You've likely seen ads and news stories about "bulletproof" laptop bags — bags capable of carrying your laptop and also protecting you from flying lead when the fan hits the shed.
You've also likely wondered whether it was just marketing fluff. I decided to find out the only way you can: By shooting one.
My example bag would be Force Training Institute's Multi-Threat Shield. Unlike most "bullet-proof" bags that aren't much larger than a bag, the MTS is designed to unfold quickly into a three-foot long shield. Loops in two different areas let you hold it like a shield. It's long enough to protect your torso and your head, if you hunch a little.
It's made of laminated Kevlar and is NIJ Threat Level IIIA rated. That's the National Institute of Justice's rating on body armor for police. For soft body armor, Level IIIA is the highest rating and will stop high-velocity 9mm bullets as well as .44 Magnum rounds. That essentially means the MTS is supposed to stop most handgun rounds, as well as those from sub-machine guns and shotgun blasts. FTI says with an additional ceramic plate insert, the bag will also stop rifle rounds, which will cut through all soft body armor.
(Just so you know, the term "bulletproof" is technically incorrect, because nothing is really bulletproof. Some substances, like laminated Kevlar, are bullet-resistant. People still can't help but call them "bulletproof," though.)
How we tested
To test the Multi-Threat Shield, we visited the Jackson Arms shooting range in South San Francisco. We placed a coat rack at a distance of eight yards from the firing lane, sandbagged its base for stability, and hung the MTS on it.
The MTS is technically a bag for your gear, so I tossed in something no one would miss: a first-gen iPad. When Technology Island was evacuated, the iPad didn't make it to the chopper. It can't run anything anymore, and it's built like a tank — and weighs about as much. The iPad, mind you, was put into the bag's pocket on the opposite side where the bullets would hit, so it would be protected by the Kevlar.
I started with the very common .38 Special — a Smith & Wesson model 442 snub-nose revolver. I fired two 125-grain, full-metal-jacket rounds at the top left corner of the bag.
In TV shows and movies, you've seen bullets send a person flying across the room, but that doesn't really happen. If you fired a bullet with enough energy to knock a person back 10 feet, it would send you 10 feet back when you pulled the trigger.
The two .38 Special rounds mildly pushed the MTS to one side before it went back into place. Meh.
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