Certified vs. Compliant

What does Certified vs. Compliant mean to me?

Beware of online body armor companies that do not clearly say their products are Certified by the NIJ; many online retailers will trick you with their wording and sell you Chinese compliant products

How do you know when you’re buying US Government Certified body armor by the National Institute of Justice? Simply look for the NIJ “Listed Model” stamp on the outside of the ballistics that looks like:

All armor models manufactured after March 1, 2017, must carry this mark on the label to be listed on the NIJ Compliant Products List. The NIJ develops the performance requirements for ballistic body armor and partners with labs nationwide to test armor products; successfully passing allows a manufacturer to sell their body armor as Certified.

However, the majority of body armor sold online as of March 2019 is "compliant" and many online body armor retailers advertise their products with confusing wording and are not Certified.

These companies may have completed a lower level of ballistic body armor testing and are not subject to ongoing Government oversight.

Several of these companies claim you will have a “safe life” or keep your “bullet safe” but the reality is they are selling Chinese made non US Govt. NIJ Certified products.

Law enforcement are typically required to wear NIJ Certified body armor to ensure it fully meets the current standards set forth by the National Institute of Justice


Purchasing body armor that is US Government NIJ Certified could mean the difference between life and death if the unthinkable happens. Non-certified body armor is not subject to Government oversight and places an unfair risk on the buyer. An NIJ Certified product is important for three reasons:

  1. To protect buyers and ensure they are getting the protection they expect
  2. To protect the validity of the standard
  3. To qualify for grant funding, which many agencies use to purchase ballistic vests

Some armor makers tout their products as fully compliant but do only partial testing or test to an outdated standard, which would not earn certification and the logo.

Reputable armor makers partner with NIJ-certified testing labs to make sure their products meet the NIJ standard, currently 0101.06. Many non-certified body armor products are tested at lower standards and are classified as compliant.


Body armor must meet certain performance standards to earn certification. The NIJ test plan must be performed by a laboratory certified by the NIJ. The key steps to testing include:

  1. Technicians photograph and weigh the armor samples and inspect them for workmanship.
  2. The ballistic armor inserts are then subjected to thermal conditioning with a range of extreme temperatures and humidity, then re-inspected.
  3. The armor plates are dropped on concrete and submerged in water.
  4. The plates are then mounted on clay for two different types of shot testing: backface deformation and ballistic limit. Backface deformation is the dent caused by a bullet on the inside of the armor, against the wearer’s body. The ballistic limit test, or V50, determines at what velocity a bullet will fully penetrate the armor.

The NIJ prescribes at what angle, distance and velocity the plates must be shot, using Mann barrels for greater precision. At a minimum, the NIJ requirements specify defense against certain projectiles, most of which are faster than what police are likely to encounter.


Once testing is complete, depending on results, the lab sends an example of an un-shot and a shot plate to the NIJ so their technicians can review the report and verify the findings. Armor that meets all the standards is then granted use of the NIJ “Listed Model” Logo and included in the Compliant Products List online.

The NIJ standards are exacting and not easily met, and for good reason. Make sure any armor you consider is on the NIJ Compliant Products List and has the NIJ “Listed Model” logo on the label.


Body Armor Direct, a Florida based company, manufactures 100% of their products in the USA and all their ballistics are NIJ certified. The company's ballistics are interchangeable from the concealable, tactical and t-shirt carriers. Their active shooter kits protect from an AR-15 and they sell backpack inserts starting at $99. Order online today at the Body Armor Shop