Bulletproof backpacks: How effective are they?

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They're designed to keep your children safe, but just how effective are bulletproof backpacks? We visited a rural North Carolina gun range to see if armor aimed at students will really save your child's life. 

Many parents are buying three types of bulletproof backpacks. Online we found many on back order. The products we tested are supposed to stand up to a handgun attack, but FOX 46 wanted to see how they also held up under extreme conditions.

To put them to the test, we turned to Yousef Sansour, a former sheriff's deputy with more than 20 years of experience. He now trains military and law enforcement around the world with Esoteric, LLC.  

The first item we tested was a bulletproof backpack sold by Guard Dog Security. The company claims their product can stop a nin millimeter bullet and is listed at roughly $200. 

At nine feet, Guard Dog Security's backpack was able to stop the bullet. However in mass shootings like Parkland and Pulse Night Club, the weapon used wasn't a hand gun, but an AR-15 style rifle.

“It’s unfortunate but the sad reality is every time there’s a shooting there’s a spike in sale,” said the president of Guard Dog Security, Yasir Sheikh. 

So how does the backpack measure up against an AR-15? It's not good.

"If you look at the back of the backpack it's a clean through and through," Sansour said. 

He told FOX 46 that he wasn't surprised by the result, in fact, that's he said that's what he expected. 

The impact of a high velocity bullet on a child would mean death. Should they survive, it would mean horrific injuries. 

What happens when a solid steel plate is inserted? We strengthened our bulletproof backpack by adding a steel plate sold by Tactical Scorpion Gear. They sell for around $50 and are rated to stop some rifles.

The nine millimeter is no match, but the real question is: will two levels of armor stop an AR-15 from 45 feet away? Our testing found that the AR-15 cuts right through the steel plate, but is stopped by the bulletproof backpack.

Sansour: "[The plate], in conjunction with the backpack would have saved someone's life."

Grant: "But if it was a normal backpack?"

Sansour: "It wouldn't."

The last product we tested was a soft Kevlar shield sold by Tuffy Packs. The soft armor shield, by Tuffy Packs, is a level 3A, the same type of armor used by law enforcement, and sells for about $100. The shield was able to stop multiple nine millimeter shots fired at 60 feet and nine feet away, but like the other products we tested, it was no match for an AR-15.

For the record, none of the products we tested claim to stop an AR-15. For that, Sansour recommends heavier, pricier armor rated at a level four or higher by the National Institute of Justice. To better understand armor ratings, click here or scroll below:

"If I'm a parent and I'm buying a backpack for my kid and it says bulletproof, I would assume it would stop anything. This tests shows that's not the case. There isn't a product that is bulletproof all the way. You show me a product, I'll show you a way to defeat it. The reality is they all have their limitations."

For the products to work, the product would have to be rated against the shooter's weapon, used properly and in reach of the student. That's why Sansour urges parents to arm themselves with research first.

"Educate yourself, make sure you understand what the limitations and capabilities of the product are," he said.

Guard Dog Security says its backpack could lessen the impact of an AR-15. Tuffy Packs says any protection is better than none, and Tactical Scorpion Gear says parents need to be aware of the limitations of body armor, saying nothing is truly bulletproof.

In addition, each company provided a statement to FOX 46 Charlotte. You can read them in full below:

Guard Dog Security

“The material we use is the same material used by law enforcement…you have to find the balance for what’s practical and what can hold up. Professionals do agree even a level 3A (armor) can be the difference between a lethal and non-lethal situation, even with an AR. It could lessen the impact from an AR.” –Yasir Sheikh, President.

Tuffy Packs 

“With the high percentage of active shooter instances occurring with handguns the cost the weight the ability to allow a young student to put it in their backpack and be removable…any protection is better than no protection.” –Steve Naremore, Founder/CEO

Tactical Scorpion Gear

“They (parents) need to be aware of the ratings of the body armor they’re purchasing and the limitations of that body armor. There is nothing that is bulletproof.” Joseph Taylor, CEO