JULIAN, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - FOX 46 is putting armor advertised to stop an AR-15 to the test.
The station planned a follow-up to our previous test on Friday, May 18. What we didn't plan was for a gunman to walk into a Texas high school killing 10 people that same day.
"Something has to be done," firearms expert Yousef Sansour said. "We've had way too many school shootings in general. I mean one is too many so it's kind of unfortunate that we're out here testing backpacks for bullets."
On a rainy afternoon, at a rural North Carolina gun range, FOX 46 again met up with Sansour to help the station out. The former sheriff's deputy has more than two decades of law experience and now trains military and police around the world with Esoteric LLC.
All of the armor - inserts meant to go inside of a normal backpack - that FOX 46 tested are rated to work from about 50 feet away, Sansour said. But FOX 46 wanted to put them to a more realistic test. So we are getting close, firing from about 21 feet.
The reality is that after every school shooting, sales of bulletproof backpacks and armor, spike. After the Parkland, Fla. attack, the company ShotStop saw "triple digit increases in sales." Hardwire, said its "sales increase dramatically directly after a shooting." And the third company we're testing, RMA, says they will sell as many as 60,000 bulletproof shields this year alone.
The products sell for around $300.
Since parents are buying these products, with their kids' safety in mind, FOX 46 wanted to see if and how they work.
"Alright we're hot," Sansour said, before firing his AR-15 at the Hardwire shield.
"You can see it didn't even go through," FOX 46 reporter Matt Grant said.
Hardwire, ShotStop and RMA all passed our extreme test.
"It works and this is pretty light armor," Sansour said, after firing at the RMA shield. "It did its job."
Next up, a level IV shield from RMA. Level IV is the highest level rated by the National Institute of Justice, able to withstand armor-piercing rounds.
But at what point will it break?
Sansour fired at least a dozen rounds, in rapid succession, at the armor from close range. Three bullets went through. The rest were stopped.
"You're not going to get an armor, 'Hey man I'm going to shoot it and nothing gets through,'" said Sansour. "As you can tell with each hit it loses protection."
Sansour, and RMA, say no product is completely bulletproof.
"It's not 'bullet proof,'" said Sansour. "It's 'bullet resistant' under certain conditions."
"Yes, he's 100% correct. Nothing is completely bullet proof," said Blake Waldrop, the CEO of RMA Armament, in an email. "Unless you have a Divine blessing everything is resistant."
NIJ sets the stand for armor ratings. Level II, IIA and IIIA are designed to stop handguns. Level III and IV are designed to stop rifles.
But what if you don't have armor? Some parents asked FOX 46 if thick textbooks will do the trick.
"I'm interested to see what it does against the 5.56 [ammo]," said Sansour.
So, we stuffed our ordinary backpack with two textbook-sized books and fired. Both books were no match for a bullet traveling 2700 feet per second.
"It went through the first book and the second one," said Sansour.
Still, he says that could be enough to slow the bullet's velocity and potentially lessen the impact in the event of a shooting.
Of course, the fact we're out here at all, says more than the outcome of any test.
"I think it's a sad state of affairs that that's what we have to worry about," said Sansour.
Each company responded to our test. Below is their emailed responses:
"We are happy, but not surprised, to hear the shoot went well. We design our armor to provide the needed stopping power at the lightest weight. Hardwire is privately held and does not share revenue or sales figures. However, thousands of our shields, inserts, and clipboards are used all around the United States and internationally. We do see sales increase dramatically directly after a shooting." - Emily Tuns, President & COO
"I'm happy to hear the plates held up well. We build a strong and true 100% American made product here, so it comes at no surprise the performance was spot on. In total we've sold tens of thousands of our plates. This year alone we'll sell between 50,000 and 60,000 plates. For specific models we would have to run several dozen reports and count. We average of 900 units a week here for regular season (such as now) other times we average 1,300 to 1,500 a week. We don't advertise directly after a shooting... for ethical reasons. We always run generic ads but we do not target a parental audience (especially after a tragedy). We'll wait awhile and then run ands for the backpack inserts. The Level IV plate retails at $99 each. The Rifle Rated Backpack Insert retails for $275 each. The backpack insert is only 2.5 pounds and very expensive in raw material and labor. The Level IV is opposite. Heavy and very inexpensive raw materials / easy to mass produce, manufacture. Nothing is completely bullet proof, only resistant. Unless you have Divine blessing everything is resistant." -Black Waldrop, CEO
"I'm glad to hear our insert stood up to your test. I'm not surprised; we always go above and beyond when it comes to saving lives - NIJ says, "make sure it can stop X" and we say, "we'll stop X...and Y...and Z!" We have tested it ourselves and with an accredited ballistics lab with multiple shots from various ammo and distances, and it has stopped everything it's meant to stop. At 3.8 lbs it's not too heavy, but we do have a lighter, thinner version too - its around 2 lbs and about 1/2 inch thick and will still stop the same high-powered rifles as the one you tested. As for sales, our policy is not to share specifics. Because we sell through dealers and independent reps, I can't tell you yet what happened after Friday's shooting,e ven whether or not there was an increase in demand or calls/inquiries. I'll be receiving that information early this week, I'm sure. I can tell you after the Parkland, FL, shooting in February, we saw triple digit increases in sales of our various BallisticBoard inserts (the IIIa soft and rigit inserts is all we had available at the time) and sold out of almost everything we had in stock at the time." -Matt White, Director of Marketing