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HOSDB and NIJ: The 2 most used ballistic standards for body armor

A bullet proof vest is designed to protect against various threats such as ballistic, edged or spike protection or a combination of these 3 threats. 

Bullet proof vests are not only used by police and military, but also by civil to protect themselves from the rising threat of terror, gun attacks and the like, where civilians can be exposed by being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. 

What level of protection do you need? 

There are several levels of protection from country to country, but the 2 most used and recognized standards for bullet proof vests are the US National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the UK Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB). These are the "standards" that are the most used for bullet proof and stab proof vests, and you've probably heard of these standards before.

In addition to NIJ and HOSDB, there are also German standards, VPAM - Personal Body Armor Standard and German Schutzklasse October 2008, the Russian Gost R Standard and other similar standards. This article focuses on the NIJ and HOSDB standards as these are the most used standards in the world.

NIJ and HOSDB often work together on the same test methods of bullet and stab proof vests. They use 2-3 standards that include the following:

  • Ballistic
  • Stab (edged blades)
  • Spike (pointed instruments). 

It is important to understand that a bullet proof vest ONLY will stop the threats it is designed for. For example, a bullet proof vest does not stop knives, and vice versa, a stab proof vest will not stop any small arms.

One considers NIJ to be the leader when it comes to testing bullet proof vests and HOSDB is considered to be the leader in stab/spike proof tests.

Both standards show exactly the resistance that they can withstand. Just because a vest is bullet proof it does not mean it can stop all small arms. It depends on what level of protection the bullet proof vest is designed to stop. The higher the level you choose, the more advanced threats, the bullet proof vest will be able to stop.


Protection levels for NIJ standard 0101.06

You need to be aware not only to buy a vest with the highest possible level of protection, but by looking at "What do I need". A higher level of protection will result in more layers of Kevlar, Dyneema or Twaron in your bullet proof vest, and this means more weight to carry. It also makes your body armor less flexible and thicker.


NIJ has the following protection levels for bullet proof vests:

 

A bullet proof vest is tested in 2 conditions according to NIJ standard 0101.06

  1. The bullet proof vest is tested where it is completely new and unused (new and unworn). 
  2. The bullet proof vest is tested under specific conditions, tumbled, water test, different temperatures to simulate moisture (Conditioned). 


NIJ IIA (9mm, .40 S&W)

  1. A bullet proof vest that are new and unused are to be tested with a 9 mm Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullet with a mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and at a speed of 373 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1470 ft / s + – 30 ft / s) and .40 S & W full metal jacketed (FMJ) bullet with a mass of 11.7 (180 gr) and at a speed of 325 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1430 ft / s + – 30 ft / s). 
  2. This will be tested during specific conditions with a .357 SIG FMJ UN bullet with a mass of 8.1 g (125 gr) and at a speed of 430 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1410 ft / s +/- 30 ft / s) and with a .44 Magnum SJHP bullet with a mass of 15.6 g (240 gr) and a speed of 408 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1340 ft / s +/- 30 ft / sec). 


NIJ II (9mm, .357 Magnum)

  1.  A bullet proof vest in NIJ II that are new and unused are to be tested with a 9 mm FMJ RN bullet with a mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and at speeds up 398 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1305 ft / s +/- 30 ft / s) and a .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point (JSP) bullet with a mass of 10.2 g (158 gr) and a speed of 436 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1430 ft / s +/- 30 ft / sec). 
  2. A bulletproof vest tested under specific conditions (conditioned) is to be tested with a 9 mm FMJ RN bullet with a mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and a speed of 379 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1245 ft / s +/- 30 ft / sec) and with a .357 Magnum JSP bullet with a mass of 10.2 g (158 gr) and a speed of 408 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1340 ft / s +/- 30 ft / sec). 


NIJ IIIA (.357 SIG, .44 Magnum)

  1. A bullet proof vest in NIJ IIIA, that are new and unused are to be tested with a .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullet with a mass of 8.1 g (125 gr) and at a speed of 448 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1470 ft / s +/- 30ft / s) and with a .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullet with a mass of 15.6 g (240 gr) and at a speed of 436 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s (1430 ft / s +/- 30 ft / sec). 
  2. Type IIIA bullet proof vests that are “conditioned” are to be tested with a .357 SIG FMJ FN shot with a mass of 8.1 g (125 gr) and at a speed of 430 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s ( 1410 ft / s +/- 30 ft / s) and with a .44 Magnum SJHP bullet with a mass of 15.6 g (240 gr) and a speed of 408 m / s +/- 9.1 m / s ( 1340 ft / sec +/- 30 ft / sec). 


