So called NIJ certified body armor is a body armor that complies with NIJ Ballistic Resistance Standard, 0101.06 that can be found online on the NIJ website. Certification process itself takes place in a certified laboratory appointed by National Institute of Justice and comprise of (among others) a excessive wear and tear simulation process called “conditioning”. That include being heated up to extreme temperatures, putting into a tumbling machine for a thousands of cycles, submerging in water, eventually simulating being dropped on concrete. Once that is done, body armor is tested against given ballistic threat.
For an armor plate to be successfully NIJ tested, it needs to be able to stop the rounds it is rated for with back face deformation below the NIJ 44mm limit but in ambient conditions. Body armor is test “as is” and is not subject to the abuse conditioning that certified pieces undergo. If you have a successfully tested NIJ plate, it will be able to protect you and you should not worry about quality as long as they were tested in independent certified laboratories.
If you still thinking which one would be best for you, here’s analogy: imagine you’re a Nascar driver and you compete every week on track in the toughest conditions that any vehicle can be exposed at. It’s obvious you will drive a vehicle in race track configuration with ceramic breaks, double clutch, cage frame and all other professional equipment… and that’s NIJ Certified armor in our example. The one that will endure extremely harsh environment.
However, for those who do not race in Nascar but still like to step on the throttle on their way to work there is a variety of road configuration sports cars that do not have cage frame… but they are still fast and drive nicely! And that is our NIJ Tested plate!
So as long as you do not plan invading hot and humid lands for super classified underwater mission but you need an everyday carry body armor, NIJ tested plate will be a very reasonable choice thanks to its quality and reasonable price.
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