There is no doubt that stab resistant body armour can save the lives of law enforcement and corrections officers alike. Yet, the stab threats that they are exposed to are very different suggesting that perhaps the armour they wear should be catered to each type of threat. The civilian/uncontrolled stab threat environments are represented by commercial weapons that are very effective at penetrating, slashing and cutting. In contrast, stab threats found in correctional institutions are improvised threats and are less severe as they are hand made with inferior materials, sharpening techniques and may be difficult to use effectively. A study1 of over 1000 weapons acquired from several US prisons and correctional facilities has been carried out and representative test knives and spikes have been developed2 for adoption by the NIJ.
Stab Resistant body armour designed for commercial weapons has improved over the years with advanced materials and construction methods but they still can be thick, stiff, heavy and hot resulting in discomfort, diminished operational effectiveness or not being worn at all times. With the anticipated lower severity of the stab threats in a corrections environment, it should be possible to improve upon these limitations, ultimately improving personnel safety. For armour manufacturers to respond to these needs, however, a performance test standard is required that not only incorporates commercial weapons but improvised threats as well.
This is exactly what the NIJ has been working on for the past few years, to develop a test standard that reflects both commercial and improvised stab/slash threats while addressing potential issues that may diminish armour performance such as degradation and the use of stitching in female body armour. The results of these efforts will be found in a revised draft standard “Stab Resistance of Personal Body Armor, NIJ 0115” that is expected to be released for public comment some time in 2017. After this, it will be finalized and considered for inclusion in the armour Compliance Test Program (CTP). More information on the improvements to the NIJ 0115.00 performance test standard can be found in the May/June 2017 article of eTechBeat3.
The Stab Test Apparatus4, developed by Biokinetics for meeting the NIJ 0115.00 test protocols, has been in use by industry for several years allowing for quick and repeatable testing of stab armour. With the upcoming revised standard, enhancements have already been made to allow the use of both commercial and improvised knife/spike stab threats while providing flexibility for implementing upcoming slash test methods. Further improvements have been made with the threat holder missile to speed-up threat attachment and replacement of the foam compression disks. More repeatable performance is also obtained with greater disk venting and precision of the stab threat clamp. The computerized system electronically measures the stab missile drop height and speed just prior to impact with high accuracy. A height adjustable armour support base with tilt adjustment accommodates armour samples of varying thickness and an easily positioned safety shield completes the test system by ensuring safety in the test area from broken threats.
- Stoe D., Robinson C., Rowley N., Bir C., “Novel Approach to Body Armor Standards Development”, Technical paper in the Personal Armour Systems Symposium, Cambridge, England, 2014.
- Shewchenko N., Rowley N., Baines D., Bir C., “Development of Stab Weapon Exemplars from a Survey of Threats in a Corrections Environment”, Technical paper in the Personal Armour Systems Symposium, Cambridge, England, 2014. http://www.biokinetics.com/about-us/publications.html
- eTechBeat article, May/June 2017: https://www.justnet.org/pdf/2017_MJ_Lewis_Body%20Armor%20Safety%20&%20Program%20Refinements%20from%20NIJ.pdf
- Biokinetics Stab Test Apparatus Brochure. http://www.biokinetics.com/products/stab-testing.html
For more information on ballistic armour, stab armour, ballistic materials and ballistic shield standard updates, see:
- Justice Technology Information Center (JTIC) article: https://justnet.org/pdf/Stab-Armor-Fact-Sheet_8-2016.pdf .
- Police Chief Magazine article: http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/securing-officer-safety-protection-standards-enhancements/ .