Let’s dive right into the topic of bulletproof backpacks. Are they worth it or not? Is it all marketing or is there a general need for the product? I know this is likely to ruffle the feathers of some folks regardless of which side of the fence you are sitting…but, a little back and forth is always good.
With that being said, let’s try to stay somewhat focused on the viability, practicality, etc., of such a product. We can save the gun control debate and everything surrounding that for another time.
What is a bulletproof backpack?
For the purposes of this article, we are going to simply define a bulletproof backpack as a “backpack” containing a bulletproof or bullet-resistant insert through design or modification. Basically, any bag worn on your back offering a level of protection equaling or exceeding IIIA standards.
Body armor protection levels?
NIJ (National Institute of Justice) 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. NIJ also administers a program to test commercially available armor for compliance with the standards to determine whether the vests meet NIJ’s minimum performance standards.
The NIJ ballistic resistance standard classifies body armor by levels of ballistic performance. For any performance level, NIJ’s test protocol requires that the bullet does not perforate the vest and that the vest protects against blunt trauma.
For a quick visual of the varying levels of body armor protection, take a look at this.
Why carry a bulletproof backpack?
Is it paranoia or preparedness? I guess it depends on your perspective. According to Statista, in 2019 there were 67 fatalities and 106 injuries related to mass shootings. With an estimated 329,000,000 people living in the United States, the odds are EXTREMELY low you will ever be a victim of one of these incidents.
Yes, I know numbers are all over the place depending on definition, source, gang related vs. non-gang related, etc. Regardless of the number you settle on in terms of fatalities and injuries, it will barely move the needle compared to the population size.
Again, the question is “why not carry one”? If you think it’s a waste of money, cool. If you think it’s paranoia, good for you. If you think it’s prudent, right on. There is no right or wrong answer here. Make the decision based on your needs and applications.
Will a bulletproof backpack work?
NBC News released an article in August 2019 and stated the following:
Sales of bulletproof backpacks have spiked almost 300 percent following a spate of school shootings and the recent attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Yet, none of the backpacks currently on the market would have stopped a single rifle round coming from those gunmen.
In my opinion, this is misleading due to the fact they chose to reference specific incidents where rifles were used. I feel like we have to look at the big picture here.
When looking at mass shootings overall, handguns lead the pack in terms of the most common type of firearm used.
Find more statistics at Statista
This rings true for overall gun violence as well. When you look at the number of murder victims in the United States in 2018, by weapon, handguns are still in the lead. If you are playing the odds, protection from handguns would make sense.
Find more statistics at Statista
Where could a bulletproof backpack be used?
The simple answer is anywhere you can carry a backpack. Think of settings like work, school, shopping, travel, etc. Yes, you can even take it on an airplane.
According to the TSA, generally, body armor is allowed in carry-on or checked bags. Please note however that even if an item is generally allowed, our officers make the final decision on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.
Keep in mind, like they always state in fine print: The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.
Could you get hassled by TSA? Yes. That’s just the cost of doing business. It happens to me all the time over things that are completely legal and permissible. However, if TSA allows us to carry body armor on to planes in our carry-on, there should be less scrutiny in relation to a bulletproof insert.
Commercial Bulletproof Backpacks
If you search the phrase “Bulletproof Backpack“, you will get plenty of results from various manufacturers. There are no lack of companies offering “complete kits”, meaning a backpack with a bulletproof insert included.
In reference to the few I looked at, prices ranged from $89 to $399. Bulletproof sling packs could be found for slightly cheaper. Keep in mind, each manufacturer may offer varying levels of protection and they may not all be up to snuff. Be sure to conduct proper research before purchasing.
DIY Bulletproof Backpack
Another option is to buy a bulletproof insert or bulletproof plate and use it with a backpack you already have. If you are buying a product marketed for this exact application, you are looking at spending $65 and up.
Of course, there are other options if you consider using plates or panels designed for other applications. We haven’t even started exploring those options yet.
My setup is pretty simple.
Back in August, I came across a special on Hardwire Hard Bulletproof Bag Insert Level 3A. They normally retail for $119 and I picked this one up for $49.99 with free shipping. Hardwire describes this insert as offering Level IIIA protection while weighing approximately 1 lb. The dimensions are 10” x 13” x 0.25”.
I paired this insert with a VERTX EDC Ready Pack (1.0), which came with a concealed zipper compartment that is compatible with ballistic inserts. It should be noted, there is a newer version out (2.0) offering the same feature, but I have not used it yet.
The insert integrates smoothly and outside of the additional 1 pound (hardly noticeable), you would never know the difference. As a side bonus, the insert doubles as a small dry erase board to use for instructing or any other application.
For me, it was a cheap way for me to give this concept a go. I figured for $50 what did I have to lose ($50, I guess)? Also, for $10 you can get a ballistic sample from HARDWIRE so you can test their product for effectiveness prior to making a larger investment. Not a bad option for the skeptic.
So, should you invest in a bulletproof backpack or not? That is totally your call. This is a super subjective topic and I feel like the only “right” answer is whatever works for you.
If you have a bulletproof backpack already, let me know why you bought one. If you think it’s total hogwash, let me know that as well.