Not everybody that wants ballistic protection works in an environment where worn body armor makes sense. In the aftermath of school shootings and other similar incidents, consumers want protection options that are more flexible for their environments. Therefore manufacturers have filled that niche by making armor inserts for briefcases, back packs and other bags. Protection ranges from Level IIa up to Level IV (Level I technically still exists but is rarely seen and for this discussion is irrelevant).
Premier Body Armor, established in 2013, is in the business of saving lives, from the warfighter and LEO to the civilian. Their headquarters are in Gastonia North Carolina and they make all of its products in the USA (Miami). Frank Stewart is the founder and President, and previously made MRAPS and other armored vehicles as a defense contractor during the early days of the GWOT. He began to retool his company away from fabrication of vehicles to body armor. One of their first products was a hard plate that they patented as a multi-curve SAP/ESAPI steel plate.
They began to make soft armor bag panels at the request of a LEO friend and saw that this product could really help consumers by adding protection to their everyday carry (EDC) bags. They were also driven by the desire that everyone should have access to the same levels of protections, whether warfighter, LEO or civilian.
Premier makes soft panels in generic sizes and custom inserts designed to work with most popular tactical bags brands, including Vertx, Haley Strategic, GoRuck, Eberlestock and consumer brands like Nike, Adidas and The North Face, among many others. The majority of their panels are IIIA rated thought they do make a Level III rifle rated insert (STRATIS) as well. They also make bulletproof vests, plate carriers and hard armor for those as well, though the focus of this review is on the IIIA soft panels we tested.
My EDC bag is the Vertx Ready Pack 2.0 (review here) and so I was excited to test out Premier’s Vertx Ready Pack 2.0 Level IIIA Insert. With over 400 reviews (all 4 and 5 star), I was confident that Premier would hit a home run with this. It is worth noting that Premier offers Law Enforcement, First Responder and Military discounts as well.
The quality, feel and appearance are excellent. The 500 Denier Cordura (choice of coyote or black) outer shell is well made with good stitching. Everything about the construction, design and labeling promotes a feeling of manufacturing excellence and thus, confidence in the product.
Installation is easy and simple. I unzipped the back panel of the Ready Pack and opened it like a clamshell. At the bottom of the compartment, a Velcro closure keeps the plastic stiffener secured. I undid the Velcro, slid out the stiffener, and replaced it with the insert and then secured the Velcro closed. I then closed the compartment, placing my normal EDC items back in their secure locations in that same compartment.
I carry this bag on a daily basis. The panel adds just under 1.5 pounds, though I have yet to notice it. I’ve worn the pack to and from the gym and office, traveled with it on multiple domestic flights, and carried it on multiple 4-8 mile day hikes with 1500-3000 foot elevation gains with no issues. I feel quite confident knowing I have the panel protecting my back, and can easily shift the pack to the front if I need to face a threat.
Level III-A indicates that body armor is adequate to protect against most handgun rounds, used in most shootings. Specifically, they are able to withstand .357 SIG and .40 magnum, in addition to 9mm, .40 S&W FMJ, and .357 magnum. Further, Premier tests their IIIA panels against 12 gauge slugs and buckshot, FN’s 5.7×28 mm round and Liberty Civil Defense 9mm rounds.
Premier sent me a second panel to test on my shooting range, in this case the Small Universal IIIA insert (here). This panel is generically sized and can be used in any bag compartment that will hold a 10×12 panel, but in all other respects is made identically to the panel I carry in my Vertx Ready Pack.
I placed the panel in a backpack one of my kids had used for highschool and set the rest of the pack up like he would have carried it on a daily basis (sans the Clif bar and candy wrappers), with a couple of text books, a binder and a laptop computer all in the bag as well. The panel was closest to the wearer’s body, and any rounds fired at the bag would travel through the other items first.
I set up a plastic mannequin and hung the bag straps over the shoulders so that bag hung as someone would wear it. Hanging the mannequin in front of a secure back-stop 7 yards from the firing line, I used a SIG Sauer M18 pistol and standard Sellier and Bellot 9MM 115 grain full metal jacket. I chose not to use a specific self-defense ammo but rather choose something commonly available (at least pre-2020 COVID/Election madness).
All 11 rounds I fired went through the backpack, at least one book, a binder, and the laptop before impacting the insert itself. None of the other items in the pack provided any real ballistic protection. The panel stopped all 11 rounds with no penetration through the panel or back of the backpack. The cordura outer shell was damaged as expected, but the Kevlar interior caught and stopped all the rounds fired. It is worth noting that the mannequin itself did suffer some damage but that is completely due to the physics involved and is an accurate reflection of the real world. These insert will stop rounds from penetrating and thus increase survivability, but the force has to go somewhere still, and that means the user may still have broken bones and tissue damage.
Body armor is not the be-all end-all security solution. It is just one tool among many. Armor should not replace the need for strong situational awareness and it doesn’t make you invincible. It provides temporary protection for your vitals, to allow you to get to cover or get out of the bad situation. Even the best armor panel, still leaves your lower body, arms and head exposed. Use it to get to safety.
The world is a dangerous place. Each of us needs to evaluate the tools and training necessary to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. I believe Premier’s soft armor back pack inserts fill a great role in my protection plan. I will always have one in my EDC bag and, like my firearm, hope I never have to use it. However I will always have it available in case I need it.
Premier Body Armor inserts, properly used and taken care of, will aid in ensuring survivability in an active shooter or self-defense situation.
From the manufacturer:
Level IIIA Ballistic Backpack Panel Custom Fitted for the EDC Ready Pack and Ready Pack 2.0
Designed to fit seamlessly into the EDC Ready Pack and EDC Ready Pack 2.0, this lightweight, and flexible kevlar panel will provide you and/or your loved ones with years of dependable service.
- Tested to meet the NIJ ballistic standards for Level IIIA
- Just .22″ thick
- Constructed of only the finest USA made Kevlar® and features a rugged 500 Denier CORDURA® outer shell
- TSA Approved!
- Body Armor is legal to own in all 50 states (but we cannot ship to the state of Connecticut.)
- EDC Ready Pack and Ready Pack 2.0, 11″x17.5″ | 1.49 lbs
Will stop common handgun rounds as specified by NIJ Standard-0101.06 such as 9mm, .40, .45, and .44 magnum.
Special Threat Tested against: 12 Gauge (buckshot and slug), Liberty Civil Defense 9mm and FN 5.7×28 (SS197SR)
Stab and slash-resistant
5 Year Warranty
I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.
*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.