We love writing about body armor here at Tacticon, and today we are bringing you an update on the newly released NIJ 0101.07 standards, which we briefly covered in our ultimate guide to body armor. The NIJ 0101.07 standard marks a huge advancement in body armor certification, reflecting the latest in threat assessment and armor testing technology.

Developed with input from the U.S. Army, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), law enforcement, manufacturers, and scientific experts, the updated standard introduces stricter testing protocols, especially for rifle threats, and establishes refined protection categories. The implementation of these new standards speaks to a data driven collective effort to provide better protection to everyone who wears armor. The NIJ has detailed the 0101.07 standards on their official site, and the many updates from the .06 standards, let’s get into it.

The Evolution of Body Armor Standards From .06 to .07

The transition from NIJ .06 to .07 standards represents a leap forward in body armor standardization and threat response. This evolution reflects increased expectations for ballistic protection and the dynamic nature of threats encountered by law enforcement and military. The .07 standard not only updates the classifications and testing methods but also addresses the modern threats most common today.

Understanding the .06 Standards

The NIJ .06 standards continued a very similar framework previously established for evaluating body armor, focusing on its ability to withstand only specific ballistic threats, and structural integrity for drop impacts. These standards detailed the types of threats armor should protect against, the methodology for testing this protection, and the requirements armor must meet to be certified.

Shortcomings of the .06 Standard

The .06 standards were introduced in 2008, and didn’t change much from the .04 standards introduced in 2000. In fact, maybe the only real improvement was introducing a ‘pre conditioning’ drop test to make sure the armor would still function if a person were to dive prone, as well as eliminating level I (.22 and .380). When introduced, .06 didn’t address any new rifle threats, and kept the same two levels (level III and IV), despite the obvious need to address intermediate cartridges which were by far the most common threat.

In response, the .07 standards have redefined and clarified the categorization of ballistic threats. This includes a more descriptive and intuitive protection level nomenclature, aiming to alleviate the confusion of body armor capabilities. Instead of Roman numerals, .07 uses HG (Handgun) and RF (Rifle). Additionally, the .07 standards have placed an emphasis on testing protocols for women’s armor, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

The Development of .07

The development of the .07 standards was a comprehensive effort, designed to address the shortcomings of a system that functionally hadn’t been updated since 2000. This process involved extensive research of statistics in terms of what threats were actually common.

One of the key features of the .07 standards is the integration of new testing methodologies, including the adoption of certain ASTM standards, to establish more rigorous and realistic assessment criteria for body armor. These enhancements include improved testing protocols specifically designed for female body armor.

Additionally, the .07 standards introduce updated threat level classifications, providing a clearer and more comprehensive framework for understanding the protective capabilities of body armor against a wide range of modern ballistic threats.

What is the NIJ and Its Role in Body Armor Standardization?

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the scientific arm of the Department of Justice that focuses on research, development, and evaluation. Its mission is to improve knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science and statistics. A part of the NIJ’s role involves setting standards for law enforcement and criminal justice technologies, one of the most crucial being body armor.

NIJ body armor
NIJ Tested Armor

For the purposes of this discussion, the NIJ tracks statistics that ultimately are used to update standards, like .07. The process for a piece of body armor to meet NIJ standards involves rigorous testing and certification. This is a vote of confidence the armor will provide the necessary level of protection against specific ballistic threats. By undergoing this process, manufacturers obtain a certification of the quality of their armor.

Why NIJ Standards Matter

NIJ standards set a benchmark for body armor that manufacturers must meet to be certified. These standards protect consumers from companies that lack the ability to produce reliable armor either through design or craftsmanship. Getting an armor design NIJ certified is a long, demanding, and expensive process, which will significantly increase under the new standards.

These are important features of the NIJ, as they also have retest requirements for armor to remain certified. Furthermore, once certified the manufacturing process cannot deviate in the slightest, or the certification is pulled. At the end of the day, this process is a consumer protection, one meant to prevent predatory and incompetent manufacturers from selling armor that is unreliable.

Key Features and Classifications of NIJ 0101.07

The NIJ 0101.07 standard introduced several key features aimed at enhancing the reliability, clarity, and relevance of body armor performance in response to contemporary threats. Major features include:

  • Adoption of New Testing Methods: The .07 standard incorporates changes in testing methodologies that more accurately simulate real-world conditions for HG rated armor.
  • Incorporation of Real-World Threat Assessments: Assessments now consider current and emerging threats, ones that have been around but were ignored in previous standards.
  • Introduction of Enhanced Protection Levels: The standard introduces refined protection levels that offer clearer guidance on the capabilities of body armor, making it easier for users to select armor that meets their specific needs.

The classification system under the .07 standard has been updated and refined, moving from the previous level designations to new Handgun (HG) and Rifle (RF) protection levels. This change was made to provide more intuitive and straightforward guidance on the level of protection body armor offers. Similarly, .07 places more focus and attention on rifle armor levels due to the greater diversity of threats.

