Body Armor

How does body armor work?

When a bullet or projectile strikes the body armor, it is caught in a web of high performance fibers that are layered and stitched to exceed certain bullet resistant specifications. The engaged fibers absorb and disperse the impact energy that is transmitted to the vest from the bullet, causing the bullet to deform or "mushroom". Additional energy is absorbed by each successive layer of material in the vest, until such time as the bullet has been stopped. Because the fibers work together in both the individual layer and with other layers of material in the vest, a large area of the garment becomes involved in preventing the bullet from penetrating. Even though the bullet may not penetrate through the body armor, there is still a possibility that the person wearing the body armor may receive injuries to their internal organs. These injuries are a result of blunt trauma force. The body armor provides some protection against these, but it is impossible to prevent it completely especially since it is soft body armor. The reason there are blunt trauma injuries to a person that has been struck by a bullet while wearing body armor is because when the bullet or projectile strikes the vest, there is some initial backward movement by the vest. That means, the bullet does not come to a complete stop upon initial impact yet it comes to stop after a short distance of still going inward towards the body of the person wearing the body armor. When the bullet strikes the body armor, the body armor moves backwards into the body of the wearer creating a force and the body absorbs some of the force and then acts a barrier to stop the backward movement of the vest. The absorption of the force can cause injuries to the wearer. Those injuries could include anything from bruising to major internal damage that could lead to death. While the number one priority of body armor is to prevent the bullet from penetrating, it is still very important for the body armor to prevent blunt trauma.In regards to hard armor versus soft armor, each type has its own strengths and weaknesses. Hard body armor is made of steel, ceramic or other similar, inflexible materials. Soft body armor is made from Kevlar, Spectra, or similar fabric-like ballistic material. Hard body armor is much stronger than soft body armor - only hard armor is capable of defeating rifle caliber ammunition and some types of armor-piercing ammunition. However, hard armor is typically heavier and is only capable of covering just the vital areas of a person - the heart and lungs, usually.

What is the difference between NIJ 0101.04 and NIJ 0101.06?
  • Total number of shots for soft armor: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 48 shots / 24 each cal. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 144 shots / 72 each cal.
  • Number of shots new armors: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005)= 48 shots / 24 each cal. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 72 shots / 48 each cal.
  • Number of shots artificially aged armors: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = none.  NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 48 shots / 24 each cal
  • Total number of BFS measurements: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 16 BFS / 8 each cal. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 48 shots / 24 each cal.
  • Wert conditioning of armors:  NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 6 minutes / shower. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 30 minutes complete submersion
  • Number of test samples per NIJ Level/Gender: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 6 complete armors. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 28 complete armors
  • Template size/shots: NIJ Level/Gender: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 48 shots large size. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 72 shots smallest size / 48 shots largest size
  • Increased velocities Level IIA -9mm / 40 S&W: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 1120 fps / 1055 fps. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 1224 fps / 1155 fps
  • Increased velocities Level II -9mm: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 1205 fps. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 1306 fps
  • New Threats IIIA: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 9mm eliminated. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = .357 Sig at 1470 fps
  • Sample conditioning – Artificially Aging": NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = none. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = Tumbling for 10 days at 149 deg. At 80% humidity
  • Shots to edge distance: : NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 3 inches. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = Small cal. 2” from edge / large cal. 3” from edge
  • Shot placement: : NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = Widely spaced. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 3 near edge / 3 closely spaced
  • V50 with both calibers: : NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 9mm only. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = Both calibers
  • Conformity assessment: : NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = none. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) =  Manufacturing facility audits and random testing over 5 years
  • Certification life – 5 years : NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = No time limit. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 5 years
  • Cost of Certification per model:  NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = $2,500 - $3,300 NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = $18,000 - $25,000
  • Level I eliminated: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = Yes. NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = Eliminated
  • Total number of shots Level III hard armors: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 18 shots  NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 24 shots
  • Total number of shots Level IV hard armors: NIJ 0101.04 (Interim 2005) = 8 shots NIJ 0101.06 (NIJ 06) = 24 shots
What level of protection do I need?

The most important element of choosing the right level of protection is to understand the expected threat you will face whether you are a law enforcement officer working the streets or a combat operator facing heavy enemy opposition.  In general Level IIA, II, IIA will defeat most pistol or handgun rounds from low velocity up to high velocity.  Although for many years law enforcement officers have worn Level II armor, many agencies are moving to Level IIIA to provide the top level of protection for soft armor vests.  HighCom specifically focuses on the distribution of Level IIIA soft armor and Level III and Level IV hard armor. 

