NIJ Compliance vs. Certification: What’s the Difference?
NIJ introduction: https://www.nij.gov/topics/technology/body-armor/pages/welcome.aspx
NIJ Compliant products list: https://www.nij.gov/topics/technology/body-armor/Pages/compliant-ballistic-armor.aspx
When searching for plates and comparing plates, how important is NIJ compliance versus NIJ certification? What do the two mean? Which one is better? Which one is stronger? Which one means I can trust that plate a little more versus not? Is there a difference between compliant and certification?
My name is Rich Bewley with ShotStop® and today I want to share with you one of the most common questions we get and hopefully arm you with some data so you can make the best choice for you, your department, and your agency.
So, let’s go right to a source for what this whole confusion is between certification and compliance, so that we can see what’s going on and why is this so confusing?
I searched NIJ certified plates and you can see right off the top, NIJ certified level IV, then the first actual result is straight from the NIJ website. If you look at the NIJ website, they make no mention of the word certification. Compliant armor is body armor that complies with NIJ ballistic. We’re going to dive into this webpage in one minute, to look to see if they use certification anywhere on their page and see if anywhere within anything that NIJ says has some affiliation with the word certification. We’ll find out.
But let’s keep looking down to see what else is out there and to help us understand what’s most popular and what we’re seeing.
So, the next option: hard armor plate, multi-hit rated, NIJ certified. There’s that word certified.
Here’s another word certified: NIJ certification, armor that passes the official NIJ lab testing is labeled with an NIJ certification mark.
Another one: Just Net, certification to NIJ body armor.
Next one down, NIJ certified plates.
You’ve got NIJ certified level IV.
You’ve got armor vests certified under NIJ, and here’s a level IV NIJ certified body armor plate.
So, there you have it. All except for one result, you see the word certified everywhere, it’s plastered all over. Let’s figure out what is the right word and then how do we become armed and know how to make the right decision moving forward.
We’re going to dive into the NIJ webpage, who’s the owner and the issuer of the NIJ Compliance Standards. What does that mean? This whole test that plates are supposed to undergo was created by the NIJ for one purpose, to protect our officers, our operators, our agencies, and our military from purchasing plates that didn’t meet their minimum standards. They want to protect all operators and those that protect us. They want to make sure plates at least meet a specific standard, which is why NIJ compliance is very important for any buyer of rifle plates to absolutely consider and not even look to consider other options as it relates to testing. You definitely want to trust NIJ testing the most.
Body armor compliance testing, the word is compliance. If you look through this, it talks about the overview of compliance testing, when they started, what goes into the tests, manufacturer’s rule in compliance testing, what is the manufacturer supposed to do? Testing and approved laboratories—everything you see on this webpage is the word compliant and not certification and that is on purpose.
I’m also going to draw to your attention—the site is not operating perfectly right now, but this URL, which I will also make available to you, is a tool that allows you to quickly look at NIJ’s compliant list of plates so that you know these plates have gone through that rigorous testing and have been approved or have passed the compliant standard to be considered NIJ compliant.
With that, I want to show you, what do you want to look for if you’re on other websites? You want to see something that looks like this: It’s an NIJ Notice of Compliance. When you see this form, this form isn’t good for every plate that the manufacturer sells, so you want to make sure you look at the NIJ Notice of Compliance and then you want to look at what is the model designation. What is that specific model that you’re earning that Notice of Compliance from the NIJ?
You then want to make sure it’s the product type standard, classification, in this case it was a level III. As you look at all of these different indicators, these factors, this shows you that the manufacturer took their plate to an NIJ laboratory, had it tested, and then received the Notice of Compliance. That leaves you knowing that it has been tested by third-party laboratories that are unbiased, that have no incentive to get you plates that might not perform. This is a very rigorous test from the NIJ.
Beyond that, we just wanted to give you a quick additional datapoint to arm you with when you are reviewing and examining or exploring and comparing plates and that is our ballistic resistance tests. What this is, is a report that we make available on every one of our plates so that you can get behind the scenes of the test and see how hard that test was on that plate. When you want to know what rounds did that plate take and defeat, what rounds did that plate stop, how many rounds, what was the back face deformation, what would that impact look like on a police officer or the one wearing the plate itself, this is where you get all that data and more.
Here within the report, again, you want to make sure that the manufacturer is correct, you want to make sure the size is correct, you want to make sure the weight is correct, you want to make sure the plate itself, you know that this lab report, this resistance test report, is referencing a specific plate.
Here are the level III, so this is the specific test that it went against, and then you get to see even in deeper, what else did we ask that laboratory to test it against? How much harder did we make that test on our plate to ensure that real life situations, the operator is going to be protected and the plate is going to perform.
Here’s where you see the different weights, here’s where you see the different rounds, what speed, if there was penetration up to six shots, absolutely not. Deformation, on the fourth shot, here’s what the deformation looked like, so again, this gives you a very strong look into what that test looked like and how it performed.
This is very important to most of our customers when we walk through it with them because it shows them how much they can depend upon the plate and be confident that the plate has been truly tested against the worst of the worst to ensure that it meets those ratings more.
I hope you found this to be helpful. Again, take a look at the NIJ site, look at the compliance ratings, look at the NIJ page that shows you all the NIJ compliant armor, and don’t get confused or fooled by that word “certified.” It absolutely means nothing, and it carries no weight with NIJ. Instead, look for compliant, look for that Notice of Compliance and if you have any questions or if there’s anything we can do to help, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Thanks so much.