 AP bullets. The standout feature of our HS plate is its remarkable durability under intense pressure. 

While the NIJ standard for AP protection is one bullet, ShotStop® refuses to settle for the minimum standard in any test.


Understanding the different levels of NIJ body armor is crucial for anyone looking to purchase or use body armor. 

The NIJ established these levels to provide a uniform classification system for body armor, which law enforcement agencies and other organizations use to make sure the armor they use offers sufficient protection against various types of threats. 

It is important to note that while higher levels of protection may offer more coverage, they can also be heavier and more cumbersome to wear. Ultimately, the choice of which level of NIJ body armor to use will depend on a variety of factors, including the specific threats that are present, the user's level of mobility, and personal preferences. 

By considering all of these factors, individuals can choose the level of protection that best meets their needs and provides them with the peace of mind they need to stay safe in a variety of situations.

Older Post Newer Post


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published