What does level of protection mean?

Level of protection is the term used to describe the threats that may be defeated by specific armor models that state this level.  Again be careful that you are choosing NIJ certified because this is a guarantee that the models have been tested and passed a rigid set of standard that the government declares acceptable.  However, always go beyond this and investigate that the certification offered by your supplier is legitimate and still valid.  Many certifications are removed by NIJ due to changes in design, materials, processing, location, and other factors.  If you believe you have purchased or are being persuaded to purchase non certified product that the supplier claims is certified call NIJ immediately here:

Type 1: This armor would protect against 2.6 g (40 gr) .22 Long Rifle Lead Round Nose (LR LRN) bullets at a velocity of 329 m/s (1080 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 6.2 g (95 gr) .380 ACP Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets at a velocity of 322 m/s (1055 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It is no longer part of the standard.

Type IIA: New armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9×19mm Parabellum Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets at a velocity of 373 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1225 ft/s ± 30 ft/s); 11.7 g (180 gr) .40 S&W Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets at a velocity of 352 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1155 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 14.9 g (230 gr) .45 ACP Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets at a velocity of 275 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (900 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Conditioned armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 355 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1165 ft/s ± 30 ft/s); 11.7 g (180 gr) .40 S&W FMJ bullets at a velocity of 325 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1065 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 14.9 g (230 gr) .45 ACP Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets at a velocity of 259 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (850 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Type I].

Type II: New armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 398 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1305 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 10.2 g (158 gr) .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point bullets at a velocity of 436 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Conditioned armor protects against 8 g (124 gr) 9 mm FMJ RN bullets at a velocity of 379 m/s ±9.1 m/s (1245 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 10.2 g (158 gr) .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point bullets at a velocity of 408 m/s ±9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I and IIA].

Type IIIA: New armor protects against 8.1 g (125 gr) .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullets at a velocity of 448 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1470 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 15.6 g (240 gr) .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets at a velocity of 436 m/s (1430 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Conditioned armor protects against 8.1 g (125 gr) .357 SIG FMJ Flat Nose (FN) bullets at a velocity of 430 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1410 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and 15.6 g (240 gr) .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets at a velocity of 408 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1340 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against most handgun threats, as well as the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, and II].

Type III: Conditioned armor protects against (rifles) 9.6 g (148 gr) 7.62×51mm NATO M80 ball bullets at a velocity of 847 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2780 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). It also provides protection against the threats mentioned in [Types I, IIA, II, and IIIA].

Type IV: Compliance at Type IV for hard armor or plate inserts requires that samples be tested in a conditioned state with .30 caliber armor piercing (AP) bullets (U.S. Military designation M2 AP) with a specified mass of 10.8 g (166 gr) and a velocity of 878 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2880 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). Compliance at Type IV for flexible armor requires that samples be tested in both the “as new” state and the conditioned state with .30 caliber AP bullets (U.S. Military designation M2 AP) with a specified mass of 10.8 g (166 gr) and a velocity of 878 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (2880 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

What is the National Institute of Justice (NIJ)?

Firearms are one of the most dangerous threats faced by law enforcement officers in the United States. During the past three decades, ballistic-resistant soft body armor has saved the lives of more than 3,000 police officers. Body armor is critical safety equipment that law enforcement and corrections officers need for personal protection. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) establishes and updates voluntary minimum performance standards for body armor, conducts testing against these standards to ensure that body armor complies with the standards, and sponsors research to improve body armor. NIJ's predecessor, the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, began developing lightweight body armor in 1971 and testing it in 1978. Today, police body armor is one of the best-known products resulting from NIJ-funded research. NIJ's police body armor performance standard for ballistic resistance, most recently updated in 2008, is the only national standard for police body armor. Recognition and acceptance of the NIJ standard has grown worldwide, making it the performance benchmark for ballistic-resistant body armor.

Should I purchase used body armor?

You should never purchase used body armor as it is nearly impossible from visual inspection alone to determine the quality and/or capability of these armor systems.  Most likely used means it has been deployed in situations where the handling and care of the armor is unknown and you simply would be risking too much in purchasing used armor.

Do I really need body armor?

For anybody that wears soft body armor it has come across their mind at some point in time how exactly does the body armor work and how reliable is it. Technology has changed since the first body armor was produced before WWII. Nowadays, body armor is a proven tool to saving the lives of police officers, military, and anybody else that wears body armor.  It is extremely important to know there is no such thing as bullet proof and there are always circumstances in which a soft armor vests may not provide 100% protection 100% of the time.  However, the statistics strongly favor the use of body armor and studies clearly indicate the lifesaving properties of wearing your armor every day.  This is the number one reason why we strongly encourage any purchaser of body armor to ensure there armor is new and certified to the NIJ standards discussed here. 

