When I first wrote this article, it was right after Parkland. Although I knew that many parents were exploring this topic, I had no idea how many emails, stories, etc I would receive. I tried to address questions as best I could and responded to everyone that wrote and I learned a lot more about what is going on out there in the schools.
I also was approached to help ABC Amarillo report on bulletproof backpacks. You can read that story and watch the video here.
The biggest concern that many had after reading my article was how they could protect against rifles like the AR-15 or other major rifle. At the time I had to tell concerned parents that the only plate they can put in a pack to protect their child from guns like the AR is going to add 10-12 lbs of weight to their bag. This is still largely true.
There have been improvements since then but the plates that weigh only 4.4 lbs and provide Level IV protection are $700 through AR500 and must be pre ordered. There is no indication how long it will be before they can ship them out. At this price, it is far outside the budget of many people. Like all technology, over the years the price will go down.
I have added a section on bulletproof clothing since more of it has become available. I think it is worthwhile to explore the limitations of something that is being heavily marketed to concerned parents and costs so much.
Given the current level of violence and the fear of it becoming more widespread over time, there has been some interest in bulletproof backpacks. Some parents have considered this something that they can do to give their child some security and protection when they are not there.
A bulletproof backpack or insert also has the potential for a bug out or get home back. Some armor is better than nothing when you are in any position that may put you in the line of fire.
Those that work in public areas may also want to consider a bulletproof bag to keep in their office or cubicle. Government agency workers that may be targeted during political or economic strife should consider some protection that is easy and legal for them to have on hand.
The cost of a bulletproof backpack is under $200 in most cases. While that is not nothing, it is a price that can be absorbed into a lot of budgets. Keep in mind that the packs that come with an insert are also made to be very high-quality bags that will give you many years of reliable everyday use with little maintenance or care involved.
Some of the bags have removable inserts so that if you ever wear out the exterior backpack you can just pull out the insert and put it in another pack so you keep being protected.
The insert will stay for a long time if you don’t crack it or use it to take a bullet. Check the life expectancy of your armor before purchase so you know when it is getting old and in need of replacement to ensure maximum protection at all times.
Bullet Proof Protection Ratings
Any body armor is rated to let you know how large a caliber or how fast a velocity of bullet it has been designed to stop when it is fired directly at the armor or panel. The higher the level of protection, the more you are going to pay.
With some calibers being more common than others, plenty of people get a lower level. Remember that if you can get behind something else, your armor/panel will not have to take the same velocity or impact that it would otherwise. A lower level panel could still help you stop a bullet that normally would only be stopped by a panel that was rated at a higher level.
The National Institute of Justice Rating System
Body armor and bulletproof panels are rated using:
- Level 1 – You don’t really see anything with a Level 1 rating unless you are buying a used product. This level was around when bulletproof technology was still being developed and honed to the exceptional level we have today.
- Level 2-A – This is designed to stop calibers such as 9mm and .40 S&W with a full metal jacket
- Level 2 – Tested against 9mm and .357 magnum
- Level III-A – This is a high level of body armor and tested against .357 SIG and .44 Magnum bullets. If you have ever shot a .44 Magnum you know what I am talking about when I say that it is an extremely powerful bullet that can take down a Grizzly bear. I don’t practice with a .44 because it is too big for most circumstances. Having body armor or a pack that can stop something like that is pretty amazing to me. This is typically the level of armor used in packs and mid-priced inserts. This level will not stop an AR-15 or AK-47 round. For those that don’t remember, the AR-15 is what was used at the Parkland, Florida school shooting.
- Level III – Designed to stop a 7.62 x 39 full metal jacket AK round or .223 ammo like that used by the popular AR-15. This is the minimum needed to stop bullets from any of the major assault rifles.
- Level IV – This will stop many armor piercing rounds and is the highest level of protection you can currently buy. Typically this is used by SWAT teams and those that are at risk for being under heavy fire from large high-velocity rounds made to penetrate as deeply as possible.
Overall Weight Of Plates Is A Factor
The higher rated plates are made of hard materials and weight more than the Level IIIA and below plates. You cannot reliably stop a larger or high-velocity rifle bullet with the Kevlar-based soft plates found in most of the premade packs and clothing available for purchase.
If you are buying an insert or pack for a younger child, this is something to keep in mind. Double check the weight of any bag or insert to make sure it is an ok weight for the age and size of the child you are buying it for.
