Level IIa body armor has been around for quite a while. In the body armor world, it’s pretty much not considered to be protective enough to be worth your time or money.
What is level IIa body armor? According to the National Institue of Justice (NIJ), level IIa body armor must be tested to stop a 124 gr 9mm Full Metal Jacket round at 1225 ft per second. It must also be tested to stop a .40 Smith and Wesson Full Metal Jacket round weighing 180 gr at a velocity of 1155 ft per second.
If you already have level IIa body armor and want to see what it’ll protect against, please keep reading. If you’re really in the market for some body armor to protect yourself go read our article on level II body armor. It’s what I consider to be the lowest level of body armor you should buy.
- Level IIa Body Armor
- What Does Level IIa Body Armor Protect Against?
- What Is Level IIa Body Armor Designed For?
- Does Level IIa Body Armor Protect Against Anything Other than Bullets?
- How Does Level IIa Body Armor Work?
- What Is Level IIa Body Armor Made Of?
- Is Level IIa Body Armor Legal?
- How do You Choose What Type of Armor you Should Buy?
- Related Questions
As we stated before, the NIJ requires level IIa armor to stop up to a .40 Smith and Wesson round. This means that it will also stop all pistol rounds that are less powerful.
Level IIa armor is capable of defeating some pistol rounds. These include the 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP & .38 Special.
Higher-velocity rounds can still penetrate level IIa body armor. This includes some of the previously listed rounds when they’re fired from a submachinegun length barrel and all rifle rounds.
|Body Armor Level||Effective Against These Calibers|
|II-A||9 mm FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) at ~1,090 fps|
.40 S&W Full Metal Jacket at 1,025 fps
|II||9 mm FMJ, at ~1,175 fps|
.357 JSP at ~1,400 fps
|III-A||9 mm FMJ at ~1,400 fps|
.44 Magnum Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point at ~1,400 fps
Level IIa body is best used when maximum concealment is needed and protection is an afterthought. It really isn’t as protective as body armor should be and it doesn’t fit into any good niche.
If you expect to encounter pistol fire then you’re better served with level II body armor. Level II body armor will protect you from most common pistol rounds and it’s the minimum level of body armor that we suggest you buy.
If you’re expecting to encounter rifle fire then you’re really going to be outgunned in level IIa body armor!
Level IIa body armor isn’t designed to protect against anything other than the bullets listed in the NIJ standard.
Kevlar and other ballistic materials are very good at stopping the fragmentation from things like explosions. As frag passes through the layers of kevlar, it slows it the same way that it would stop a bullet.
This makes soft armor a great addition to armor plates.
Most level IIa armor isn’t rated for slash or stab protection. In stab proof armor, there is normally a layer of chain mail or laminate material in the body armor to stop knife or spike attacks. Level IIa armor usually resists slashing attacks well, but stabbing attacks can pass straight through it.
If you need both ballistic protection and bladed protection, then you should look for body armor that combines the two types of protection and is certified to stop those threats.
Level IIa body armor stop bullets by slowing it down and rapidly draining it of energy. Its design of tightly woven synthetic fibers allows it to retain its flexibility and still be remarkably strong.
Even though the fibers are strong, their protective levels can decrease rapidly after being shot. Most manufacturers claim their level IIa body armor is capable of protecting from multiple strikes. You should know that the armor does become compromised to at least some degree after it’s hit with a round.
As level IIa armor is soft, there is also a lot of blunt force that is transferred through to the wearer. This blunt force can be fatal if you get struck in the right spot. This can be prevented by the addition of trauma plates over vital organs.
Level IIa body armor is made using ballistic materials like Spectra and Kevlar.
If an armor panel is made of Kevlar it will normally be tightly woven in a simple pattern and interlaced with more material as the panel is built. Spectra is normally not woven like Kevlar. Instead, the fibers are laid out parallel to one another and then laminated into sheets.
The bare ballistic material is then put inside an outer shell. These sleeves don’t provide any addition to the protection level of the armor but some are designed to catch any fragments that may come free when the bullet strikes.
This is where I need to give the obligatory disclaimer…I’m not a lawyer so only use this section as a guide. It is not legal advice.
Level IIa Body Armor Legality in the United States: In the United States it is illegal to possess body armor if you are a convicted felon. In Connecticut, it is illegal to ship body armor meaning that all sales must be made face to face. Many other states have made it a felony to commit a violent crime while wearing body armor. Others have made it illegal to wear body armor on school grounds. Check your local laws to be sure!
There has been some talk among politicians in the U.S. about making body armor illegal.
Level IIa Body Armor Legality in Canada: In Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia a license is required to possess body armor. In the remaining provinces, there are no restrictions.
Level IIa Body Armor Legality in the UK: In the United Kingdom, there are currently no legal restrictions on the purchase and ownership of body armor.
Level IIa Body Armor Legality in Australia: In Australia, it is illegal to possess body armor without proper authorization in South Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory, ACT, Queensland, and New South Wales.
The first thing you should do when buying body armor is to decide what type of threat you’re most likely to encounter.
- Are you going to be facing pistol fire or rifle fire?
- Do you need knife or spike protection?
- Is it okay if others know that you’re wearing body armor?
These are all questions you should ask yourself. With society’s sensitivity to anything that looks scary, you should give serious consideration to if you should be out in public wearing body armor. It may not be illegal, but it could freak people out and cause you an unnecessary headache.
What is soft body armor? Level II and soft body armor often refer to the same thing. When someone is discussing soft body armor they simply mean armor that can flex with the wearer. It can be level IIa, level II, and some level IIIa armor.
Does level IIa body armor expire? Level IIa body armor does have a shelf life. This is normally around 5 years after the date of manufacture. The armor will often be good for longer than that but companies have to err on the safe side when life is at risk.
What is hard body armor? Level IV and hard body armor often refer to the same thing. When someone is discussing hard body armor they mean armor that doesn’t flex. Level III body armor and level IV body armors are considered hard body armor. Some level IIIa armor is made as hard body armor as well.