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Ballistic Vest - Ballistic Protection Levels

It is vital when choosing body armor to make sure that it adheres to the proper protection levels. While there are many different standards for ballistics protection levels, the two most commonly recognized standards for body armor come from the US National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the UK Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST, formerly HOSDB). These are widely held to be the world leaders in standardizing body armor. Testing methods are often shared between the two, so armor that meets the standards of one will meet the requirements of the equivalent.

These standards outline exactly what threats each level of body armor will protect against, as well as the strength of the attack it will stop. This means that a bullet proof vest at Level II for example will not protect against a Level IIIa threat. But what do these levels mean?


Bullet proof vests are designed to ‘trap’ and slow bullets down as they attempt to pass through the vest. Bullet Proof Vests come in two different types; hard and soft. The ‘soft’ armors (like this lightweight vest) are designed to protect against most handgun and small arms ammunition, whereas ‘hard’ (and much heavier) armors are designed to stop high caliber and armor piercing rounds. The NIJ classifies all armors in the following levels: 


Level II

Level II body armor is designed to be lightweight and still very protective. The panels protect from 9 mm Sub-Machine guns, 44 Magnums, and even 9 mm handguns. The body armor is made of multiple layers of Kevlar. The Kevlar provides a very lightweight protection option that can be worn in many different types of carriers.

The level II body armor provides enough protection to ensure that someone is able to withstand an assault without having to feel weighed down by the protection. The lightweight material makes it easy to be able to run or maneuver during stressful situations and will fit into the front and back of the carrier to provide ample protection from both angles.

Level IIIA

Level IIIA is a type of soft armor. It will provide protection from many small arm weapons. The 9 mm, 44 magnums, and just about any other handgun will not be able to cause serious injury to someone that is shot in the chest, while wearing a level IIIA body armor. When the armor is used in conjunction with other protective panels, maximum protection is provided.

Both the Level II and Level IIIA body armors will provide ample protection when needed most. You need to be sure that you take the time to choose a carrier that fits you properly. Both types of body armor can be worn on the exterior or the interior of your clothing.