Protective equipment is becoming quite sought after and commonplace in everyday life. Haven’t seen it yourself? That may be because outside of “Bulletproof vests” the most commonly worn piece of body armor is bulletproof backpack body armor inserts. Backpack armor plates are hands down the most discreet way of having body armor on your person.

In fact, I had a ‘bulletproof backpack’ my entire senior year of college and nobody ever knew. Backpack armor is portable, lightweight, and can be used as a shield or worn, but most importantly, it blends in. Have you ever looked at someone wearing a backpack and thought, “I bet that person has body armor?”

What Are Bulletproof Backpack Inserts?

Bulletproof backpack inserts are lightweight, protective panels designed to fit inside backpacks, briefcases, and other carry bags. These inserts are made from materials similar to those used in other types of body armor, such as Kevlar, UHMWPE, etc. Their primary function is to provide an additional layer of ballistic protection in potentially dangerous situations, effectively turning an everyday item into a shield.

Advantages of Armor Inserts Over Backpack Armor

Bulletproof backpack armor inserts offer several advantages over backpack armor. One notable benefit is their flexibility and versatility. Unlike armor that is built into a specific backpack, inserts can be transferred between different bags, suiting your varying needs or those of your loved ones. Plus, you don’t have to go out and spend additional money on a dedicated backpack that only a couple of companies make. 

Furthermore, these bulletproof backpack inserts offer customizable protection. They come in various sizes and threat levels, allowing you to choose the right fit for your bag and your specific protection requirements. Some inserts are designed to stop handgun rounds, while others are capable of stopping rifle rounds.

Person placing a bulletproof plate insert into a backpack - Tacticon Armament
Bulletproof Backpack Insert

In terms of cost-effectiveness, bulletproof inserts often prove more affordable than purchasing an entire armored backpack. They offer a practical and economical solution for enhancing personal protection without the need for a significant investment.

Installing a bulletproof insert into a backpack is as simple as sliding it into the bag’s main compartment. The inserts are also designed to blend seamlessly with the bag’s contents, providing discreet protection that does not draw attention or cause unnecessary concern.

The Latest Shooting Statistics

The need for personal protection measures like bulletproof backpack inserts is underscored by the prevalence of violent incidents, especially shootings in our society’s recent history. According to recent data, just over 20,000 deaths in 2022 alone from shootings that were not linked to suicide.

In 2022 there were 647 incidents classified as “Mass shootings,” a number that has decreased by 50 from 2021. Another disturbing statistic, there have been 386 school mass shootings since Columbine, where gunmen targeted the most vulnerable individuals in “Gun free zones.”

Although these statistics are sobering, they highlight the reality of the world we live in. Preparing for such potential threats and taking proactive steps to enhance personal safety is not just prudent; it is a necessity. Bulletproof backpack inserts offer an accessible, unobtrusive, and effective way to do this.

How Bulletproof Backpack Inserts Work

Bulletproof backpack inserts function by absorbing and distributing the impact energy of a projectile, thus preventing penetration and protecting the wearer from harm. This is achieved through the use of ballistic materials specifically designed to resist high-velocity impacts, such as UHMWPE.

Materials Used

The most common materials used in bulletproof backpack inserts include Kevlar, Dyneema, and composite plates.

Kevlar is a type of para-aramid fiber renowned for its outstanding strength-to-weight ratio and excellent heat resistance. It works by “catching” a bullet in a web of fibers, absorbing and dispersing its energy to prevent penetration.

Dyneema, on the other hand, is an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene that offers higher energy absorption and flexibility compared to Kevlar. It also has a higher resistance to moisture and UV radiation.

Composite plates typically consist of layers of different materials, including Kevlar, ceramics, and steel. These materials work together to provide enhanced protection against various rounds.

Each material offers its unique advantages and limitations in terms of protection, weight, thickness, flexibility, and cost. Therefore, choosing the right insert largely depends on personal requirements and circumstances.

Sizes Available

Bulletproof backpack inserts come in various sizes and dimensions to fit different backpack sizes and designs. Standard sizes include small (8″x10″), medium (10″x12″), and large (11″x14″). 

Weight

When choosing a bulletproof backpack insert, it’s important to consider weight. While heavier inserts generally offer higher levels of protection, they can make the backpack less comfortable to carry, especially over long periods. Lightweight options are easier to carry and less likely to impact daily use, making them more practical for children or individuals who travel a lot.

Tacticon Armament offers armor backpack inserts in either IIIA to protect against pistols or SRT to address 5.56 and 7.62×39 threats. The IIIA plate weighs 1.3 pounds whereas the SRT plate weighs 3.1 pounds, but is capable of stopping M193 5.56, the most common round used in mass and school shootings. 

NIJ Certification

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. It sets standards and testing protocols for body armor and ballistic protection, including bulletproof backpack inserts.

NIJ certification ensures the effectiveness and reliability of the inserts. It includes several levels of protection, with Level IIA being the lowest (protects against lower velocity 9mm and .40 S&W ammunition) and Level IV being the highest (protects against armor-piercing 30-06 caliber rounds).

Ballistic Protection Capabilities

Bulletproof backpack inserts are designed to protect against a range of ballistic threats. Some of these include:

  • NIJ Level IIA: Protects against 9mm full metal jacket and .40 S&W FMJ
  • NIJ Level II: Protects against .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Point
  • NIJ Level IIIA: Protects against .357 SIG FMJ and .44 Magnum Semi Jacketed Hollow Point 
  • NIJ Level III: Protects against 7.62×51 FMJ steel jacketed bullets
  • NIJ Level IV: Protects against 30-06 caliber armor piercing rounds
NIJ (National Institute of Justice) body armor levels - IIA, II, IIIA, III, IV - Tacticon Armament
Threat Levels

Understanding these capabilities can guide you in choosing a bulletproof backpack insert that best fits your protection needs. It’s important to remember that while no protection can guarantee complete safety, these inserts significantly enhance your chances of survival in a threatening situation.

