Bulletproof Backpacks & Shields: Does it Work?

Published On: May 01 2013 06:39:57 PM CDT   Updated On: May 01 2013 09:59:11 PM CDT
Bulletproof Backpacks & Shields: Does it Work?

Would you be willing to pay a hefty price tag to protect your children in school?

Companies are marketing bulletproof backpacks in wake of school shootings. One is the "Backpack Shield," it's a shield you put inside an existing backpack. It retails for $255 online. The other is the "Bullet Blocker Bulletproof Everyday Backpack." It's pricier at $270. Both have the same ballistic resistance rating, a level IIIA.

Troy Selby, Reno County Sheriff Sergeant, helped test the products. He said the backpack's ballistic resistance rating is similar to bulletproof vests that law enforcement officers wear.

To get the National Institute of Justice rating, products go through extreme testing. Sgt. Selby suggested a basic test at a gun range.
"What we're going to do is step back, off a minimum safe distance and fire a variety of rounds that the manufacturers claim will stop," Sgt. Selby said. "I think it's a pretty real life test."

Sgt. Selby fitted a backpack with the "Backpack Shield" inside, on the steel frame. He used a 9mm handgun first, the shield stopped the round.
We also tested a .357 magnum, .45 ACP, and a .44 Magnum, in that order.  None of the rounds penetrated the "Backpack Shield."

Finally, the 12-gauge shotgun slug.

"It did stop it," Sgt. Selby said.

He says the "Backpack Shield" performed up to the level IIIA standards.

We also put the "Bullet Blocker Bulletproof Everyday Backpack" to the test. The backpack itself is not bulletproof. It says the panel it holds inside is bulletproof.

Sgt. Selby again fired a 9mm handgun at the backbpack. The panel stopped the round. We continued our testing the same way. The "Bullet Blocker Bulletproof Everyday backpack" stood-up to all of our rounds. Except for the 12-gauge shotgun slug.

"It went through," Sgt. Selby said.

The bullet penetrated through the backside of the backpack.

Sgt. Selby said he tried to place his rounds to prevent an unfair advantage to the rounds that follow.

"That's one of the NIJ standards," he said. "They actually shoot multiple rounds in the same areas of the vest and they have to perform up to that standard," Sgt. Selby said.

Because of the way we tested this product, Sgt. Selby said he could not say for sure what the slug would have done to somebody on the other side of the backpack. But he did say the "Bullet Blocker Bulletproof Everyday Backpack" did not perform up to standards during our testing.

"I wouldn't want to wear it," Sgt. Selby said.

Eyewitness News reached-out to the makers of the "Bullet Blocker Bulletproof Everyday Backpack." The company's CEO responded quickly. He said the bullet-resistant panel is rated to withstand a shotgun slug. Here is his edited repsonse from two different emails:

"Ms. Scheffler,

Sometimes, in addition to "testing" outside these parameters, the urge to "test" with an assault rifle cannot be subdued. Obviously, the results aren't favorable. The assault rifle reference is an extreme example of failure due to testing beyond reasonable boundaries.  

Without detailed knowledge of the methodology of your "testing", I cannot begin to opine on the shotgun slug's penetration of an NIJ IIIA rated panel. The panel in an Everyday pack is roughly 12''x16." This leaves about an 8"x12" area to impact with fair hits considering the acceptable minimum shot-to-edge distance requirement specified by the active NIJ standards. Within the 8"x12" zone, all 5 shots must also satisfy the NIJ minimum shot-to-shot distance requirements.

Without having the opportunity to examine any specific data, the tested panel or any relevant facts regarding the "testing", any comment from me is blind conjecture.  I do, however, have full faith in our White's Lab certification which tested our panel under specific guidelines and conditions as outlined by the NIJ." - Elmar Uy

The inserts are relatively light. The "Backpack Shield" weighs less than two pounds. Sgt. Selby said if you want more protection, against assault rifles for instance, you would need a heavier insert.

Also keep in mind, many kids don't have their backpacks with them through the entire school day. These backpacks might be more useful for college students who walk around with their backpacks, most of the time.

Does it work?