Predator Armor IIIA Backpack Armor Review

Predator armor IIIA backpack armor panel

Predator Armor IIIA Backpack Armor

Bottom Line

Predator Armor’s backpack armor is light, reasonably priced, unobtrusive and effective contingency plan for many calibers seen in shootings and violent crime.

You could easily throw it into a pack (or your kid’s pack) with no discomfort or noticed weight for extra protection.

Today, we’re diving into the world of on-the-go protection with a review of the Predator Armor’s Backpack Armor – Level IIIA. This isn’t just any ordinary backpack insert; it’s a shield in disguise, ready to accompany you on your daily adventures while offering a low-profile layer of security against unforeseen dangers. 

Whether you’re commuting in the city, navigating crowded events, or just want your kids to have some protection away from home, let’s find out if this armor has what it takes to earn your trust!

Want to hear more?

First, let’s chat for a bit about the levels of body armor inserts you might consider for backpack armor.

Body Armor Levels and Their Effectiveness

Let’s start our deep dive into the world of body armor. We’re not suiting up for a medieval joust; we’re diving into the modern-day knight’s armor – the kind that’s been saving lives in less chivalrous settings than Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale. Get ready to learn about the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) body armor certification levels – because knowledge, just like armor, can be a lifesaver!

Behind the Shield: The Body Armor Testing and Certification Process

When it comes to body armor, it’s not just about what it can do, but also how it proves it. The testing and certification process by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is like the ‘America’s Got Talent’ for body armor – rigorous, comprehensive, and no room for errors.

  1. Laboratory Testing: First, samples of body armor are sent to NIJ-approved laboratories. Here, they undergo a series of tests that mimic real-world threats. Think of it as the armor’s final exam, where bullets and force play the role of tough examiners.
  2. Ballistic Resistance Tests: The armor faces a barrage of bullets from various calibers and types, each fired at specific velocities. The goal is to ensure the armor can withstand impacts without allowing the bullet to penetrate. It’s like gladiatorial combat where the armor’s sole purpose is to keep the wearer unscathed.
  3. Conditioning Procedures: Armor isn’t just tested fresh out of the box. It goes through a conditioning process that simulates wear and tear, including exposure to heat, moisture, and mechanical wear. It’s akin to putting the armor through a tough boot camp to ensure it can handle real-life scenarios.
  4. Impact Energy Testing: This isn’t just about stopping bullets. The armor is also tested for its ability to minimize blunt trauma – the impact energy transferred to the body. After all, what good is stopping a bullet if the impact knocks you out?
  5. Quality Control and Follow-up: Once an armor model passes, manufacturers must maintain strict quality control. Regular follow-up testing ensures that every batch meets the same high standards as the certified sample. Think of it as continuous quality checks to ensure every piece of armor is as good as the one that passed the test.
  6. Certification and Renewal: Successful armor receives NIJ certification, which is not a lifetime award. Regular re-evaluation ensures ongoing compliance with evolving standards.

So, the next time you see a piece of NIJ-certified body armor, remember the gauntlet it went through to earn that badge. It’s not just a piece of equipment; it’s a tested and proven shield in the face of danger.

Body Armor Protection Levels

Level II: The Middleweight Protector

First, we have Level II body armor. This is where things start to get a bit more serious. Offering protection against higher velocity 9mm and .357 Magnum rounds, Level II is the go-to for professionals who find themselves in riskier situations but demand light weight and maneuverability. 

It’s like Level IIA’s big brother – a tad heavier, but with more muscle to show for it.

Level IIIA: The Heavy-Duty Guardian

Enter Level IIIA, the heavy-duty guardian in the body armor family. This is where protection takes a significant leap. Designed to stop .357 SIG and .44 Magnum rounds, Level IIIA is for those who expect the unexpected. 

It’s like wearing chain mail, but thankfully, still without the need for a squire to help you move around.

Level III: The Rifle Resistor

Now, we’re entering the realm of ‘big guns’. Level III body armor is designed to protect against rifle rounds – we’re talking 7.62mm FMJ, standard 5.56, and other high-powered projectiles. It’s the choice of armor when the threat level escalates to serious firepower but still balances comfort and maneuverability. 

Imagine a knight’s armor, but for modern-day dragons.

