View Full Version : Makeshift Kevlar

08-16-2009, 09:27 PM
Assuming a long-range shot from a rifle or something similar, would it be possible to protect yourself from a gunshot wound with a book? Say, a very thick book, like a Bible? I'm not expecting the character to come out unscathed; he just wants to prevent a puncture wound.

And, if it is possible, exactly how much would the impact hurt?

NOTE: I know next to nothing about firearms. Please take this into account when you tell me what a noob I am. :D

08-16-2009, 09:38 PM
The answer is "maybe". Depends on the range, the rifle etc. A thick book is actually a pretty good energy absorber, so it should be possible. A sack of sand would be better :)

08-16-2009, 09:39 PM
There are lots of variables, including the distance of the shooter, the type of firearm, the direction of wind, what the book is (vellum pages are much thicker than paper), the accuracy of the shooter... Still, I would be very skeptical of stopping a round with a book.

I may be disproved when a firearms expert answers, but I would say no.

08-16-2009, 09:42 PM
Energy = velocity time the mass. A heavy bullet traveling fater than the speed of sound carries a hell of a lot of energy. The farther it travels, friction in the air slows it down. If the bullet were at the theoretical limit of it's range, it would be going slow enough for a thick book to stop it. Other things come into play here too. Is the bullet copper jacketed? soft nosed? Hollow pointed? These would control what the bullet does on impact.
I would definitely NOT volunteer to stand behind the book to verify this.
OTOH there are documented stories were a book (bible) stopped a bullet. probably small caliber. http://iconicbooks.blogspot.com/2007/08/bulletproof-bible.html

08-16-2009, 09:50 PM
Ah, I see by that link that the illustrious MythBusters have busted that myth, also.

Well, if it can't stop the wound completely, could the book at least reduce the amount of damage? The character in question has the ability to convert his own pain into energy--superstrength, etc. Kind of like a vastly-fantasized adrenaline rush. The character wants to feel the pain of the shot without being crippled, and the Bible is the only thing on hand.

08-16-2009, 09:57 PM
An old hand-illustrated bible would take more of the energy out of the shot than a cheap one found in hotels. Much thicker and heavier than modern books.

08-17-2009, 12:36 AM
How about a bible plus some kind or religious medal in the same pocket with it.
There are plenty of stories particularly from WW1 about people surviving because something in a breast pocket stopped/deflected the bullet

08-17-2009, 01:01 AM
But this is such a cliche I would not use it (though you might). It's been done a zillion times. Gah. I really think old grape-shot or older bullets would not compete with any modern bullet. I could see an old compass or something stopping a bullet in WW1 or in the Civil War but not today.

What I feel is that too many miracles in a novel render it unbelieveable. The old "shot in the soft skin of the arm" bit would still put a person in the hospital for a week. People getting up and going about their business (probably super-humanly) really does not happen. Shoot. In real life, a fender bender and a person has a neck-brace on and is suing someone. Okay, it is fiction. The whole symbolism of the Bible is also *roll your eyes* unbelieveable. Why not a package of condoms? Where's the symbolism there?

And I dare say, the family bible, the ornate, hand illuminated one with the giant gold clasps, would be awful hard to get in your pocket. You'd need to carry a backpack with that Bible in it.

I would not want to be standing behind that book either.

08-17-2009, 01:19 AM
But this is such a cliche I would not use it (though you might). It's been done a zillion times. .

Cliche, yes. That's why he wants to do it. This character is an atheist, and he's in the middle of a battle with a teammate who is (to his mind) an over-the-top Christian. The Bible is the prized posession of the second guy, and part of the reason the first guy uses the Bible as cannon-fodder is to piss the other guy off.

ETA: So have we at least come to the conclusion that it could be done? I'm already overusing the suspension of disbelief by making my characters a bunch of mutant super-powered freaks. Surely asking the reader to believe a Bible could be used to slow down a bullet enough that it is non-lethal shouldn't be too much?

08-17-2009, 01:56 AM
Assuming a long-range shot from a rifle or something similar, would it be possible to protect yourself from a gunshot wound with a book? Say, a very thick book, like a Bible?

