The Buick O’ Truth #3 – Pistols and Car Doors

A lot of officers have been trained to conduct a high risk stop behind the “cover” of their door, leaving it open while they kneel behind it with their weapon drawn.

This seems like a very logical tactic, but as you are about to see, it actually doesn’t work in the real world. 

Notice that the pictures are taken from farther away this time. This is a safety precaution.

Shooting a car is a fun thing to do, but it can be VERY dangerous and NOTHING should be taken for granted.

ALWAYS err on the side of safety, ESPECIALLY when you are shooting at the metal parts of the car.


The first weapons used on the driver door is a 9mm and a .40 S&W.


Three rounds of 9mm ball ammo and .40 S&W ball ammo each were fired into the driver’s side door to see what sort of protection the door offered against them.

The results.

Not much protection at all.

Now this Buick’s door was much tougher than many car doors I have seen simply because the windows and locks were all power units.

The motors for these functions and the extra parts inside the door mean that there is more hard stuff for a bullet to hit.

The skin of the door is usually a thin sheet metal, but inside the door are stamped steel frames and support beams in addition to parts for the window elevator, motors, door latch, etc. 

Those can all add up to stop a bullet, but as the above photos show, they are hardly a guarantee of protection.

In this shoot despite all those things being in the way, ALL the pistol rounds fired penetrated through the driver’s door into the passenger compartment, with most lodging somewhere in the passenger door.

The odds of a pistol round penetrating through both doors of a vehicle are pretty small.


Because of all the factors previously mentioned PLUS the addition of the various pieces of the interior that can be hit, it is extremely unlikely that a pistol round will penetrate both doors.

Still, it can happen, as this .40 round came close to demonstrating.

More on that later.


Now, my Sig P220 is up to bat again.

Notice how tight my group is smilie


And the results.

As the instructor put it… “And there’s the .45… F*cking flying ashtray” 

Notice again that the bullets are profoundly effected by being fired through the car door.

They are keyholing, fragmenting, and carrying lots of secondary projectiles (bullet jackets, glass, plastic, metal, etc) with them into the target.


The truly odd thing here as opposed to the laminated glass is that the bullets seem to stay more or less on the path they are on when they hit the door, not deflecting like they did with the laminated glass.

And as you can see in the photo, the fact that the bullets did not penetrate the passenger door is of little comfort if you are inside the vehicle…


What about the door window glass?

Utterly inconsequential ballistically.

Anything will shatter it without causing any bullet damage, even a .22.

To demonstrate the difference here, a 60 grain .22 LR fired from inside the vehicle won’t even penetrate the windshield.

That same round can pass through BOTH side windows without even slowing down.


Again the question must be asked…

What happens if you pepper roughly the same area with several rounds?

Again, the 9mm is called in to see what happens.


Here’s the results.


Pay particular attention to what happens on the other side of the passenger door.

Yup! Penetration.

Lessons learned:
1. A single car door offers NO protection against handgun rounds. 

2. Even two car doors and the passenger compartment offer little protection, and even that protection can be expected to evaporate when multiple rounds are fired.

9 Comments on The Buick O’ Truth #3 – Pistols and Car Doors

  1. Are modern cop car doors armored more than the average car? I ask this because cops STILL use them as cover in the face of direct gunfire.

  2. sorry but a 22 rifle easily penetrates a cars windshield. Several youtube videos out there about this. Not sure about a round from a 22 handgun but for a rifle it’s no problem.

    • @joe It depends on how the bullet hits the windshield, and what .22 load is used. While windshields are indeed thicker than glass on the rest of the car, the sharp angle of windshield glass is of critical importance because not only is it effectively over twice as strong but lower mass projectiles have a harder time with sloped surfaces so a .22 being the smallest of the small has a significantly higher chance of deflection. It’s also worth noting that windshields aren’t always uniform from car to car, and differ in strength and materials used.

  3. yes a police officer will use a door its the only cover they got and stops the person from making a drict shot.. better then nothing.

  4. I don’t know where you get your info that police officers are trained to use the door as protection. Even 30 years ago we were trained to use the door frame on the front of the door jamb as protection, never the door itself. Maybe you watch too much TV.

  5. Really shows how much things have changed in 80 years. The 38-44 and 357 Magnum were developed as a result of law enforcement of the 20’s and 30’s asking for something which would penetrate automobile sheet metal. Cars were made of heavier gauge metal in those days. And guns carried by most police officers were generally weaker. Bullet design has a lot to do with this as well. Once shot an overturned Corvair in a juck yard from about 20 feet with a 45 Colt. Classic factory load with plain lead round nose bullet. Made an impressive hole in the door and the flattened slug was laying in the middle of the roof. Spall was likely more a danger than the slug to anything (one) that had been inside the vehicle

  6. Biggus Dickus // September 3, 2017 at 7:18 pm // Reply

    Ball ammo will penetrate but most civilians carry hollow points. You are better off with a 357 Sig round if you want penetration through a car door hollow point or not.

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