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Police are being issued with new body armour designed to stop rifle bullets.

The new hard armour polyethylene plate replaces armour now considered too cumbersome.

The new armour has been designed to be worn front and back over existing stab-resistant body armour and to stop a heavy 7.62mm round and the 5.56mm round fired by many weapons.

The armour would stop most rifle rounds, said the police co-ordinator of firearms and tactical equipment Sergeant Graham Gubb.

It was introduced after police found difficulty wearing all their equipment with the old-style, full ballistic armour.

"It makes it easier [to wear] because it is just a small bib with two plates compared with the full ballistic body armour."

Staff enjoyed the increased mobility and the flexibility of use, he said.

Each set cost $1300 and they would be issued over the next three years throughout the country.

The police have also introduced new LED torches to be fitted to the general duties .223 calibre M4 rifles and new bright red drill rounds for the rifles and the Glock pistols.

- NZPA