RTS Tactical display of bulletproof vests for personal protection.

What Do Shield Ratings Actually Mean? A Guide for the Everyday Person.

What Do Shield Ratings Actually Mean? A Guide for the Everyday Person.

If you've ever wondered about the different types of body armor or seen those confusing labels like "Level IIIA", you're not alone. Let's break it down.


The NIJ: Setting the Standards

The NIJ (National Institute of Justice) is the organization that sets the standards for body armor in the US. They have five main levels (IIA, II, IIIA, III, and IV), with each level designed to protect against increasingly powerful ammunition.


Soft vs. Hard Armor

There are two main types of body armor:
  • Soft Body Armor: Lighter, more flexible, and easier to wear under clothes. Typically rated up to Level IIIA.
  • Hard Body Armor: Uses tough plates (metal or other materials) to stop rifle bullets. Starts at Level III.

Protection Levels Explained

Here's a simple guide to what each level protects against:

  • Level IIA: Stops basic handgun rounds (like 9mm).
  • Level II: Protects against slightly more powerful handgun rounds.
  • Level IIIA: Handles even more powerful handgun rounds and is commonly used by police.
  • Level III: Stops rifle bullets, the type you might see in a hunting rifle.
  • Level IV: The highest level, designed for military use against armor-piercing rounds.

* The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recently released a groundbreaking publication that sets a new benchmark in personal safety for law enforcement personnel - the "Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor, NIJ Standard 0101.07,".

  • Handgun threats are classified as NIJ HG1 and NIJ HG2, replacing the previous Level II and Level IIIA designations.
  • Rifle threats are classified into three levels: NIJ RF1, NIJ RF2, and NIJ RF3, aligning with the previous Level III and IV, with NIJ RF2 as a new intermediate level.

For a more in-depth dive into the new NIJ Standard 0101.07 Click here.

Remember, body armor is a serious investment, and the best choice for you depends on your individual needs. Do your research, talk to experts, and choose the protection that gives you the most peace of mind. If you'd like guidance in finding the right armor solution, the team at RTS Tactical is ready to assist.
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