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A ballistic shield or tactical shield is a hand-held shield that is capable of defending the user from handguns, shotguns and submachine guns. Less common are heavier and thicker rifle-protection shields that are mounted on wheels for ease of mobility. Ballistic shields have been used by law enforcement and military throughout the twentieth century.
There are various types of ballistic shields, modified for specific tasks.
Generally rectangular in shape, these protective shields have, until recently, been used to provide ballistic protection to law enforcement SWAT tactical team members during dynamic entry situations and approaches towards potentially armed individuals. While SWAT already wear heavier armor than regular officers, their protection usually only covers their head, chest, and other vitals, leaving their arms and legs exposed. The ballistic shield is most necessary in situations where the SWAT team has little or no cover.
Although SWAT teams make use of long guns in tactical operations the shooter must understand that the shield will only protect what is behind and below it, which is often best accomplished with a handgun.
Modern ballistic shields are examined against the U.S. government ballistic protection rating standard, NIJ-Std 0108.01. They typically rate Threat Level Type IIIA protection which can stop most handguns (9mm and .45), however some manufacturers' shields cover IIIA, IIIB (Rifles) and IV, which stops armor-piercing rifle rounds.
Ballistic shields are also certified to many international standards where different ballistic threats are identified. Subsonic and supersonic rounds found around the world vary considerably from those found in the US and police and military clients have need to be protected from the threats within their jurisdiction. Tencate, United Shield, Mehler, ISBI and MKU are some notable providers of ballistic shields rated to international threat levels.
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