Abstract In this paper, response of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) laminates subjected to high velocity impact has been investigated by experimental and numerical methods. Experiments using a two-stage light gas gun were conducted to investigate the impact process and to validate the finite element model. The energy absorption efficiency (EAE) of CFRP laminates with different thickness was investigated. According to the results of experiments and numerical calculations, thin CFRP laminates have a good EAE under relative higher velocity impact; by contraries, a superior EAE is displayed in thick laminates under relative lower velocity impact. Subsequently, EAE of CFRP laminates was compared with that of 304 stainless-steel plates. In a specific impact velocity range, EAE of CFRP laminates is higher than that of 304 stainless-steel. Thus, CFRP laminates have a potential advantage to substitute the metal plates to be used in high velocity impact resistance structures under a specific impact velocity range.