Understanding Level III and Level IIIA Backpack Inserts

The specific levels of protection offered by backpack inserts is crucial to ensure optimal personal safety. Level III and Level IIIA are two common protection levels in bulletproof backpack inserts, each designed to stop certain firearms and ammunition. Let’s delve into what each of these levels entails.

What Do Level III Backpack Inserts Stop?

Level III backpack inserts are designed to stop 7.62×51 FMJ rounds. These inserts can withstand a greater amount of kinetic energy and provide a higher level of protection than Level IIIA.

Examples of firearms that Level III inserts can protect against include:

  • 5.56mm NATO rounds are used in many rifles such as the AR-15.
  • 7.62mm rounds are used in firearms like the AK-47 rifle.
  • .308 Winchester, which is popular in hunting, and the AR-10.

It’s worth noting that while Level III inserts offer enhanced protection, they are typically thicker and heavier than lower-level inserts.

What Do Level IIIA Backpack Inserts Stop?

Level IIIA backpack inserts are pistol rated armor designed to stop all common handgun rounds. These inserts are lighter than level III, and can either be made as hard plate inserts or soft armor inserts, unlike level III which can only be hard plates. 

Choosing The Right Level Of Protection

When selecting a bulletproof backpack insert, it’s essential to consider various factors to ensure you get the right level of protection:

  1. Environment: Where will you or your child be most of the time? Is it an area with a higher chance of gun violence? Will the more likely threat be rifles or pistols?
  2. Anticipated Risks: Are there specific threats or types of ammunition you anticipate and want to protect against?
  3. Comfort and Mobility: How comfortable are you or your child carrying extra weight? The higher the protection level, the heavier the insert.
  4. Budget: Higher levels of protection tend to come at a higher cost. Decide on a budget that fits your financial capacity but still meets your protective needs.

Remember, the goal is to balance the level of protection with the practicality of everyday use.

When and Where To Use Bulletproof Backpack Inserts

Bulletproof backpack inserts are a practical protective solution in various situations and environments. These include:

  • Schools: With unfortunate instances of school shootings, a bulletproof insert provides added peace of mind for both parents and students.
  • Workplaces: In certain professions or areas with high gun violence, having a bulletproof insert at the workplace can enhance personal safety.
  • Travel: Bulletproof inserts can be useful when traveling, especially in regions with higher crime rates or civil unrest.
  • Public Gatherings: During concerts, rallies, or large public events, bulletproof inserts can provide an extra layer of protection.

Ultimately, the goal is to be proactive and prepared. While we all hope never to encounter a situation where a bulletproof backpack insert is necessary, having one on hand can make a significant difference when it matters most.

Are Bulletproof Backpack Inserts Effective?

Yes, bulletproof backpack inserts can be effective at stopping various types of ammunition, depending on the level of protection they offer. For example, Level III inserts can stop 7.62×51 FMJ bullets, while Level IIIA inserts can stop bullets from a .44 Magnum, .357 SIG, and any lesser handgun round. However, the effectiveness of these inserts depends on factors such as their condition, the angle of bullet impact, and the type of ammunition used.

Are Bulletproof Backpack Inserts Heavy?

The weight of bulletproof backpack inserts varies based on their size and the level of protection they offer. Generally, lower protection levels (such as Level II or IIIA) tend to be lighter and more comfortable for everyday use (you won’t even know it’s there). Higher protection levels, like Level III and III+, offer more comprehensive protection but are also heavier. Typically, most bulletproof backpack inserts weigh between 3 to 9 pounds. The higher end of that range being steel plates.

Will a Bulletproof Backpack Insert Stop AR-15?

Yes, a Level III bulletproof backpack insert is designed to stop this type of round. However, it’s important to note that not all inserts are rated for this level of protection. The AR-15 rifle is commonly used in the United States and fires a 5.56mm NATO round.  Always check the NIJ rating and specifications of the insert to ensure it meets your protective needs.

Are Bulletproof Backpacks TSA Approved?

Yes and No. According to the TSA “Body armor is generally allowed” in a carry-on or a checked back, however, officers reserve “Final discretion.” You may need to remove the insert and place it in a separate bin during security checks. Remember, while the inserts are legal, any attempt to use them in a threatening manner would still be illegal. It’s also essential to verify the regulations of your specific airline and the local laws of your destination, as some regions may have restrictions on body armor.

Final Thoughts

Bulletproof backpack inserts provide a crucial additional layer of protection, particularly in today’s world where unforeseen threats can arise suddenly and unexpectedly. Their potential to save lives makes them a noteworthy consideration for anyone interested in personal safety.

These inserts come in various sizes and protective levels, catering to different needs and preferences. Whether made of Kevlar, Dyneema, or composite materials, they are designed to resist the impact of various types of ammunition, helping to keep you and your loved ones safer. Understanding the difference between Level III and Level IIIA inserts, for instance, enables you to choose a level of protection that best fits your anticipated risks.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to remember that these inserts, while effective, should not be seen as a complete solution to safety. They work best as part of a comprehensive approach to security that includes maintaining situational awareness, adopting safe practices, and fostering a culture of preparedness.

In essence, the goal is to strike a balance – equipping yourself with adequate protection while leading a normal life. Remember, the best armor is the one you can comfortably carry with you at all times.

Remember, protection is not about living in fear; it’s about being prepared. As the old adage goes, “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Bulletproof backpack inserts could provide you with that vital extra layer of safety, giving you peace of mind in a world where, sadly, threats can emerge from unexpected quarters. 

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.