Ballistic Standards

The ballistic standards for bulletproof vests are regional. Ammunition may vary, and any armor testing results, need to be determined on the threats found in the local area. Based on statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, one officer is killed every 53 hours while on the job.

What’s even worse is that this number is increasing. In 2011 alone, nearly 175 officers were killed, and 68 of which were killed in a gun-related incident. For that reason, every law enforcement agency has its own standard in armor performance that ensures law enforcement officials are protected even from their weapons.

The Most Widely Used Ballistic Standards For Bulletproof Vests

Despite there being a multitude of standards, only several standards are used extensively. Two examples of widely-accepted standards include the U.S. National Institute of Justice stab and ballistic documents.

Since NIJ started its testing, more than 3,000 officers’ lives have been saved. Along with the NIJ, the standards set forth by the United Kingdom’s Home Office Scientific Development Branch are widely used in several countries and governments. Countries will use these standards and incorporate the basics and modify them to fit the bullets of the area for the test.

The NIJ Standard-0101.06 has certain body armor performance standards for law enforcement. This ballistic standard rates vests on a scale against penetration and blunt trauma protection. Along with both the ballistic standards from the NIJ and HOSDB, the German Police Technische Richtlinie (TR) Ballistische Schutzwesten also has a standard.

How Textile Armor Is Tested According to Ballistic Standards

Textile armor will be tested for two things:

– Penetration resistance from bullets
– Wearer’s feeling to impact energy

The transmitted impact energy is found by shooting the armor mounted in front of some type of backing material – oil-based modeling clay, which is used at a precise temperature and confirmed for impact flow before undergoing any tests. After the test, the vest is taken off the clay and the clay is then measured to determine how deep the indentation is.

Now, trying to compare the backface signature can be tricky because of the different test standards. It’s not uncommon to use the tested bullets and clay materials. In European, German and British standards, there is an allowable 20 to 25mm backface signature. The USNIJ permits 44mm, which could allow for an internal injury. Ever since its introduction, the 44mm backface signature was regarded as controversial. And, there is still discussion about the importance of backface signature vs. penetration-resistance among the testing and medical groups.

When a vest gets wet, its textile material will temporarily degrade. Room temperature water will not affect para-aramid. However, basic, acidic and various other solutions can result in permanent reduction in strength of the para-aramid fiber tensile. For that reason, testing standards are demanding that textile armor be tested when wet.  Vests are often tested in heated, airtight enclosures.

National Institute of Justice (USA): NIJ Ballistic Standard


NIJ Standard 0101.06 – Ballistic Resistance
NIJ Standard 2005 Interim Requirements for Ballistic Resistance
NIJ Standard 0101.04 – Ballistic Resistance
NIJ Standard 0101.04 Revision A – Ballistic Resistance
NIJ Standard 0101.03 – Ballistic Resistance
NIJ Standard 0115.00 – Stab Resistance
NIJ Standard 0104.02 – Riot Helmets and Face Shields
NIJ Standard 010600 – Helmets
NIJ Standard 0117.00 – Public Safety Bomb Suit Standard
NIJ Standard 0108.01 – Ballistic Protective Materials
FBI body armor test protocol 2008
HP White 401-01b Helmet Testing Procedure

Home Office Scientific Development Branch (UK)
HOSDB Body Armour Standards for UK Police (2007)
HOSDB Body Armour Standards for UK Police (2007) Part 1: General Requirements
HOSDB Body Armour Standards for UK Police (2007) Part 2: Ballistic Resistance
HOSDB Body Armour Standards for UK Police (2007) Part 3: Knife and Spike Resistance

European Ballistic Standards (EU)
EN-1522
EN-1523

GOST Ballistic Standards (Russia)
GOST R 50744 95

Vereinigung der Prüfstellen für angriffshemmende Materialien und Konstruktionen (Germany)
VPAM KDIW2004 Stand: 18.05.2011
VPAM KDIW 2004 Stand: 12.05.2010
VPAM HVN 2009 Stand: 12.05.2010
VPAM APR 2006 Edition: 2009-05-14
VPAM BSW 2006 Stand: 14.05.2009

International Ballistic Standards
Teijin Aramid Overview
DSM Dyneema Overview