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Investigations of Near-Edge Ballistic Impacts on Law Enforcement Body Armor



Kirk D. Rice, Amanda L. Forster, Michael A. Riley, Nicholas Paulter


In 2005 and 2006, two law enforcement officer-involved shootings resulted in injuries to the officers when bullets were not stopped in the officers' body armor. In both cases, the bullets struck the officers' armor quite close to the edge of the ballistic-resistant panel. In each case, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the law enforcement agencies involved had several concerns. Was the armor's response indicative of a serious problem with the armor? Was the armor performance degrading significantly during use? Were similar armors being worn by other law enforcement officers providing the expected level of protection? NIST investigated how each of the armors performed, including examining the shot panels, performing ballistic testing, and measuring select material properties of samples of ballistic-resistant material from the armors, in order to provide guidance to the NIJ. The research effort concluded that in both cases the bullets struck the body armor too close to an edge for the armor to be able to reliably stop the bullet. The results of ballistic testing on one incident armor and a similar armor indicated that the armors appeared to provide sufficient protection when struck by bullets away from the edge, in the region normally tested during compliance testing. Material property testing found that there were some indications of changes to the ballistic-resistant materials due to use, but no indications of significant degradation in the materials.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 8026
Report Number


body armor, ballistic testing, materials properties testing


Rice, K. , Forster, A. , Riley, M. and Paulter, N. (2014), Investigations of Near-Edge Ballistic Impacts on Law Enforcement Body Armor, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed April 18, 2024)
Created August 31, 2014, Updated October 12, 2021