NIJ Guide to Body Armor

NIJ Guide to Body Armor
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We’ve discussed in great detail the importance of wearing body armor, the materials used to produce body armor, and the levels of armor according to the federal government.

However, who decides on the standards of ballistic armor? Who is responsible for the testing and certification of armor?

What is the Compliance Test Program (CTP)? All of these questions and more will be answered inside this blog.

The NIJ Ballistic Resistant Body Armor Standards and Testing Program

With as many organizations and programs we’ve discussed, it’s challenging to keep track of each. One we haven’t discussed in detail yet is the NIJ Ballistic Body Armor Standards and Testing Program. Many people just see the big program title and steer away like there’s a deer in the road. 

The NIJ Ballistic Resistant Body Armor Standards and Testing Program have created two sub-programs vital to our business; the CTP and the NIJ Ballistic Standards

What Are the 2 components of NIJ Ballistic-Resistant Body Armor Standards and Testing Program?

Keeping things simple, the program’s creation by the NIJ set forth standards in the performance of ballistic body armor.

To ensure performance standards are set, the NIJ created a testing procedure to validate a manufacturer’s claim.

This testing procedure is called the Compliance Test Program

What is the Compliance Test Program?

The CTP administers two types of testing programs for ballistic armor to establish a federal standard; the standards-based compliance testing program and the comparative evaluation program

The CTP was established to assess the claims of manufacturers on the efficacy of ballistic armor created for law enforcement and corrections officers.

And the program is what the NIJ uses to determine how independently effective ballistic armor is.

Without this independent testing, manufacturers could claim just about anything without having to back it up. ShotStop® is proud of our commitment to exceeding the standards of the CTP. 

STANDARDS-BASED COMPLIANCE TESTING

The standards-based compliance testing program is the first type of testing conducted by the CTP.

This type of testing is usually conducted at NIJ accredited independent ballistic testing labs across the country. 

ShotStop® has used several of these for their rounds of testing and examinations throughout development, but NTS at Chesapeake is our primary lab of preference now.

Each product is thoroughly inspected for defects before it’s subject to the NIJ Voluntary Performance Standards (e.g., Ballistic Resistance, NIJ Standard-0101.06, Stab Resistance, NIJ Standard-0115.00). 

The standards-based compliance testing program ensures that our law enforcement and corrections officers are confident in the gear they wear.

As a former police officer and soldier, having the confidence in my armor is a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. That peace-of-mind is what we offer with ShotStop®.

COMPARATIVE EVALUATION PROGRAM

The second testing program is the comparative evaluation program, responsible for the field testing of each armor sample. Once the field test is complete, the data is collected and published.

In the comparative evaluation program, things like patrol cars, brake pads, and tires undergo testing.

With both types of testing programs, the CTP can cover all bases regarding ballistic protection. 

Does the NIJ Dictate How Armor is Made?

No, the NIJ doesn’t care how the manufacturer shapes their armor or what materials they use to produce the product.

Whether a company uses steel, ceramic, or polyethylene doesn’t matter to the NIJ as long as the product does what it’s claiming to do.

For example, if a company claims to have Level/Type IV ballistic protection, they have to prove it with the only certifying agency in our nation; the NIJ. 

The NIJ gives manufacturers a lot of leeway on what they can use to create armor to ensure that innovation is never stalled and technology continues to push us forward.

This is what led to the creation of our Duritium® technology. We wanted to build upon the use of polyethylene and make something even stronger and lighter than any other product on the market. 

Is There an NIJ Compliance List?

The NIJ Compliant List or Certified Product List (CPL) is something many companies want to stray away from because they’re not on the list.

There are hundreds of companies around the world that produce some form of ballistic protection.

Many of those companies use gimmicks to sell you on their “unique” design, but those same companies are not NIJ-listed.

The database is incredibly easy to use, and it’s free for anyone to check the validity of any ballistic armor company in the United States. Many companies try to use verbal judo to talk past the fact their products are not certified. 

For example, the most popular phrase we see from competitors is “our armor meets the NIJ Standard.” This wording makes the consumer think that the product is certified, when in fact, it’s not.

You will never see wording like “identical to the NIJ standard” or “just like the NIJ standard” at ShotStop®.

At ShotStop®, you will see “NIJ Listed, STANAG $ VPAM certified” to prove to our customers that armor does exactly what it says it will.  

Far too many armor companies out there are getting by using these bait and switch marketing tactics to falsely imply that they have been through the rigorous NIJ compliance process. 

ShotStop® feels this is a major injustice to our civilians and front-liners who are seeking legitimate safety from ballistics threats.

The NIJ states very clearly how they feel about this issue and released a response to squash any argument over validity. 

“Only armor that is listed on the current CPL is NIJ compliant. Armor that is not listed on the CPL does not qualify for BJA funding through either the BVP or JAG programs.” 

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT LEOS FOLLOW THE NIJ GUIDELINES?

It might sound like a tedious task to ensure that armor is certified before you buy it. However, if an officer purchases armor that isn’t certified by the NIJ and listed on the CLP, the officer could forfeit coverage.

Most department mandates across the country require them to provide certified body armor to their employees. Unfortunately, a lot of armor on the market is heavy and uncomfortable.

No one wants to be sore and uncomfortable for 12 hours a day (at least). If you choose to go out on your own and buy new armor for your team, do your research before you buy to ensure that you’re getting federally approved armor. 

WHY SHOULD I CHOOSE SHOTSTOP®?

There are too many reasons to put down in one blog, but the most impressive characteristics of ShotStop® (besides owning the lightest, thinnest, and most comfortable body armor on the planet) are our integrity and transparency.

Do your research and look through the websites of every other ballistic protection company for proof.

When you look at ShotStop® products, every style and level of armor has an independent lab report to PROVE our claims. 

Every company around the world should be proud of their products, and we’re no different.

ShotStop® will prove our claims with independently certified documentation that’s public to our customers before purchasing. 

We know that our soldiers and community protectors depend on our armor to save their lives if they get shot.

This is why making claims like “identical to the NIJ standard” is simply not enough for us. It’s misleading and downright dangerous.

Transparency is key.  If a body armor company doesn’t openly show their ballistic lab results from an accredited ballistics lab or won’t provide the results to you, you should be deeply concerned about the legitimacy of their claims.  

ShotStop® shows all results for all products on the website for the whole world to see (with pride). 

You are encouraged to take this very seriously; it could literally be the difference between life and death. Ballistics protection isn’t something to play ‘find the shortcuts’ with.


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