Level III+: Penetration Protection

OK, so that could be interpreted the wrong way, but we’re talking about protection from M193 and M855 steel core rounds. Level III+ body armor – the unsung hero in the armor lineup. Not officially recognized by the NIJ standards but widely acknowledged in the industry, Level III+ is like Level III’s more versatile and robust cousin. Designed to withstand even more powerful rifle rounds that Level III might struggle with, it bridges the gap between Level III and the formidable Level IV. 

Ideal for those who need protection against high-velocity rifle threats but aren’t quite ready to don the heft of Level IV. It’s like having an extra ace up your sleeve – or in this case, in your vest!

Level IV: The Ultimate Shield

At the top of the armor hierarchy sits Level IV – the ultimate shield. This is the stuff of legends, capable of stopping armor-piercing rifle rounds, 7.62, and .308 Winchester. If there’s a dragon in the tale, this armor is your Excalibur. 

It’s heavy, it’s serious, and it’s for when things get really, really real.

Backpack Body Armor Inserts: Weighing the Pros and Cons of Various Protection Levels

9 mm, .45 acp, 5.56 FMJ, and 5.56 M883 Green Tip rounds on a level IIIA armor panel backpack insert
IIIA panels like this one will only handle pistol rounds without backup

In selecting the appropriate level of body armor for backpack inserts, it’s vital to consider the nature of threats, particularly in the context of mass shootings.

Level IIA and II: The Light and Flexible

Pros:

  • Lightweight and Discreet: These levels are ideal for everyday use due to their low weight and profile. They are particularly suitable considering handguns are the most common weapon used in mass shootings, accounting for nearly three-quarters of guns recovered at crime scenes in 2021​​.
  • Comfort: Their light nature makes them practical for prolonged use.

Cons:

  • Limited Protection: While they provide protection against handguns, which are used in about 80% of mass shootings dating back to 1966, they offer less protection against high-velocity rounds or heavy-caliber firearms, including assault weapons​​.

Level IIIA: The Versatile Defender

Pros:

  • Enhanced Protection: Capable of stopping higher velocity bullets like .357 SIG and .44 Magnum, which becomes important as the use of rifles in mass shootings has increased in recent years.
  • Still Concealable: Despite being heavier, they are manageable for daily carry and provide a significant safety upgrade.

Cons:

  • Heavier: Adds more weight, which might be noticeable during prolonged use, especially for children or those with back issues.

Level III and III+: The Heavy-Duty Shields

Pros:

  • High-Caliber Protection: Designed to stop rifle rounds, these levels are critical in environments with elevated threats. The use of rifles, including semiautomatic assault weapons like AR-15 variants, has increased in mass shootings, with such weapons used in 59% of incidents in recent years​​.
  • Confidence in High-Threat Environments: Essential for higher-risk situations, especially given that shootings involving rifles have been the deadliest, as seen in incidents like Las Vegas and Sandy Hook​​.

Cons:

  • Weight and Bulk: Significantly heavier and less discreet, which can be cumbersome and impractical for everyday carry.
  • Comfort: May not be suitable for all-day use.

Level IV: The Ultimate Protector

Pros:

  • Maximum Protection: Offers the highest level of security, capable of stopping armor-piercing rounds, aligning with the increasing lethality observed in recent mass shooting incidents.
  • Best for Extreme Threats: Ideal in high-risk areas or scenarios where the threat level is exceptionally high.

Cons:

  • Heaviest Option: Impacts portability and comfort significantly.
  • Not Practical for Everyday Use: Often overkill for regular civilian environments and usage.

Choosing the right level of body armor for a backpack insert requires balancing the need for protection against practical considerations like weight and comfort. Lower levels offer a reasonable compromise for most civilians, aligning with the prevalence of handguns in mass shootings, while higher levels are more suited for specific, high-threat scenarios where rifles are more likely to be used.

Pros of Predator Armor’s IIIA Backpack Armor

First, let’s take a look at what the Predator Armor IIIA Backpack Armor has going for it on paper.

  • Reasonably priced, on par with other IIIA armor inserts
  • Thinner profile for protection without bulk
  • Made in the USA

Cons of Predator Armor’s IIIA Backpack Armor

As always, there are tradeoffs…

  • Expect serious deformation and trauma to the shot area without other protection (which could be inside your backpack)

What Customers Say

This is a second purchase through this vendor. Outstanding customer service on previous order, missing item, Predator staff immediately owned responsibility and resolved to complete satisfaction. Products are superior, after seeing independent live fire testing, feel highly confident with equipment. Thank you for all you do Predator.

