NIJ Standard 0101.07: A Significant Update in Ballistic Resistance Testing And What it Means For Your Body Armor

NIJ Standard 0101.07: A Significant Update in Ballistic Resistance Testing And What it Means For Your Body Armor

by Kiril Krastanoff

At MIRA Safety, we understand the importance of staying up-to-date with the latest advancements and developments in protective equipment. The safety of our customers has always been our top priority and we are excited to bring you the latest news on the recently released NIJ Standard 0101.07: a major leap forward in ballistic resistance testing for body armor.

All quality body armor that might be used by law enforcement undergoes rigorous testing at National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-approved laboratories to confirm it meets the specified protection level. 

We will explore the NIJ standard, its history, and why it matters when selecting the right threat-level body armor for your personal protection needs. We will also highlight the advancements in standardized testing procedures and the resulting new system for classifying ballistic threats that promise to improve the effectiveness and reliability of personal body armor.

Table of Contents

  • 01

    Quick Overview of Changes

  • 02

    What is the NIJ Standard and Why Does it Matter?

  • 03

    A Brief History of the NIJ Standard

  • 04

    Key Improvements in NIJ Standard 0101.07:

  • 05

    Standardization of Testing Procedures through ASTM Collaboration

  • 06

    New Separate Standard for Ballistic Threat Specification

  • 07

    Updated Perforation-Backface Deformation (P-BFD) Testing for Soft Armor

  • 08

    The Impact of NIJ Standard 0101.07 on Law Enforcement

  • 09

    Can My Body Armor Withstand The Latest Threats?

Quick Overview of Changes

Table representing changes to threat level nomenclature (Image courtesy of the NIJ)

The threat specifications listed in the new standard (NIJ 0123.00) have been modified for easier updates without the NIJ revising the testing standard. 

  • New Handgun (HG) level classification and nomenclature:
    • NIJ HG1 replaces Level II
    • NIJ HG2 replaces Level IIIA
  • New Rifle (RF) level classification:
    • NIJ RF1 replaces  Level III
    • NIJ RF3 replaces Level IV  

Some of the new modifications and improvements to the old NIJ standards: 

  • New addition of NIJ RF2 (intermediate rifle protection)
  • Improved Soft Armor Testing (Addressing weak spots around the neck)
  • Better Fitting Armor for Women 
  • Collaboration with ASTM International to establish uniform testing methods
  • Smooth transition for agencies (NIJ will continue to recognize vests certified under the previous standard (NIJ 0101.06) until the end of 2027).

What is the NIJ Standard and Why Does it Matter?

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Standard is the only nationally accepted measure for body armor worn by law enforcement and corrections officers. The NIJ also tests commercially available armor to make sure it meets the NIJ’s minimum performance standards.

Ballistic armor testing does not only factor in whether a bullet penetrates the armor but also how the blunt force trauma of the round is absorbed and impacts the survivability of the law enforcement professional who wears it. Blunt force injuries can cause serious injuries.

Additionally, the NIJ standard covers more than just ballistic threats and their impact on body armor. It also has a standard for stab resistance, specifying the minimum performance requirements for armor to protect against knives and spikes.

Why the NIJ standard matters:

  1. The NIJ Standard Sets Clear Performance Levels

The NIJ Standard classifies body armor into different levels (e.g., Level IIA, Level III) based on the caliber of ammunition it is designed to withstand. The guide defines the protection levels offered by different vests, allowing police departments, their officers, and civilians to make informed choices based on their specific protective needs.

  1. Body Armor Requires Rigorous Testing and Compliance

Body armor undergoes rigorous testing at NIJ-approved laboratories to certify that it meets the requirements of a specified protection level. This independent and unbiased verification process guarantees the armor's effectiveness and reliability.

  1. Increases Safety and Trust in Your Gear

When companies have a universal standard that has been refined through thousands of hours of ballistic testing, the body armor’s user knows that they are protected and can focus on their mission without doubting their gear.

Why Updates to the NIJ Standard are Always Welcome

In today's world of rapid technology advancements, new threats emerge constantly, and the NIJ standard adapts to ensure body armor remains effective against the latest developments in ammunition and weapons. 

