Not all bulletproof backpack inserts are the same. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know when it comes to ballistic backpack protection.
Are you looking for a bulletproof backpack insert? Whether you landed here because you’ve seen them in the news or you just decided to look for new ways to protect yourself or your kids, you probably have a lot of questions:
- What guns/ammunition will it stop?
- How much does it weigh?
- How much does it cost?
- Will it actually keep me/my child safe?
- And many more…
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at our bulletproof backpack inserts.
What are the different types, or levels, of bulletproof backpack protection? The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has been setting voluntary body armor standards since 1972.
The NIJ standard is the only nationally accepted standard for the body armor worn by law enforcement and corrections officers, and its ballistic resistance standard classifies body armor by levels of ballistic performance. The chart below shows those classifications:
Most bulletproof backpacks are classified as Level IIIA, which means they will stop at least four rounds from most handguns.
The majority of ballistic backpack inserts on the market fall into this classification; they are meant to protect against multiple rounds from 9mm, .357 Magnum, and .44 Magnum ammunition.
What does a Level IIIA bulletproof backpack insert really stop?
Here is a video testing the ShotStop Level 3a bulletproof backpack inserts:
High-Powered Rifle Protection | A Completely Different Level of Backpack Insert
In many recent mass shootings, it’s not handguns that shooters are using, but rather high-powered rifles like the AK-47 and AR-15.
In order for a bulletproof backpack insert to stand up against this level of firepower, it must be classified by the NIJ as Level III, a major step up from the basic Level IIIA protection referenced above.
Because these high-powered rifles have the potential to do much more damage, the requirement of the number of rounds this level of insert stops increases to six shots. While the majority of bulletproof backpack inserts are rated for handgun protection (Level IIIA), there are a number of inserts that comply with the NIJ’s Level III requirements.
Can a backpack insert really stop shots from an AR-15?
Here is a video testing ShotStop’s rifle-rated (Level 3) bulletproof backpack insert.
Once you start talking about rifle-rated backpack inserts, the construction process, and materials used to produce these inserts make a big difference in weight, comfort, and cost.
Because a primary feature of a bulletproof insert is to be thin enough to fit inconspicuously into a backpack or computer bag, there are only a couple of materials that provide rifle protection in the form of a bulletproof backpack insert; steel and polyethylene.
Steel Bulletproof Backpack Inserts
Steel backpack inserts can be very inexpensive, but because they’re steel, they are also very heavy – 8 to 10 lbs. depending on the size.
They are also very thin, which is a positive, but 8+ lbs. in a child’s backpack or your computer bag or purse is quite a bit of extra weight.
Polyethylene Bulletproof Backpack Inserts
Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) is the latest advancement in ballistic material.
Polyethylene technology offers the best protection at the lowest weight.
These polyethylene inserts provide the same level of protection as their steel competition, but at a fraction of the weight.
Keeping Our Kids and Ourselves Safe
So, the big question covering all the questions we’ve addressed so far is this: DOES A BULLETPROOF BACKPACK INSERT WORK? Will it protect my child or me?
The purpose of a bulletproof backpack insert is to keep your child safe in an active shooter situation. We can talk all day about the number of shots an insert is rated to stop, and how thin or light it is, but if it is not available to the student or isn’t properly used, it won’t be good for anything.
Any backpack insert should be placed in the back of the bag; this also takes advantage of the added benefit of anything else in the bag being hit first, thus improving the effectiveness of the insert. As shown in the illustrations below, the backpack should be held in such a way that it covers the head and chest.
A question that comes up often is, “What if the kids can’t or don’t carry their backpack throughout the school?”
This is a very good question. Different schools have different rules, but in some cases a child’s backpack may be in a locker, out of reach in an emergency situation. An option for this is to keep the ballistic insert nearby inside a desk or with a stack of books on the desk.
For middle and high school students who may carry books outside a backpack from class to class, the insert can be included in that stack of books. Again, this is where thickness and weight become very important.