Is it legal to purchase body armor?

Yes it is legal almost everywhere in the United States for a U.S. Citizen to Own and/or Possess Body Armor as long as certain conditions are met.  However, we strongly encourage customers check with their local law enforcement agency regarding state laws and regulations relating to the purchase and/or possession of body armor.  It is against the law in all states for convicted felons to purchase and/or possess body armor and anyone caught using body armor while committing criminal activities will receive additional charges related to the use of such protective equipment during their crimes.  We refuse to sell to non-law abiding citizens and will work closely with law enforcement and federal agencies to stop the sale and transfer of such equipment to anyone who falls in this category.  For additional information on the purchase and ownership of Body Armor please contact your local police station and speak with anyone who has the legal authority to advise on the status of current state and federal laws. CONNECTICUT RESIDENTS: Connecticut is one state that prohibits the online sale or out of state transfer into Connecticut for residents.  If you wish to purchase body armor please see your local retailer.

How do I properly size my body armor?

A normal soft armor vest is designed to protect just the person’s vital organs from attack, not actually their complete torso. As such, a soft armor vest would normally hang to around your navel area. Another reason for this vest design is for comfort and mobility. Body armor is available in a full range of sizes.  Please visit our resource section for a measurement worksheet and video.

Front Panel: Normally a front ballistic panel should be two (2) and one half inches (2 ½”) off the top edge of the gun belt when standing and be no higher than the second button on your uniform shirt. The space between the bottom edge of the front armor panel and the top edge of the gun belt is required so that when the officer sits down this space will close and the vest panel will rest on the edge of the gun belt without riding up into the throat.

Rear Panel: When standing relaxed with your arms at your side, the back ballistic panel should rest one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch (1/4” – ¾”) off the top edge of the gun belt and should be no higher than 4 inches down from the collar seam. Having the space between your gun belt and the bottom of the back panel prevents the vest from riding up when going from a sitting to a standing position.

Side Panel: While you may want the front and back panels to overlap on the sides it is important to realize this can make a vest much more uncomfortable by creating more bulk. In addition, the front and back panels will be rubbing against each other, causing premature wear to the panel covers. The most comfortable option is to have your vest fitted with a small gap between the front and back panels.

How do I clean and maintain my body armor?

Excerpted from the 2001 NIJ Report "The Selection and Application of Body Armor" Note: Body Armor should be cared for and handled as specified by the documentation you received from the manufacturer when you purchased your body armor. The below information should be used as a guide, but not as a replacement for that information.The proper care of today's modern body armor requires taking precautions when cleaning the garment. Every model of armor that complies with NIJ standards has an instruction label indicating how to clean the components. Individuals should follow these instructions, making certain that anyone else who cares for the garment is also aware of the correct cleaning procedures. The protective panels, or inserts, of body armor should be washed by hand with cold water, using a sponge or soft cloth and mild home laundry detergent. Most manufacturers strongly recommend that the protective panel never be submerged in water. Bleach (including non-chlorine or peroxide-based bleach) or starch, even when highly diluted, should not be used as these may reduce the garment's level of protection. If a model of armor has a removable carrier, it is possible that the carrier may be machine washable. However, it is imperative to follow the manufacturer's care instructions found on the protective panel and carrier labels. Body armor panels or inserts are not to be machine washed or dried, either in the home or commercially. The fabric can be damaged by laundry equipment, ultimately affecting its performance. Commercial laundries also use commercial detergents, which are much harsher than home detergents, and pose another threat to maintaining the ballistic- or stab-resistant properties of the fabric. According to DuPont, perchlorethylene is the only dry cleaning solvent found so far that does not significantly degrade the ballistic protection provided by current body armor. However, to eliminate the possibility of an accident and avoid the variety of dry cleaning solvents in use, dry cleaning armor is not recommended. Most modern body armor contains water-repellant treated or inherently water-repellant fabrics, making hand washing possible by preventing the water used to wash the vest from degrading the ballistic capabilities of the vest. However, rinsing thoroughly is still important to remove all traces of soap. Rinsing properly prohibits the accumulation of residual soap film, which can absorb water and reduce the protective properties of certain types of ballistic- or stab-resistant fabric. Body armor fabric should never be dried outdoors, even in the shade, as ultraviolet light is known to cause degradation of certain types of ballistic fabric. Tests have demonstrated that ballistic efficiency is significantly and adversely affected by exposure to sunlight for extended periods of time. Each time body armor is washed, it should be inspected for any signs of wear. If the protective materials are not covered with a permanent cover (which is highly uncommon for a typical modern vest), and it appears that the thread used to sew layers together is wearing badly or that the fabric is unraveling, the vest should be returned to the manufacturer for replacement. Officers should never attempt to repair armor themselves under any circumstances. Today, most manufacturers market concealable body armor with the protective panel sealed within a moisture barrier, such as thin rip-stop nylon or coated cloth, instead of chemically waterproofing the fabric. The owner of such armor must routinely inspect it to be sure that the cover of the protective inserts has not been cut or damaged, which would allow moisture to penetrate the protective panel. Even if the outer covers have not been cut or otherwise damaged, the moisture barrier can still be damaged. When the protective material or the outer shell carrier rubs over the protective panel cover as a result of the normal flexing that occurs when body armor is in use, it can wear through the cover and expose the armor to moisture penetration. It should also be noted that certain types of covering materials tend to make the armor much warmer to wear, because it significantly reduces the rate at which perspiration can evaporate or be absorbed. The exceptional ballistic- and stab-resistant efficiency of materials used to construct body armor compensates for any of these limitations associated with maintenance and care. The user can easily care for and properly maintain body armor and ensure that it provides its rated protection throughout its service life. When caring for hard armor, it is important to remember that hard body armor, particularly ceramic material, must be handled carefully because it is fragile. Ceramic materials--such as boron carbide, aluminum oxide, or silicon carbide--are extremely brittle. Such armor should not be dropped on hard surfaces and when used, the ceramic must serve as the striking (exterior) surface. It should also be inspected before each use to ensure that no surface cracks are present that would degrade ballistic performance. 

