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.