Colin

Love it! Super light and it takes up 0 space in my backpack. Highly recommend to keep you or your kids safe!

Cole

The Competition: Alternative Backpack Armor Products

Product NamePriceSize ThicknessWeightNIJ Level Protection
Predator Armor Backpack Armor$135 at last update10.5″ x 14″.22″1.4 lbsLevel IIIA (3A)
Strike Face Bulletproof Backpack InsertCheck Price11″ x 14″Less than 1 inch1 – 1.5 lbsLevel IIIA (3A)
Hardwire Bulletproof bag insert Level 3Check Price10” x 13”0.75”3.5 lbsLevel III
Hardwire Flat PlateCheck Price10.25″ 13.25″1.4″4.47lbsLevel III
Hardwire Soft Bulletproof Bag Insert Level 3ACheck Price10” x 13”0.125″0.5 lbsLevel IIIA (3A)
Strike Face AR500 S2 Level IIIA Soft Panel ArmorCheck Price10″ x 12″0.36″1.25 lbs.Level IIIA (3A)
Spartan Armor Systems™ Flex Fused Core™ IIIACheck Price11″x14″0.35″1 lb 9.4 ozLevel IIIA (3A)

Better for Rifle Protection: Hardwire Hard Bulletproof Bag Insert Level 3

HARD BULLETPROOF BAG INSERT LEVEL 3

Don’t want to settle with just stopping handguns?  With the popularity of 5.56 NATO, that’s understandable.  The Hardwire Hard Bulletproof Bag Insert is rated to Level 3 by the NIJ.

And, it’s stylish too. ;)

Check out the current price tag.

But, the lack of flexibility is going to impact the comfort level in a pack and this weight quite a bit more.

Better on a Budget: AR500 Level III Backpack Armor

AR500 is a well-known brand in the space and just happens to offer a pretty compelling Level 3 plate starting at $65.  Keep in mind though, spall mitigation is highly advised for hard plates. So, you may be adding another layer to this plate if you can’t guarantee your backpack will always be supplemented with books to limit secondary injury.

Specifications: Predator Armor IIIA Backpack Armor

Let’s dig into the specs for this panel:

  • Dimensions: 10.5″ x 14″
  • Rated to stop .357 Sig FMJ, .44 MAG SJHP and 9mm
  • Multi-hit Rated
  • Waterproof Nylon Ripstop outer layer
  • .22″ Profile
  • Panel Weight: 1.4 Lbs
  • Made 100% in the USA
  • Tested To Defeat Handgun Rounds: 9mm, .357 SIG and .44 Magnum
  • NIJ Level IIIA Insert – 10.5″ x 14″
  • Thin and Lightweight Construction

First Impressions: Predator Armor Backpack Armor

predator armor backpack armor 9mm impact
Takes a lickin’

As expected from a desktop review, this panel is thin and light. For most applications, I’d dare say you would forget it’s even in your bag. Only for very long hikes will you notice and 1.4 lbs of extra weight in your bag.

If you’re considering this for a kid, it’s less than the weight of a workbook.

Features

The construction is good with a well-sealed Nylon ripstop outer and a hybrid Kevlar inner pad. Based on our testing, it will take multiple hits with no pass-through as long as they as spaced out.

Multi-Hit, NIJ Level IIIA Protection

9 mm round testing of class IIIA backpack armor panel

The most recommended lowest level of protection by law enforcement and military personnel is NIJ Level IIIA – this backpack armor rocks recommended minimum of protection as the others.

Light Weight

No need to stress the weight! Predator Armor’s Backpack Armor’s weight is excellent compared to the other backpack armor products with higher protection levels and excellent for other IIIA rated panels.

It’s lighter than the Spartan Armor IIIA panel, a little heavier than the slightly smaller Hardwire Soft Bulletproof Bag Insert, and comparable to the Strike Face AR500 S2 Soft Panel.

Thin Construction

This backpack armor is on the slim side, but don’t let its sleek physique fool you — it gets the job done.

It’s much thinner than Level III options like the Hardwire Flat Plate at 1.4″ at just under 1/4″. The only thinner panel is the Hardwire Soft Bulletproof Bag Insert.

Other Options from Predator Armor

If you’re considering something with a higher protection level for rifle rounds, check out these other bundles from Predator Armor.

