The Box O’ Truth #31 – The Books O’ Truth

I have had a number of folks send me notes on two related questions.

The first is regarding the Bibles that some US troops carried in their shirt pockets in WWI and WWII.

There were reports that some of these guys had bullets or shrapnel stopped by the Bibles in their pockets.

Some enterprising guys even started selling metal covered Bibles that relatives could buy and send to troops.

The question: Could a small Bible stop a bullet?

Secondly, a surprising number of students have sent me notes asking: I carry a bunch of textbooks in my backpack. Could these books stop a bullet if needed?

The question: How much paper is required to stop common bullets? Sounds like a good excuse to go to the range.

I visited my local library and found that they had old books for sale for 10 cents apiece.

I picked up the largest 15 in the pile for $1.50 and we were ready to go.

First, a little comparison.

Here’s the New Testament that I carried in the Army.

You can see that it is less than 1/2 inch thick, even though it includes both the New Testament and the Psalms.

Not much paper there.

31-1I have filled the Box O’ Truth with the books and we are ready to go.

Here's the set-up.

Here’s the set-up.

Let’s start with small arms

First a .22 pistol.

31-3The round penetrated about 1 inch.

31-4Then a .32 ACP.

31-5 It also penetrated about 1 1/8th inch.

31-6Let’s set up to a common military round, the 9mm Ball.

31-7It made it through about 7 inches of paper.

31-8The mighty .45 ACP.

31-9 It penetrated to about 4 1/4 inches.

31-10Might as well beat you guys to the draw by going ahead and trying the armor penetrating 7.62 X 25, since you’re going to ask for it anyway.


It penetarted to about 7 inches.

It beats the 9mm on armor, but not on paper.


How about rifles?

Tman gives me a break on the shooting.

We also move the target back to about 20 yards.

31-13The 5.56 NATO M-193, about 8 inches and bent.


How about the SS-109?

About 7 1/2 inches and also bent in half.

31-15Let’s try a big boy, the Mosin-Nagant 7.62 X 54R.


It made it through about 15 inches of paper and then went to the side and out of the books and was lost.

We decided to shoot another round.


It also was a center hit, but after a few inches, deviated and went downward and stuck in the bottom of the box.

I had to use a pair of pliers to remove it, but it was basically unharmed.

31-18It had penetrated about 15 inches.

31-19How about the .30-06 with an AP (Armor Piercing) round?

31-20It didn’t come apart at all, and made it about 19 1/2 inches.

31-21Just in case any buffalo are Bible toting types, let’s give the .45-70 a try.

31-22It made it about 16 1/2 inches, but the hard cast 510 grain bullet broke apart.

31-23And here they are, all lined up for a family photo.


Lessons learned:

  1. It takes a lot of paper to stop a some bullets.
  2. Were the stories of Bibles stopping bullets true? I believe they are indeed true, but may be misleading. We do not know how fast the pieces of shrapnel were going when they were stopped by the Bibles. Maybe the bullets that hit the Bibles had already hit the ground or some other object and were significantly slowed down by the time they hit the Bibles.
    One thing for sure, unless the troops were carrying an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible strapped to their chests, only a miracle of God would have prevented a rifle bullet at full speed from penetrating.
  3. Would a backpack full of books stop a bullet? Yes, if the bullets were pistol rounds. It would take about 7 inches of paper to stop a 9mm round.
    If we are talking about big rifle rounds, you had better have around 20 inches of books in the backpack to be relatively safe.
  4. I have been shooting into piles of telephone books and Sears catalogs all my life. I’ve made a lot of confetti, and learned a few things.

But it’s still fun to shoot books.

8 Comments on The Box O’ Truth #31 – The Books O’ Truth

  1. Very interesting. I had been wondering about this for some time. Do you suppose adding a sheet of fiberglass (cafeteria service tray) between books would have any significant effect?

  2. It looks to me that the books you used had the super think kind of paper that you would see in phone books, if you were using a hardcover textbook I bet it would stop much better. I watched a video and a .50 bmg stopped after 1800 pages

  3. Thugs know that ANY bullet will leave a bloody tunnel in them. They know that a 4″ or a 14″ bloody tunnel will BOTH require a doctor. The doctors will tell you that a .45 or 9mm will blast right through a body while a .22 will bounce around inside ya. One thug was shot in his hip and the bullet came out his shoulder, doctor has to follow that wound channel. We’ve all seen security cameras where those hoodie yo-yo-yos charge in with guns drawn and scatter out the door like cockroaches at the 1st SIGHT of a clerk’s gun. The longer one carries the smaller the gun gets.

  4. jeffrey kelling // June 28, 2016 at 6:08 pm // Reply

    thank you so much for the???FUN! this was my first time on your site and i learned all kind of stuff! esp. about the Judge and .410 shots. thank you very much. i will continue watch your site! sincerely, jeffrey from Morro Bay , Calif.,

  5. just curious, but what about a stack of full boxes of copier paper? could this be used as a stationary shield? I’m not planning on DOING this, mind you, but it occurs to me that much densely packed paper would be better than nothing if you HAD to use it.

  6. Arthur Raynolds // March 12, 2017 at 2:28 am // Reply

    Next time you do a book test, take one of the thick college prep books and shoot @ it from the edge through to the spine of the book. I was wondering if with the books edge, the bullet would have more problem passing through th

  7. Now I know what to do with all my ole school books

  8. Too bad Pedro Ruiz III didn’t read your site before trying to be famous.

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