Emerging Issues in Security

Ballistic Packs for Civilians Becoming More Common

As the number of active shooter incidents continues to rise and the fatality and injury counts increase, we are seeing more products that can provide highly-portable ballistic protection to both civilians and law enforcement officers. These backpacks, bags, and laptop cases are discreet and not obvious as to what they are, making them useful in the rare possibility of having to defend yourself from a firearms attack.

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Ron Weaver founded Eastern Beacon Industries after he retired from the Los Angeles Police Department. He saw an opportunity to provide cost-effective, light, and multiuse ballistic products to both law enforcement and the public.

Weaver discusses why he created these products: “As a police officer I had responded to active shooter calls and have been part of many training scenarios. I wanted to develop products that can be used by both law enforcement officers and civilians. We have a line of active shooter protection products that use a Level III plate that weighs only 1.6 pounds. It’s the lightest on the market and NIJ-Certified. We shot one live on ABC News with an AK-47 rifle.”

Weaver counters the argument that since the likelihood of an active shooter is rare, these products aren’t needed for civilians. “The likelihood of an active or mass attack is often connected to the statement, “It could never happen to me.” The commonality amongst most victims of a shooting is that they thought that this will never happen to them. Unfortunately, anywhere there is a group of people, such as a movie theatre or a concert, it’s a target today. We tell our customers to find the personal protection that fits their everyday activities, then carry the product with them and practice deploying it. Our products are clean and sleek in outside appearance. You don’t want to attract attention during a shooting incident. A shooting incident is very stressful, and that stress causes our body’s basic motor skills to shut down. We designed our products with this in mind. They are easy to carry, but you must practice with them physically and mentally. Run scenarios through your head, and talk to your family about following your lead. This becomes muscle memory for your brain and allows you to react quicker during that stressful situation.”

Some people have concerns about taking ballistic backpacks, bags, and laptop cases through TSA airport security scanners. Weaver says, “Body armor is not a prohibited item. It goes through the X-ray machine. If it is stopped for secondary screening, it is swabbed for explosives and you’re on your way. I fly with mine all the time. Our only restrictions are that purchasers can’t be convicted felons and if you live in the state of Connecticut it must be purchased in person.”

Man-Pack is another firm that sells a 10” by 13” by .25” ballistic panel, capable of stopping multiple handgun or shotgun rounds aimed at it. Their panel can be inserted into a backpack, laptop case, or briefcase. It weighs about one pound, comes in six colors, and retails for $139.99.

Man-Packs’s “Bulletproof Backpack Insert” is made from what it calls “Dyneema—a high-performance polyethylene fiber, capable of stopping multiple magazines of ammunition from handguns or shotguns without ricochet or injury.” The company says its panel will provide NIJ Level 3 protection and there are test videos on YouTube that show the panel taking many hits before failure.

These ballistic panels and gear bags offer civilians (or security officers) a reasonable, cost-effective, safe, and portable alternative to the usual heavy-duty police or military versions.