Understanding Body Armor Protection Levels

World-class testing and ballistics laboratories owned by numerous body armor companies around the country allow our manufacturers to continuously improve upon the highest performance standards that BAO adheres to, year after year.

Meeting and often exceeding National Institute of Justice (NIJ), US Military, Government (DEA and FBI) and International testing requirements, body armor sold by BAO comes in a wide variety of styles for all tactical applications.

The four primary levels of protection for all body armor are:

  • Level II
  • Level IIIA
  • Level III (including Level III+)
  • Level IV

Soft Body Armor Levels

Level II soft body armor is designed to protect against minor pistol rounds up to .45 ACP, all 9mm rounds, and .357 Sig variants.

Level IIIA soft body armor offers more protection, up to and including .357 Mag or .44 Mag rounds, or nearly every pistol round that a police officer could possibly ever encounter in the field.

Hard Armor Plate Levels

Level III hard armor plates are intended to protect against 5.56x45mm M193 rounds fired from an AR-15 or similar rifle, as well as 7.62x51mm rounds from an FN SCAR or possibly an older M14 rifle.

Level III+ hard armor plates are not an official NIJ certification level. The "plus" simply designates that the armor exceeds the necessary requirements for a Level III rating and usually is intended to cover additional specific rounds above and beyond that particular threat rating. Individual protection information for each plate should be read however to determine which additional threats, if any, the plate will successfully defend against.

Hard armor plates at this level are often rated for protection from the dangerous 5.56x45mm M855 NATO Green Tip rounds and larger calibers like the .30-06 JSP.

Level IV hard armor plates offer the highest level of protection and should be adequate defense against anything up to and including black tip .30-06 M2AP armor-piercing rounds.

As with all armor, care should be taken with Level IV plates to read and gain an understanding of the protection information attached to each plate to know exactly what it is capable of.

1 comment
Stetsi April 17, 2023

Wow. Great graphic.
Your designer is a PRO!

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