NIJ Compliant vs. Certified Body Armor

NIJ Compliant vs. Certified Body Armor

When reading about body armor specs, companies use labels like NIJ Compliant and NIJ Certified when referencing armor threat level and efficacy. We would like to clear up what these terms mean, explain the difference, and show you a list of our NIJ certified armor.

A Note About Us:

Hardwire LLC is the current supplier of soft armor ballistic inserts for the U.S. Marine Corps and the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). We’ve been supplying SOCOM since 2018 and the Marines since 2020. The Marines and SOCOM have their own specifications, whereas law enforcement and security teams tend to gravitate heavily to the NIJ requirements. We are the industry leader in the lightest and thinnest NIJ-certified soft armor inserts!

Who is the NIJ?

  • Let’s start off with the basics. The NIJ is the National Institute of Justice. This department of the government is the head of standardizing bulletproofing materials. The NIJ funds research to improve justice in the forensic fields as well. 

What does an NIJ Certification mean?

  • An NIJ Certification means that the NIJ has tested, reviewed, and given their stamp of approval that a bulletproof vest meets their protection levels. Certified products will have the NIJ watermark on their label.
    Hardwire LLC has NIJ Certified Body Armor
    NIJ Certifications are important because law enforcement can only qualify for BJA funding assistance for body armor that meets the NIJ Standard 0101.03 or any subsequent revision, including the latest NIJ Standard 0101.06 certification code (Gist). Certification watermarks are only awarded to bulletproof vest inserts that have been fully vetted by the NIJ team. Consumer products such as backpack inserts or shields are not “NIJ Certified” because only body armor is fully vetted by the NIJ.

What does NIJ Compliant mean?

  • NIJ compliance or ‘held to the standard of’ means that a product meets the NIJ Body Armor Performance Standards. However, this does not mean that the NIJ has given their stamp of approval, either because the product has not been tested by them OR it is a type of product that they do not certify. NIJ Compliance means that a company has tested the product independently from the NIJ but the product holds up against the standards set by the NIJ.
  • At Hardwire, we test our products to ensure each one meets and exceeds compliance protocol. It’s important when choosing an armor product, especially body armor, that the distinction is understood. Our body armor not only complies but is certified. Other consumer or law enforcement products such as shields comply with NIJ specifications, but technically are not “certified”.

Where does Level 3 plus body armor fit in (Level 3+)?

  • As of NIJ 0101.06, NIJ certifies body armor to the following levels: 2A, 2, 3A, 3, 4
    Level 3 plus body armor
    This raises the question: What about Level 3+ body armor or shields? Level 3+ body armor is not technically a NIJ standardized level and can have a varying definition with each manufacturer. The NIJ does not recognize Level 3+ and does not certify and test for it. No industry standard has been set for Level 3+, however, most manufacturers label with Level 3+ to signify that the armor complies with NIJ Level 3 standards and also stops the M855 “green tip” projectile. At Hardwire, we use the Level 3+ label on one of our hard plate models, the Level 3+ Multi Curve Plate, to signify that it protects against M855 Green Tip Armor Piercing Rounds at 3250 +50fps. See the full list of specs for the M855 round on our Level 3+ Multi Curve plate on page 2 of this product’s Ballistic Resistance Test Report.



Hardwire LLC NIJ 0101.06 Certified Body Armor:

Standard Level 3 Multi Curve Plate


Hardwire LLC NIJ Compliant Products: 0108.01



Gist, N. E. (n.d.). The Bulletproof Vest Partnership. Office of Justice Programs.