What level of protection is right for me?
Most actual shootings occur via a handgun not a rifle like the AR-15. This means that Level IIIA is all that would be needed for protection in almost all incidents. I know that the major incidents you hear about involve rifles, but that is just because the average shooting is not going to get the big news play.
Level IIIA is just fine for folks that are concerned about walking home from work or school or getting caught up in any urban incidents. Daisy Luther at The Organic Prepper did a post on the most violent cities in the world and 5 of them are in America.
Level IV is enough to protect you from armor piercing rounds, AR-15s, AK-47 rounds and more. It is a lot heavier than Level IIIA because it is made of ceramic and hard materials rather than the softer IIIA panels made to offer protection but be lightweight.
Actual Effectiveness Of Armored Plates
I think that any post recommending different types of bulletproof anything needs to cover the expectations versus the reality of the different grades of plates and armor available. Here are some facts that you need to keep in mind before making a purchasing decision,
- Most backpacks are rated only to Level III-A. This means it will not stop rounds from popular rifles such as the AR-15 or AK-47. You need Level IV for that and it costs more
- Many inserts and bags are tested to stop 5-6 bullets. This means that if you take a lot of fire some bullets may penetrate at least partially.
- Gunshots can be fatal without actually penetrating the armor. If you have certain health conditions such as heart arrhythmia or just get hit hard the impact can cause a fatal cardiac event no matter what age you are. Lower level plates are made of softer materials and that means while the bullet may not penetrate you, you are still dealing with the armor pushing in on you on impact.
Other Objects In Your Pack Can Add Extra Protection
The contents of your pack can help add extra stopping power. Laptops, heavy books, extra padding from coats, and more can all help prevent injuries or decrease any potential penetration.
Packs Versus Plates
The packs I have found below all offer Level IIIA protection. For Level III and IV protection, you are best off getting an insert due to availability. Major manufacturers of these premade packs seem to favor the IIIA rating for their standard packs.
Guard Dog Security ProShield Bulletproof Backpack Level IIIA
This pack offers a lot of comfort. The gel padded straps make this a pack suited to those that are traveling a lot or just walking around with what they need to get through the work or school day. Basic styling with all the modern features makes this a pack that you can blend in with.
You get a nice padded sleeve that fits a laptop up to 15 inches and 20 pockets to keep things organized. According to the ballistics tests done on this pack, it was shot 5 times each with .44 Magnum and .308 and there were zero penetrations.
I like how Guard Dog includes a copy of certified test results in the pics they post. It is always good when a company is upfront about the real quality of what they are selling you.
I could see this bag being useful for creating a bulletproof 72-hour kit or a get home/EDC bag in case of civil unrest or a natural disaster. For a long term bug out bag, it is a bit on the small side for an adult but could make a decent child-sized bag.
Guard Dog Security ProShield Bulletproof Backpack NIJ Certified IIIA
This is a classy looking business and professional looking backpack. The smooth leather style and TSA approved opening with RFID blocker pouch makes it a good choice for those that have to travel for work or that need something that looks good enough to replace a briefcase.
Let’s face it, a good backpack is far more useful and practical than a briefcase for travel.
This pack is definitely designed with the size of kids in mind. The panel and pack is lightweight enough for grade schoolers and it is made to keep them organized. The insert can be removed if desired and easily placed back in.
This is a very tough school bag but if you do happen to wear out the outer bag, keep in mind that the bulletproof insert has a 5-year warranty and can be put in other bags if desired.
Leatherback Gear Bulletproof Tactical Backpack
This is the most expensive pack on our list. Some of the features that make it stand out are that it has a zipper that allows you to take it apart and make it into a body armor vest in no time at all.
The straps and webbing are designed to be removable so they can be utilized as tourniquets, drag straps, or even for adding security to a door. There are a lot of different compartments in this bag including some hidden in the shoulder straps.
An RFID blocker pouch allows secure carry and storage of chip cards. Molle rigging makes the pack compatible with a lot of accessories. At just over 6 lbs this pack is not light but given how big it is as and the amenities it offers that is to be expected. This bag could be used as a bug out bag with some planning and additions made of course.
Any bag that has armor in it is going to weigh a few pounds more so the weight is just something you have to deal with if you want bulletproof protection. You can make up the weight in other areas such as using freeze-dried rations and clothing that is lighter weight yet keeps you warm and dry.
