If you’re familiar with Safe Life Defense, then you know that we expect nothing but the best from our products and for our customers. In an effort to take our gear to the next level of quality and safety, we’ve been working with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Now, we’ve got exciting news to share! Our concealable vests and tactical level IIIA+ vests have officially been certified by the NIJ and we’re going to let you in on the secret behind why this is such an important milestone.
What Is the National Institute of Justice?
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the main entity that sets the standards and testing protocols for body armor ratings and levels. The main goal of this organization is to certify body armor and ensure that it does what it says it's going to do. That means each product submitted for testing must withstand specific and rigorous trials. All of this happens inside NIJ-approved facilities, where they are assigned a level of protection based on their ballistic performance results. The NIJ grade system dictates the caliber and threat level that body armor plates can withstand. It also ensures that a bullet does not penetrate the plate and that the wearer is protected against blunt-force trauma as well. These ratings range from Level I (one) to Level IV (four).
As the only certification nationally recognized for commercial use by Law Enforcement and the U.S. Armed Forces, they hold a high level of authority and responsibility. While some manufacturers out there may claim to be NIJ rated or that they meet NIJ standards, that may not be the truth. This is why looking for official certification proof is crucial. Before purchasing body armor, make sure you check for the NIJ certified mark on the exterior of the product.
Required Testing for NIJ Certification
The NIJ certification process is serious business that is only performed at NIJ-authorized laboratories guaranteed to meet the NIJ standards. There are no other means by which manufacturers can get this final stamp of approval. Each piece of body armor is put through a series of tests that simulate the dangers a person could encounter. This includes everything from hand-to-hand conflict and blunt force, to firearms and bladed weapons. During this process, armor is also gauged by how it reacts in certain environments. One single testing failure will always result in the product being denied NIJ certification. To be fully informed on what your vest can put up with, we’ve included the various types below:
- The Environmental Test: Soft armor is made from tightly woven threads that aid in stopping bullets. It is also commonly coated with a watertight membrane to prevent moisture damage. Testing for environmental control is done in several ways. This first is by submerging the vest into water to simulate humidity, rain and snow exposure. The second is by exposing the vest to extreme heat that simulates wearing the armor on hot days or exposing them to exacerbated conditions. Both of these tests help to make sure the threads do not loosen or tear in extreme environments.
- The Five Year Warranty Test: All body armor should have a five-year lifespan or warranty for the utmost safety. To put time to the test, the vest is inserted into a constant tumbler for ten days straight to simulate the five full years of wear and tear it would be expected to tolerate. This test proves whether or not the body armor can maintain a full certified lifespan and still be able to protect after five years of use.
- The Caliber Test: The next test determines several important ratings that include the level of protection (II or IIIA) and what caliber, as well as velocity, the vest can adsorb. This is done by firing at the armor six times with two different calibers. The Level IIIA test includes .357 SIG, 125 gr at 1470 ft/s and .44 Magnum SJHP 240 gr at 1430 ft/s.
Certified Means Safe
For the inquiring minds that want to know, yes, you should buy NIJ Certified Body Armor! Any armor that is not NIJ certified hasn’t been tested for industry-standards or by professionals for safety. Untested products leave a ton of room for error and may not shield you as stated. For the best protection, you want armor that is recognized and tested by this national organization. Nothing should give you peace of mind like knowing both Law Enforcement and the United States Military turn to and trust the NJI processes and standards.
Purchasing Level IIIA+ Body Armor
There are plenty of options on the market, but Safe Life Defense’s Level IIIA+ Multi-Threat vest is the one option that is enhanced. In addition to bullet, strike and slash protection, this armor provides NIJ Level 1 spike protection (up to 36 joules of force). Designed to defend against special threats like a 9mm and FN 5.7, this is the ONLY soft body armor out there that has achieved this advanced level of protection. If that wasn’t enough, our body armor also comes standard with wrap-around side protection. The protection surface area of our vests provides increased coverage of more than 15% when compared to the competition. Try it for yourself! We’re confident you’ll see, feel and experience the difference.