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NIJ Body Armor Levels

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not planning on getting shot in the back.”


Steel Armor Plates
Steel Armor Plates

You should always have the drop on your enemies, so body armor is generally not very useful or necessary. Right?

The quote above is from the movie Black Hawk Down, as Army Ranger Casey Joyce is removing body armor from his vest prior to Operation Gothic Serpent. Joyce would later be killed by a shot to the back. While the body armor-removal scene may or may not be accurate, that simple 30-minute operation turned into the famously known 17-hour Battle of Mogadishu. This battle resulted in the deaths of 19 American soldiers, including several Delta Force operators, as well as 73 more wounded.

Still not convinced? Let me put this same concept into a different scenario:

“I don’t need a seat belt, because I don’t plan on getting into a car accident.”

Do you think anyone that gets t-boned by a drunk driver plans on it happening before they leave their home for the day?

You likely see what I’m getting at. No one plans on being shot, the same way no one plans on being in a car accident. Even so; soldiers of every caliber have died from gunshots, and careful, defensive drivers have died from car accidents.

The point being? You cannot control every situation around you. As a soldier or prepared citizen, you may be prepared to have the upperhand in a tactical situation; as a driver, you may commute defensively and cautiously. But in neither instance is your survival or safety guaranteed. That may sound grim, but the simple solution to improving your odds is to be prepared! No scenario involving life-or-death should involve taking unnecessary chances. You want every advantage possible in your favor to ensure victory and/or survival.

To freedom-loving individuals everywhere, we present you with your own tactical seat belt!

Level 3 Body Armor

Modern body armor has saved numerous lives. But in a market with so many options, how can you know what is best for you? We created our company with one goal in mind: to provide life-saving body armor at an affordable price. Our employees include active duty military, veterans, and patriotic citizens, with decades of combined experience in personal protection. Our armor is manufactured in the United States from ballistic-grade steel (0.25" thickness) and provides protection that exceeds NIJ 0101.06 standards. We use a unique heat-treating, quenching and tempering process that results in an extra hardened, impact-resistant steel plate with superior ballistic properties. At the time of writing, we offer our armor in size 10x12 (which isthe most common and suitable for 90% of body types), with all plates being manufactured in-house. The armor will accommodate almost any plate carrier, trauma pads, and so on.

STEEL BODY ARMOR DISCLAIMER

You probably saw this coming. I am writing this because I know someone is reading this and preparing a counter-argument on why steel armor comes from Satan himself and has no place in the body armor industry. Steel, when shot, will cause bullets to fragment into pieces. These fragments can cause severe injury if they are large enough and deflect in unwanted directions (ie. into your jugular). People often seem unaware that mitigating this fragmentation is quite easy to do. In lieu of the age-long steel armor vs. ceramic armor debate, we invite anyone reading this to maintain an objective mindset and understand that both body armor types have very specific pros and cons. Both have to be managed and taken care of in their own appropriate ways - and yes, both types are widely used among military and law enforcement agencies.

In short: If you purchase steel body armor, please have a plan to mitigate potential bullet fragmentation. There are companies making all sorts of solutions for this: Containment sleeves, special coatings, etc. We personally have taken these innovations and crafted our own: A unique Kevlar-lining that encompasses the plate entirely (more on that in a different article). Remember that there are simple ways to make steel body armor perfectly safe for use.

If you’re the type of person that sees the word “steel” and immediately goes on a destructive rampage, making it your life-purpose to destroy that company - we respectfully remind you that there are much better ways you can put that energy to use. Let’s not promote division amongst ourselves; we know the state of things in the world, and in this country. Division is a luxury we cannot afford.

So what does “Level 3” actually mean?

I understand this can confuse a lot of people, so we have the facts straight from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) regarding body armor levels. We have included IIIA, III, and IV for your reference:

  • Level IIIA - Stops .357 Sig FMJ FN (Flat Nose) rounds traveling at a velocity of ~1470 ft/s, as well as .44 Magnum SJHP (Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point) rounds at a velocity of 1430 ft/s. And yes, IIIA stops shotguns.

  • Level III - Stops SIX (6) spaced shots from 7.62x51 NATO FMJ (U.S. Military designation M80) rounds traveling up to 2780 ft/s.

  • Level IV - Stops ONE (1) 7.62mm armor piercing (AP) bullet (more commonly known as .30-06 “black tip”) traveling at a velocity of 2880 ft/s.

And that’s it. Officially, there are no other caliber requirements for these armor levels. Unofficially, we know that they will stop a variety of other rounds as well - Level III armor is generally known to stop various 5.56 rounds (though not all of them), and obviously everything stopped by IIIA.

