Eberlestock Bulletproof Backpack

Innocuous looking Switchblade F5

This week, we got our hands on an all-new product from our friends at Eberlestock. A channel favorite, you guys have seen me review a fair amount of backpacks from the same. I have had some very high praise for the Gunslinger series (including multiple tours in Baghdad with the Gen 1), Big Trick, and others. Eberlestock is well known in the industry for both extremely high quality, and innovative designs. So, what do they have cooked up now? Something truly different.

Excellent padding and ventilation.

With all the riots and random violence precipitating the summer, a lot of us went looking for something that we could use as a bug-out or get home bag. Something that didn’t make us look like an extra from The Expendables, something that would blend into our environment. Eberlestock answered, with the Switchblade series. This line of packs was made with all the mil-spec needs and durability, but none of the mil-spec look. A big positive in my book, for many situations.

Hidden holster compartment.
Closed position.

And a twist? Thought you would never ask. Eberlestock teamed up with Premier Body Armor on this one to create, you guessed it, a pack panel of level III-A armor. Which is a huge plus. Now don’t get me wrong, any chump can toss an armor panel in a bag and call it good. The real key that I see with this setup is the fact that the Premier panel is so thin and light, and Eberlestock made a pouch that holds it in the correct area. The model we tested is specifically made to stop handgun rounds, which I think most of us would agree is the highest threat. For now at least.

Magnetic closures.

Which is great for a get home bag. Yes, it only protects your back. If you wanted to wear a vest, Premier also makes those. But for just a little peace of mind, a back panel is P for plenty. If a gunfight starts at a protest or during a civil disturbance, what is your best bet to make it home? The Nike expressway, obviously. By that, I mean cut and run. There is a massive difference in violence direct toward YOU, and addressed “to whom it may concern.” The former, better skin that smoke wagon and get the job done. Random gunfire? Conserve your ammo, if at all possible, by skedaddling.

The real magic, a soft armor panel pouch.

In order to find out if this backpack is worth the investment, we did what any gun review monkey would do. Any fun gun review monkey anyway. We volunteered to shoot the dog snot out of it, in the interest of science. Would The Armored Switchblade hold up to a live-fire test?

Front panel aftermath.

Now I want to state upfront, our test model had already taken some abuse. It came with bullet holes, as we are not the first to have a go. That will be important later.

9mm

9mm, no problem.

We started at the bottom of what I consider likely threats. If it will stop 9mm, it will stop anything smaller, such as 380 or 25 ACP. I wanted to get a good baseline here, so we opted for two rounds. First, some standard ball 9mm. In theory, the ball should do better against armor anyway. And for a second round, we chose the Norma Monolithic Hollowpoint. While designed to expand, the Norma round also moves out at an impressive 1312 feet per second. Velocity could be the difference-maker. Alas, it was not. The armor stopped both of these cold.

45 ACP

45 ACP also no problem.

Next up the chain, in my opinion, at least, is 45 ACP. Despite being a subsonic round by nature, the old slab sides pills are notorious for penetration. 230 grains of mass will do that. We only had ball available, but the Switchblade stopped this in its tracks as well.

40 S&W

40 cal projectiles with kevlar strings.

While as a 10mm cultist I do believe the S&W stands for Slow & Weak, it does put up more impressive numbers than either 9 or 45 for breaking things. Running with what I had on hand, we opted for 165 grain Hornady Critical Defense. Despite being a 165-grain bullet moving 1175 feet per second, the Switchblade said “None Shall Pass.”

10mm

10mm Gold Dot, second attempt.

And then the problems began. Which as a 10mm cultist also made me smile, even if it meant my review was failing. I selected two rounds for this test because 10mm is the upper power floor for handguns I have in inventory. First was a Gold Dot 200 grain, and the second was a Buffalo Bore 180 grain. Now the Gold Dot I can justify in any armor test, as it is a fairly common round. Buffalo Bore, not so much. Buffalo Bore’s claim to fame is that they make ammo with PUNCH. The company motto in fact is “Strictly Business”. If you want some easy on the wrist plinking ammo, you go somewhere else. If your handgun might need to stop a Grizzly or a Buffalo, this is the only thing you buy.

Kevlar shredding under our onslaught.