Predator Armor - Level III+ Body Armor

Level III+ Shooter’s Plate

This backpack armor plate is lightweight yet impact, stab, and slash resistant which provides absolute protection.

Level III Shooters Cut Plate Carrier Package

Level III Shooters Cut Plate Carrier Package

The Package Includes:

  • Predator Armor Minuteman Carrier
  • Front & Back Shooters Cut Predator Armor – Level III Body Armor

Polyethylene Level III Loaded Bundle

The Bundle includes:

  • 2 Level III Polyethylene plates, 
  • 1 Minuteman Plate Carrier and
  • 1 5.56 Quick Draw Triple Mag Pouch

Important Limitations to Remember

While body armor is a crucial lifesaver, it’s important to recognize its limitations. Understanding these can help in making informed decisions about personal safety.

Performance After Multiple Shots

Body armor, particularly soft armor, is generally designed to withstand a limited number of bullet impacts. With each shot, the integrity of the armor is compromised, reducing its effectiveness. This is because the fibers or materials used to absorb and disperse the bullet’s energy get damaged, which can diminish the armor’s ability to stop subsequent rounds.

Fragmentation Damage

Fragmentation, or spalling, is another concern, especially with hard armor plates. When a bullet hits the plate, it can shatter, sending fragments or shrapnel outward. This can cause secondary injuries. Some armor incorporates anti-spall coatings or layers, but these are not foolproof and vary in effectiveness.

For this soft armor, that’s less of a concern. But, hits on the edge of a panel can be an issue for any type.

Impact Trauma Behind Soft, Flexible Panels

soft backpack armor deformation after being shot with .45 ACP
Deformation is no joke when a soft panel takes a .45 ACP round

Even if a bullet is stopped, the force of the impact is transferred to the wearer. This can result in blunt force trauma, which can range from severe bruising to internal injuries, depending on the force of the bullet and the type of armor. 

This is not the movies.

Full stop.

A hit will hurt and still incapacitate most people without additional protection.

Soft, flexible panels, while more comfortable and easier to wear, may offer less protection against this kind of trauma compared to rigid plates.

Environmental and Wear Factors

Environmental factors like moisture, heat, and wear can also degrade the effectiveness of body armor over time. Regular maintenance and checks are crucial to ensure the armor’s integrity is maintained.

Body Armor Should Be Replaced Occasionally

Body armor, like any protective gear, has a finite lifespan and must be replaced periodically to ensure its effectiveness. Over time, the materials used in body armor, especially in soft armor panels made from fibers like Kevlar, degrade due to environmental factors such as exposure to heat, light, moisture, and mechanical wear. This degradation can significantly reduce the armor’s ability to disperse the energy of a bullet or resist penetration, thereby compromising its protective capabilities.

That is especially true when it is used in a backpack and will likely be bent, creased, and compressed many times each day.

Manufacturers typically provide a recommended service life for their products, and adhering to these guidelines helps guarantee that the armor provides the expected level of protection. In summary, periodic replacement of body armor is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and ensuring the highest level of safety in life-threatening situations.

While body armor provides a significant level of protection, it’s not an invincibility cloak. Users must be aware of its limitations, including reduced effectiveness after multiple shots, potential fragmentation damage, and the risk of impact trauma, even when the armor successfully stops a bullet. Regular maintenance and understanding the conditions under which armor performs best can help in maximizing its protective capabilities.

Predator Armor Backpack Armor Score Card

Protection LevelWhile 3A doesn’t stop everything, for the rating level advertised, this panel holds up well.5
WeightAt 1.4 lbs, it’s lighter than any of the panels of the same size or larger.5
Build & FinishHybrid Kevlar, no imperfections in our unit5
Thickness0.22″, thinner than all but the Hardwire Panel5
ValueComparable to the other Level IIIA soft panels we found4
OverallSolid product and value for your money4.8

Final Thoughts: Predator Armor Backpack Armor

After carrying this around in my backpack for a couple of months and shooting it on the range, I think the Predator Armor Level IIIA backpack armor is a great solution for when you may need some additional protection. Whether that’s travelling in a dangerous area or sending a kid to school in the morning, this light and thin soft panel is a good answer to handgun threats.

While rifle rounds will pass through, if this is paired with textbooks, it may be just enough protection to get the job done in a really light package. The worst body armor is the one that gets left behind because it’s too heavy and uncomfortable!

Hope that helps!

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Last update on 2024-02-01 / Images from Amazon Product API