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I know it's why I always like to have a book on me.
January 10, 2011 4:13 AM   Subscribe

Can a book stop a bullet? A soldier in 1916 reported a bullet stopped by a book case and a metal shaving mirror. Short story collective Electric Literature tested six of the biggest books of 2010. The Box O' Truth shot $1.50 of discarded library books. Mythbusters armoured a car with phone books. Sports Nation challenged a guest's basketball book. Internet pranksters ZUG shot different religious books as well as the Twilight Saga. One of Oklahoma's nominees for state superintendent for education even demonstrated how textbooks could protect against school shootings. Would you trust your life to such an educational encasement?
posted by Mike1024 (56 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd rather be shot in the unabbridged dictionary than the kindle any day...
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:18 AM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just wear my bulletproof invisible backpack everywhere I go.
posted by fixedgear at 4:22 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


When books are replaced by kindles, this idea will become obsolete.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:34 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Theodore Roosevelt's life was famously spared when the assassin's bullet hit this speech.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:38 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, iPods are already stopping bullets in combat and but it looks like kindles fare less well in testing.
posted by Coobeastie at 4:41 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems if your holy book is more than seven inches thick God is indeed your protector.

Unless, of course, you have the Acme Approved Bulletproof Bible. (Remember, God helps those who help themselves.)
posted by three blind mice at 4:54 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you don't want to read the book, wait for the movie. If you don't want to go to the movie, wait for it to come out on DVD. Because the DVD will still stop the bullet.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:00 AM on January 10, 2011


Can a book stop a bullet?

I suppose so, if the book convinces the shooter to put down the gun. But I suppose a book can also convince someone to pick up a gun.
posted by pracowity at 5:00 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


RPG books get to play too! Here are some ballistic tests of the Hero System 5th Edition rulebook.
posted by Sand at 5:00 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


When books are replaced by kindles, this idea will become obsolete.

Obviously, you haven't seen the new Kevlar model.
posted by steambadger at 5:03 AM on January 10, 2011


Depends on the round, the distance, the angle and a whole bunch of other factors I would guess althoug I imagine the bible is quite good with it's message of peace* and large number of pages - it's a double whammy of anti-GSW goodness.

*Yes, NT only but you've got to get to through the OT first or vice versa - either way it's a potent anti-trauma** plate.

**so many possible jokes from trauma and the bible but I'll leave that open for someone else.
posted by longbaugh at 5:19 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


When books are replaced by kindles, this idea will become obsolete.

But more importantly, will it blend?
posted by Fizz at 5:23 AM on January 10, 2011


True story. 1986, 14th Street and 3rd Avenue, leaving a party with a friend at 3AM. He's wearing a motorcycle jacket, with a medium-thick paperback in the pocket. At the corner, a car slows down, a window opens, a hand reaches out with a gun and shoots my friend in the abdomen. He plops down into a sitting position, has lost his breath, confusion all around. The end result is a big ugly black and blue, and yellow and green, body-sized bruise, no broken skin. We guess it must have been a 22mm. I suppose it would make a better story if I knew exactly what book it was. I could ask him.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:28 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I live in England. We tend to use books fo' readin'...
posted by i_cola at 5:35 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Back in the days when White people were moving West, if Native people could get their hands on the Bibles, they did, not to read them, but because they liked a layer of Bible paper in their shields to stop bullets. A thick layer of very thin paper doesn't weigh a lot and it could save your life. The ancient Chinese made paper armour, so this concept has been around awhile.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:43 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had friends in middleschool who armored their fronts with phonebooks and shot at each other. They were only using 22mag's, but still a tremendously bad idea. After each shot, each one would remove a phone book and shoot again, sort of a tremendously stupid game of chicken.
posted by TomMelee at 5:45 AM on January 10, 2011


Oh I definately would have trusted my Medical Coding book to save my life!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:47 AM on January 10, 2011


I suppose it would make a better story if I knew exactly what book it was. I could ask him.

Yes! Do!
posted by steambadger at 5:51 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Books don't save people, people carrying really thick books under their coat save people. Err. Or something.
posted by Decani at 5:52 AM on January 10, 2011


We guess it must have been a 22mm.

A ".22" is measured in inches - a bit smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser.

A 9mm round is a bit smaller than a .38 cartridge.

A 22mm would be about about twice the size of the largest handgun ammunition (.50 calibre).
posted by three blind mice at 5:53 AM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Back in the days when White people were moving West, if Native people could get their hands on the Bibles, they did, not to read them, but because they liked a layer of Bible paper in their shields to stop bullets.

