Get Answers to Your Questions About Body Armor

The NIJ Standard (currently, NIJ Standard-0101.06) is recognized worldwide as the minimum performance standard for ballistic-resistant body armor. It establishes standardized test methods and threat rounds to evaluate armor in several different threat classifications, for both soft and hard armor designs. The NIJ Compliance Testing Program (CTP), which evaluates ballistic- and stab-resistant body armor to determine a model’s compliance with NIJ Standards, provides the end user with confidence that the armor has been independently tested and found to meet these minimum performance requirements.

NIJ CTP staff are available to answer questions from criminal justice practitioners regarding body armor selection, fit, use, and care; as well as questions about the compliance testing process through our information request email, The NIJ CTP also responds to questions from manufacturers who are seeking to participate in the CTP process, or to ensure that they meet the requirements of NIJ Standard 0101.06, Ballistic Resistance of Personal Body Armor. Manufacturers interested in submitting products to the NIJ CTP for testing, or who have questions about the CTP process, can contact CTP staff via email at

Use of External Carriers: With more and more agencies turning to external vest carriers, the question of which is better (concealable or external) is frequently asked of NIJ CTP staff. There is no right or wrong answer, as its really a matter of personal preference.

Concealable body armor allows a wearer to have a more traditional look, as it is worn under the duty uniform. All regular issued uniform items can still be worn over the uniform, such as jackets, sweaters, windbreakers, etc. External carriers are a bit larger and usually thicker. Many agencies are going to an external carrier that is made of material that matches the duty uniform shirt, so it still looks like the officer is wearing their regular duty uniform.

The external carrier also allows the wearer to easily remove body armor while completing administrative tasks when not in contact with the general public. Most external carriers provide pockets or other attachments for equipment that an officer would not have to then carry on their duty belt, such as an extra magazine for a pistol or patrol rifle or an extra set of restraints, which can potentially ease back or hip strain by better distributing the weight of this equipment.

It is extremely important to note that if an agency decides to use an external carrier made by a different company than the original manufacturer of the ballistic panels, to consult with the manufacturer of the ballistic panels and confirm with them that it is OK to do so. Failure to do this may void the original manufacturer’s warranty, as the aftermarket carrier may not be specifically tailored to the ballistic panels and either bend or fold the panels if too small, or allow the panels to shift in the carrier if too large. This could potentially alter the ballistic performance capabilities or coverage area of the panel.

When In Doubt … Check It Out. Labels Can Be Deceiving

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Products that bear the ballistic panel label stating, “This model of armor has been determined to comply with the NIJ Standard-0101.06 by the NIJ Compliance Testing Program and is listed in the NIJ Compliant Products List,” should be what they are advertised to be. However, you won’t really know for sure unless you:

Consult the Ballistic Armor Compliant Product List to determine whether the armor model in question has actually gone through NIJ’s Compliance Testing Program. Buyer beware! Double check all products. The only way to be sure that what you have is the real McCoy is to check the NIJ Compliant Products List.

If it isn’t listed on the CPL, it isn’t NIJ compliant. Period.

Stay safe and please … always wear your body armor.

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