Sure, all that can make a bug out bag cost more to put together but being able to carry more and keep weight down can be well worth the investment in a SHTF scenario.
Guard Dog Security ProShield Smart Bulletproof Backpack
This is a smaller Guard Dog pack but it boasts a lot of storage compartments and is made to unzip all the way making it great for travel or those that work at facilities where bags need to be easily searchable.
I think it is kind of neat that they included a battery bank in this bag. Who doesn’t have a cell phone or some other small device that it would be useful to be able to keep charged?
For those concerned about the theft of personal information, there is an RFID blocker pouch to keep cards in for work, travel, or play.
AR500 makes affordable Level III & IV plates that can be inserted into backpacks easily. There are different sizes for different applications. They are a popular brand so be prepared to wait up to a week for your order to ship out when demand is high.
If you are concerned about being in a major event then this is the level of insert you want. Here are a few options for plates that offer a higher level of protection.
AR500 Armor® Level IV Body Armor 10″ x 12″
This plate is made of monolithic ceramic & polyethylene with comes with a 600 Denier water-resistant cover. It weighs 8.3 lbs and is a solid inch thick.
This weight and bulk make this too heavy for a younger child to have in their pack along with their other school supplies. I was pleased to see that it has been tested against multiple hits. Lead time to get this plate is 3 weeks at the time of writing.
My Pick For Best Pack Insert Regardless Of Weight
This insert is made to fit a lot of different packs and it offers protection against rifles. The price tag is hard to believe at $45 and is the rare exception to the rule I mentioned earlier about higher level plates costing more.
The downside is that this plate weighs 10 lbs! That is a lot of extra weight to carry. This panel has been independently tested and rated to NIJ 0101.06 standards to defeat six (6) rounds of 7.62×51 M80 NATO Ball from 51’ at 2,780 feet per second.
AR500 has a wide selection that I encourage you to explore before making your purchase decision.
Insert Or Pack with Included Insert?
Go with a premade if you don’t need past Level IIIA protection.
After looking at a lot of packs I have come to the conclusion that for most people buying a pack that already has an insert is a better option because it is more economical and you are guaranteed that the panel is the right size for the pack.
Inserts are good if you have a pack already and just want to add protection.
If you do choose to buy the insert because you already have a pack you like then make sure get the size that is best suited to your pack. Also, make sure to check the rating of what you are buying so you are clear on what level of protection you really have and what type of performance you are going to get over the years.
If your child is attached to a certain pack, then adding an insert can be easier than making them wear a drab adult style pack rather than the playful designs the other kids have.
Bullet Proof Clothing
There has been an increase in bulletproof clothing available to the general public. While this may be able to stop some rounds, it will not stop some of the calibers you hear about a lot in the news.
Bullet Proof Clothing is only Rated to Level IIIA. You don’t even have the option of getting Level III.
Impact still matters a lot. This is clothing, not a tactical vest.
The issue of impact is always looming. Something has to absorb all that force.
As I said earlier in the article, impact is going to make a huge difference and be very traumatizing to a small body. Something has to absorb the force. Even if bullet penetration is prevented, the person wearing the clothing will experience some impact. The smaller the person, the more trouble this will cause.
Bulletproof clothing costs more than a lot of backpacks
Clothing that is bulletproof is extremely expensive. How many people can afford $450 or more for a single piece of clothing? That is so far outside of the price range of a family trying to raise kids.
Let’s face it, kids are not always good about keeping up with their clothes when out playing. A backpack is one thing but how often do kids leave sweatshirts and other clothing at school, friends houses, or on the bus?
When it comes to weight, a bulletproof hoodie weighs 4-9 lbs depending on size. That is going to be hot and heavy.
Bulletproof clothing does offer protection options for those that have strict backpack policies at school or work.
A parent wrote to me and said that there was a no backpack in classroom rule. At schools like this a bulletproof backpack is not really an options. In that case, a piece of bulletproof clothing may be the easiest option despite the cost if you want to provide good protection.
At other schools clear backpacks are required and is another example of where bulletproof clothing would be your only real route for protection.
It can take 3-4 weeks to get a bulletproof hoodie despite their high cost.
I can be a little impatient. To me, 3-4 weeks to get a single piece of clothing seems like a long time for something that costs so much. Perhaps when they catch up with demand or more companies start selling bulletproof clothing, the turn around time will go down.