Side Note: While not reviewed here, it is worth mentioning that Level III+ is NOT an official NIJ rating: meaning its rating is entirely subjective to the company producing it. Level III+ is an improved variant of Level III that adds additional stopping capabilities for specific rounds, while still being below Level 4. In other words, all Level III+ armor is still “technically” Level III armor as far as NIJ ratings are concerned.

Level III body armor is one of the most popular available to citizens. It’s popularity is largely due to its versatility: While Level IV armor can often be rather heavy or expensive, Level III is generally lighter and affordable enough for most individuals and stops a wide variety of calibers. Every mission will call for different equipment, but if you are looking for do-it-all, jack of all trades protection, Level III body armor was made for you.

Is it REALLY for me, though?

We get asked this question all the time. What level of armor do I actually need? At the end of the day, only YOU can answer this for yourself. Like we said, different missions require different equipment. Many police officers in areas with high crime rates or frequent gang violence stick to IIIA armor, since the vast majority of rounds they can expect will be from handguns or shotguns. This armor is also usually “soft” - meaning it is slightly more maneuverable.

But let’s say you live in a bit more open/rural area. If you see civil unrest here, there’s a decent chance larger calibers will be used to accommodate longer ranges. Level III armor would be better for you. Do you expect to move locations quickly or frequently? Are you preparing a “bug-out”/shtf loadout? Lighter armor will be better for you, so Level III armor will offer the versatility you need.

What about Level IV? This is the way I’ve always seen it: Unless you anticipate going up against 30-06 armor piercing rounds or the like, and are prepared to be shot by them, stick to Level III. Remember that body armor does not make you invulnerable. You could make body armor that stops .50 BMG, but the sheer force of impact would still kill you. .30-06 AP will not feel great either, so if you anticipate it being frequently used in your area, maybe devise a different strategy. You could try befriending those shooting it ;)

What is this talk of being NIJ Rated vs. Certified?

Another common topic in the armor world is NIJ certification. To be certified means that the NIJ has personally signed off on your armor meeting their standards. This certification process is extensive, involving the armor being put through ballistics, endurance and stressful conditionstesting. Our armor, although not NIJ certified, has been appropriately tested to meet and exceed all NIJ certification requirements.

You may be asking why we have not yet certified our armor: Well, like most things when it comes to the government, the process is as expensive as it is extensive. Certifying a single line of body armor costs tens of thousands of dollars in fees, materials, and time. However, all NIJ tests and test environment conditions are publicly known and can be replicated. For a smaller company like ours, this provides an excellent opportunity to match or exceed NIJ ratings, without having to spend huge amounts of money that we can then put back into growing and improving our own company.

And besides: call it the inner-Libertarians in us, but we do not believe a government approval list deserves to be the sole indicator of quality.

So how is Predator’s Level III armor better than the rest?

As alluded to previously, the gap between the official requirements of Level III and Level IV armor is rather large. As some have likely noted, neither level includes anything about 5.56 as well. Why? Well, the requirements were largely created to take into account calibers American soldiers would be up against (think AK, Dragunov, etc), rather than the calibers they were actually using. There is a lot more to be said on this topic, but suffice it to say that the NIJ ratings leave a lot of calibers open to question.

THIS is where Predator Armor shines. Our standard Level III armor will stop rounds most competitors’ Level III will not, without adding any additional weight or backface deformation. That includes (but is not limited to): M193/M855 5.56 through up to 16” barrels, 7.62x39, 7.62x51, 300 AAC, 8mm Mauser, .50 AE, .500 S&W, and many others depending on shot distance.

The results speak for themselves - Our customers have picked up on that quickly.

But maybe you’re still not convinced. After all, people can lie, tests can be faked, we know how it goes. With a life-or-death product, you want 100% confidence in what you’re using, right? We recognized this as a company and created a solution: When you buy our armor, we will send you an additional small testing plate made of the exact same steel your armor is made of for only $15 more. We encourage you to determine the calibers you believe will be most frequently encountered in your area, and try it out!

We value life. YOUR life.

Body armor has numerous practical applications - More than one may think, actually. People regularly use armor for combat, self-defense, natural disasters, physical training, the list goes on. But at the end of the day, we create our armor with one goal in mind: Saving lives for a reasonable price.

And we want our customers to know that we do not take this task lightly. We recognize with all seriousness the importance of creating a product that will actually save your life when you need it to. Which is why we stand behind our armor with the utmost confidence.

Remember: The prepared have nothing to fear.

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