In the present work, an analytical model is proposed to obtain the damage area of the composite laminates at below ballistic limit velocities. The model is based on the fact that total kinetic energy of the projectile is absorbed by different energy absorbing mechanisms taking place in laminates during impact. Depending upon the projectile velocity, some or all energy absorbing mechanisms observed are; fibre breakage, deformation of fibres, delamination, matrix cracking and cone formation on the back face of the laminates. The accuracy of the model is then assessed by comparing its predictions for damage area and specific energy absorption with the experimental values for two different types of fibres (glass and kevlar) as well as glass/kevlar hybrid combinations. Experimental results are also used to quantify and compare the specific energy absorption capacity of the glass/epoxy, kevlar/epoxy and glass/kevlar/epoxy laminates. It is observed that the glass/kevlar/epoxy laminates in which kevlar percentage is 27.5% w/w showed 20% improvement in specific energy absorption as compared to the glass/epoxy laminates. © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.