Do Bulletproof Backpacks Work?

September 06, 2023

Do bulletproof backpack inserts work?

Bulletproof backpacks provide protection against a range of weapon calibers, depending on the armor level. Most inserts are rated Level IIIA, which means they will protect against handguns firing 9mm to .44 magnum.

backpack body armor being put inside a backpack for protection

Stronger inserts rated Level III and Level IV will protect against a larger range of weapon caliber, including rifle rounds. It's important to keep in mind that nothing can be truly bulletproof, but rather bullet resistant.


What is a bulletproof backpack?

When people talk about having a bulletproof backpack, they are referring to their bag being able to provide a level of protection similar to that of body armor. This could be by placing a ballistic insert or panel inside the bag, or buying an all-in-one backpack solution.

woman carrying bulletproof backpack into building

How To Make A Bulletproof Backpacks

Both bulletproof inserts and bulletproof backpacks are made of layers of synthetic fibers woven together in a tight crisscross pattern to form a strong yet flexible weave. The process is repeated multiple times creating sheets that are stacked on top of each other and sewn into one piece.

bulletproof backpack inserts made from sheets of stacked kevlar material

This panel is then sewn into the bags design for an all-in-one solution, or covered with an outer material for a versatile insert. Premier Body Armor backpack inserts use Kevlar® as the core material and Cordura® for the outer covering. Cordura® is a woven nylon and filament yarn that creates a sturdy, waterproof fabric outer covering.

Reinforcing a backpack with body armor is a great way to increase the ballistic protection of a bag or backpack. 

How Do Bullet Proof Backpacks Work?

When a bullet hits the backpack, the layers of aramid fibers absorb the energy and the tight weave traps the bullet, stopping deeper advancement. Think of it like a tight spiderweb that catches the bullet, preventing it from passing through the material. Our backpack armor has been tested to withstand multiple hits.


Would Bulletproof Backpacks Really Be Effective?

The effectiveness of a bulletproof backpack or panel depends on factors such as the type of bullet, its speed, angle of impact, and the construction of the protective layer. While these backpacks have been marketed as a tool for protecting students during potential active shooter situations, it's crucial to understand what they can and can't do.

school backpack with bulletproof armor insert in classroom

Since 1982, 81% of school shootings have been carried out with a handgun as the primary weapon, which means in an active school shooter situation, the perpetrator is more likely than not to be wielding a handgun. 

What is the Threat-Protection of Backpack Armor?

The level of threat protection offered by backpack armor largely depends on the type and grade of ballistic materials used in its construction. Most are tested to Level 3A on the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) scale. This means they are rated to stop bullets from most common handguns and gauge shotguns.

level 3a body armor rating

However, backpacks with this level of protection may not stop bullets from rifles or semi-automatic weapons, which require Level 3 or 4 armor. Some manufacturers offer backpacks or backpack inserts with these higher levels of protection, but they are often heavier and more expensive.

You can learn more about the NIJ's body armor levels in our Understanding Body Armor Ratings article.

Is Bulletproof Backpack Armor NIJ Certified?

The National Institute of Justice provides standards for ballistic packages, meaning the front and back pieces of a body armor vest. This does not include standalone panels for backpacks. However, there are independent companies that provide testing identical to the NIJ tests.

When looking for a bulletproof backpack or ballistic shield for a backpack, look for something saying the item has been tested to meet the NIJ standard. You shouldn't see the item described as being NIJ Certified.

At Premier Body Armor, our body armor vests are NIJ Certified and law-enforcement quality, and our backpack inserts are made using the same ballistic materials and process as the vests.


Features of bulletproof backpacks

Bulletproof backpacks have a number of features that are conducive to their functionality, such as armor plates, Kevlar panels and stitching, and snag resistant zippers. These work to protect against ballistic threats and reduce the likelihood of the backpack catching on something that could inhibit mobility. 

backpack, bulletproof panel, notebook, and computer with keys and wallet

How much do bulletproof backpacks cost?

Depending on the backpack, a pre-built bulletproof backpack could cost anywhere between $100 and $400. If you are looking to bulletproof a backpack yourself, the required armor plates and additional materials could cost anywhere between $90 and $250. This again depends on the quality and size of the products you decide to purchase.


Benefits of bulletproof backpacks

Bulletproof backpacks, both all-in-one and inserts, provide a number of benefits in an active shooter scenario. For one, they provide protection to the torso from behind if worn as a backpack. They can also be used as a bullet proof shield for backpack wearers or those around the wearer. It's also easy to stay protected daily, and takes no additional effort to grab as you leave the house - the protection goes with you whenever you have your backpack.

How to use a bulletproof backpack

When wearing a bulletproof backpack, it is important to understand the possible use cases for it if an active shooter situation were to arise. It can be used as a shield when worn on the back or held up in front of the body. The design allows the user to use it as a protective barrier between themselves and a threat.

how to use bulletproof backpack armor

However, their utility relies on a quick and correct response during a sudden incident, so it's important to talk with your child about using their backpack as a shield so they are better prepared.

