Investigation: Bulletproof backpacks, inserts put to the test

When students go to school for the day, they and their loved ones know: violence can happen at any moment. With two mass school shootings in three months, more parents are taking notice of bulletproof school supplies.

Bulletproof options

There are a number of bulletproof backpacks or bulletproof inserts for bags on the market. Each should have a specific ballistic rating, telling you what type of firearm they are designed to protect against.

For our test, we focused on two items with a federal protection rating of NIJ IIIA; a backpack and a backpack insert.

Aaron Forum, who served as a Green Beret and owns Shoot Center in Cape Coral, helped us test them.

“Level IIIA body armor should protect you from very common handgun calibers,” Forum said.

Test Results

One item we tested was a backpack insert made by Bullet Blocker. The other, a bulletproof backpack made by Guard Dog.

The backpack insert is lightweight, and about the same length and width as a piece of paper. An empty, bulletproof backpack is heavier than a regular one and feels like it has a small textbook inside.

“Body armor kind of works like a net. What it does is it slows down the velocity of the projectile, it also causes it to turn,” Forum said.

For our test, each backpack had one large textbook inside. We fastened the items to the target 16 feet away from the muzzle, approximately half the length of a typical classroom.

First, Forum tested a 9MM handgun, a firearm commonly used by law enforcement.

Both items stopped the 9MM.

“What you see on the back is just the paint from our test dummy, but there’s no actual penetration.”

Next, he tried a 44 Magnum.

Again, he shot multiple rounds in a similar area.

“When we get into the ballistic panel, what we’re looking for is all the rounds to be captured. I can feel them.”

And again, the bullets were stopped.

Last, he used a semi-automatic sporting rifle, similar to the gun used in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. While the gear does not say it will stop something of this caliber, we wanted to see what happens.

“I fully anticipate this will go through the backpack, through the book, through the body armor, through the rubber dummy, all the way through the paper,” Forum explained.

And it did.

While the products did not stop the sporting rifle, they did stop the handguns.

“I’m really impressed with how they both performed overall,” Forum said

Cost

The items aren’t exactly cheap. The backpack insert is $99 and the backpack is $189.99. If you choose to purchase an insert, be sure it’s the same length and width as the backpack.

If you’re interested in purchasing one of these items, you may want to do it now. Both took more than a month to arrive after placing the ordering.

Bullet Blocker and Guard Dog issued us these statements:

Bullet Blocker:

“All of our products are manufactured or modified in-house and are made to order. The ballistics are rated for a 5 year life-span and we do not want to pre-make product shortening their shelf-life. With all of the recent & rapid interest in personal security products we where (sic) inundated with orders and it caused a backlog. It took a long time for you to get your order because of the extreme interest people had in protecting themselves and their children. We take great pride in our American made and high quality manufacturing of our products and because of that it naturally takes longer to deliver.

“We do all we can to keep the price as low as possible. I started the company to let as many people (civilians) as possible be able to afford some top of the line protective gear for themselves and their children. We do all of our manufacturing in the US and purchase all that we can from other US companies so it costs us much more than other companies selling imported (mostly from China) ballistic gear. We also use the latest Kevlar, which is lighter and more flexible than anything on the market (higher level than most law enforcement uses) but is expensive. We maintain a very tight margin to keep the price as low as possible. Our companies mission is to make as many people safe as possible, not get rich.”

Guard Dog:

“Our backpacks are custom designed and include features like built-in phone chargers and other travel-friendly features. The price point is often found to be less than the market, and even many panels/inserts.

“Our backpacks unexpectedly sold out in February and we have been working on replenishing inventory as a result.
We also advise against the use of bulletproof panels/inserts as they could be willingly or unwillingly removed.”

Reporter:Allison Gormly
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