Looking at the standard set by the National Institute of Justice, you will notice the “A” in every level. For instance, there are levels 3 and 3A body armor. This poses a lot of questions from users especially those who are new to this kind of protective clothing.
In this article, you will uncover the difference and the advantages between these two types of bullet proof vest. At the end of this article, you will also figure out what level of ballistic vest is relevant to your day-to-day activities.
In 1970, the US Justice Department conducted research and study in order to come up with proper standard. After several trials, testing, and evaluation, the final resistance standard evolved which today known as the National Institute Standard 0101.
This standard was implemented in 1987 and is until today the primary standard utilized around the world for bullet resistance vest. Coupled with rigid quality control, wearers are assured and confident that the bullet proof vest can provide the protection as specified in the label.
The standard of resistance is divided into six levels. That is level 1, 1A, 2, 2A, 3, 3A and 4. Levels 1 to 3A is considered as part of the soft body armor while level 3 and 4 belongs to the hard armor. Hard body armor is designed to repel much powerful ammunitions. This type of ballistic vest contains hard armor plates which are inserted in the pockets of soft body armor. This is basically the primary difference between a level 3 and level 3A body armor. Level 3A belongs to the soft bullet resistant vest while level 3 are hard armors.
Hard plates require the conjunction of soft ballistic vests to be considered as hard body armor. This means that after the testing is done for the resistant vest for an additional caliber and also those rifles specified in the NIJ standard, the inclusion of +A in the threat level is approved. Once a hard armor plate or plates is added into the soft bullet resistant vest then it becomes level 3. Consequently, the higher the level of protection, the heavier and bulkier the vest becomes.
Usually, a level 3A bullet proof vest can withstand.22 long rifle lead rounds,.380 ACP, 9mm,.40 full metal jackets,.357 magnum, and other handguns. Level 3 ballistic vest on the other hand can resist 7.62 full metal jacketed bullets and other 48 joules of energy weaponry. This is considered the highest level of protection among the standard resistance capacity except for level 4 which are most likely custom-made vests specially designed to defeat more advanced ammunitions.