Ordering Online

How quickly does HighCom process and ship order?

HighCom manufactures products on a daily basis and typically maintains inventory of all advertised for sale products and therefore our typical turnaround is within 24-72 hours after receipt of an order.  However, certain situations may require longer lead times based on sizing, colors, options, and other variables that may have to be custom tailored for end user purposes.  We will provide you with a delivery estimate and support you with continuous updates as the order is in processing.  All our customers are always welcome to contact us prior to placing an order to ensure items are in stock.

How do I check the status of my order?

You can easily check the status of your order online by visiting our order status page here

Does HighCom ship internationally?

Yes but all international orders must be placed through our sales department. To place a non-domestic order, please contact sales@highcomsecurity.com.

What if I'm unhappy with my purchase?

HighCom has a 30-day return policy. You may return or replace your merchandise to HighCom Security within 30 days upon purchase. Items must be new and unused condition and returns do not apply to custom size vests and other products that require custom work. Refunds will be applied to original credit card used at the time of purchase. Please allow 5-10 business days from the time the item is received to process a refund. To return or replace your product please visit our Returns page and fill out our online form. 

How can I contact HighCom with additional questions?

Our phone number is 1-800-987-9098 and our direct email is sales@highcomsecurity.com. You may also send an email through our contact page here

Where do I redeem my promo code?

If you have a promo code you will be able to type it in the "discounts" box on the 2nd page of checkout. The discount will apply, however if you feel the code isn't applying correctly please email sales@highcomsecurity.com.

About HighCom

Who is HighCom Security?

Founded in 1997, HighCom is a leader in advanced ballistic armor manufacturing. HighCom has its own manufacturing and distribution facility in Columbus, Ohio. We design, manufacture and distribute a range of security products and personal protective gear. In association with our manufacturing operations and testing facilities, HighCom continually dedicates investment dollars to its internal research and development activities. These R&D efforts lead to a more extensive product line including a range of National Institute of Justice (“NIJ”) certified ballistic armor products. Recognition and acceptance of NIJ standards has grown worldwide, making NIJ certification the performance benchmark for ballistic-resistant body armor.

Who does HighCom Security sell to?

HighCom serves a wide range of customers throughout the world. Our North American customer base includes many federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State along with U.S. Embassies and allied forces around the world. We also export our products throughout the world and currently distribute our products in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Many of our products are controlled for export purposes and we require end user details prior to all sales. Strict compliance with U.S. and International laws and regulations is mandatory. 

What does HighCom Security Sell?

HighCom provides a wide range of security products and personal protective gear (including tactical armor) that are tailored and offer protection solutions to specific customer requirements. HighCom specifically caters to military branches, local law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, municipal authorities, civil sector, and various government agencies. Given the equipment and ballistic protection solutions provided by HighCom, compliance with the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of the Treasury and all other governmental agencies’ regulations is a high priority.