Not likely. If the shooter can tag your character within normal rifle-shooting distances, even if it's a bit on the long side, that character, and any normal book between him and the bullet, is toast.

As others have pointed out, though, the answer is very dependent on the rifle and the distance over which the shot takes place. A 100-yard shot with a .22 short and a 22LR and a .22 magnum will produce three different results, just as that same shot will differ if made with a .308 or a .700 Nitro Express. A book might help with the former three cartridges at that distance, but not at all with the latter two. And a 100-yard shot is routine with a rifle. To be considered long range, you'll have to get past 300 yards (depending on the shooter).

Check out this link (http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot31.htm) to see the pictures-and-text results of this test undertaken with .22, 9mm, .45ACP handguns and 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62 X 54R, .30-06. and .45-70 rifle rounds.

Of course it's fiction so, yes, your scenario could happen. :)

08-17-2009, 03:27 AM
That's an awesome link, Summonere! I think I can still make this scene work, though now I see it would be more logical for the shot to be from a pistol. Thank you so much!

08-17-2009, 07:14 AM
Been hashed and rehashed, with the same old myth propagaters saying it's possible with just the right bullet at the right range -- stretching the credulity of any reader getting facts from ballistic tables rather than TV.

The farther the range and the smaller the bullet, the less likely it will hit the side of a barn, much less a heart which is thumping the bible of a victim.

"Bullet proof" vests and "bullet proof" glass have never been stoppers for even medium deer hunting rifles like .243s or .257 Roberts. The so called proof is against deep penetration by handgun bullets (or single hits by submachinegun or shotgun pellets.

A more likely scenario is a meteor deflecting the bullet just before it reaches the victim. It's possible . . . really . . .

08-17-2009, 09:46 AM
"Bullet proof" vests and "bullet proof" glass have never been stoppers for even medium deer hunting rifles like .243s or .257 Roberts. The so called proof is against deep penetration by handgun bullets (or single hits by submachinegun or shotgun pellets.

No offence, but this depends on the vest. A regular vest would stop handgun bullets, shrapnel, knoves etc. It wouldn't stop an assault rifle shot, unless from a very long distance or a glancing angle (same goes for helmets, by the way). On the other hand, a ceramic vest (weighs about twenty five pounds) will stop an M16 or AK47 bullet from practically any range. That's not a myth or a TV data, that's real life.

08-17-2009, 07:41 PM
No offense perceived. Data is never insulting, although its theoretical application sometimes insults intelligence.

While very recent advances in personal armor have promise, there is always a downside.

Just one downside of ceramic plates, besides the burden of extreme weight (no light matter), is its fragile nature seriously affecting lasting efficiency. New, just off the ISO assembly line, it may work fine for a short time. However, any amount of jostling, even “normal” wear, can and does crack the surface and dramatically reduce its ability to stop rifle fire. It may be better than no protection, but the specific protection it’s designed to deliver remains iffy and goes quickly downhill.

Yet another downside to any new wonder vest is the technology which makes better armor has a constant equalizer in the ever-advancing technology of projectiles. Just as soon as the complexity of body armor goes up, the same technology boosts the efficiency of weaponry, cartridges, and bullets.

Of course the scenario is “possible” under contrived circumstances. My point is the bible stopping the lead ball bullet story was romantic cliché at best before any advance of arms and ammunition. As the story goes on, probabilities stoop to newer lows.

If the point is the bible could be covered in bullet-proof ceramic plating, I maintain the meteor deflecting the bullet in flight is in the same incredible realm of possibility – and at least avoids repeating another tired old sniper fantacy.

08-17-2009, 10:46 PM
Well, I don't know why you think ceramic vests are something "new". Our army had been using them for at least 12-13 years, though they became really widespread in the last 5-7 years. I am also unaware of any extreme wear. They are very efficient and I haven't heard of one instance where a bullet had gone through. There was a case where a colonel got a bullet just above the vest in the neck.

The weight issue is certainly a problem, though not as much a it would seem for non-infantry folks. Our infantry routinely carries 40-50 pounds of gear. Sometimes more.