Common practices if you hear an active shooter:

  • Try to escape and get to safety - with some situational awareness, you'll know where the exits are and can quickly get out of the situation safely. It's always best to assess your environment and have a plan so you can move quickly if necessary.
  • Turn your backpack around and cover your head and chest with your bag if the threat is in front of you. You can use the straps to carry the backpack in front of you, or slide your arm through the straps and use the bag as a shield.
  • Cover your vital organs. The most important thing is keeping your cardiac box, where your vital organs like your heart, lungs, etc. are, protected by the armor.
  • Use common sense.


Do I need a bulletproof backpack?

If you find yourself struggling to choose whether or not you would benefit from owning a bulletproof backpack, consider potential situations where one might be useful. If you travel, work in an urban area, visit a grocery store or mall, go to the movie theatre, or visit the range, body armor is for you.

backpack body armor inside bookbag

Another potential use case is bulletproof backpacks for students. As active shooter situations have occurred more in schools, it is worth investing in the safety of a child or student in case of emergency. At just 1 pound, Premier Body Armor backpack inserts add little weight and are extremely discreet.

student at locker with backpack and bullet proof panel

Bulletproof Backpack vs. Bulletproofing Your Backpack

There are two products on the market for backpack armor - the “bulletproof backpack” and the “bulletproof backpack insert/panel”. It's important to note that while these may sound similar, they are different products.

Bulletproof Backpack

Some companies manufacture a bulletproof backpack that has a Kevlar® panel sewn into the lining. There are also options for a steel plate to be inserted, but this creates a heavy bag. The pro is this is an all-in-one solution, but doesn't allow the wearer the flexibility of making changes to the bag as easily.

Bulletproofing your Backpack

Bullet-resistant backpack inserts are standalone panels. The ballistic insert is sized to fit into the largest compartment of your backpack. Some tactical bags, such as Vertx®, have a specific compartment for a bulletproof panel. For most backpacks, simply sliding the panel into the rear of the bag or laptop compartment works well.

putting backpack armor panel into bookbag

The advantage of the bulletproof panel is the ability to choose the backpack. If you get a new backpack, you can simply switch your panel to the new bag. Likewise, you can insert a new panel into your backpack when it needs to be replaced (body armor has an expiration date, which is typically 5 years).


Where to buy bulletproof backpacks

Buy bulletproof backpacks online

If you are looking to purchase a bulletproof backpack, there are various online retailers where you can find them. However, it is important to exercise caution and ensure that the backpack you choose is compliant with relevant standards. One aspect to consider is Berry Amendment compliance, which mandates that certain U.S. government contracts require the use of domestically sourced materials and manufacturing.

When buying online, it is recommended to research reputable retailers and manufacturers that offer NIJ-certified or tested products. Reading customer reviews can also provide insights into the quality and performance of different products.

However, be aware that purchasing online may carry some risks, including the potential for counterfeit or non-compliant products. It is important to thoroughly research and verify the authenticity and compliance of the insert before making a purchase. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Are Bulletproof Backpacks Legal?

Body armor, including bulletproof backpacks or panels, are legal to own and use in many countries, including the United States (with the exception of convicted felons). However, it's important to note that the legality of bulletproof backpacks may vary based on local regulations and laws.

backpack in airport with passenger

While these backpacks and ballistic inserts are generally available for purchase, their use and possession may be subject to certain restrictions in some areas. Check local laws or consult legal authorities before buying or using body armor to make sure you follow the rules.


Premier Body Armor's Backpack Panels

Premier Body Armor sells bulletproof backpack panels in a variety of sizes and colors. We produce bullet-resistant panels because we believe body armor should fit your lifestyle. You can use a regular backpack - the color and style you like - and simply add our panel in the back.


  • Tested to meet the NIJ 0101.06 Level IIIA ballistic standard
  •  1-2 pounds (depending on the size you choose)
  •  .22" thin
  •  Resistant to some stab and slash threats
  •  TSA approved
  • 100% made in the USA.

Ready to experience top-notch safety? Check out our collection of backpack armor.

level 3a backpack body armor collection

FAQs for Bulletproof Backpacks

Can a Bulletproof Backpack Stop an AR-15?

The ability of a bulletproof backpack to stop an AR-15 or any high-powered rifle round depends on the specific level of protection it offers. AR-15 rifles typically require higher-level armor, such as Level III or IV. Review the product specifications and ballistic rating of any body armor to ensure it offers the protection you are looking for.

Can I Bring a Bulletproof Backpack on a Plane?

Yes, body armor is an approved TSA item. We recommend placing your ballistic protection in either checked or carry-on bags, as both are permissible under TSA guidelines. The final decision rests with the TSA officer at the checkpoint, but our team has never had an issue with a bulletproof panel making it through.

How Much Do Bulletproof Backpacks Weigh?

The weight of bulletproof backpacks can vary depending on factors such as the level of ballistic protection, the size of the insert, and the materials used. Generally, bulletproof backpacks with lower-level protection, such as Level IIIA, tend to be lighter. On average, a Level IIIA bulletproof backpack insert can weigh between 1 to 4 pounds.

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