To meet the mandates of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) sponsors the Standards and Testing Program. This is part of a broader research effort that determines the needs of justice system agencies and sets minimum performance standards that must be met in order for commercially available equipment to qualify for purchase consideration.

Manufacturers voluntarily submit laboratory testing and evaluation figures to show that they meet these standards and can reliably meet specific agency needs. The NIJ standards help protect buyers, ensuring that they know the quality of the armor they are provided. Maintaining the NIJ seal is also important for manufacturers, as it allows them to qualify for grant funding.

The standards are not regulatory in nature; rather, they articulate best practices. NIJ standards are also subject to change as continued research and development (R&D) efforts allow for industry driven improvements based on environmental shifts in agency operations. Put simply, this means that the NIJ reserves the right to modify their existing requirements to ensure they’re addressing any perceived weaknesses in different body armor designs.

With this in mind, it’s critical that body armor and tactical gear manufacturers carefully consider how to best comply with evolving NIJ standards.

Changes to the NIJ Standards

In the summer of 2017, the NIJ introduced Standard-0101.07, which will replace Standard- 0101.06 in late 2018. In this interim period, ballistic armor manufacturers have a head start to begin developing their products to the new standards.

Changes to the standards include the following:

  • Higher test-round velocity standards

The test-round velocity for conditioned armor will be the same as that for new armor during testing. For example, for 06 Level IIIA the .44 Magnum round is currently shot at 1338FPS for conditioned armor and at 1430FPS for new armor. For the NIJ Standard-0101.07, the velocity for both conditioned and new armor will be the same, raising the bar for body armor manufacturers to keep their armor performing at a high level in an austere environment.

COREMATRIX Technology has been tested and successfully proven to be a superior material in post-conditioned ballistic testing.  With increased post-conditioned velocity testing requirements, we expect COREMATRIX to meet or exceed the requirements of the stringent NIJ 07 standards.

  • New threat level definitions

The previous Roman numeral designation system has been eliminated entirely. The lowest soft armor threat level was also removed, raising the minimum standards for soft body armor; II and IIIA have been changed to HG1 and HG2 for handgun threats, while hard armor levels III and IV have been replaced by RF1 and RF3 for rifle threats.

In addition, an RF2 median level was added to the new standard, specifically dedicated to high-performance 5.56 mm ammunition and non-armor piercing 7.62 mm ammunition, bridging a previously existing gap between threat levels for “rifles” and “armor-piercing rifles.” These new definitions will not only allow for more accurate testing, but also give the end-user a better idea of exactly what kind of protection they are wearing.

  • Gender-based armor fitting

NIJ-0101.07 standards recognize that body armor fits men and women differently, and as such, releases new testing standards for women’s body armor. New standards require additional test shots in the area around the armor’s bust cups to ensure that armor specifically designed for use by females offers the same ballistic protection.

  • More lenient backface standards

The term “backface” refers to the amount of impact the wearer of the body armor experiences. The new proposed standards would allow 2 inches of backface instead of 1.7 inches, which some believe may have a negative medical impact for the wearer. The idea behind loosening this standard, however, is that it will enable the use of lighter materials, which should encourage military personnel and police officers to wear the armor more often.

When body armor manufacturers source, it’s critical that they assess how a certain material or supplier will ensure the end product meets the required standards in order for it to be a viable purchase option. Being able to meet these standards creates consumer confidence and can make all the difference in saving a life.

Exceeding the Standards with Core Matrix Ballistic Material

Core Matrix Technology™ from Tex Tech Industries allows manufacturers to create lighter, flexible, and more comfortable body armor designed to meet all NIJ soft armor standards.

The unique 3D structure of Core Matrix effectively dissipates energy along three separate axes, creating a 360° energy dispersion during a ballistic event. This serves to disperse energy efficiently across three planes so that the energy from an impact moves spherically throughout the entire vest, reliably protecting personnel and ensuring optimal safety on the job.

To learn more about the new NIJ standards or discuss ballistics material options with an expert, reach out to the Tex Tech team today.

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