I'm intrigued by this, anyone have any links to support this claim.
posted by Fizz at 6:02 AM on January 10, 2011


When I was in the army, a comrade was shot up pretty bad by machine gun fire. When we had a chance to clean up the mess (he was literally torn into ribbons of flesh), we noticed the small, pretty bible in what would have been the area of his shirt pocket. Well, it was totally untouched and pristine. We were all very moved: God had protected one of his holy bibles from harm.
posted by Paquda at 6:15 AM on January 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


Katjusa Roquette is correct - and has also been handling Stalin's Organ ;)
posted by longbaugh at 6:19 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Oklahoma superintendent of education candidate is on to something. Oklahoma schools might as well get some use out of their textbooks. I suspect they aren't often read.
posted by BlueMetal at 6:28 AM on January 10, 2011


I had friends in middleschool who armored their fronts with phonebooks and shot at each other. They were only using 22mag's, but still a tremendously bad idea. After each shot, each one would remove a phone book and shoot again, sort of a tremendously stupid game of chicken.

if this is true then we are doomed
posted by DavidandConquer at 6:28 AM on January 10, 2011


Also, and apologies that I do not have any online source for this, the Native Americans used Bible paper because of the perceived "power" inherent in the text of the Colonists. Thunder shields were often decorated with various things that had "power" be it Eagle feathers, animal totem images or what have you. Using the White Man's "power" against them would have rather a nice symbolic ring to it, above and beyond the obvious benefit to the shield's physical protection.

This is from a <1>

posted by longbaugh at 6:29 AM on January 10, 2011


ahem... "This is from a lower than 100% memory of several Osprey books related to Native Americans that I have read but do not have in my possession here at work to refer to for sources".

I am a dumb.
posted by longbaugh at 6:41 AM on January 10, 2011


Hey, Blue Metal... Native Oklahoman here, watch it.
posted by the_royal_we at 6:43 AM on January 10, 2011


Man, that ICD-10 book we're getting in 2013 could probably stop a rocket.
posted by Apoch at 7:04 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


old text books will stop new bullets way better than old bullets will help you level your new couch.

and now I shall get on with my work week
posted by philip-random at 7:13 AM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Would a mint-condition first-edition copy of Action Comics #1 stop a bullet? It's got the Man of Steel on the cover, and all. Ought to be effective. Somebody should try it.
posted by ardgedee at 7:30 AM on January 10, 2011


> Well, iPods are already stopping bullets in combat a

That's an older model with a moving hard disk (with extra metal). I doubt the newer flash memory only models would have the same stopping power.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:35 AM on January 10, 2011


If you're ever living somewhere with thin walls and occasional gunfire, well-stuffed bookcases are great cover for when the kids on the corner decide to settle a score. I bet Alton Brown would consider that a multitasker...

As they say, you can never have many books, too many wines or too much ammunition
posted by graftole at 8:22 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Theodore Roosevelt's life was famously spared when the assassin's bullet hit this speech.

Actually, that's the speech he made in lieu of the one that saved him. To be fair, the speech he was going to give contained even more macho swagger.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:27 AM on January 10, 2011


In WWI, a French solider had a copy of Rudyard Kipling's Kim in his left breast pocket which stopped a bullet and saved his life. The soldier presented the book, with the bullet still in it, and his Croix de Guerre to Kipling; following the birth of the soldier's son, Kipling returned both to him.
posted by grounded at 8:52 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Years ago, my mother gave me a bullet...a bullet, and I put it in my breast pocket.

Two years after that, I was walking down the street, when a berserk evangelist heaved a Gideon bible out a hotel room window, hitting me in the chest.

Bible would have gone through my heart if it wasn't for the bullet."

-- Woody Allen
posted by flarbuse at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


I live in England. We tend to use books fo' readin'...

Admit it, last time your football team lost, you bludgeoned a rival fan with your copy of Dickens or Joyce or whatever you were lugging around.
posted by mannequito at 9:18 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


When books are replaced by kindles, this idea will become obsolete.

What, no bullet points in Kindle ebooks?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:30 AM on January 10, 2011


Maxwell Smart: [Max holds up Tolstoy's War and Peace to block a KAOS agent with a knife] Nobody gets through War and Peace! - Get Smart, Again

Now the question is: would Max be dead if he was reading it on a kindle?
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:49 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first time I'd ever played paintball, I didn't have cup to wear. After a painful period of trial and error, I found that a copy of A Farewell to Arms under my jeans offered the best combination of protection and mobility. Get the Bantam edition.
posted by horsewithnoname at 10:18 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Given the soaring costs of textbooks, it might be cheaper to actually buy trauma plates.
posted by meowzilla at 10:42 AM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is why I carry a copy of In the Way Of All Flesh by Samuel Butler in my breast pocket.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:30 AM on January 10, 2011


The phrase 'twilight goatse' has irrevocably damaged me.
posted by empatterson at 11:39 AM on January 10, 2011


Apparently someone's HTC Evo 4G, or more specifically its battery, saved him from a stray bullet, so Kindle for Android, maybe?
posted by DNye at 11:48 AM on January 10, 2011


I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Hitchcock's The 39 Steps for an example of a book stopping a bullet.
posted by jonp72 at 12:00 PM on January 10, 2011


A 22mm would be about about twice the size of the largest handgun ammunition (.50 calibre).