Assault rifles hadn't essentially changed for almost fifty years. M16 was first introduced in Vietnam, and it is still in widespread use. Most of the new assault rifles use the same calibre (except for MK's which use a slightly bigger ones) and the penetrating power is similar. Sure, bigger sniper rifles, machine guns and the likes might get through ceramic vests (I don't have the data), but in most cases these vests are more than enough. Untill entirely new technology (similarly cheap to bullets and small enough for infantry to comfortably carry) arrives, these vests are going to be very effective (and possibly improve with time).

08-18-2009, 11:14 PM
Well, I don't know why you think ceramic vests are something "new".

I don't think ceramic plates are something new. Look closer. I wrote "New, just off the . . . assembly line, [a ceramic plate] may work fine for a short time." However, why beat a dead horse? That and other out-of- context comments are typical.

Yep, writers should go right seizing snippits of fact to twist into the same clichés as the old worn bible save.

Another is the long range bullet through the front scope optic, inside the tube, out the rear glass, and into the opponent sniper's eye. No matter the difference in line-of-sight and extreme range ballistics makes the feat impossible, I've read it in two novels and a work of "non-fiction" (ironic in its case) and seen the laughable scene in three movies.

They're all fun.

08-19-2009, 01:06 AM
A regular vest would stop handgun bullets, shrapnel, knoves etc.

A conventional ('regular') ballistic vest won't stop a knife (unless the vest has a steel trauma plate in the center, which is analogous to the previously-mentioned ceramic plate, except it covers a much smaller area).

It's the same reason that a conventional vest won't stop a rifle round- the pointed shape.

As to the OP's question: It's theoretically possible, if the rifleman fired from such a distance that he'd have no realistic expectation of hitting his target anyway.

But it would require a contrived and laborious setup, for the somewhat heavy-handed payoff of an atheist being saved by a bible.

08-19-2009, 01:20 AM
Actually a lot of bullet proof vests are also stab resistant. The reason why a non-ceramic vest won't stop a rifle bullet is due to the sheer energy difference between a pistol and rifle round more than the shape(although a pointy rifle bullet certainly does help in penetration).

For example, a hypothetical pistol round might travel at like 400 m/s, and might have a muzzle energy of something like 500-800 joules, depending on the mass of the round and it's velocity. An assault rifle on the other hand, like an M16, the bullet travels at 900 m/s, and might impart 1500 Joules, and a hunting rifle/7.62mm/sniper rifle, might impart around 3000 or so joules. So in other words, a rifle bullet might require the dissipation of anywhere from 3-6 times more energy.

08-19-2009, 03:09 AM
Actually a lot of bullet proof vests are also stab resistant.

Which ones?

08-19-2009, 06:39 AM

Stab resistant combo armor(stab and bullet resistant) is really common in the UK and in Europe where knives are the predominant weapons that criminals use. They're also bullet resistant(usually like level II and sometimes level III armor, so they'll stop a pistol shot). They're a little more bulky than either specialization(e.g. a pure bullet proof vest is lighter), but they're pretty effective and versatile.

Here in the USA the primary place you'll see this sort of thing worn is with prison guards and riot police, as the likelihood of getting shanked or stabbed is quite a bit higher, and the weight trade off is worth it in those cases.

08-19-2009, 07:48 AM
One option is to have the rifle so far away that the bullet is ineffective. That's not a very good option for fiction because you're removing the danger anyway.

Better to devise a solution for 100 yard shot. A hunting rifle with hollow points would most likely be dissasterous. You might have better luck with a military round in FMJ (full metal jacket) such as the 5.56x45 (.223 or M16/M4 round) or 6.72x39 (ak-47 round) or even the 5.45x39 (ak-74 round). These have all been designed in one way or another to tumble when they encounter resistance. The reasons for this go back to Hauge convention and I won't get into here. But it's possible the book could deflect the bullet because of the tumbling behavior.

Side effects could be sprained arms, broken wrists, broken ribs (if the book bounced off the person holding it).