What Are The Different Levels Of Body Armor?

Jul 12, 2022 9:35:43 AM / by Adam Baird

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Before purchasing any kind of body armor, you must be sure to have a thorough understanding of the different levels of protection that are available. Knowing what each level can provide in terms of protection from bullets will make your selections a lot clearer and more precise. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has determined and specified the standards that differentiate the different kinds of body armor from soft to hard armor. The 6 commonly known levels of protection include level IIA, II, IIIA, III, III+, and IV. What determines the category of body armor is less about what it is made of and more about the type of ammunition it can resist against.

Soft Armor

Soft armor includes level IIA, II, and IIIA body armor. This is the most lightweight protective clothing and the main purpose of this kind of armor is to cover the torso but still allow comfort and flexibility. This category of body armor is best used in situations where bullet-resistant protection is needed for multiple hours.

Level IIA protects against handgun or pistol ammunition such as 9 mm Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets and .40 S&W Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets. This level is very light in weight and undetectable but is less common as many have found that some higher levels of body armor can be just as easy to conceal.

Level II protects against 9 mm FMJ bullets and .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point (JSP) bullets. This level of armor can be easily concealed and can be worn for up to 24 hours while on duty with better protection compared to level IIA armor.

Level IIIA body armor can stop .357 SIG Flat Nose (FN) bullets and .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets which are both common handgun rounds. This is a very high level of protection from most handguns on the market while still providing comfort and flexibility. This level is also good for civilians looking for something that is easy to conceal and lighter than rifle rated armor.

Hard Armor

Level III and above are categorized as hard armor as they can be designed using thicker materials such as metallic or ceramic sheets to stop rifle bullets. Hard Armor is typically much heavier and worn for shorter time periods. You lose the flexibility and comfort that would have been gained from soft armor, but those attributes become less of a priority in times where the threats are of higher risk and soft armor won’t be able to protect you adequately.

Level III protects against 7.62 mm FMJ bullets, and this level of armor has a heaviness of 147 grains. Level III armor can contain metal plates or other composite materials which will make the armor more likely to withstand rounds from a rifle.

Level III+ body armor can stop the same kind of bullets as level III but can also stop threats from M855 and M193. It serves as an intermediate protection level between level III and IV but it won’t be able to stop 30 caliber armor-piercing bullets or FMJ bullets like level IV armor.

Level IV Protects against .30 caliber armor-piercing rounds and is the highest level of available body armor. Level IV has a heaviness of 166 grains and is best suited for military operations and people who are more likely to face extreme danger.

Contact Kontek Industries

If you are in need of an affordable NIJ-certified plate for an active shooter response kit, for an emergency responder kit, or if you are looking for a certified plate at a great price point, the Raider line of armor from Kontek will meet your mission needs. Kontek’s Raider plate set includes NIJ-III certified and NIJ-III+ tested ballistic plates for body armor that are best suited for law enforcement, security, and civilian markets.

We also have partnerships with Armor Express Body Armor and BlueRidge Armor to help provide you with a wider variety of options to consider when making a purchase. Armor Express helps us deliver a more holistic array of ballistic protection kits to our core clients in nuclear and DOE security as well as law enforcement. BlueRidge Armor offers custom armor and protective equipment design services to agencies with specialized operational and tactical requirements.

Contact the office at Kontek Industries today to discuss your body armor needs.

Topics: Body Armor

Adam Baird

Published by Adam Baird

Adam Baird is the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President at Kontek Industries. Adam handles many operational responsibilities such as contract reviews, purchasing, CNC machining, and light fabrication. He also plays a role as a key decision maker for the organization. Prior to joining Kontek, Adam worked as an engineer at Marathon Oil Corporation. His prior engineering work is credited as a driving force behind seeking education in Explosives Engineering. Adam has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Explosives Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology. During his time at Missouri S&T, Adam developed sophisticated skills in the integration of explosive technology into complex systems for a wide range of applications. Adam also developed strong business management skills while obtaining a Master's degree in business administration at Nicholls State University.