New .07 Protection Levels Explained

The new protection levels under the NIJ .07 standard are broken down into Handgun (HG) and Rifle (RF) categories, each with sub-levels designed to protect against specific threats:

  • HG1: Designed to protect against common handgun threats while remaining as light weight as possible. This level is tested against 9mm FMJ and 357 jacketed soft point rounds. This is very comparable to the .06 level II.
  • HG2: Offers more protection with only a slight increase in weight, it is tested using 9mm FMJ and 44 Magnum jacketed hollow points. This level is also comparable to the old level IIIA.
  • RF1: This is where things begin to shake up. Some will say that RF1 is the same as the old level III, but it isn’t. At all. Level III was only tested with 7.62×51, which hits hard, but doesn’t have the speed of lighter, faster rounds. Under .07 the NIJ reduced the number of 7.62×51 shots from 6 to 3, and included 3 shots of 5.56 M193, arguably the most common rifle threat, and difficult to stop because of the speed of the round. In fact, level III plates were unable to stop this round. In addition, the NIJ also required 3 shots of 7.62×39, not sure why exactly, because if a plate stops 7.62×51 it shouldn’t have an issue, but why not, more testing is a good thing.
  • RF2: This is a true level III+ and fills the gap between the old level III and IV in a much more well-rounded way. Armor must first pass RF1, stopping all those threats before it can be tested against 5.56 M855. This means an RF2 plate will stop all common 5.56 rounds, 308, and AK rounds, making for a very well-rounded plate.
  • RF3: Corresponds to the previous Level IV, tested against one round of M2AP 30-06 armor-piercing. I was hoping for some change in this level, but the NIJ is still just using 1 shot from this very, very old round.
NIJ 0101.07
NIJ 0101.07 Standards

The introduction of the RF2 level is particularly noteworthy, as it addresses a critical gap in protection against steel core threats which are commonly encountered. The most important changes .07 made was including fast-moving, and steel core intermediate threats which level III had serious problems stopping depending on the materials used. RF2 is true level III+ armor with a clear threat criteria, rather than the ambiguity and variability between manufactures under .06.

M855 Green tip
M855 Green Tip 5.56

Changes in Protocols for Body Armor Performance

The introduction of the NIJ .07 standard brought about some changes in testing protocols, particularly emphasizing armor designed for female wearers. This advancement marks a significant step toward quality fit in ballistic protection, acknowledging the need for body armor that addresses the unique fit and coverage requirements of female law enforcement and civilians.

These tailored protocols for body armor not only fit the contours of female wearers more comfortably but also maintain its protective efficacy, thereby ensuring that all wearers, regardless of gender benefit from ballistic protection that they can count on the be effective for them. This addresses long-standing issues related to the fit and coverage of standard body armor.

.07 Impact on the Body Armor Industry

The adoption of the NIJ .07 standard creates a shift in the body armor industry that will cause many manufacturers to re-evaluate and adapt plate designs for those who wish to certify under .07. Armor previously certified under .06 can maintain current certification as long as it remains compliant, which gives manufacturers options. These changes aren’t like the new iPhone release, just because there are new ratings doesn’t have to detract value from previous certifications.

Plates looking to be certified under .07 will have to be able to stop intermediate threats in addition to the old level III standard of M80 ball, that in itself is the largest change to .07. This will require manufacturers to make sure their plates can stop both hard hitting and fast moving rounds.

Realistically, the only level/rating that is truly impacted by these changes is the .06 level III. This being said, the consumer side will begin to see more well-rounded plates in the RF1 and RF2 category that will be more capable against common threats than level III and level III+ were.

Manufacturers that successfully adapt to and exceed the .07 requirements will gain a competitive edge, setting new benchmarks for protection. This evolution within the industry not only fosters innovation but also elevates the overall standard of protection available to law enforcement and civilians.

Changes in Testing and Affordability

The NIJ .07 standard introduces updated testing protocols that significantly increase both the cost and complexity of body armor certification. These protocols demand more diverse threat simulations, including a broader range of ballistic threats and more rigorous environmental conditioning tests. This expansion necessitates considerable investment from manufacturers in research and development (R&D) to innovate and adjust production processes to meet these stringent requirements.

The heightened cost of certification under the .07 standard may pose challenges for smaller manufacturers, potentially discouraging them from pursuing certification due to the financial burden. The increased R&D time and the costs associated with meeting the new standards will also delay the certification of new plates. Some manufactures may decide not to certify under .07, and if they primarily make level IV/RF3 plates or soft body armor there is really no need for them to.

To balance the increased quality and performance standards with affordability for end-users, manufacturers might explore various strategies. These could include leveraging economies of scale, investing in cost-efficient materials and manufacturing technologies, and optimizing design to reduce waste. Additionally, manufacturers may seek partnerships or grants to offset R&D costs, in an effort to minimize costs for end-users.

Comparative Analysis of the .06 vs. .07 Standards

The transition from the NIJ .06 to .07 standards represents a more realistic perspective for body armor testing methodologies, threat level assessments, and armor classifications. A notable addition in the .07 standard is the RF2 level, designed to provide protection against intermediate threats such as the 5.56mm M855 green tip rounds, which were not covered in the .06 standards.

