Body Armor FAQs

What level of body armor should my agency purchase?

Agencies should purchase armor that will stop the threats their officers are likely to face; at a minimum, they should purchase armor that will protect against the weapons carried by their own officers.

Can stand-alone armor plates be used with every model of soft body armor?

Stand-alone armor plates should be used only with the specific model of soft armor with which they are tested. These components together create an in-conjunction with body armor model.

Are accessory panels (groin, coccyx, etc.) tested by the Compliance Testing Program?

No, manufacturers may have them tested at NIJ-approved laboratories, but the results stand on their own and are not certified by NIJ. These items should never appear in catalogs or on websites designated as “NIJ Level XX.”

Do trauma packs/plates provide additional ballistic protection?

No, they are intended to reduce blunt force trauma injury to the torso resulting from a bullet’s striking an armor. The CTP does not test trauma packs/plates, either separately or in conjunction with soft armor models.

What is backface signature testing?

Backface signature refers to the indentation made by the test sample in the clay backing material that is used during testing when a projectile penetrates (enters the armor) but does not perforate (go through) the sample. The depth of the indentation is used as a reasonable analog of the potential for the wearer to sustain significant, potentially lethal, blunt force injury.

Does the CTP conditioning protocol represent artificial aging?

No, the conditioning is intended to provide some indication of the armor’s ability to maintain ballistic performance in the field. This protocol does not predict the service life of the vest nor does it simulate an exact period of time in the field.

Does the entire panel of an NIJ-compliant body armor provide identical and adequate protection?

No, the area within two inches or less of the edge is exempt from the testing process.