Bullet-resistant backpacks vs. textbooks: Which offers more protection? 

Posted at 7:12 PM, Mar 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-08 16:13:45-04

Sales of bullet-resistant backpacks and clothing for children have spiked following the recent mass shooting at a Florida High School.

If you’re not in the market to spend hundreds of dollars on these items, there is an alternative that may work just as well depending on who you ask. We’re talking about textbooks which many of us probably already own.

How well will textbooks resist bullets? We enlisted the help of the Teller County Sheriff’s Office to find out.

“In this backpack we have 3 typical size textbooks that are hard back,” Sgt. Jake Markus explained. “We’re going to shoot a 9 millimeter, .38 pistol and a .45 caliber (ACP) to see how they do. I’m not positive whether it will make it through or stop it.”

Sgt. Markus fired three shots into the books which were placed inside a standard $20 backpack consumers can purchase at any store.

“So this is the very first book and it looks like the 9 millimeter and .45 cal went completely through,” Sgt. Markus said. “However, it stopped the .38 pistol so textbook will stop a .38.”

It took two textbooks to stop the 9 millimeter and .45 caliber bullet.

“The second textbook is completely clean on the back side,” Sgt. Markus showed us

We also had Sgt. Markus fire away with a rifle—twice.

“It (the first two textbooks) didn’t stop either round,” Sgt. Markus said. The bullets kept going and by the time it got here (to the third book), it ended up fragmenting. 3 textbooks completely stopped the rifle rounds.”

Nowadays, most students don’t carry multiple large textbooks and companies like Leatherback Gear and Elite Sterling Security know this information. They created alternatives that weigh a lot less, but can cost more.

You can watch part 1 of our story where we tested a bullet-resistant backpack and bullet-resistant shield insert visiting the “Investigates” section on

Most bullet-resistant armor sold to consumers has a protection level of “II” or “IIIA”.

Level two armor will block most bullets up to a .44 magnum.

Level 3A armor will block bullets from the majority of handguns on the market today—including a .44 magnum.

Neither the bullet resistant backpack or bullet-resistant shield we tested is rated to withstand bullets from high caliber weapons like rifles and shotguns, which brings us back to the three textbooks News 5 purchased for $12 which did stop a rifle round.

“I was very impressed and surprised by the capabilities of those books,” Sgt. Markus added.

Disclaimer: News 5 Investigates only tested hard, laminated textbooks. Not all textbooks will block bullets. Results may vary depending upon the number of pages in the book and whether it has a soft cover.