Wearing the same hoodie or clothing everyday is not something most people do.
I remember when I was in school that if you wore the same clothes a lot people would say something about it. While wearing the same winter or fall jacket is not looked at weird, I don’t know if wearing the same hoodie or similar on a lot of days is something a kid would want to do.
There are other items of clothing out there but if you start buying a lot of different styles that are bulletproof you will run out of money
The Armor Vs Projectile Race
Throughout human history we have been designing bigger or more powerful weapons. When armor is designed that can deflect that force, we go back to the drawing board and come up with something even more devastating.
The same thing is happening with body armor. Now that there are relatively inexpensive vests and helmets that can stop the common 5.56 AR-15 round, the military is replacing it with something that will penetrate all but the best and most expensive body armor.
The 6.5 mm Creedmoor is a cartridge that will pierce a lot of armor and the new standard issue Army rifle will be chambered to accept that round. Level IV armor will stop it but not every force the Army is fighting against has good access to armor with that level of protection. The cost is much higher and the armor is heavier unless you get the most advanced armor and that is outside the budget of many enemies both foreign and domestic.
Rifles using the Creedmoor cartridge are definitely available to the public as well. If I get a chance I am going to test one out.
Of course there will be an effort by more companies to create armor that can protect against the larger rounds while not weighing a ton, but it is currently outrageously expensive at $700 a plate, especially when you consider that you would probably want a plate for your chest and one for your back.
While some protection is better than nothing, one needs to realize the limitations of even the most expensive and lightweight armor and clothing out there.
School can be a rough place. I could see how being the kid with the parent that makes them go to school with a bulletproof pack could cause some negativity and even bullying. Allowing them to have a pack like everyone else but adding some protection could be a way to avoid them getting pinpointed as being different. Also, it decreases the chances that anyone notices the pack is bulletproof and steals it.
Bulletproof bags and body armor being so common and desired is sad.
Writing this made me think a lot about how disturbing it is that so many people feel that they need bulletproof armor to attend school or work.
While many are calling for gun control as a solution to these problems, I think that a lot of the actual causes of the violence and lack of hope present today are being ignored. Banning guns will not stop acts of violence from happening on a large scale if someone or a group is determined to hurt others.
I feel for the parents that have no choice but to send their kids to public schools that resemble prisons in many ways. Achievement is discouraged because if you stand out too much the bullying is relentless and since there is a no tolerance policy, kids have to be afraid of getting in trouble for defending themselves.
When kids can’t sit still or are having emotional trouble, the doctors want to throw pills at it that have such side effects as increasing the risk of suicide and a slew of other effects that we are still figuring out.
People want to talk about guns in the hands of young adults but it seems that the fact that all the major shootings in recent times were committed by men that were taking pharmaceuticals for emotional issues.
I don’t want to scream for or against guns because that has been going on for far too long. What we need is people actually working together to combat the societal issues that have left the younger generations in tatters.
People can say that it is lack of religion, lack of parental involvement, etc but it is far more complicated than all that. Giving kids productive and meaningful things to do instead of medicating them would be a good start.
There is a difference between true chemical imbalances and disorders and boredom combined with an infectious lack of hope. It can be hard to try for better when you see people around you that are working full time or more and barely scraping by in the current economy.
People are so busy meeting basic needs that any goals beyond that are out of their reach. I realize that there are some that are perfectly happy to just get by but if you are someone that wants more, it can be pretty hard to get there no matter how hard you work.
There was a time in this country when a man out of high school could get a job at a grocery store, have a house, get married, have a few kids, get a new car every few years, etc and his wife didn’t have to work to make ends meet unless she wanted to. Now it takes two incomes to barely scrape by. It is a different world for the kids today.
And they wonder why so many are pulling kids out of public school and homeschooling today. I am just one person and I don’t profess to know how to solve all these problems for they are so deep. I am hoping that we can all come together soon and stop the extremism and get things on a better path.
Do you use body armor? Have you or are you considering making your child’s pack bulletproof? Have you ever been in a situation where you stopped a bullet with armor?
What steps do you think are needed to fix some of the underlying problems causing these violent incidents? Please keep it civil and well thought out. Helping me prove that these things can be discussed in a civil manner.
If you enjoyed this article, consider following our Facebook page.