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When I selected armor for my last agency after the 01.01.06 standard went into effect, the thinking was that new II was the equivalent of old IIIA.  Several years later, what is the thinking on that?  I'm making a personal purchase of U.S. Armor as the current agency's Galls IIA doesn't impress me.  The sales rep seems to be pushing Level II, but of course, won't really say so.  Is the weight, thickness, and cost of IIIA armor that much worse in today's world?  Thanks and be safe.

Original Post

It always helps to understand the NIJ Performance Standards and their definitions.

I do think it is clearer to think about Handgun 1, Handgun 2, and Rifle 1-3 when considering the threat levels anticipated in your area.

I like to match anticipated threats against what any armor is actually tested against, rather than any rating level. Ex: if the anticipated threat is green-tip surplus acquired by the local MC, then having armor tested against that threat is more helpful than the NIJ  rating.


Last edited by Community Member

This is something that overthinking can send you down a rabbit hole. 

My main consideration when choosing the level of body armor for LE duty is comparing what it is rated to stop with what our duty ammunition is.  A lot of cops have been killed with their own weapons.   Some have been accidentally killed or shot by other cops.  Weighing comfort, weight, etc against capability is an individual choice.  Sure, you can armor up like you are assaulting Fallujah, but is it really practical?  I don't think it is.  Some will argue about how they wear plate carriers with plates all the time.  Fine.  That's an individual choice, and often is dependent upon your policy.  Do you also wear a helmet all the time?  How many guys wear a lot of cool stuff, but no eyepro?  I see that every day.   Weigh it to your environment.   What are the typical threats you will most likely encounter in your beat?  Typically, in mine, it is pistol fodder, with a lot of .380, .38, 9mm and .40.   And, many times, it's a mix of different ammunition types.  Ghetto thugs like shit they can tote in their pants.  I worry about that, mostly.

On a side note, I recall back in the 90s that guy Massad Ayoob was blathering about wearing body armor off-duty.  This concept got written about  for awhile, and I even started seeing some guys doing it.  While he has written some good legal articles, I just have a hard time swallowing a lot of his "tactical" stuff, especially considering he's never been in an actual fight, and was a reserve officer in a town of less than 3,000 that is over 98% white, in an agency of less than 10 officers.  Just a little something I needed to rant about.  Sorry.


For the same of comparison, Gentex has datasheets for their TBH-II and TBH-IIIA helmets (a lower cost alternative to their OpsCore line of helmets). Between the II and IIIA, it appears the only difference is that IIIA is also rated for: ".44 Cal Magnum 240gr SWCGC at 1400 fps", and "9x18 105gr SJLC" (a Makarov round). All other specifications appear to be the same, including weight. 

Datasheet - IIIA helmet: 
Datasheet - II helmet:

I was expecting more of a difference between the two helmets.

Base your armor decisions around the anticipated threat.


DirtySanchez is right on about Mas Ayoob.  He had some good Legal Theory, but...Yes!  a Reserve Cop in several NH small towns...99% White?  And Wasn't He even a LT.? or SGT.? as a Reserve?  OH PLEEZ !  3 Full time Cops and Reserve LT. Ayoob does not reflect the true problems of policing then or now.  Believe that.

If I needed a guy for my LE Pistol Team, Ya...I'd call him.  Putting my Patch on his shirt should not be a problem.  I am sure He has Shirts with Velcro attachment points !

Bought my own US Armor in level II for patrol. As others have mentioned, IIIA gets you only a few rare pistol rounds (basically hot .44) yet still does not come close to getting rifle. For me the cooler/lighter was worth the trade off.

On the other topic, there are plenty of options out there for training. If I want legal training, I'm going to get it from an attorney. If I want firearms training, I'm gong to get it from someone with a police/military background. 

Over breakfast at a Hampton Inn a few years back, Uncle Pat shared a story about a less than qualified instructor that apparently tried to involve himself as a witness in a high profile NYPD shooting case (I'm nearly positive it was Diallo). I forget the exact circumstances, but Pat said that word was passed along that if any credentials were misrepresented that the DA's office would charge the instructor.

Thanks for the advice.  I just ordered a IIIA vest for US Armor.   While I'm sure a II would have been sufficient, I've been wearing a IIIA for some time.  Plus, if I didn't get a IIIA, I'd probably be the first campus public safety officer in history to be murdered by an MSS agent sent to steal the college's scientific studies and armed with some odd weapon that would penetrate a Level II vest, but not a IIIA.  So I've got that going for me.

In fairness to Ayoob, he never made his credentials a secret.  He has never suggested that his employing agencies were larger than they were and remarked that his journalism works for an Illinois police union magazine and, I believe, "Law and Order" magazine gave him entree into many police agencies.

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