The new NIJ update mandates that body armor manufacturers update their manufacturing and testing criteria and standards to retain their certification. This directly translates to improved safety for the wearers of NIJ-certified body armor, as manufacturers will be compelled to seek out new and better protective technologies.

A Brief History of the NIJ Standard

The NIJ standard was born out of dire necessity and is intrinsically linked to the evolving need for improved officer protection. 

There was a dramatic rise in the number of American law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty during the late 1960s.  A significant portion of these deaths were attributed to firearms–especially handguns. According to the Criminal Justice Testing and Evaluation, from 1966 to 1971, the number of officers killed each year more than doubled, from 57 to 129.  

Alarmed by this trend, President Lyndon B. Johnson's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recognized the need to improve the safety of officers against violent threats. This led to the establishment of the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (NILECJ) in 1972–the predecessor to today's National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

NILECJ's developers were a dedicated group of researchers and law enforcement professionals who understood that advancements in body armor technology could reduce officer fatalities. The NILECJ  embarked on a research program to develop lightweight and concealable body armor that officers could wear comfortably on duty. This initiative marked the genesis of the NIJ standard.

The project’s initial focus was to find protective armor solutions against handgun ammunition–the prevalent threat that officers faced at the time.  Working with material scientists and armor manufacturers, NILECJ researchers developed and implemented the first-ever ballistic resistance standard for body armor in 1972. They also established a benchmark for testing and classifying body armor based on its ability to stop specific handgun rounds.

The work expanded as law enforcement officers across the nation found themselves under fire by heavier caliber weapons. Recognizing that threats and technology constantly evolve, the NILECJ and the NIJ continuously revised and updated the standard. This year’s new standards are the latest update.

Key Improvements in NIJ Standard 0101.07:

This updated NIJ standard incorporates several key improvements to enhance the effectiveness and reliability of body armor systems.  The most notable advancements include:

  • Improved Perforation-Backface Deformation testing for soft armor
  • Addressed vulnerability in women's armor design with new shot criteria
  • Revised testing of hard-armor plates, including curved plates

The new standards does not mean that body armor that was previously certified has suddenly been rendered ineffective and unsafe.  

To implement a smooth transition to the new classification system, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) will continue to recognize vests already certified under the previous standard (NIJ 0101.06) for several years. This gives manufacturers and law enforcement agencies ample time to adopt the new standards without compromising officer safety.

To ease concerns during this transition period, the NIJ Compliance Testing Program has committed to maintaining a list of compliant products under NIJ 0101.06 until the end of 2027, ensuring that law enforcement officers can continue to rely on their current body armor with confidence while the industry adapts to the latest advancements.

Standardization of Testing Procedures through ASTM Collaboration

The new NIJ standardization document is quite extensive and reflects the organization’s collaboration with ASTM International to establish uniformity in how body armor and the surrounding protective technologies are classified and updated.  

New Separate Standard for Ballistic Threat Specification

In the past, the specific threats that body armor needed to protect against were listed directly in the NIJ Standard 0101.07 document. This meant that if the threats faced by law enforcement officers changed, the entire standard would need to be revised to reflect the updates. 

The  National Institute of Justice’s new standard streamlines this process by creating a separate document–NIJ Standard 0123.00– dedicated to specifying the ballistic threats that body armor should be able to stop. This new standard, the  "Specification for NIJ Ballistic Protection Levels and Associated Test Threats," enables the NIJ to update the threats rather than revise the testing standard. This

Updated Perforation-Backface Deformation (P-BFD) Testing for Soft Armor

The new NIJ standards also address vulnerabilities and performance issues when soft body armor is struck by handgun bullets near the top edge of the front protective panel.

Traditionally, P-BFD testing (evaluating how much blunt force the armor transmits to the wearer's body) didn't account for shots at this specific location. 

Here's how the new standard addresses this:

  • An additional test shot has been mandated for soft armor panels. This shot is aimed at the top center of the panel at a 45-degree angle, mimicking a scenario where a bullet might strike the edge while the vest is being worn.
  • The way the soft armor is mounted for testing has also been adjusted to account for the natural angle created by the armor carrier. This ensures the test accurately reflects real-world situations.
  • This new test applies to flat (planar) and curved (non-planar) soft armor designs. For planar armor, the clay backing used in testing is tilted at a 45-degree angle to achieve the desired obliquity. For non-planar armor, the curvature itself provides some of the angles, and the clay is tilted further to reach the 45-degree target obliquity.

