(NewsNation) — Sales of bulletproof backpacks are spiking in the wake of mass shootings in the U.S. This year alone, there have already been 29 school shootings resulting in injury or death, according to a database run by Education Week.
As parents search for ways to keep their children safe, bulletproof bags are now being sold both online and on shelves at retailers like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
NewsNation asked, do these bulletproof bags work and would they have prevented a single death in recent mass shootings in our country?
Guard Dog Security is one of the most widely available brands on the market. NewsNation’s Natasha Zouves took some of their bags to the shooting range and put them to the test against three different bullets — a 9 mm, a .44 Magnum and an AR round.
These backpacks can run into the hundreds of dollars and are clearly advertised as bulletproof – but the kind of bullet used matters. In the fine print, you’ll see all of Guard Dog Security’s bulletproof backpacks come with a safety rating of IIIA. This covers virtually all handguns — but not rifle ammunition.
The test began with a 9mm pistol. NewsNation set up a slow-motion camera that clearly shows the back of the backpack bulging out as it successfully caught the bullet.
Then, NewsNation tested the bag against a more powerful .44 magnum revolver. Again, the slow-motion camera revealed the back of the bag ballooning backward as it caught the round. It prevented the .44 from going through.
The issue is that most deadly mass shootings involve an AR-15. From 2009 to 2022 the six deadliest mass shootings all involved an AR-15.
Described as “America’s Rifle” by the NRA, the AR-15 is semi-automatic. An AR-15 was used in the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers died. Also at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 died.
A similar semi-automatic rifle, the Bushmaster XM-15, was used at Sandy Hook where 20 six and seven-year-olds died, along with six teachers.
Guard Dog Security President Yasir Sheikh confirmed in a previous statement these backpacks are not rated for AR-caliber bullets. But he did add: “This protection can lessen the impact of bullets from higher caliber weapons such as an AR-15 when filled with normally carried objects (books/binders.)”
NewsNation tested this claim. If when filled with these “normally carried objects,” would these backpacks lessen the impact from an AR-15?
First, the empty backpack was tested against an AR-15 round. The round pierced through the bag so effortlessly that the backpack barely moved. Vietnam Veteran and ballistics expert Tom Zeman was at the range. He described the AR-15 round as slicing through the bulletproof backpack “like cheesecake.”
NewsNation filled the bag with one hardcover textbook and a binder. The AR-15 went through the bag. The test failed with two textbooks. It also failed with three. Four of the hardcover books were unable to stop the round, it still easily pierced the back of the bag.
Zeman examined the bullet holes. He said, “I’m absolutely surprised that it did four books so easily, and how clean the holes are. It shows very little indication of the bullets slowing down. Those holes are extremely clean.”
Together, the four hardcover textbooks amounted to 4.5 inches in width. We increased the next test to 6 inches of textbooks.
Finally, six inches of textbooks slowed down the AR-15 round enough for the back of the backpack to catch it. The slow-motion camera showed the telltale bulge in the back of the bag. We cut into the back panel and found the warped round. It did not pierce through.
We shared our results with the president of Guard Dog Security and asked if they had plans to develop a bag that could withstand AR-15 fire.
“You’re looking at metal plates or ceramic plates, at that point impractical for daily carry use,” said Yasir Sheikh, “and certainly for children especially to carry around a heavy metal plate in their backpack, that’s certainly not practical. So although we did look at all options, we find that level IIIA is a reasonable daily carry level of protection.”
Luis Yanez was the shooter who helped us conduct the tests at StanMorr Sports Inc., he is also a gunsmith, an NRA instructor, and a father of two. After seeing the results of our investigation, we asked if he would want one of these backpacks for his children.
“I mean it’s a great concept and I would feel comfortable with them having some level of protection and that would definitely facilitate that,” said Yanez.
Yanez did say that for his own kids, he would add an extra layer of protection, a steel plate graded for AR-15 fire that can be slipped in the back of the bag. It may potentially run a few extra hundred dollars and add more weight, but he says, it is well worth it.