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Explaining the NIJ Standard 0101.06 Ballistic Resistance of Body Armour

As CEO of PPSS Group I am dealing with body armour almost every single day of the week. My job is to advise government and homeland security agencies in countries around the world in the latest body armour technology and argue my case why I strongly believe a certain type of body armour is the most appropriate one based on the operational risks, threats and duties of their frontline staff.

One thing has always been a ‘thorn in my eyes’ though. It is my genuine believe that the vast majority of bullet proof vests are of poor, or even exceptional poor quality (please insert any word you fancy replacing ‘exceptional poor’). The performance of most bullet proof vests might be of an acceptable level on the day of testing/certification, but when worn in hot and humid environments by an officer who is actively involved in serious physical confrontations, for several hours a day, several days a week/month/year, that ballistic protection level might well have been reduced by a high percentage due to the use of poor raw materials and craftsmanship and ‘cutting corners’ during the design and manufacturing process.

So, how do we know one body armour is ‘really good’ and that it will do the job even after having been subjected to all types of severe stress for many months and even years?

The ‘guarantee’ now comes in form of the compliance to a very specific ballistic resistance standard.

To ensure that body armour continue to be effective in protecting soldiers, homeland security officers and personal protection specialists, the U.S. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) established a body armour standard and testing program back in 1972, and it has been updated five times since then to reflect the design and manufacturing developments of body armour and test methods.

There is no question about it this standard is without any doubt the single most important ballistic resistance standards in the world. The latest is also the most stringent and most important version of it. I am talking here about the ‘NIJ Standard 0101.06 Ballistic Resistance of Body Armour’.

So, what has changed? Why was it time for the body armour test protocol to change? Why is it relevant to you and anyone charged with the safety of frontline professionals and those responsible for the purchase of body armour?

Let me start with a simple statement… the NIJ 0101.06 standard means added safety, which has always been the key objective for PPSS Group.

The NIJ 0101.06 standard is the most comprehensive, stringent and rigorous body armour compliance standard that exists today.

A NIJ 0101.06 tested and certified body armour ultimately means increased protection for you. It means ‘reassurance’ and ‘piece of mind’ knowing that you are wearing a body armour based on the very latest design and manufacturing capabilities and technologies.

In the official ‘NIJ Standard 0101.06 Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor’, John Morgan, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, National Institute of Justice stated:

“The NIJ Standard–0101.06, ‘Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor’ is a minimum performance standard developed in collaboration with the Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It is produced as part of the Standards and Testing Program of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. This standard is a technical document that specifies the minimum performance requirements that equipment must meet to satisfy the requirements of criminal justice agencies and the methods that shall be used to test this performance. This standard is used by the NIJ Voluntary Compliance Testing Program (CTP) to determine which body armor models meet the minimum performance requirements for inclusion on the NIJ Compliant Products List. Users are strongly encouraged to have this testing conducted…”

This extremely stringent new ballistic resistance standard increases safety in three ways:

  • By increased performance against today’s emerging threats

  • By improved reliability

  • By superior durability for body armour… ensuring they will cope with the stress they may endure by being worn 10 hours a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, over several years.

These changes in testing and these new improved minimum performance requirements have been set for several reasons:

  • To improve performance, so that all officers receive sufficient protection

  • To provide adequate protection against realistic and likely ballistic threats

  • To provide assurance that the armour will provide protection through the entire life of its warranty… and not just on day of testing/certification.

The NIJ 0101.06 standard features several crucial, ‘right’ and ‘good’ changes to the previous globally dominating NIJ Standard 0101.04 (Ballistic Resistance of Personal Body Armour):

Higher Velocities

  • Increased test velocities for new armour testing of Types IIA, II and IIIA

  • Test velocities have been established for conditioned armour testing

  • Special-threat rounds to be tested at elevated velocities within the special test class

Protection Level IIIA Round Changes

  • Round changed from a 9mm FMJ RN to a .357FMJ FN

Shot Placement

  • The new NIJ Standard 0101.06 modifies “shot-to-edge” spacing. New spacing allows shots within 2 inches of the edge of the vest for the .357mm SIG FMJ FN and 9mm FMJ RN threats

  • While maintaining a 2-inch shot-to-shot spacing, the new NIJ Standard 0101.06 changes the pattern of the fourth, fifth and sixth shot to be within a maximum of a 3.94-inch circle

Size of Test Samples

  • Five standardized armour samples will now be accepted for testing to NIJ Standard-0101.06: smallest, small, medium, large and largest

  • Manufacturers must submit 2 different sizes for testing

  • The sizes selected determine the range of sizes that can be produced for that particular model:

  • One closely matching the smallest production size

  • One closely matching the largest production size

Immersion Testing

  • The new NIJ Standard-0101.06 requires test panels to be fully immersed vertically in a water bath at 70°F for 30 minutes. (Prior standards only required a water spray test for 6 minutes)

Environmental Conditioning (Tumbling) Test

  • Prior standards did not include environmental condition tests

  • The new standard requires panels to be tumbled for 72,000 cycles over a 10-day period at 149°F at 80% relative humidity prior to ballistic testing

  • The conditioned armor portion of the test protocol uses lower velocities, then the reference velocities used with the new armor portion of the test protocol

Number of Samples Required

  • The new NIJ Standard-0101.06 standard requires 28 complete test samples, including front and back panel. (Prior standards required 6 complete test samples)

Angle of Incidence

  • The new NIJ Standard-0101.06 standard requires that, for P-BFS testing, each test panel must be shot with one hit at 30° and another hit at 45° angles

For those of you who prefer to read/see this in form of a table the following will certainly answer some of your key questions:

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