The changes in these new standards represent stricter testing checklists because armor is rarely hit at perpendicular angles, and the angle of the impact might degrade or alter the performance of soft body armor.

establishes that body armor is continuously being tested against the latest threats that law enforcement professionals face on the dangerous streets of America.

The Impact of NIJ Standard 0101.07 on Law Enforcement

The significant changes implemented by the new NIJ standard provide law enforcement officers with improved protection. Female officers will also have enhanced overall protection due to the changes in testing for specially designed vests.

Comparing NIJ Standard 0101.07 with NIJ Standard 0101.06

Along with the separate threat specification, the NIJ has also revamped the protection level terminology used for body armor. This aims to provide clearer information for users and avoid possible confusion. Previously, the standard used designations, such as "Level IIIA," which didn't explicitly state what threats the armor was protected against.

Under the new system, the levels are designated with "HG" for handgun threats and "RF" for rifle threats. NIJ Level II and IIIA have been replaced with "NIJ HG1" and "NIJ HG2," respectively, making it clear they protect against handgun fire. Similarly, NIJ Levels III and IV have been replaced with "NIJ RF1" and "NIJ RF3" for rifle threats. 
Here are the changes at a glance: 

Handgun (HG) threats:

Image of the updated protection level, alongside ammo type used (Image courtesy of the NIJ).

  • NIJ Level II was replaced with NIJ HG1
  • NIJ Level IIIA replaced with NIJ HG2

Rifle (RF) threats:

  • NIJ Level III replaced with NIJ RF1
  • NIJ Level IV was replaced with NIJ RF3 (higher protection)

The new classification of  NIJ RF2 represents an intermediate level of rifle protection. This provides more granular options for law enforcement to choose armor that best suits the specific threats they encounter.

Can My Body Armor Withstand The Latest Threats?

The table above details the updated protection levels for rifles (designated RF), ammo type, and velocity (Image courtesy of the NIJ).

A body armor's certification level is printed on a label inside the vest. Look for markings indicating "NIJ 0101.06" followed by the specific level (e.g., Level IIIA). 

Your specific needs and risk profile will dictate which body armor level is right for you. If you have concerns about your current armor's effectiveness, consulting with a certified ballistics expert or your local law enforcement agency can provide valuable guidance.

What is the best Body Armor to Protect Against Common Rifle Threats?

One of MIRA Safety’s most important missions is to protect those who protect and serve from the worst threats imaginable. 

We offer the MIRA Tactical Level 4 Body Armor Plate, weighing at only 5.9 lbs (per plate), which is tested by NIJ standards of level IV protection, offering uncompromising protection against common 5.56, .308, .30-06, 7.62x39 loads.

  • The plates we produce are comfortable to wear and have the most important features, such as anti-spalling protection and extended edge-to-edge coverage.
  • The MIRA Tactical Level 4 Body Armor Plate offers superior protection against a wide range of threats,  from small handguns to battle rifles and common rifle platforms like the AR-15, AK-47, M4, and more. 
  • Optional 6” x 6” (1.70 lbs.) and 6” x 8” (2.20 lbs.) side plates that fit most standard plate carriers and cummerbunds.
  • The MIRA Tactical Level 4 Body Armor Plate comes with a 10-year warranty to assure your satisfaction.


The constant evolution of ballistic threats necessitates ongoing advancements in body armor technology. The NIJ Standard 0101.07 represents a significant step forward in this pursuit, offering law enforcement officers enhanced protection against a wider range of dangers.

While the transition to the new standard may take time, the information provided herewith should empower you to make informed decisions about your body armor. It is important to remember that  NIJ will continue to recognize previously certified armor for several years, allowing agencies and those who procure protective gear to make a smooth transition to the new and improved system.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best body armor against rifle ammunition?
What threats can soft armor stop?
How many rounds can a plate take before cracking?