Body armor is tested for efficacy using the NIJ’s clay standard. This standard is based on a 44 mm upper limit of back face deformation into the clay to prevent severe cases of behind armor blunt trauma (BABT). The NIJ clay standard has never been directly correlated with human injury, and it is previously unknown how 44 mm into clay translates to the response of a human torso. This study developed a method for reproducing BABT in a laboratory setting, and performed matched pair testing on the ballistics clay and a cadaveric specimen. Tests at a low, non-injurious speed and a high, injurious speed were performed at the NIJ specified clay temperature, along with two tests at a lower temperature representing exposure to a room temperature setting. It was found that for both speeds the displacement into the human thorax was greater than the displacement into the clay. The greatest displacement into the clay was only 5mm above the standard’s limit, and the same speed into the human model caused failure of the ribcage. Lowering the clay temperature by two degrees Celsius resulted in a passing clay displacement for the extremely injurious high speed test. This experimentation is sufficient in showing that the NIJ standard may not be valid for preventing serious BABT injuries in the wearers of body armor. Further testing is required to correlate clay displacements with human injury risk.

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