There are four major ballistics standards generally recognized in the world:
(Abbreviation - country of origin)
- CEN - Belgium
- DIN - Germany
- NIJ - USA (National Institute of Justice)
- UL - USA (Underwriter Laboratories)
Other countries have developed their own standards as well, including the UK, Italy and Mexico. These standards are “take-offs” of the above universally-used standards. Are there differences between these tables? Yes, although most are very small. Nonetheless, it’s important to understand the differences when devising specifications, especially if the host country has licensing or taxing requirements based on specifications.
Is there one universal specification ? Yes and No. The most prevalent standard worldwide is the Belgium CEN Norm table. Far West Consulting Group recommends this table for the development of specifications and ballistic testing, as it is generally a higher defeat level than NIJ specifications and thus safer.
Internationally, there are two major laboratories that were created by the German Government for ballistic testing: the most commonly known is the Ulm Laboratory in Ulm, Germany.
In the US, H.P.White Laboratory in Maryland has been the most prominent commercial test laboratory. The difference between H.P.White and the German labs is the difference between testing samples and testing complete vehicles. The OEM’s who either build their own armored vehicle (BMW and Mercedes) or have it assembled for them (Audi, VW, Rolls Royce, etc) use one of the German test labs to verify ballistic integrity by testing the completed vehicle as opposed to static samples. Although HP White offers complete live ballistic testing of vehicles, few major armorers utilize them vs. the German firms. Of the independents armorers (non-OEM), we are aware of only a few that have the financial resources to completely test a vehicle under the Ulm protocol as it means the entire vehicle is hit with over 200 rounds.
The purpose of shooting an entire vehicle is to probe the weakest areas under real-world attack conditions. Typical sample testing of ninety degree-straight on shots only validate the most basic properties of the opaque or glass materials. The weak areas are seams around the doors and windows. Forty five and sixty degree impact angles on an actual vehicle will test the ballistic engineering and how it defeats not only rounds, but secondary projectiles (sometimes referred to as Spall). In most documented cases, secondary projectiles cause more injuries and deaths than do the rounds themselves.
The threat of world wide terror and the war in Iraq have caused the majority of armored vehicles to be specified at the CEN B-6 threat level (see our ballistic chart). This has also brought to light the lack of a blast standard to meet the threat of IED’s (new terminology meaning Improvised Explosive Devices).The US Government is working on a blast specification since according to recent press, over 70% of the casualties in Iraq are due to IED’s not bullets. A prominent Independent Armorer just released its own IED blast specification. We will see more of this until a standard is agreed to.
Meanwhile, the cost and engineering complexity of blast protection will separate those who have and can afford it, from those who can’t afford and therefore don’t have it. Again, knowing and understanding world standards to specify based on the vehicle mission is crucial: making sure you actually get what you specified is critical.