  • The depth (Back face deformation) cannot exceed 44 mm and all above is not permitted as the internal damage to the organs will be too destructive. 
  • NIJ level IIA, II and IIIA are designed to stop small arms up to a .44 Magnum. 
  • For NIJ level III and IV, 7.62x51 FMJ NATO is used for level 3 and 7.62x63 AP to level 4. This is hard armor plates designed to stop bullets at a much higher velocity than soft armor in level 2a-3a. 

You can read more about NIJ standard 0101.06 here.

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HOSDB Body Armor Standards for UK Police (2007) 

The British HOSDB standard is slightly different from the US NIJ standard, as it sets other requirements for Back Face Deformation. For HOSDB this is not allowed to exceed more than 25 mm, which also is possible as HOSDB body armor not is tested against a .44 magnum. 

HOSDB 2007 does not have a wet or temperature test like NIJ 0101.06, where the panel is put into water for 30 minutes before testing and exposed to different types of conditioning as tumble and different temperatures. Please note that we wrote this article before July 2017, where the latest Home Office body Armor Standard was revised. You can read more about the new 2017 Home Office Body Armour standard here

For soft armor vests, HOSDB has 3 ballistic levels:


HG1/A
This is the lowest bullet proof level for HOSDB, and the BFS is allowed to be up to 44 mm, and cannot exceed this. All other protection levels has a maximum BFS of 25 mm.

HG1/A is tested with a 9mm FMJ with a mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) at a velocity of 365 m / s +/- 10 m / s and with a .357 Magnum soft point flat nose with a mass at 10.2 g (158 gr) at a velocity of 390 m / s +/- 10 m / s.


HG1
HG1 is tested with a 9mm FMJ with a mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) at a velocity of 365 m / s +/- 10 m / s and with a .357 Magnum soft point flat nose with a mass of 10.2 g (158 gr) at a velocity of 390 m / s +/- 10 m / s.

Note that the difference between HG1/A and HG1 is the BFS limit from 44mm for HG1/A to 25mm for HG1. 


HG2
HG2 is tested with a 9mm FMJ with a mass of 8.0g (124 gr) at a velocity of 430 m / s +/- 10 m / s and with a .357 Magnum soft point flat nose with a mass of 10.2 g (158 gr) at a velocity of 455 m / s +/- 10 m / s.

The velocity of the 9 mm and .357 Magnum has been increased with 65 m/s.

You can read much more about the British HOSDB 2007 standard here.

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Protection level for a Stab Proof Vest according to NIJ standard 0115.00

 A stab proof vest has 3 different levels protection levels. For each level you go up the higher a pressure the stab proof vest will be able to resist. 

Furthermore, there is a difference if a stab proof vest is made to stop knives, needles and spikes. This depends on what material the vest is made of.

All stab proof vest that you find on the Protection Group are made of our own developed materials that will stop the 3 mentioned threats above. 

NIJ standard 0115.00 has 3 different levels:

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  • There are 3 different test blades. S1, P1 (knife blades) and a spike.
  • For each level the E1 drop cannot penetrate the body armor with more than 7 mm. This is to protect your organs from a fatal strike.
  • Please note that not all body armor have been tested against all 3 blades, but mostly the S1 blade, as it is easiest to pass as it only got on edged side, where the P1 blade is double edged. 
  • At the E2 drop the joules has been increased with 50% and the knifes or spike is not allowed to penetrate more than 20 mm. The E2 drop is made to make sure that the stab proof vest wont fail with a full penetration when increasing the striking force. 

HOSDB 2007 Stab Resistant Body Armor Standard

HOSDB (British Institute) also has their version for stab resistant body armor. It is very similar to the NIJ standard and the ideas behind both standards are the same as both NIJ and HOSDB have been working together for many years, to improve and develop their standards.


The same rules apply for the penetration limit (Only for the P1/B blade). The E1 pressure cannot exceed more than 7 mm and the E2 pressure is 20mm.

HOSDB use a engineered blade and spike:

  1. Engineered blade (P1 / B) is a knife that can hold its shape after being stabbed into a wooden block multiple times. It is incredible strong and sharp. 
  2. Engineered spike (SP / B) is pointed instrument (spike). It is 100 mm long and the tip is 4.5 mm long and 2 mm wide. The same applies here for the strength of the blade. 

For HOSDB you can do either a knife test (KR) or spike (SP). So body armor tested according to HOSDB can be called KR or KR+SP.

The knife blade is tested against both E1 and E2 pressure with a 7 and 20 mm penetration limit. The spike is only tested at E1, and is not allowed to penetrate at all.

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  • All spike strikes are NOT allowed to penetrate and needs to be stopped

This article is very short and doesn’t go deeper within the American NIJ standard and the British HOSDB standard. If you are interested in reading more about the other HOSDB and NIJ standards for bullet and stab proof vests you can find these in the menu section left of here.