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Certified Vs. Compliant – What’s the Difference?

Many of the online body armor retailers use confusing wording and do not clearly state whether their product is certified by the National Institute of Justice or not. So how do you know which product is certified by NIJ? To ensure NIJ-certified products, check the stamp of NIJ listed model, which appears on the outside of the ballistics.

Manufacturers need to get their body armor tested by NIJ partnered labs and succeed in meeting the NIJ’s performance requirements in order to sell their product as NIJ certified.

However, most of the products sold online are compliant and not certified. The companies selling them would have only completed a poor level of body armor testing and thus are not of standard. Law enforcement personnel are required to wear body armor that is certified by NIJ, which successfully meets the standards of NIJ.

Products with NIJ listed model logo

It is imperative to purchase body armor certified by NIJ as it can make all the difference when the unthinkable occurs. The importance of NIJ-certified products should never be overlooked. It is important because

  •         It protects the wearer and ensures utmost protection
  •         It qualifies for grant funding, which is used by various agencies to buy ballistic vests
  •         It safeguards the standards

Some of the manufacturers show their products are fully compliant, but they get their products only partially tested or use an outdated standard of requirements to test their products and thus do not get the NIJ certification. While renowned and honorable manufacturers of armor get their armor tested by NIJ-certified labs to ensure their product meets the standards.

If you are wondering about NIJ-certified products, then Safe Life Defense has a list of full NIJ certified products, which you can find on their website.

What is the process of NIJ certification, and why is it essential?

It is important for body armor to meet specific performance requirements before it is certified. The testing needs to be performed by NIJ-certified labs.

The steps of the process include:

1) The body armor is weighed and inspected for workmanship by the technicians.

2) The ballistic armor plates then undergo thermal conditioning, using a range of high temperatures as well as humidity.

3) Then it is reinspected.

4) Then the armor plates are immersed in water and allowed to fall on concrete.

5) Then these plates are attached to clay for two types of shot testing.

  1. a)     The ballistic limit test will test the velocity at which the bullet fully penetrates the plate.
  2. b)    The backface deformation test will determine the dent produced by the bullet inside the armor against the body.

6) After testing, the results and examples of the hot plate and the un-shot plate are sent to the NIJ for further reviewing and verifying. The body armor that successfully meets the requirements is given the NIJ-listed model logo.


The NIJ makes the performance requirements and determines at what velocity, distance, and angle the plate must be shot. The standards set by NIJ are strict and not easy to meet. These requirements specify the protection of the body armor against certain situations and weaponry.

Most of these are much faster and stronger than what is usually encountered in real life by the police. So it is imperative that you purchase NIJ-certified products and not poor quality not certified products that may jeopardize your safety.

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