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16 Things That Will Stop a Bullet and 28 Things That Won’t [UPDATED]

Stopping power balistics gelThis is a living and breathing article that we update from time to time to ensure we keep a list based on what has been tested.

To be truthful we are generalizing some for the purpose of simplicity. Here are some disclaimers before we dive in:

  1. Different firearms and calibers of bullets have unique stopping power and potential for penetration depending on their velocity and construction. There is a big difference between a 9mm handgun and an AR-15
  2. Some bullets for example are jacketed, meaning they are encased in a shell of a harder metal (generally a steel alloy), where as non-jacketed ammunition tends to be a softer lead
  3. Items in our list are also generalized since there are different types and widths of trees, furniture, walls, etc
  4. Also we have to consider that even some things that would stop a single shot may not be able to withstand multiple shots
  5. While some things wouldn't fully STOP a bullet, they may slow it down significantly enough to make it far less lethal than a direct shot

All that disclaimer aside I think this list is at least directional in giving you some sense between what could be truly considered as cover and what is simply concealment at best.

The Bullet Proof Vest shown in many of these videos is the BulletSafe Vest.

Things that are NOT likely to fully stop a bullet:

1. The Body of a Car

2. A Sofa

3. A Dresser

A dresser doesn't have much to it. I couldn't find a specific video of anyone battle testing a dresser with clothing but consider that the wood on the dresser is generally fairly weak and thin, The clothes themselves would generally not be enough by themselves. You probably would need a lot of clothing in that dresser, packed for the purpose of stopping bullets, to slow it down enough to be safe behind it.

4. Car Windows or Windshield

There are rumors of windshields stopping some handgun rounds but I wouldn't count on it.

5. Motorcycle Helmet

You trust that thing to protect your head at 60+ MPH against the pavement… but it won't stop a bullet. More here: Will a helmet stop a bullet?

6. Computer Tower

7. Tablets and Smartphones

8. Laptop

9. Wallet

We'll test this one for you soon but we seriously doubt that paper that thin would do much.

10. Phone book or text book

We recently put some text books to the test. Spoiler alert… 1 book won't do the trick. But enough books together would. Full thoughts here: Will books stop a bullet?

11. Badge (looks like it depends on the badge)

12. Exterior or interior wood door

13. Can of soup

14. Ceramic Tiles

15. Microwave

17. Wood frame walls (most homes)

18. Brick Walls

19. Thick winter clothing and coat

This video is a good illustration of how thick or how many layers of fabric are needed to stop a bullet.

20. Thick Knife or Sword

Mythbusters tested this one and I'm sorry to say that a Ninja wouldn't last long if his plan for stopping bullets is to use his sword.

21. Cardboard

22. A Watch

23. Coffee Table

24. Kitchen Table

25. Furnace

26. Metal Door

27. Kitchen Plates

28: Bags of Ice

Things that ARE likely to stop a bullet:

1. About 7 Inches of Sand

Sand is fairly dense but how much do you need? Learn More: How much sand do you need to stop a bullet

2. Enough Ceramic Tiles

3. Human Bodies

4. Concrete: Wall, floor, etc

5. The Engine Block of a Vehicle

6. A thick tree (how thick? that depends on the bullet)

7. Refrigerator

Well, as you will see from the video below it really depends on what is in the refrigerator. An empty refrigerator isn't going to stop anything. But a full one is pretty likely to do the job.

8. Oven

The below video doesn't fully make it clear if the rounds are fully penetrating or not but our own research would suggest that an over acts as good cover for most handgun rounds.

9. 18 inches of water

10. Most gun safes

11. Water Heater (full of water)

The magic is in the water. See video above about water.

12. 24 inches of dirt

13. 10 Jugs of Water

14. 2 Bricks

15. A Filing Cabinet full of Paper

There has actually been a lot of research on file cabinets due to their general availability for cover in a workplace active shooter situation. Our research would suggest that an empty file cabinet will not stop most handgun rounds but a filing cabinet full of paper is likely to be effective. The NYPD conducted a study in which they claim a file cabinet stopped rounds from all handgun rounds but the below video shows some an empty file cabinet.

16. And of Course… A Good Bulletproof Vest

->>Learn More about the BulletSafe Vest Here

Ok, I'm ready for your comments…. Did I miss anything worth mentioning that will stop a bullet? Anywhere you think I over generalized?

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53 Responses to 16 Things That Will Stop a Bullet and 28 Things That Won’t [UPDATED]

  1. Doug Williams May 5, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

    Great article…Only thing I disagree with is that a brick wall veneer is very effective at stopping a bullet. Keep up the good work Jacob!