Comparison Table of .06 vs. .07 Standards:

FeatureNIJ .06 StandardsNIJ .07 Standards
Threat LevelsLevel IIA, II, IIIA, III, IVHG1, HG2, RF1, RF2, RF3
Testing ConditionsLimited environmental conditioningEnvironmental and physical stress testing
Specific ProtocolsGeneralized testing protocolsSpecific protocols for female body armor
ClassificationNumerical level designationsDescriptive HG (Handgun) and RF (Rifle) categories

The .07 standard introduces significant enhancements, including more rigorous environmental and physical stress testing to better mimic real-world conditions. This ensures that body armor remains effective in a wider range of use. Additionally, the .07 standard includes specific testing protocols for female body armor, which previously was uncertified, or certified under the same standards without consideration for the difference in design.

The shift from numerical level designations to the more descriptive HG and RF categories in the .07 standard simplifies the understanding of protection levels for end-users. This change contrasts with the more generic approach in the .06 standard, making it easier for individuals to select armor that meets their specific needs based on the types of threats they are most likely to encounter.

How .07 Standard Addresses the Shortcomings of .06

As mentioned earlier, the most significant short coming .07 addresses is that of level III. Level III had to stop six rounds of 308 with acceptable levels of back face deformation to be certified. While that is an undertaking in its own right, it is not a valid indication of ability to stop other rounds. In this case, many certified level III plates were vulnerable to either M193 5.56 or M855 5.56, depending on material and construction. Considering those are two of the most common rounds in circulation this was a huge problem that was allowed to persist for decades. Thankfully, .07 does address this.

A notable advancement is the specific protocols for female body armor, which ensure that the unique fit and coverage needs are met. Moreover, the shift to descriptive HG and RF categories from numerical level designations simplifies the understanding of protection levels for end-users.

Changes and Impact on Manufacturers and Wearers

The .07 standards have a profound impact on both manufacturers and wearers. Manufacturers are now pushed towards innovation in armor design and materials to comply with the updated requirements. This drive for compliance is expected to introduce a wider variety of body armor options into the market, changing expectations and setting new benchmarks in armor performance. For wearers, this translates to access to more capable body armor, including options specifically tailored for female wearers. The new HG and RF protection levels provide a clearer framework for choosing armor that aligns with specific threat environments and operational needs.

Future Direction in Body Armor Standards

Future body armor standards are expected to evolve with emerging material technologies, offering lighter, stronger, and more flexible armor solutions. A broader spectrum of threats, including non-ballistic will also advance. Importantly, user experiences and the need for versatile protection will continue to guide improvements in wearability and efficacy, with feedback from all stakeholders playing a role in shaping future standards. Similar to the landscape prior to .07, the industry will meet the needs of users long before bureaucratic standards catch up.

NIJ .07 Standards FAQs

What are the key improvements in NIJ 0101.07 compared to .06?

The NIJ 0101.07 standards improvements over the .06 version include more rigorous testing, the introduction of protection against intermediate threats like the 5.56mm M855 and M193 rounds through RF1 and RF2, and protocols for female body armor.

What are the major changes in testing and protection categories?

Major changes in the .07 standards include the adoption of updated testing protocols that encompass a wider range of ballistic threats. The protection categories have been refined into Handgun (HG) and Rifle (RF) levels, each with sub-categories that provide clear, descriptive guidance on the armor’s protective capabilities against specific threats.

Why is the transition to HG and RF levels significant?

The transition to HG and RF levels are much more intuitive and straightforward. This new system simplifies the selection process for end-users.

How are manufacturers adapting to meet NIJ 0101.07?

Manufacturers are adapting to the NIJ 0101.07 standards by investing in research and development They are also revising their design and testing processes to align with the updated protocols.

Final Thoughts on NIJ 0101.07

The NIJ 0101.07 standards represent a change in classification due to the dynamic threats of modern firearms. While the industry has been making armor that conforms to these standards, the NIJs recognition, and implementation of .07 pushes the industry in the direction of more well rounded, less specialized armor capable of stopping more threats.

By addressing the shortcomings of the previous standards and introducing clear, descriptive protection categories that include the most common threats, the .07 standards help body armor users access the most advanced and reliable protection available. As manufacturers continue to innovate and adapt to these standards, the body armor industry is set to offer a wider range of high-quality options, ultimately enhancing the safety and operational effectiveness of all who wear armor.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.

3 thoughts on “New NIJ 0101.07 Body Armor Standards

  1. Jerry says:

    So, would my current level AR600 level III+ from Tacticon pass the new R3 level or be equivalent? Are you planning to have those same plates tested again for the new R3 rating or certification?

    BTW, thanks for the article and news update, appreciated!

    Thanks, Jerry

    • Jason Ward says:

      Level III+ is more equivalent to RF2, RF3 is for armor piercing rounds. We may recertify under the new .07 but that decision is above me.

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