Wonder Hoodie

What Does NIJ IIIA Mean and What Does It Protect You Against?

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the only nationally recognized standard for body armor that is worn by law enforcement officers nationwide. They have been evaluating and rating body armor since 1972. In this article, you will find an easy to understand explanation of the different levels of NIJ approved body armor and what each level can protect against. 

 

The 5 Levels

The NIJ rates ballistic body armor into five different levels according to what type of projectiles they can resist. For each level, we will discuss the type of guns and bullets they will protect against first and then chat about common use cases. In order to be certified at a level, the ballistic material must not only resist puncture but also prevent blunt trauma. NIJ rates body armor both as new and “conditioned”, meaning used. The ratings for new and used are very similar but we will not go into great depth in this article. 

 

NIJ-IIA (9mm and .40 S&W)

NIJ-IIA rated ballistic body armor that is new and unworn must resist 124g 9mm Full Metal Jacket Round Nose (FMJ RN) projectiles with a velocity of 1225 fps and 158g .40 S&W FMJ projectiles with a velocity of 1155 fps. NIJ-IIA rated ballistic body armor that is conditioned must resist 124g FMJ RN projectiles with a velocity of 1165 fps and 158g .40 S&W FMJ projectiles with a velocity of 1065 fps. 

For the average user both civilian and law enforcement, NIJ-IIA ballistic body armor is enough protection for day-to-day use. 9mm and .40 S&W are two of the most common handgun ammunition available today. NIJ-IIA body armor is lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day long without fatigue. 

 

NIJ-II (9mm and .357 Magnum)

NIJ-II rated ballistic body armor that is new and unworn must resist 124g 9mm FMJ RN projectiles with a velocity of 1470 fps and 158g .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point (JSP) projectiles with a velocity of 1430 fps. NIJ-II rated ballistic body armor that is conditioned must resist 124g 9mm FMJ RN projectiles with a velocity of 1245 fps and 158g .357 Magnum JSP projectiles with a velocity of 1340 fps.

NIJ-II rated ballistic body armor provides slightly more protection than NIJ-IIA. The projectiles tested for NIJ-II are similar in size but have a much higher velocity. Because NIJ-II protects against higher velocity, it also protects against everything that NIJ-IIA covers. NIJ-II body armor is just as lightweight and comfortable as NIJ-IIA.

 

NIJ-IIIA (.357 SIG and .44 Magnum)

NIJ-IIIA ballistic body armor that is new and unworn must resist 125g .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) projectiles with a velocity of 1470 fps and 240g .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) projectiles with a velocity of 1430 fps. NIJ-IIIA rated ballistic body armor that is conditioned must resist 125g .357 SIG FMJ FN projectiles with a velocity of 1410 fps and 240g .44 Magnum projectile with a velocity of 1340 fps. 

With the NIJ-IIIA body armor rating you are protected against almost all handgun rounds. NIJ-IIIA is considerably larger and heavier than NIJ-IIA and NIJ-II, but still relatively convenient to wear without fatigue. NIJ-IIIA body armor could be a bit more than necessary for the average civilian wearer because .357 SIG and .44 Magnum are not common handgun calibers. 

 

NIJ-III (Rifles)

NIJ-III rated hard armor or plate inserts are tested as conditioned and must resist 147g 7.62mm FMJ steel-jacketed projectiles with a velocity of 2780 fps. NIJ-III flexible ballistic body armor tested as both new and conditioned must resist 147g 7.62mm FMJ steel-jacketed projectiles with a velocity of 2780 fps. If plate inserts and flexible armor are designed to be worn together, they must be tested together as one system and clearly labeled as such.

NIJ-III rated ballistic body armor is serious body armor worn by our Soldiers overseas in combat. It protects against the most common rifle round fired by our enemies, the 7.62mm FMJ. The NIJ-III body armor is large and bulky and not recommended for wear in civilian settings. As with all NIJ-rated body armor, it will also protect against all threats that lower-rated body armor protects against.

 

NIJ-IV (Armor Piercing Rifle)

NIJ-IV rated hard armor or plate inserts are tested as conditioned and must resist 166g .30 caliber armor-piercing (AP) projectiles with a velocity of 2880 fps. NIJ-IV flexible ballistic body armor tested as both new and conditioned must resist 166g .30 caliber AP projectiles with a velocity of 2880 fps. If plate inserts and flexible armor are designed to be worn together, they must be tested together as one system and clearly labeled as such.

The final level of ballistic body armor protects against armor-piercing rifle bullets. Obviously, this is only needed in a combat scenario. NIJ-IV is extremely heavy and awkward to wear and would not be comfortable when worn daily.

 

Conclusion

There can be lots of confusion when it comes to body armor rating levels, but hopefully this clears things up a bit. In summary, as you go up in levels, each can also protect against what the previous level can. NIJ-IIA and NIJ-II are adequate to protect against the most common handguns that you would encounter on the streets. They are thin and comfortable to wear on a daily basis. The NIJ-IIIA body armor rating is a step up from IIA and II and can protect you against almost every handgun out there. NIJ-III and NIJ-IV protect against rifle rounds and should be reserved for Soldiers overseas and extreme preppers.

Here at Wonder Hoodie, we have worked hard to make our bulletproof clothing make sense. We’ve made all of our ballistic body armor NIJ-IIIA to ensure our customers are not confused by the different body armor levels and to provide a maximum level of protection and comfort for everyday wear. Starting October 1, 2020, all of our ballistic body armor clothing will also come with a free, trauma pad inside every set of our ballistic panels. 

 

By Adam Zimmerman (Guest Contributor) & Samuel Rodriguez (Editor)

 

Want to know if our IIIA bulletproof hoodie works? Watch the video below: