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What is the new NIJ RF2 standard

Recently, the National Institute of Justice has published the new ballistic armor protection standard – the NIJ Standard 0101.07. Among everything else, the standard introduces a whole new RF2 ballistic armor class. Now, what is this standard? Let’s see.

About NIJ

The NIJ or National Institute of Justice is a federal agency in the U.S. NIJ addresses a whole range of various topic including courts, forensic science, corrections and law enforcement. One of its functions is also developing and publishing standards for ballistic armor and protective gear.

What is NIJ RF2

The NIJ RF2 is the latest armor standard released on 11.30.2023 by NIJ under the NIJ Standard 0101.07. The RF2 NIJ standard sets the highest requirements to ballistic armor certified as such, so RF2 body armor definitely grants more advanced protection. Manufacturers can submit new body armors for certification after April 2024.

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The RF in RF2 means “rifle” and the number means the most advanced ballistic protection against rifle shots.

The standard (specifically, NIJ 0123.00) sets the following replacements for the former NIJ threat levels:

Former threat level (NIJ 0101.06)New threat level (NIJ 0101.07)Description
NIJ Level IINIJ HG1Basic Hand Gun (HG) protection.
NIJ Level IIIANIJ HG2More advanced Hand Gun protection.
NIJ Level IIINIJ RF1Basic protection from Rifle shots.
NoNIJ RF2Advanced protection from Rifle shots.
NIJ Level IVNIJ RF3The most advanced protection from Rifle AP shots.

The new standard introduces the NIJ RF2 threat level not available before. The purpose of this threat level is to take into consideration higher velocities and energy non-armor piercing projectiles that previously required using NIJ Level IV armor.

The standard as a whole also received updated list of ammo in each NIJ threat level, and the updated ballistic testing procedures.

So, let’s put this simply. The RF2 NIH standard was designed to address threats such as M855/SS109 BT bullet, known as “green tip”.

Why the RF2 standard was developed

Before the new standard was released, NIJ tested and certified body armors using the older NIJ 0101.06 standard which was somewhat outdated. The new 0101.07 standard introduces new ballistic tests and more contemporary armor evaluation methods to catch up with newer and more dangerous firearms and ballistic threats.

The purpose of developing the new NIJ standard which the RF2 is a part of is multifold.

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At first, the new standard summarizes, unifies and encompasses a range of various testing procedures previously utilized by ASTM, NIST, NIJ, as well as various ballistic laboratories and manufacturers of ballistic armor.

Then, the new standard excludes the description of ballistic threats; now they are in the NIJ 0123.00 “Specification for NIJ Ballistic Protection Levels and Associated Test Threats” standalone standard.

Third, the new standard introduces the new labels for ballistic threats and associated body armor protection levels (see the table above). The brand new RF2 ballistic threat is introduced. It includes everything RF1 includes with one more threat.

What NIJ RF2 armor protects against

Ok, knowing what’s new in the NIJ standards is good and all, but what exactly is good about the NIJ RF2? What does it protects against?

NIJ RF2 ballistic armor is certified to protect against every round the RF1 armor protects from, but with one important addition: 5.56 mm M855 “green tip” round.

The following table lists all the tested ballistic threats for the new NIJ HG and NIG RF threats levels:

NIJ HG Threat LevelTest Threat AmmunitionReference Velocity
NIJ HG1 (Formerly NIJ 0101.06 Level II)9mm Luger full metal jacketed (FMJ) round nose (RN) 124 grain1305 ft/s (398 m/s)
NIJ HG1 (Formerly NIJ 0101.06 Level II).357 Mag jacketed soft point (JSP) 158 grain1430 ft/s (436 m/s)
NIJ HG2 (Formerly NIJ 0101.06 Level IIIA)9mm Luger FMJ RN 124 grain1470 ft/s (448 m/s)
NIJ HG2 (Formerly NIJ 0101.06 Level IIIA).44 MAG jacketed hollow point (JHP) 240 grain1430 ft/s (436 m/s)
NIJ RF1 (Enhanced version of NIJ 0101.06 Level III)7.62x51mm M80 Ball NATO FMJ steel jacketed spire point boat tail (BT) 149 +0/-3 grain2780 ft/s (847 m/s)
NIJ RF1 (Enhanced version of NIJ 0101.06 Level III)7.62x39mm surrogate test round 120.5 grain (7.81 g)2380 ft/s (725 m/s)
NIJ RF1 (Enhanced version of NIJ 0101.06 Level III)5.56mm M193 BT 56 +0/-2 grain3250 ft/s (990 m/s)
NIJ RF2 (Same as NIJ RF1 plus 5.56 mm M855)7.62x51mm M80 Ball NATO FMJ steel jacketed spire point BT 149 +0/-3 grain2780 ft/s (847 m/s)
NIJ RF2 (Same as NIJ RF1 plus 5.56 mm M855)7.62x39mm surrogate test round 120.5 grain (7.81 g)2380 ft/s (725 m/s)
NIJ RF2 (Same as NIJ RF1 plus 5.56 mm M855)5.56mm M193 BT 56 +0/-2 grain3250 ft/s (990 m/s)
NIJ RF2 (Same as NIJ RF1 plus 5.56 mm M855)5.56mm M855 BT 61.8 ± 1.5 grain3115 ft/s (950 m/s)
NIJ RF3 (Formerly NIJ 0101.06 Level IV)30.06 M2 Armor Piercing (AP) FMJ spire point AP 165.7 +0/-7 grain2880 ft/s (878 m/s)

The new NIJ 0101.07 standard is a more rigorous one. It defines testing procedures for higher velocities, wide range of ammo, and for different angles. So, if body armor is certified as NIJ RF2 armor, it must pass these tests accordingly and effectively stop the ballistic threats listed above.

Note that the handgun portion of the standard was also renamed to make it easier for law enforcement officers to select a proper armor protection level when they are out on a mission. It is now as easy as HG if handgun threats are possible and RF for potential rifle threats.

Here is how NIJ RF2 armor is tested

The testing procedure for hard armors including NIJ HG and NIJ RF types involves three or six shots. The supplier can choose between providing more 3-shot test plates or less 6-shot test plates provided it assumes the risk of multiple shots per plate.

  1. The first group of shots is done to the upper part of the armor plate above the centerline, near the edge.
  2. The second group of shots is similarly done to the lower part of the armor plate below the centerline, also near the edge.
  3. Finally, the third group of shots is made to the center of the plate or if the plate is curved, near the apex.

The testing procedure within the new NIJ 0101.07 standard is now much more rigorous. It also involves shooting the test plate multiple times and from varying angles to emulate the real usage scenarios. Also, in comparison with the previous version 0101.06 of the NIJ standard, the new one

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So ballistic armor tested and certified using this new standard features extreme reliability and is guaranteed to stop the said types of ammunition.

Why the new NIJ RF2 standard is important

The NIJ RF2 armor is a new approach in standardizing the body armor systems. Previously, law enforcement officers and other armor wearer had to select between NIJ Level III and NIJ Level IV. The first type provided protection from normal rifles and ammo, but not from 5.56 mm M855 “green tip”. To remain protected form this threat too, officers had to stick to much weightier and often cumbersome NIJ Level IV ceramic armors. And this armor’s protective capabilities might be a huge overkill in those particular situations.

With the development and release of the new NIJ standard, the RF2 class armor provides superior and well-tested protection from all kinds of rifles.

Conclusion

Learning about the current and upcoming armor standards is vital information that can literally save your life. For a law enforcement officer, a police officer or a military, the new NIJ RF2 standard means better protection from contemporary firearms and rounds. So when you buy ballistic armors, make sure they comply with the latest NIJ RF2 standard for superior protection and safety.

This article is the author's opinion and does not represent the official position of BattleSteel®️

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