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What’s New in Body Armor & Ballistic Protection

Today’s soft body armor manufacturers have brought forth new products which comply with the National Institute of Justice’s Voluntary Body Armor Compliance Testing Program NIJ Standard-0101.06 (NIJ-06). The new standard includes several changes in its testing procedures which require new challenges to be met by those who make the vests that protect the law enforcement community.

NIJ-06 increased test velocities for Types IIA, II and IIIA body armor, and the latter rated vests must now stop .357 SIG rounds. New standards for shot placement, angle testing, sample armor size and the number of samples required must be met to pass NIJ-06.

Wet testing now requires panels to be fully immersed vertically in 70 degree water for a full 30 minutes. To pass this test, body armor must be heat sealed instead of stitched to become virtually waterproof. New environmental conditioning is also included and requires vests to be tumbled with heat and humidity before some of the testing.

Rigid, but collapsible shields are also becoming a more viable addition for police officer, tactical or SWAT applications. “Shots fired” calls and Rapid Response scenarios require uniformed officers to respond quickly and to act more along the traditional lines of highly trained SWAT specialists. Patrol officers can deploy rigid shields that are light and accessible while still providing more protection than wearable soft body armor.

The companies that provide law enforcement with ballistic protection are still coming up with innovative concepts while also making sure their products pass the new NIJ-06 standards. Cutting edge technology as well as beefed up products capable of passing NIJ-06 with flying colors were prominently showcased at the 2009 IACP Conference in Denver and the 2010 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.

Armor Works

Military application armor has been Armor Works’ primary arena, but the company attended the IACP Conference with its new Collapsible Ballistic Shield for police use. The shield can be folded into a 15-inch x 24-inch piece that can be stored in a squad car’s trunk or passenger area. It can then be rapidly deployed to an unfolded size of 52-inch x 24-inch when its four rigid panels descend and form the vertical protective shield. A transparent ballistic window is an option that allows an officer to view a threat from behind the safety of the shield.

Baker Ballistics

The two newest models of the Baker Batshield portable ballistic shield were on display at the Denver IACP Conference. The PatrolBat and the ResponderBat shields allow an officer to use two hands for either a long gun or a handgun while still using the Batshield for protection via its unique strap/sling.

The Batshield is portable and foldable while employing three independent, curved hard armor panels. It includes a weapon stabilization guide, a hand strap and a web lanyard for attaching to an officer’s duty belt. The shield provides 5.2 square feet of multi-curved ballistic protection.

Up to two additional officers can be protected from a threat while standing behind the officer utilizing the Baker Batshield. These officers can draw down from the left and/or right of the shield while the primary officer sights through the center top of the shield.

New models are designed to unfold for simple deployment from the passenger seat of a squad car or its trunk. The shields are quick to unfold and can provide protection fast enough to be effective even under fire.

Point Blank / PACA Body Armor

Point Blank displayed its new “ThorShield” lining which can be integrated into both concealable and tactical body armor. This lining offers protection against electroshock weapons. Point Blank touts that ThorShield’s conductive material lining is flexible and lightweight and therefore does not compromise comfort. Electric current from a TASER or similar device is absorbed because ThorShield creates a barrier between the officer and the discharged electric current.

Point Blank’s “Vision” body armor system features a carrier design with its exclusive Self-Suspending carrier. This carrier prevents bunching and rolling and has shoulder straps that do not stretch out over time. Antimicrobial protection prevents odor-causing mold and mildew.

First Choice Armor

First Choice Armor gained approval of its model TBL-II S6X Threat Level II body armor, which meets or exceeds the new National Institute of Justice’s standards. First Choice Armor’s vest model TBL-II S6X Threat Level II is an extension of its existing popular Thin Blue Line series available in both custom-measured and off-the-rack sizes. TBL-II S6X model has been recognized by the NIJ for conforming to the rigorous requirements of the NIJ-06 standards. The TBL-II S6X uses the Aramid fiber Twaron®, allowing comfort and lightweight protection that conforms and contours to all body types.

SureFit is First Choice Armor’s concealable body armor that features a compression fit around the torso. It takes the vest’s weight off an officer’s shoulders to help prevent fatigue. SureFit also helps to prevent the vest from riding up and choking officers at the neck area when seated in a squad car.

Also on display, but still in the developmental stage during the IACP Conference, was First Choice Armor’s “Officer Down GPS Locater.” It features a Global Positioning Satellite transponder built into the police officer’s vest. If the vest receives a high impact bullet strike, it can notify both dispatch and local hospitals. The technology also allows for information about the bullet impact(s) to be transmitted to a hospital’s emergency room (such as location on the vest and the number of impacts).


American Body Armor, Savvy, Protech, Safariland, ArmorWear and Second Chance all fall under Safariland’s new, united “Together” umbrella. In Denver, Safariland displayed its new XT700 (Level II) and XT300 (IIIA), which are part of its Xtreme Series and have hybrid construction combining both woven and unidirectional laminates. (Note: After the Denver and Vegas shows, the XT700 was renamed the ABA® Xtreme® Series–FC01 and the XT300 was renamed the ABA® Xtreme® Series–BR01.)

Safariland uses an intricate design of geometrically shaped materials called “Geometrics” which reduces wear weight and thickness. Geometrics reinforces the armor’s specific areas of resistance to reduce ballistic impact and prevent deformity.

In Vegas, Safariland showcased its PROTECH® 2113MC-2 and 2113MC-3, which were the first Level III hard armor plates to successfully complete the NIJ’s new standards. In addition to meeting NIJ-06 compliance testing, the 2113MC-3 also underwent special threat testing to include multiple impacts against the 7.62 x 39 mm MSC round, more commonly known as the AK-47.

Additionally, the rifle plates are manufactured in a contoured, multi-curve design with a military-style shooter’s cut configuration, which affords greater range of motion in the arm and upper chest area. The 2113MC-2 and 2113MC-3 plates are manufactured using ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) fiber, which makes the rifle plates among the lightest (just a little more than 3 pounds) and the strongest on the market.

Savvy, Safariland’s women’s brand, displayed its Savvy Retro™ women’s body armor in Vegas (see page 56). This traditional-style carrier offers a flat, smooth look and feel and utilizes thermal-forming or radial offset pleated shaping technologies. The stretch microfiber helps keep the panel snug against the body, especially for larger-chested women. The Retro utilizes a traditional shoulder and side adjustable strapping system and can be purchased with a 4-point or 6-point strapping system.

Also, as part of Safariland’s Second Chance brand, the company released another armor model that satisfies the requirements of the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) new Voluntary Body Armor Compliance Testing Program under NIJ Standard-0101.06 (NIJ-06). The Monarch Series MN01 Type IIA, tested against the 9mm and .40 caliber threats, is an affordable solution that provides comfort and performance within a Type IIA vest.

Steve Tracy is a 22-year police veteran with 20 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at

Published in Tactical Response, Mar/Apr 2010

Rating : 10.0

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