Level 3 Body Armor Frequently Asked Questions

Level 3 Body Armor Frequently Asked Questions

Level 3 body armor is becoming more popular than Level 3A body armor because of advancements in technology. 

As technology improves, companies are able to make stronger, more durable, and lightweight armor than in previous years.  

With the growth in popularity of Level 3 body armor, there are more questions than answers online. 

We would like to answer as many of those questions as possible to give our customers a better understanding of Level 3 body armor.

Level III Body Armor

What is the difference between Level 3 and Level 3a Body Armor?

Level 3A/IIIA body armor is meant to stop handgun caliber bullets, including everything from a .22, 9mm, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, .357 Sig, and a .44 Magnum. Generally, Level 3A body armor is a soft insert made from Kevlar or similar material.

The most important thing to remember about a Level 3A soft armor insert is that it will stop handgun bullets, but will not stop any rifle caliber bullet, including a 5.56mm (M193) or 7.62x39mm.

Will Level 3A Armor Stop a 5.56mm?

This is a question that we often receive from police officers looking for lightweight body armor that is flexible and comfortable. Unfortunately, NIJ-Listed level 3A armor will NOT stop a 5.56mm NATO bullet. 

A Level 3A soft armor insert will only be NIJ-Listed with a projectile with a max velocity of 1,410 ft/sec. Rifles have too much power for a soft armor insert to stop the projectile without help from a hard armor insert (ICW).

What is Level III Body Armor?

Level III body armor is meant to stop rifle caliber bullets with bullet velocities up to 2,780 ft/sec. A level III body armor plate is a hard insert and is NIJ-LIsted to stop a 7.62x51mm (M80) bullet.

In Conjunction With (ICW) Level III body armor must be tested with the soft insert and be able to stop an M80 bullet from penetration.

ICW body armor can’t be NIJ-Listed without testing both the hard plate insert and soft armor insert together.

What Will Level 3 Armor Stop?

According to the NIJ, Level 3 body armor will stop the following bullets:

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

    Is Level III Armor Stab-Proof?

    According to the NIJ, there are separate standards for stab protection and ballistic protection. Therefore, the majority of ballistic protection is not NIJ-Listed under the NIJ 0115.00 standard

    However, all ShotStop® Level III+ plates will stop both the edge blade and spike class threat levels. If You're interested in learning more, we have a great blog on stab-resistant body armor

    What is Level III+ Body Armor?

    You will often see Level III+ body armor in your search for body armor and we recognize that it can be confusing with the amount of misinformation out there. 

    Level III+ body armor is a way for ballistic armor manufacturers to show their customers that their armor will stop more than the NIJ-Listed requirement of an M80 bullet in some way, shape or form.

    For example, all of our Duritium® Level III+ plates will stop a 5.56x45mm (M193), a 7.62x39mm, and the M80 (.308 Win).

    The + may be added by the armor company to their marketing materials and website because the 5.56 round is not one of the NIJ III threats that are formally tested.

    Please note that NIJ does not recognize nor encourage the use of the ‘+’ symbol which is why you will not see it appear on NIJ listed product labels.  NIJ forbids its use on labeling to help reduce confusion.

    What Will a Level III+ Body Armor Plate Stop?

    One of the issues with Level III+ body armor is that it only means it will stop more than the NIJ-Listed M80 requirement for 1 shot with no penetration.

    Be careful here, it can mean ANYTHING (unregulated).  Including stopping 7 M80 rounds instead of NIJ’s III’s 6-shot.  Or it can stop 5.56 which is a bullet outside of the M80. 

    There are hundreds of reasons a company can slap a ‘+’ on there.  Another would be, it can take two M80s less than 2” apart without fail… you see, marketers have gotten really clever with the use of this little + sign.  

    ShotStop Level III Body Armor

    Not all Level III+ armor plates will stop the 3 special threats that our Duritium® plates will stop. Be careful when you read the special threat testing for each plate you buy. 

    According to the NIJ, Level 3 body armor will stop the following bullets:

    • .38 Special
    • 9mm Luger
    • .40 S&W
    • .45 ACP
    • .357 Sig
    • .357 Magnum
    • .44 Magnum
    • 10mm
    • 7.62x51mm (M80) 

    Why is ShotStop® Level III+ Body Armor the Best?

    Simply put, all of our Duritium® Level III+ plates are lighter, thinner, have a lower profile, and most importantly are proven to stop up to 6 shots from a 7.62x51mm 149 Gr bullet.

    Many companies talk about having a multi-strike Level III+ plate. What most don’t tell you is that they won’t get their plates independently tested for multi-strike capabilities because of the fear of failure. Another trick they like to do is get a test with 2 shots. 

    All of our Duritium® Level III+ plates are proven to defeat 6 shots from an M80, M193, and 7.62x39mm bullet. We pray that no officer ever is shot 6 times but if he/she takes 6 bullets to the chest, they will be protected by our Duritium® technology. 

    Duritium® Level III ICW Body Armor

    When I recommend body armor for police, I always consider the two most important factors that I hear from them; weight and comfort

    I recommend the Duritium® Level III ICW plate because every police officer at least has a soft armor insert. If that soft armor Level IIIA armor insert in NIJ-Listed, you can easily add the Duritium® ICW plate for rifle protection. 

    The 10x12” Shooters Cut plate is only 2.4 lbs per plate, and 0.6” thick for the lowest possible profile for a rifle caliber plate. 

    As I often spend time with my brother-in-law and his fellow Sheriff Deputies, all I hear is that hard plates are too heavy, bulky, and dig into their neck or thighs when seated in their patrol cars. The Duritium® III ICW plate eliminates all those concerns and maintains the mobility of your arms. 

    Duritium® Level III+PA Plate

    Our Shooter Cut 10”x12” Duritium® Level III+PA plate is the lightest stand-alone NIJ-Listed Level III plate on the planet at just 2.7 lbs. To put that in perspective, an average NIJ-Listed Level IIIA soft armor insert is 1.5-2.0 lbs per plate and protects only against handgun ammo. 

    The Level III+PA plate is only 0.7” thick and will stop at least 6 shots. With 5 different sizes to accomodate any body type, there is a plate for every man or woman, police or civilian on the planet.

    The multi-curve design of our Duritium® plates provides a level of comfort that most companies charge extra for or simply can’t provide. 

    ShotStop® Warranty

    If you need any other reason to buy our Duritium® Level III plates, we offer an industry leading 15-year warranty on all level III plates. It’s at least 2-3x longer than our competitors and each plate comes with access to our independent test results (all are online for your convenience). 

    ShotStop® Discounts

    ShotStop® offers significant discounts to all first responders and active military soldiers. The price you see online is nowhere close to what we offer the men and women who serve our communities and nation.

    Everything we do in this industry is based on our motto of We Protect the Protectors. We couldn’t be more proud of our protectors and will always put the needs of our heroes above profit. 

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    1 comment

    • Now that I know, level III+ body armor is a technique for makers of ballistic armor to demonstrate to their clients that their armor will, in some way, shape, or form, stop more than the NIJ-Listed requirement of an M80 bullet. This makes sense because my brother who is a first responder wants to have that kind of gear. I feel like his job is important but dangerous so he should have a first responder level 3A armor and other defense gear. https://supremesecuritygear.com/products/first-response-multi-threat-vest-level-iiia

      Taylor Abrams on

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