U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Body Armor Selection, Care, and Maintenance

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2018
3 pages
After reviewing the characteristics of body armor and its importance for police safety, this report reviews the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) role in maintaining the quality of body armor produced by manufacturers, issues to consider when purchasing and wearing body armor, and how to maintain its quality.
Body armor is a ballistic-resistant vest composed of a carrier and soft or hard armor panels. It is critical safety equipment that law enforcement and corrections officers need for personal protection against firearms and knives. NIJ certifies models of armor panels and armor plates that meet the requirements of the NIJ Compliance Testing Program. Vest models that meet NIJ's performance requirements are on the Compliant Products List (CPL) at www.policearmor.org. When purchasing body armor, agencies should compare products to ensure that the one selected meets the mobility and comfort needs of the officers who wear them. In order to ensure that body armor fits properly, NIJ has developed a standard that contains information on proper measurement and fit; a worksheet is provided that enables an officer to assess her/his body armor fit. Over time, some wear and tear on a ballistic-resistant vest will occur, so frequent inspections and proper care of body armor are necessary to maintain the integrity of the ballistic panels and the carriers. Ballistic panel covers should be frequently visually inspected to check for cuts, tears, stitching separation, sealing problems, and excessive wear. Agencies should consider replacing or returning to the manufacturer for repair any armor panel or label that shows damage or excessive wear.

Date Published: April 1, 2018