It is a dangerous world out there, and as uncomfortable as it is to think about, the current state of the country means not every one is armed to step up to defend the most helpless among us. With that in mind and the recent atrocities, we decided to do some testing on something often suggested as a means for children to protect themselves in case the unthinkable happens and no one is around with a gun that could otherwise stop the threat.
You may have heard or read about the idea of kids using a book bag as a means to trying to stop a round from an active shooter. I have even read some talking about bags lined with soft armor. After my tests last year of seeing what common rounds would do inside a house, and the difficulty or even rifle rounds penetrating books and some tests shown on Best Defense years ago by Rob Pincus, I can attest to the ability of books to stop about any rifle round.
For the test, we filled a pack with some real text books. from a relatives left over college semester. and some magazines to simulate a note book of just paper. Nothing else was added, not soft armor, or plates sewn in to give it any more help to stop a round. This was meant to see how it would do if books and some nylon was all you had.
Rounds used were 5.56 in M193 and M855, 9mm using NATO ball and .45ACP ball as well as 12 gauge 00 buck, slugs and the ever popular ( though absurd) birdshot. Five rounds of each got fired into the bag to see how it would penetrate. We could not set the Q target against the bag without knocking it down or tearing it every shot, so we settled on setting it a few inches away. The test was not meant to show any blunt trauma, just penetration. Again, for those who will complain.. this was not scientific, nor does it prove anything as a hard fact, thought we feel it is useful and gives plenty to think about.
First up. was 9mm ball, NATO pressure ammo, Fired from about twenty feet, as if the victim was running away. We later found even contact shots had the same result. the 9mm failed to penetrate beyond a few inches of book and barely moves the bag.
One manages about 3 inches, but most stopped inside the book. We fired another five rounds of 9mm to the same result. Those that did not stop in the books deflected at harmless angles. We both expected better performance since the hotter 9mm load is often touted as being a decent round for penetration.
Next up was the .45ACP 230 grain ball ammo. Shot from the same distance
Same results from the 45 with just a little deeper penetration into the books but with more damage to the books by this point. The bag did flop and move more violently, and for a second we thought one may have gotten through, but, once again, nothing got anywhere close.
Above you can see the results of the .45ACP ball rounds on the books. Several 45 ball rounds were found in the books with almost no deformation.
Next up was the 5.56 fired from standard 16 inch Colt 6920 with 1/7 twist barrel from the same distance as the pistols.
To my absolute not surprise at all. Nothing got even close. Equally ineffective was the M855 round. Both rounds fragmented inside the books and nothing big enough to even speak or was recovered once we started to sift through the remains of the bag and books.
Next we fired the 12 Gauge with the 00 Buck. Looking at the pictures with no back ground it may look impressive, but the pictures out of context tell a lie. The dead center hit was from one of the pellets going high and missing the books in the bag. Sure this would happen in real life, but the point was to see what would make it through books being used as protection. Obviously a head shot would render it all a wasted effort, but that is not the point of this test. The other “hits” resulted from deflection. The buck hit the books, flattened and deformed and went around and out the sides. There was no real penetration. I am not really sure how to label this in contest of the test since none of the made it though the protective layer of books proper, but hits did get on paper. Something to think about, and it may be a fluke because of the harder book covers and thickness, Obviously there is not real way to predict anything a round will do after it hits anything other than air.
Next up was the punishing police slugs from the 12 gauge. five rounds from the same distance as the rifle and pistol. Nothing at all on paper. The bag sure looked like it felt it though. Damage to the body even from the slugs not making a hit would be significant in my unlearned medical opinion. But I suppose it still beats getting a 12 gauge slug through the back.
Lastly was every moron’s favorite home defense shot gun round. Birdshot. Nothing even got mush past the nylon bag, but as soon as the shot hit the hard cover book, they all deflected. lost most of its energy and followed the inside of the bag around an came out the other side, I guess you could call it a “hit”, though the pellets did not even go all the way through the cardboard, and did not even do much to the books. The shot did scatter everywhere once hitting the harder books and then deflecting. Since it did not penetrate even the soft cardboard, I have no idea what it would look like on a human. My guess is the skin would be broken and some bleeding and pain, but not enough to kill a grown person, though it would still be terrible on a kid. Of course the further away the person got from the shooter, the even more useless the bird shot would become. Another 20 feet and maybe safety glasses would be all you needed after a shot to the books and bag, but still its something to consider.
After testing the pistols and rifle rounds again at contact distance and seeing the same results, I took the books apart and we sifted through the remains out of being curious. The closer fired 45 rounds seem to deformed a bit but not much, no fragmentation to be sure. Even less from most of the 9mm, I believe most of the damage to both was from fired rounds hitting already embedded buck shot or other bullets. The lead buck and slugs became blobs of every shape and size with the 00 buck flattening out but still looking in some what original condition while the slugs looked to have suffered great damage.
Could you use a bag full or books for a last ditch protection? Absolutely. If you had nothing else and got caught in the open, you sure could do worse, Children should be taught to try to use the bags for cover, maybe even being coached to snatch a loose one up and wear one on the front and back while trying to make an escape if possible if it was not so heavy it impeded speed.. Stack books behind a door or desk being used to hide, turning it into cover would also be a great idea. The ideas are many and I will leaver that to the people more qualified than I am to advice you on your kids protection. But, just like strategically placed books and shelves in the home to protect you from gun fire, the books in a pack will do the same if it came to that.