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Ballistic shields are shields designed to stop or deflect bullets fired at their carrier.
Although modern ballistic shields are specifically designed to defeat handgun, long gun, and shotgun projectile threats, many will additionally defeat most types of stabbing or cutting-type weaponry, and hand-thrown or launched projectiles such as rocks and arrows. Reputable ballistic shield manufacturers design and produce ballistic shields to be in compliance with specific government ballistic protection levels, including those promulgated by the United States National Institute of Justice (NIJ) ballistic materials test protocol NIJ-Std-0108.01, which destructively tests free-standing armor configurations with projectile threats appropriate to design capabilities.
The most capable of hand-carried ballistic shields will reliably defeat high-velocity centerfire rifle calibers at muzzle velocities. Although perhaps better described as mantlets rather than shields, wheel-mounted rolling armored panels pushed along the ground by users are now being sold as a type of ballistic shield.
Recent advances in material science have resulted in more efficient bullet protective composites and ceramic ballistic shield products.
Mission compatibility is an important consideration when determining which shield design is most appropriate to provide protection against the anticipated threat(s). Also of importance is whether the shield will be used for defensive and observational purposes, such as tactical clearing operations by a SWAT team, or patrol operations requiring an armed response to neutralize an active shooter. In the article titled "How to Buy Personal Shields", the author questions shield use purpose, "Will policy authorize shield use during offensive duties and/or multiple dangerous patrol duties such as vehicle stops, building searches, and approaching possibly armed individuals? Or will policy dictate purely defensive shield usage such as perimeter establishment, observation, and slow clearing operations?"
There is no "one size fits all" shield design solution to encompass all potential uses and possible threats to a ballistic shield and its user. Many modern hand-carried ballistic shields provide clear armored viewing visors, lighting systems, kickstands, carrying straps, and other features or options. Other designs are more basic and provide only a simple armor panel bolted onto a handle.
- Stewart, James K., Director, US Department of Justice, Technology Assessment Programs, September 1985
- Armellino, Rick. (08 March 2010). "How to Buy Personal Shields". PoliceOne.
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