This study used a combined experimental and modeling approach to characterize and quantify the interaction among bullet, body armor, and human surrogate targets during the range that is crucial to evaluating the protective effectiveness of body armor against blunt injuries. Ballistic tests incorporating high-speed flash X-ray measurements were performed to acquire the deformations of bullets and body armor samples placed against ballistic clay and gelatin targets with images taken between and 1 ms of the initial impact. Finite element models (FEMs) of bullet, armor, and gelatin and clay targets were developed with material parameters selected to best fit model calculations to the test measurements. FEMs of bullet and armor interactions were then assembled with a FEM of a human torso and FEMs of clay and gelatin blocks in the shape of a human torso to examine the effects of target material and geometry on the interaction. Test and simulation results revealed three distinct loading phases during the interaction. In the first phase, the bullet was significantly slowed in about as it transferred a major portion of its energy into the body armor. In the second phase, fibers inside the armor were pulled toward the point of impact and kept on absorbing energy until about after the initial impact when energy absorption reached its peak. In the third phase, the deformation on the armor’s back face continued to grow and energies inside both armor and targets redistributed through wave propagation. The results indicated that armor deformation and energy absorption in the second and third phases were significantly affected by the material properties (density and stiffness) and geometrical characteristics (curvature and gap at the armor-target interface) of the targets. Valid surrogate targets for testing the ballistic resistance of the armor need to account for these factors and produce the same armor deformation and energy absorption as on a human torso until at least about (maximum armor energy absorption) or more preferably (maximum armor deformation).