NIJ Certified gear is the pinnacle of quality in tactical equipment. For several decades, the National Institute of Justice has managed a standards-based, voluntary compliance testing program designed to highlight products that comply with the NIJ’s industry-leading standards. It is overseen by the Justice Technology Information Center, an office of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Standards-Based Testing vs. Comparative Analysis
Certain tactical gear falls under the NIJ umbrella of “standards-based” testing, which means it adheres to a strict list of quality controls that can be tested by the manufacturer. Submission to these certification tests is voluntary, and reported results are subject to random testing by NIJ-sponsored labs. The tests are pass/fail, meaning equipment is either “NIJ Certified” or not. Standards-based testing is applicable to ballistic-resistant body armor, stab-resistant body armor, and semiautomatic pistols.
Conversely, some equipment is better suited for comparative evaluation testing. In this instance, tactical gear is field-tested and the data is published by the NIJ, allowing users to choose the product that best suits their needs. Comparatively evaluated gear includes protective gloves, patrol vehicles and tires, winter tires, brake pads, and more.
NIJ Compliant Body Armor
The most common reference point for NIJ certification is body armor. Both soft and hard body armor can be sold as “NIJ Certified,” meaning it has passed the department’s rigorous testing protocols for sufficient protection. Armor is certified against ballistics and stabbing separately.
There are several levels of certification within the certification standards. All NIJ Certified gear has been tested against any perforation and/or blunt force trauma, but different levels of certification indicate higher performance.
The Levels of NIJ Certification
The NIJ currently offers five distinct levels of ballistic certifications for protection vests. The lowest level, Level IIA, protects against 9mm/.40 S&W ammunition from short-barrel handguns; the highest level, Level IV, protects against .30cal steel core armor-piercing rifle ammunition.
Stab-resistant armor levels are described differently, ranking both the knife resistance (Level 1 and 2) and spike protection (Level 1 and 2). All four levels consider factors like velocity, energy level, and maximum penetration. It should be understood that ballistics-ready vests are not necessarily stab resistant, and vice versa.
Buying NIJ Certified Body Armor
NIJ Certified body armor has been tested for compliance against a litany of professional standards. In addition, certified armor must also meet strict workmanship and labeling requirements, which ensures standardization across the board. NIJ Certified armor is subject to extensive follow-up testing at an NIJ-approved laboratory.
If you’re buying tactical gear, you can rest assured that “NIJ Certified” gear is the best of the best. There is no more rigorous testing program in all of the tactical industry. Corrections officers, law enforcement, and even the military rely on the standards set by the National Institute of Justice for high-performing equipment.
Vel Tye takes pride in crafting some of the best protection vests on the market, one stitch at a time. From hard plate tactical vests to durable ammunition carriers, Vel Tye products are built to perform when it counts.