NIJ certified tactical gear is the pinnacle of performance. It is tested against a litany of specific benchmarks at approved, third-party laboratories; it’s the gold-standard of tactical gear.
At Vel Tye, we answer a lot of questions about NIJ certified tactical gear. We make some of the best tactical vests and plate carriers in the business, so our team is familiar with the exacting specifications of NIJ certification. One of the most common questions we receive is…
“Does NIJ Certified gear ever expire?”
The answer is complex.
In short, yes, NIJ certified body armor does expire. All body armor is stamped with an expiration date – also known as the manufacturer’s declared warranty period – at the time of manufacture, certified or not. An important exception to note is that the auto-loading pistols also certified by the NIJ do not expire.
Why Do NIJ Certified Protection Vests Expire?
NIJ certified vests are not unique in that they’re made with an expiration date in mind. The standard expiration date for any protection vest system is around five years from the manufacture date. Users will find the date stamped on the vest’s primary label; it should be visible and clear.
But why do protection vests expire at all? A number of factors contribute to an eventual need for replacement to ensure full performance. These include:
Material Degradation: The compounds used to build protection vests eventually break down.
Moisture Exposure: From water submersion to high humidity environments, moisture exposure reduces the shelf life of protection gear.
UV Exposure: Light can cause gear to become brittle or cracked over time, decreasing its effectiveness.
Rate of Use: A vest that’s worn every single day will naturally wear out sooner than a vest that’s rarely worn.
Does All NIJ Certified Gear Expire at the Same Rate?
Not exactly. Soft armor deteriorates much faster than its hard armor counterpart. Remember that the NIJ certifies both ballistic and stab resistant armor. Stab resistant armor is more likely to come in the form of a soft vest; ballistics vests are more often hard. Just because a vest is stab resistant does not mean it is “bulletproof,” and vice versa. Be sure to check with the manufacturer specifically to understand the capabilities of your vest.
What Should You Do If Your Vest Expires?
Your equipment won’t suddenly disintegrate into a pile of dust the day its expiration date rolls around. Plenty of professionals use protection gear after its expiration date has come and gone, but remember that doing so is at your own risk. The manufacturer makes no guarantees against the performance of protection gear that is used past its declared warranty period. If your vest is expiring soon, it’s best to upgrade your gear to something newer and more innovative.
Innovative protection vests? Vel Tye has them. We make maximum strength vests designed for ultimate comfort. Our team is backed by veterans who understand the benefits that come with the right gear.