Body Armor Balancing Price Performance and Weight

Whether you are looking for a body armor system for yourself or you are tasked with the job of choosing the perfect body armor for your agency, the process can be overwhelming. Today, body armor can be purchased from many different companies and comes in varying price points, styles, and materials. Choosing the right protection for the appropriate threats is the most important part of the process as you and your fellow operator’s life depends on it.

Things to consider…

What are the most likely weapons that will be encountered? Handguns, rifles or edged weapons?

  • For handguns – At a minimum, you will require protection from threat levels that offer protection from the sidearm you are carrying.
  • For rifles – At a minimum, you will require protection from threat levels that offer protection from commonly available rounds in the environment for which you will be deployed. With rifles, you should carefully consider protection from special threat and penetrating type rounds that are not currently part of industry standards but are considered readily available, easily purchased and those specific rounds which have been confiscated in the field of operations.

It is highly recommended that you only purchase armor that is certified by The National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The current standard for body armor is NIJ Standard 0101.06. For the purpose of this discussion, we will reference soft armor (Handgun) NIJ Threat Levels II and IIIA and hard armor (Rifle) NIJ Threat Levels III and IV.

Threat Level Rating – Handgun

  • NIJ Level II – 9 x 19 mm Parabellum FMJ RN, .357 Magnum JSP (NIJ 06)
  • NIJ Level IIIA – .357 SIG FMJ (NIJ 06), .44 Magnum SJHP (NIJ 06)

Threat Level Ratings – Rifle

  • NIJ Level III – 7.62 x 51 mm – M80 (NIJ 06)
  • NIJ Level IV – 7.62 x 63 mm – AP M2 (NIJ 06)


Many agencies make ita policy or uniform code requirement and require officers to wear body armor that is only NIJ 06 compliant certified armor. This can be affirmed for exactly what you are getting by verifying the label located on the armor panel as it must have the NIJ Mark on it and also be listed on the DOJ’s compliant product list (NIJ CPL). This list shows all current compliant body armor that complies with NIJ Ballistic Resistance Standard 0101.06 and those that have been suspended or terminated from the list. If it’s not on the list, it’s NOT compliant. Check NIJ CPL list and look for the NIJ Mark on your soft armor panel or hard armor plate.

How To Balance Price Performance and Weight

As a manufacturer of body armor, we know agencies and individuals purchasing armor today are price sensitive due to lack of funding for body armor and those that purchase with personal or uniform allowance funds. There is a direct correlation between price, performance, and weight and you simply can’t have all three and call it a quality product. If the price doesn’t matter then you will have many more options and most likely end up with the lightest armor offering the best protection. If you want the lightest armor than you are likely to have higher costs and might be limited on performance/protection.

Soft armor that is the lightest and thinnest within a particular threat level is typically more expensive than heavier and thicker panels and usually does not offer more protection but is in some cases more comfortable and lower profile. Hard armor for rifle protection within threat level III that is the lightest might be made only from polyethylene and granted it is lightweight it is not necessarily offering protection to many common special threat rifle rounds. Lighter weight level IV plates will be more expensive and not offer more protection than heavier level IV plates.

Be aware of those claiming to be an armor company and who advertise on social media platforms with catchy logos etc. In many cases, you are better off to swipe left on those. Many of these are either scams or someone selling non-certified armor that was manufactured in another country where there is no quality control or regulation. Performing proper due diligence on the armor company you choose to work with should be your number one priority. Many resellers of these products love to use catchphrase marketing verbiage like; “NIJ Qualified”, “Meets NIJ Standard”, Complies with NIJ Testing”, “NIJ Lab Certified”, and so on. None of these make their products NIJ Compliant unless it has gone through the formal CTP process and is listed as such.

Look No Further

For over two decades, HighCom has been working with agencies and individual officers/agents every day to help develop body armor systems that work best for their specific needs and environment. This includes patrol officers, agents in the field, special teams and SWAT. Our goal is to deploy armor to the operator in the field providing them with the best protection, most comfortable and properly fitted armor system at a reasonable cost. We are in business to solve problems and save lives.

As a global provider of body armor and personal protective equipment, we design, develop, test, manufacture, and distribute dozens of National Institute of Justice (NIJ) compliant hard and soft armor products. Thousands of customers from the United States Military and Law Enforcement to governments and agencies around the globe have come to depend on our advanced ballistic armor manufacturing processes. All of HighCom’s NIJ 0101.06 compliant certified hard armor is backed with a 10 year warranty. It’s easy to stand behind this when we have never had a penetration or failure of a deployed armor system. Many others offer a warranty with 10 year, 20 year, or lifetime warranties that simply don’t pass the mustard test and are nothing more than a piece of paper. HighCom stands behind every product we produce and distribute with a guaranteed performance based on superior past performance.

Read some of our past blogs with useful tips and information regarding the details provided here and to learn more about the NIJ Mark, choosing the right armor, and warranties that protect our customers as good as the products we offer.


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