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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 Do Or Do Not fully stop a bullet:

1. The Body, Windows, and Door of a Car

Our testing suggests that auto glass may change the trajectory of a bullet but it won't stop it. Neither will the dashboard or steering wheel. The body of the car, like the door, might stop bullets depending on the bullet and the angle of fire. (Learn more in our Vehicle Firearm Tactics Course)

2. The Engine Block of a Vehicle

Engine blocks have always been accepted as good cover and arguably the only part of a vehicle you can consistently rely on to stop bullets.

3. A Sofa

Your sofa doesn't have much going on in there. A lot of empty space and some fluff… it doesn't stop bullets.

4. 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?

5. Computer Tower

6. Tablets and Smartphones

7. Laptop

8. Phonebook or Textbook

We recently put some textbooks 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?

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

10. Ceramic Tiles

11. ATM Machine

Yeah, if available using an ATM for cover looks viable.

12. Wood frame walls (most homes)

13. Mattress

Yeah, I wouldn't count on it

14. 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.

15. Cast Iron Skillet

16. Cardboard

17. Metal Door

18. 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.

19. Kitchen Plates

20: Bags of Ice

21. 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

22. Enough Ceramic Tiles

23. Human Bodies

25. 18 inches of water

26. 10 Jugs of Water

27. Bricks

28. 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.

29. Ballistic “Backpack Inserts”

As you will see in the video below some of these are better than others but they all effectively stop handgun rounds.

Ok, I'm ready for your comments… Did I miss anything worth mentioning that will stop a bullet? Anywhere you think I overgeneralized?
In the market for body armor or other bulletproof materials? Click here now to shop our store.
Our recommendation? Deploy and wear body armor!

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72 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!

    • Richard January 26, 2018 at 8:11 pm #

      I can verify that 3 solid bricks (not Hollows, or Perforated) will consistently stop a 7.62x39mm out of AK at 20ft. Had a lot of fun at my father in-laws home with an old brick pile in rural Missouri.

  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!

      • Con Fuse April 24, 2018 at 8:58 am #

        I know this is an old thread.
        Myth Busters did have a .45 go all the way through 8ft column of water.

        I suspect the issue is speed of sound. High velocity rounds tended to shatter hitting the water. Lower velocity (sub-sonic?) like the .45 seemed to penetrate much further. Note speed of sound in water is about 4858 fps (faster in salt water) so I don’t think its an issue with “breaking the sound barrier” in water – probably more an issue with comprehensibility of water.

        BTW there is also a youtube video of someone hunting lion fish with a semi-automatic pistol + silencer. Bullet easily traveling 4-5ft. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1yM2wOGNE8. I think that also points to the impact with water vs. trying to move through water.

        Also Myth Busters noted that shotgun slug went so deep through the water that it broke their test fixture (I thought it was the .45 but I guess I’m wrong).

        https://mythresults.com/episode34

        Bottom line, I don’t think the barrel end is the fun side to be on.

        • Justa Dude September 7, 2018 at 12:47 am #

          The important part is lethal velocity. Any bullet shot straight down into water will go all the way to the bottom. I don’t know if I buy the 8′ collumn because I’ve seen videos where a lot less water stopped a .45, but even if it did most of the energy would have been gone on the other side. Maybe a high velocity round can kill a small fish at 5′, but there’s zero chance a .45 will be lethal at 2′. It may still hit you, maybe even penetrate the skin, but it won’t go through the muscle and bone to hit vital organs.

  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

    • Van der Sloot December 12, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

      37. But I’m not sure

  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?

      • Gary hart January 25, 2018 at 12:40 pm #

        9mm with hollow points will go through a treated 6×6 and still put a hole in the barn wall. Looking for 12c12s now.

  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

    • Van der Sloot December 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

      Refer to the St. Valentines Day Massacre

  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!

  27. George January 1, 2018 at 7:33 am #

    Here are a few of the things i have tested myself. A FMJ 223 round will penetrate a Jeep Grand Cherokee brake rotor fired from Ruger mini 14 at 100 yds. It will go through the first 3/8″ surface but not the second 3/8″ surface. Steel belted tires are no match for .223 rounds either. I often fill old tires with dirt and the round will go through the tread, through the dirt and out the other side of the tire. 7.62 x 39 is another nasty round that will do the same.

  28. Beverly January 21, 2018 at 4:56 pm #

    will large truck tires, filled with dirt/sand stop a 38 and 22 caliber bullet? will it bounce off the tread and not penetrate it?….from a distance of about 20 feet?

  29. B Melissa February 22, 2018 at 5:56 pm #

    What thickness of rubber with metal inbetween then rubber would stop a bullet from penetrating?

    • Jacob Paulsen February 22, 2018 at 6:33 pm #

      That is going to depend a lot on the bullet and the type of metal. The right steel at about 1 inch thick will stop most bullets.

  30. Bill Bandy February 28, 2018 at 5:13 pm #

    How thick of a wall of sand will stop a 223 bullet shot out of a ar15

  31. George Jetson March 17, 2018 at 2:39 am #

    If you had a modest budget and a healthy fear of murderers with second amendment tattoos what would you put in your walls to stop bullets

    • Jacob Paulsen March 17, 2018 at 7:53 am #

      Best idea probably is concrete.

  32. Fred Spraan May 14, 2018 at 2:43 am #

    Will 9mm of polycarbonate stop any bullet?

    • Mikial July 25, 2018 at 4:49 pm #

      Polycarbonate windows such as those used on a B6 SUV can stop most small arms rounds up through 7.62X54. However, repeated hits in the same area of the glass will eventually go through. I can’t post a photo here, but I have one of a window we took out of a B6 Excursions in Iraq and shot repeatedly. It eventually disintegrated the window.

      But, they will hold up for quite a while and I know people who owe their lives to them.

  33. Tex Shelters June 19, 2018 at 4:34 pm #

    What about a human skull with a 9 mm unjacketed bullet from a sig. I was looking it up for a story. Thanks.

  34. Lee July 22, 2018 at 7:56 pm #

    Chuck Norris will stop all bullets… with his mind.

  35. Mikial July 25, 2018 at 4:25 pm #

    Good series. People have a very unrealistic perception of what will stop bullets. Much of this is because of watching Hollywood movies where the hero takes cover behind and overturned table or an open car door, neither of which will stop a bullet. After spending 2 1/2 years doing private security in Iraq, I gained a very realistic appreciation of the many things that will not stop a bullet vs the few that will. Car doors and body panels definitely will not, nor will wooden barriers of any kind. Even ‘bullet proof’ windows such as you find on B6 rated armored SUVs will only stop bullets up to a point. If you hit the same general area with multiple shots, the glass will eventually disintegrate. On the other hand, an Army NCO was going to work out one morning in the International Zone (erroneously terms the Green Zone), riding on a scooter and wearing his vest and Kevlar helmet. He was shot in the back of the head with a 9mm pistol by and unknown assailant. He was found with a mild concussion, minus his vest and helmet, but he recovered with no serious problems. So, a K-Pot will stop a pistol round from close range.

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