  2. Travis July 7, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    Cool article. I’ve often critizised a lot of cheesy stuff I’ve seen in movies. The only thing I noticed is the text book was listed as a non-stopper. I know it depends on the book and caliber of gun. I had a lot of old text books that I took to my shooting spot. I didn’t use any high powered rifles but a two thick science books stopped lead rounds from a .38 and a .45. The .38 went about 500 pages deep while the .45 went about 900. Thanks for the article!

  3. Simon October 29, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    What about a thick 432 pages of a World Encyclopedia Book ? Will a Bullet of a .357 Magnum Revolver can go through ?

    • Jacob Paulsen October 29, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

      Only one way to find out. I suspect it would penetrate but it would not be lethal after penetration

  4. Stacy December 5, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Would a lead apron that is used in a dental office when taking X-rays, stop a bullet?

    • Jacob Paulsen December 5, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

      I don’t think so…

    • Eric November 21, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

      Would it help tho? Add some kv

      • Jacob Paulsen November 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

        It is made of lead but it is extremely thin and light. It may slow it down some and may likely cause a hollow point to expand but I don’t think it would stop lethality. Worth testing though…

        Jacob

  5. John February 21, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    Would a Nokia stop a bullet? 🙂

    • Jacob Paulsen February 21, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

      No

      • Jeremy June 11, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

        Except that a Nokia has stopped a bullet, but I think it was a 32. Happened in Brazil.

  6. Brian. Limo February 22, 2016 at 7:32 am #

    an electric heater full of water…im amazed but how can it stop a bullet…??

    • Jacob Paulsen February 22, 2016 at 8:02 am #

      The water is the magic. Water acts like concrete in that regard. Mythbusters did a great episode where they fired various calibers of firearms into a swimming pool of water and measured how far into the water the bullet would travel at a lethal velocity. The higher the caliber of the round the less “deep” into the water it is likely to travel. No round was able to travel more than about 6 inches at any decent velocity before it was stopped fully. Water is a stopper.

      • David June 13, 2016 at 6:16 am #

        Jacob, from what you’re saying, it means the movies are false. Because, from what i saw in the finale of the movies XXX – State of the nation a bullet was shot into a lake and went past 6 inches

        • Jacob Paulsen June 13, 2016 at 7:06 am #

          I doubt you were very surprised to find out the Hollywood is wrong!

  7. Retta March 4, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Does anyone know how to build an effective, yet affordable wall or barrier to protect against stray bullets shot by hunters hunting on a next-door game ranch ? We have had multiple incidents of this happening.
    And what could be tied to along the fence to stay attention to hunters–do not aim in our direction?
    Thank you. All ideas welcome.
    Retta

    • John May 14, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

      Would you not be able to inform the police. I was told the law, in the state of Nebraska (as an example), come down very heavy on anyone shooting cattle, on someone elses property. I think they take their guns and rights to own guns away from them. There could also be gaol time involved. Maybe 100 head of cattle is the solution, as your neighbour may be more carefull of who he or she allows on their property.
      If a bullet does go astray, the steer will take the shoot, your neighbour will be prosecuted and you can celebrate with a big bbq.
      Great artical!

    • Liz O September 20, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

      Car tire treads. steel belting, with kevlar. Might be worth a try.

      https://www.concealedcarry.com/safety/things-that-will-stop-a-bullet-and-things-that-wont/

  8. Brandon Puntalba March 26, 2016 at 12:41 am #

    What about multiple ceramic or porclein tiles?

    • Jacob Paulsen March 28, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

      That is one that we should test but my own guess would be that it would take at least 15 ceramic tiles to stop the bullet…

  9. John Bird April 19, 2016 at 11:19 am #

    you make no mention of kevlar or other carbon fibre laminates.

    • Jacob Paulsen April 19, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

      You are right. When we wrote this we were emphasizing household types of objects but we need to update it to be a more comprehensive review of the topic.

  10. JurmEFC June 28, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    how many doritos would it take to stop a bullet

  11. auls July 2, 2016 at 10:33 pm #

    I hate being a buzzkill but an AR-15 shoots a .223 which is smaller than a 9mm….

    • No March 18, 2017 at 12:59 am #

      How does this relate? A .223 travels at a much higher velocity. A 9mm is generally a pistol round, so there’s less powder, a smaller barrell, and it’s a large bullet which means more drag. 9s are great for close quarters self defense, but there’s a good reason militaries use rifles.

  12. beanboy July 12, 2016 at 9:53 pm #

    Thanks for posting this! I live in a very dangerous area and have resorted to sleeping on the floor, away from windows and in the inner most room of my house. one night, I even slept in the bathtub (which is iron cast). I’m planning to move very soon, lol. :p

    • beanboy July 12, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

      P.s. From your article, I think I’m going to put sand bags in the window!!!

