Ballistic-resistant body armor has been widely available for use by law enforcement personnel for more than 30 years. The dramatic reduction in officer homicides following the introduction of body armor attests to the protection it provides. This success story extends far beyond protection from handguns—more than 3,000 lives have been spared, including cases in which body armor prevented serious injuries to officers from other types of assaults or accidents.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has developed standards for body armor performance through its Law Enforcement Standards Office (OLES). The standard for ballistic resistance of body armor was first developed in the 1970s and has since gone through five revisions. In September 2000, NIJ introduced its standard for stab and puncture resistance of body armor.
Body armor is tested as a part of the Justice Technology Information Center (JTIC) voluntary equipment testing program to determine compliance with the NIJ standards, and JTIC disseminates those test results and other pertinent information to the law enforcement and corrections communities.
Although the most common type of threat faced by a police officer is a ballistic threat, the most common threat faced by correctional officers comes from sharp-edged and pointed weapons. In response to the needs of the corrections community, NIJ developed a test standard for stab- and puncture-resistant body armor. NIJ, through its Law Enforcement Standards Office (OLES), partnered with the U.S. Secret Service and the Home Office (formerly the Police Scientific Development Branch) in the United Kingdom (U.K.) to conduct the research that led to the development of NIJ Standard-0115.00, Stab Resistance of Personal Body Armor.
A common misconception with body armor is that if it can stop a bullet, it can also stop a knife. Unfortunately this is inaccurate because the methods and materials used for defeating a pointed or sharp-edged weapon are different than what is used for stopping a high-speed bullet. As a result, a manufacturer must research and develop a vest specifically to stop both threats.
Since there is not a single NIJ standard for combination-threat vests, a manufacturer must test the vest independently to the current NIJ Standards for ballistic-resistance and stab-resistance.
Any potential buyer should check both the ballistic and stab Compliant Product Lists to make sure the model designation appears identically on both. Some model designations may appear similar, so it is important to make sure they are exactly the same. If you have any questions on the compliance status of an advertised combination vest, please contact us.
Alex Sundstrom, Testing Coordinator
Tate Groghan, Testing Coordinator