What Kind of Body Armor Do You Need?

Here is a great analysis of the type of body armor you would need according to the potential threat you might face.

When and Why You Need Body Armor

To understand how to use body armor in protecting yourself and your loved ones, you need to know what the different levels are and what they protect against. According to the internationally-approved standards of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), there are IV levels of body armor, classified as follows:

  • Level I: Offers protection from .22LR, 40gr/1050fps up to .380 ACP FMJ RN 95gr/1025fps. This level is no longer in use.

  • Level IIA: Offers protection from 9mm FMJ RN 124gr/1090fps up to .40S&W FMJ 180gr/1025fps in addition to all Class I threats. This is also a light vest and can be worn all day without interfering with your mobility or movement.

  • Level II: Offers protection against 9mm FMJ RN 124gr/1175fps (+P?) and .357Magnum JSP IIA 158gr/1400fps, plus all Class I and a threats. This is somewhat bulkier and is worn full time by many law enforcement officers.

  • Level IIIA: Offers protection against 9mm FMJ RN 145gr/1400fps and .44Magnum JHP 240gr/1400fps as well as most other handgun threats and class I through II threats. The aforementioned calibers all being commonplace in many gun collections, class IIIA is a reasonable purchase. This level of protection is the highest available that can still be concealable. Its bulk can make it an issue for daily usage in warmer climates, which can result in health issues, like heat exhaustion. Some of the newer models can be augmented with steel plates that offer further protection, but this adds to weight and heat.

  • Level III: Offers protection against 7.62mm FMJ (M80) 148gr/2750fps as well as class I through IIIA threats as well as against the .223 Remington (5.56×45mm NATO). This armor is heavy and not suitable for daily use. Its benefit comes from tactical use, such as breaching and overcoming barricades. Some of the newer vests can be augmented with hard plates to increase their protective properties. The issues with this level are the same as class II but to a somewhat greater extent.

  • Level IV: Offers protection against .30 Caliber Armor Piercing bullets (M2AP) 166gr/2850fps plus all previous threats and the .308 Winchester, which is similar to the military 7.62x51mm specifications. Other rounds Level IV is effective against are the sniper 7.62×54mmR, the .30-06 Springfield cartridge, the .300 Winchester used by gun enthusiasts, hunters, the Military and Law Enforcement, the long-range sniper. This is the highest level of protection and not suitable in urban settings, for prolonged use, or by untrained individuals. It is for military and law enforcement agents who operate in high-risk, war-torn environments.


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Paul Gordon is the publisher and editor of iState.TV. He has published and edited newspapers, poetry magazines and online weekly magazines. He is the director of Social Cognito, an SEO/Web Marketing Company. You can reach Paul at pg@istate.tv