  13. Johnny August 25, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    How thick of a treated wooded post would it take to stop a 357 mag bullet?

    How thick of steel would it take to stop a 357 mag bullet?

    • Jacob Paulsen August 30, 2016 at 6:54 am #

      Johnny, I’m taking a bit of a guess here… having not directly tested it but I would guess you need about 4-6 inches of wood and 2 inches of steel.

      • Johnny September 4, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

        I just watched a YouTube clip where a guy shot various calibers at a 1/4″ steel plate–including a 357 mag, and none of them went through the 1/4″ steel. Of course, the 357 mag put some good size dents in the steel.

        • Chrispy December 16, 2016 at 10:01 pm #

          American steel or Chinese steel?

  14. kathy August 26, 2016 at 10:23 am #

    will a cast iron tub stop a bullet

    • Jacob Paulsen August 30, 2016 at 6:55 am #

      Kathy, that is a good question. If you have one I could shoot I could tell you… but I’m inclined to think it would be fairly effective at stopping small arms fire.

    • Matthew July 30, 2017 at 10:13 pm #

      I can actually answer that yes it will, at least every handgun round and up to 5.56. It will not stop a .30-06.

  15. Hurlsz January 7, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    What about a bundle of roofing shingles or two? I think that would be a decent test

    • Jacob Paulsen January 7, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

      Great idea. I’ll work on that

  16. Curious parent January 16, 2017 at 11:39 am #

    Will 2 stacked 3/4 in plywood stop bullets

    • Jacob Paulsen January 23, 2017 at 8:40 am #

      No, highly unlikely.

  17. Black Bart Ketchup January 18, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

    Books work, but people have to read them…

    A dresser filled with down jackets and bikinis is not going to save you! Hide behind the one filled with bullet-proof vests!

    A car door only works if you have the special steel apparently required in Hollywood–the type that gives off a huge spark and goes “kertchew” everything it is hit. Stupid me, I always ended up in non-bullet-proof type that just goes “thunk”.

  18. John June 12, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

    I think that 1/8″ high carbon heated steel will stop all subsonic handgun rounds. It might even stop some mildly supersonic handgun rounds. But, most likely not rifle rounds.

  19. Euan Hastie June 12, 2017 at 4:21 pm #

    For the mathematically inclined an approximation of how well wood can stop a bullet can be roughly calculated from the Janka Hardness Test, which provides the force required to penetrate wood with a .444 inch BB to the depth of .222 of an inch. Theoretically on inch of the hardest timber on the planet (Austrailian Buloke) can stop a .45acp. This test uses fresh seasoned timbe for flooring use, not the old framing that has been sitting in a wall for a decade. Depending on the variables used some woods are (in theory!) 5-7 times as good at stopping a bullet as pine.

  20. Jimmyd June 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    Who else wishes that poor lad in minnesota had read this website before attempting the trick with the book. With a dessert eagle too.

  21. Kevin August 20, 2017 at 11:16 am #

    I would like to see a video of real brick, not dyed concrete pavers

  22. Benjamin September 11, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

    Can a steel plate stop a bullet please

    • Jacob Paulsen September 11, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

      Its actually a rather complex question. Body armor and a lot of targets are generally made out of steel but there are a lot of different types of steel and the thickness of the steel and the caliber of round being fired are significant factors. I suggest researching steel body armor and steel plate targets.

  23. Treynojn October 17, 2017 at 11:51 am #

    Will hand sanitizer stop a bullet?

    • Jacob Paulsen October 17, 2017 at 12:12 pm #

      I doubt it is significantly different from water… so you probably need 12 inches or more to stop most rounds.

  24. Don October 18, 2017 at 10:37 am #

    in Kingsman, he blocks bullets with his assault rifle against his body. would an assault rifle as as shield block penetration of a bullet?

    • Jacob Paulsen October 18, 2017 at 11:51 am #

      Rifle barrels would be effective at stopping bullets. The other parts of most AR platform rifles would have little effect.

      Jacob

  25. Erin October 28, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    I’d like to know if linen armour, like the type worn by Alexander the Great, would stop a bullet. I’ve seen video of tests that compared it to steel and it performed as well or better than the steel armour at stopping both swords and arrows.

    • Jacob Paulsen October 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

      The short answer is yes… but density and type of material matter. There are lot of body armour companies that are working only with soft materials but they compact it tightly enough with enough layers to get the job done. The advantage is that this kind of armor is generally lighter than steel or Kevlar.

  26. luke November 16, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

    Do you have any material suggestions for me to try? I am doing a science fair project and need some more materials to shoot.

    • Jacob Paulsen November 16, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

      I would recommend anything that is common place in a home or workplace!

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