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Home Office Body Armor Standard 2017 (Bullet proof vests)

Since 1993, The Home Office has released test standards for bullet proof vests and stab proof vests, and since then a lot has happened. Test methods have developed and improved with the knowledge gained after years of research and experience, so that you as a user you can get body armor that is tested against the newest and most advanced threats. 

Home Office Body Armor Standard 2017 highlights the minimum requirements for the testing of bulletproof and bulletproof vests for the English police.

The requirements for the Home Office Body Armor Standard 2017 is made on the basis of a number of consultations with the national police, police associations, end users of body armor, body armor manufacturers, test laboratories and other technical experts. All in all, The Home Office Body Armor Standard 2017 is designed to protect you from the latest and most advanced threats. 

The difference from HOSDB Body Armor Standards for UK Police 2007 is as follows:

  • “Formed armor testing", which is in connection with bullet proof vests for women or vests that are molded. (Body armor that is NOT flat) needs to be tested for "shaped armor testing". 
  • The bullet proof levels are different in the Body Armor Standard 2017, as these reflect the current requirements for the British police. 
  • The rifle test is made on a male and female torso to give a better assessment of the protection against rifle shoots. 
  • Production Quality Testing (PQT): This is a tool to ensure the manufacturing of soft armor in the highest possible quality. This is a further development of the current quality control of certified body armor, which means the manufacturer must comply with a certain amount of requirements.
  • "In-life monitoring (ILM)": This is a periodic test made to ensure that the body armor meets their lifespan. For example, body armor with a 10-year guarantee needs to be able to provide the same protection if it is 1 or 10 years old. 

Different types of body armor

Home Office Body Armor Standard 2017 has categorized the different types of bullet and stab proof inserts that are available. For example, almost all bullet proof vests for men are made with a flat insert, whereas vests for women the insert are shaped by at chest. This also means that you must test these differently as the body armor is made for 2 different target groups. 

Unformed armor (flat vests)

Flat bullet proof vests are typically designed for men. This will be what you know as a bullet or stab proof vest where the inserts is completely flat if you put it on a table. If the vest is made for a woman, it must be tested in accordance with the next paragraph, as this will be formed. 

Formed armor (shaped vests) 

Shaped bullet or stab proof vests are body armor that is not flat, but shaped in advance to follow the shape of the body. For example, bullet proof vests for women or polycarbonate stab proof vests are shaped in advance to follow the shape of the body. Like the armor of a knight.

Ballistic plates

A Ballistic Hard armor plate needs to be tested either stand alone or in conjunction with the type of bullet proof vest. A Ballistic plate that are used in conjunction with an unformed bullet proof vest has to be tested together with this, and vice versa a hard armor plate used in conjunction with bullet proof vest for women needs to be tested with this.

When testing a flat bullet proof vest, the backing material where you measure the depth/blunt trauma of the bullet impact will be a on a flat clay background. When you test a bullet proof vest for women, you will do this on a torso that is shaped after a female body.

This gives a more realistic picture of what would happen in a real episode with a bullet impact of knife stab. This ensures that you do not test a bullet proof vest made for men, and then manufacture it for women afterwards. This means that body armor for men and women needs to be tested individually, where it was enough to test only one before. 

A bullet proof vest made for men will use the above background to measure the Back Face Signature, which also is the same used for the NIJ standard. Note that it is completely flat. The gray square area consists of a particular type of clay that needs to represent the depth of the bullet impact as there is a maximum limit of how deep the bullet can go into the clay. 

For a bullet proof vest made for women, or a vest that is molded, you will use a shaped armor as backing material, also called formed armor testing. 

The increased requirements for Formed armor testing and “Flat” testing means more safety for you as end-user as the test become more specific to the individual user. Previously, the test was much wider as it was the same for both men and women, where it now is a requirement they are tested individually. 

The bullet proof vest is required to be 100% water proof! 

According to ISO811: 1981, all bullet and stab proof inserts needs to be sealed in a 100% proof cover so that the ballistic and stab proof materials cannot be exposed to moisture or any kind of liquids. This needs to be tested and proven for CAST (HOSDB), as regular checks are made on this.

Bullet Proof Protection Levels for Body Armor Standard 2017 

Before we begin to describe the individual bullets that each level needs to be able to stop, we will first review what requirements that are made before each shot is "approved".

A bullet proof vest/ballistic plate need to comply with the following before the shot count as part of the test:

  • No shot must penetrate the bullet proof insert at any time.
  • It is not allowed to be able to see any of the shot from the "body side". This means that the bullet needs to be stopped in the body armor and no perforating is allowed.
  • No bullet residues are allowed to leave the body side when hit.
  • Fragments (ceramics or small pieces of metal from the shot) are not allowed in the clay on the “body side”.
  • BFS (back face signature) cannot exceed the specified requirements for each level. 

In addition, a fair strike shall be recorded if:

  • The shoot must maintain the correct velocity according to the individual levels. The shot may be fired at a higher speed than stated in the Home Office Body Armor Standard 2017.
  • The shoots must be correctly positioned on the ballistic insert or plate. There are some required shot placements that need to be followed; how far the shot needs to be placed from each other and edge shots.


• The shot must be fired so that it hits with an angle of 90 degrees unless other is specified. 

If the shots comply with the following, they will be categorized as a "Fair Strike", and referred to as a correct shot according to the Home Office Body Armor Standard 2017. 

Bullet proof levels for HOSDB Body Armor Standard 2017


*7.62x39 mm details can be found in appendix D.

**A Ballistic plate tested to HO4 also needs to meet the requirements for HO3.

The following levels of protection below are special threats that you can choose to test against, as it is different for the UK police what type of ammunition they use.