Whoa! Where can I get me some of those?
posted by steambadger at 12:07 PM on January 10, 2011


"Books and bullets have their own destiny."

This must have been what the quote was referring to.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:26 PM on January 10, 2011


"McSweeneys people are reading this in bad neighborhoods!"

(I laughed. From the first video.)
posted by disillusioned at 1:11 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


No wonder those textbooks are so heavy.
posted by bad grammar at 5:12 PM on January 10, 2011


My grandfather, when he was a young man, would shoot at targets that he placed against the toolshed in the backyard of his house. I don't know the gauge of the rifle, but it must've been pretty powerful, because several of those bullets went through the target, though the shed and into the family's heirloom Bible, which is over a foot wide, about two feet tall, and four or five inches thick. The covers themselves are made of solid carved wood. It weighs at least 15 pounds. It is a monster. And there are several bullet holes and grooves that go right through, but aside from that damage, you can still turn the pages. The angle of the bullets wasn't straight on, but none of them went all the way through.
posted by zardoz at 5:12 PM on January 10, 2011


steambadger - not quite 22mm, but here's a 20mm/12-gauge revolver. (I was sure that there was a metafilter post about this, but can't find it right now). 0.50 calibur is roughly 12.5mm.

20mm rounds are a not-uncommon round for autocannons [youtube]. An A-10 firing it's nose-mounted autocannon at a show.

(Yeah, the size of the bullet matters, but the amount of charge/gun-powder behind it is also a big part of the equation.)
posted by porpoise at 9:52 PM on January 10, 2011


A 12-gauge slug is 18.5mm iirc. The A-10 uses a 30mm round (see the size comparison with a man's hand) fired from the GAU-8, a weapon which, with it's magazine, is about the same size as a family car.

You would need the book to be thicker than the top armour of a Main Battle Tank to stop that. So the large print version of War & Peace would probably work out just fine.
posted by longbaugh at 7:45 AM on January 11, 2011


A good friend of mine was in the Marine Reserves. He was telling me that the Rules of Engagement prevented them from using .50 caliber weapons on personnel - but of course they could be used against equipment. He listed "Canteens, belts, helmets..."
posted by Xoebe at 9:49 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


> A good friend of mine was in the Marine Reserves. He was telling me that the Rules of Engagement prevented them from using .50 caliber weapons on personnel

That's curious. Do you have a citation for that (I'm not doubting you, just am interested in their policies)? I would bet it doesn't stem from humanitarian purposes but more from a cost saving perspective. 5.56MM and .30 cal rounds are much cheaper than .50 cal rounds.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:53 AM on January 11, 2011


ROE are entirely dependent on the requirements of the military force at the time. The "no .50 cal against human targets" is a common misconception though. .50 BMG rounds will go through about a foot of concrete and have an effective range of well over a mile. It's pretty much SOP to use the .50 cal when you're attacking a fortified position for this reason. Army Rangers during the "Blackhawk Down" fiasco were firing .50 M2 machineguns from the cupola of HMMWVs during the battle at personnel (and civilians caught in the crossfire...)

Carlos Hathcock, a US Marine sniper, used a scoped M2HB .50 cal in Vietnam against NVA/VC personnel from the firebase he was stationed at and the previous record for longest range sniper kill was made with a .50 Cal McMillan Tac-50 rifle used by a Canadian sniper team in Afghanistan (it's since been beaten by a British sniper using a smaller calibre rifle .338 Lapua Magnum).
posted by longbaugh at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2011


Yeah, and the Barret .50 cal is pretty widely known as well, and is no doubt responsible for tons of individual pick-offs in Iraq and Afghanistan by this point.

Maybe when a fire team is dismounted and running some kind of offensive pattern, then the guy in the .50 cal only fires on hardened targets or something like that. But, seeing as how the Army regularly uses tank rounds to take out one or two people in a house, I can't see how there would be any hard rule for using weapons that aren't banned by some treaty or other.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:40 AM on January 11, 2011


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