What I expected to happen was for the armor to stop the Gold Dot, and maybe not the Buffalo Bore, which we could all have a laugh about. Because the odds of a bad guy having $1.50 per round Buffalo Bore on tap is about 0.00%. But what happened instead is that both my 10mm rounds punched through the armor like a hot knife through butter. Uh-oh!

Bullet fragments a couple of layers deep.

Now I do like breaking things, but I also only get the good feels if it was a fair test. A quick look at the panel showed that I put the 10mm rounds in proximity to where I had put everything else. Not to mention, our panel had some abuse prior to us. Armor, not shockingly, degrades as it is hit. Previously tightly woven Kevlar starts coming apart, which is to be expected. Even “bulletproof glass” is only bulletproof for so many rounds. Or ceramic plate armor for that matter. When I was wearing the most advanced ceramic multi-hit armor on planet Earth, it was still only good for 3x 30.06 AP (or 7.62x54R AP). So we shouldn’t really expect any soft armor to take a full mag of bullets.

Second attempt, Buffalo Bore exploded, and was stopped.

In the interest of fairness, I put the Buffalo Bore up again, this time in a corner section that had not been hit previously. And while it did mushroom the Kevlar out the back in an impressive display of kinetic energy, it did stop the bullet. Which is impressive.

All in all, this is an impressive piece of gear. At a very minimal weight, you get what could be a lifesaving back panel. At the very least, a chance to turn and fight if things get really dicey. And it is wrapped in an eminently useful Eberlestock pack, a big bonus. If you are looking for a get home bag, this is one that should certainly be on your radar.

For more information visit Eberlestock website.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Garbonzo February 22, 2021, 5:24 pm

    I agree with Micheal’s comment about sending you used gear to test. Also, if the idea behind this pack is “Blend into environment and don’t attract attention” then why would they name it “Switchblade”? If I noticed this name embroidered on the pack I would instantly think “Probable wannabe operator”.

    How about a nice warm-feeling name like “Greystone” or “Treebeard” or “Beanie Baby Storage Container”? Actually, pretty much anything other than an offensive weapon.

  • Jerald Koester February 22, 2021, 3:48 pm

    Good review,but it’s not the first time bullet proof back packs have hit the market. For a real test
    , Put things in the pack. Bullet proof school packs have been tested too! Empty! No books in the pack.

    How about testing a pack with camping equipment,(mess kit, food, rain gear, and clothing.

    I don’t think you buy a bullet proof pack and go hiking, or go to school with no books, paper and now days a personal I pad computer.

    Please a shot at that.

  • Jake February 22, 2021, 11:27 am

    Clay, when I saw the photo of the pack on the ground I was thinking of it being used as a hasty barrier to get behind and engage targets with a rifle, or a pistol of course. Are there any provisions for an added plate or more Kevlar panels? The idea that struck me of a pack as a portable fighting position has me intrigued and recalls those movable armored sniper hides from WW1.
    How would .357 do against this? I have fired some ungodly hot Serbian .357 fmjfp that might do some damage.
    One other idea, were a guy “expecting trouble” he could place a half dozen large magazines like Cigar Afficianado or one or two old time Sunday newspapers and dramatically increase protection. Catalogs used to be great for stopping rounds but the internet has eliminated the need for most of those making them scarce.

  • Dennis A Muirhead February 22, 2021, 8:54 am

    Does it come in red or international orange, for hunting?
    Thanks,
    Dennis

  • Michael Gilliam February 22, 2021, 6:19 am

    I knew as soon as you said they sent you a “pre-tested” pack that it would end up being an issue. I was also very surprised that they sent that to you for testing. Why would a company that is about to get basically FREE ADVERTIZING for their product do that? No matter whether or not you “re-tested” it in a fresh area of the plate, the human mind will store that first failure. When ANOTHER company does the same test with the same ammo with ZERO fails, no matter what the reason was for the fail you had, THEY WILL CHOOSE THE PLATE THAT THE SAW WITH ZERO FAILS. I have DECADES in sales and you would be amazed at why people make some of the choices they make. You and I both know this is good armor, I just wanted to point that out so maybe if someone from that company reads this they might not make this mis-step in the future.

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