Whether dealing with an armed burglar or active shooter situation, it’s important to know what you can hide behind for cover and what you can’t.
After all, if you make a mistake and hide behind the wrong object or material, it may just be the last mistake you make. Now, this doesn’t mean you’re always better off running to a safer location. Sometimes you simply have to choose the best form of cover you have at the time available.
You also need to know if you can safely defend your home without shooting your poor neighbor in the process.
In this article, I want to discuss the most popular material used to try to stop bullets — bricks. Can a bullet go through brick? And if not, what can you use to safely hide behind?
A brick wall can effectively prevent most bullets from going through. Neither a .22, .308, 9mm, 40mm, 45mm, 5.56, or even a 12 gauge round can penetrate all the way through an average-sized brick. However, you could penetrate a regular brick wall with a 50-caliber round.
Or you could shoot a brick wall on the same location over and over and it will eventually go through. Eventually.
To learn more about bricks and their effectiveness at stopping bullets then simply continue reading below.
What are Bricks?
Brick is a rectangular block building material generally made of hardened or fired clay. Bricks are formed into walls during construction with the addition of mortar, which is itself composed of cement and sand. Mortar acts as the glue that holds bricks together to form a wall.
The bricks themselves are generally soft and brittle compared to mortar which is hard and brittle. The brittle quality of both contributes to their limited ability to stop bullets over time – the bricks and mortar both break and flake off when struck by hard metal objects, such as a hammer or a bullet.
Most bricks used in construction are called burnt-clay bricks, and they come in four classes of quality and durability. However, if you really wanted to ensure your house could protect you from gunfire, you should consider concrete bricks.
Concrete is a construction material made of cement, sand, fine or coarse aggregates – such as gravel – and water. While concrete will also wear down or chip away under sustained gunfire, the harder material would likely last longer than most burnt-clay or unburnt-clay bricks.
Bullet Caliber Matters
Bullet calibers range from tiny birdshot pellets to huge armor-piercing 50 caliber rounds designed to penetrate up to an inch of hardened steel plate from over 600 feet away. Obviously, the caliber of bullets used against a brick or brick-like material will have a huge impact on whether the material is able to stop a single bullet or last for several minutes of sustained fire.
In general, brick walls commonly found in modern housing construction appear to be strong enough to withstand most handgun calibers, such as 9mm, .380, .40, and .22. In the video below, the folks who run the YouTube channel (Rounds Down Range) tested how a single-layer brick wall would respond when shot multiple times by a variety of different bullets.
They found a single two-inch brick was surprisingly effective at stopping bullets. Their test included multiple handgun calibers, plus an armor-piercing 5.56 NATO round, a .308 rifle caliber round, and even a 12-gauge hollow point shotgun slug. That said, they did not shoot multiple rounds into the same location with any of their test calibers.
Another big caveat to add is that many homes are not made of brick. When these guys tested each caliber against a drywall and wood wall of the same thickness, every single round went straight through.
Finally, all brick is not made equal. If you’ve ever traveled outside the U.S., you’ll know that foreign countries use other materials with different levels of quality in the construction of their homes and buildings. If you wind up in a firefight overseas, the closest brick wall may not be your best option for cover.
What Materials Will Stop a Bullet?
Matt Risinger of the Build Show starred MythBusters alum Tori Belleci to test out other common building materials including drywall, OSB lumber, and cement board using .22, 9mm, .223, and buckshot rounds. The only typical wall construction they tested that stopped any bullets were the stud sections of 2×4 lumber used in framing, which only stopped the smallest caliber – .22.
However, they then filled one section of the wall with sand and set concrete bags behind another section of the wall, and tested the same calibers. The verdict? Both sand and concrete bags stopped a single round of each caliber, but unless you happen to have a lot of sand or quick-drying concrete laying around, those options probably aren’t a quick solution for you.
How to Avoid Being Shot by a Firearm
In all honesty, the best way to save your skin is likely to avoid an armed confrontation in the first place – escape somewhere away from the guns and call the cops. But there are a few places in your house that might offer better protection than simple drywall and lumber studs.
Is there a room in your house, like the basement or laundry room, where concrete walls were already erected as part of the foundation? Those areas could provide a temporary safe spot to hide while you call for backup.
Tables, chairs, and other furniture have been tested and shown not to be good sources of cover. That also includes interior doors, which are often hollow and made from cheap pressboards. YouTube firearm tester Paul Harrell even tested a mattress. If you were hiding under the bed and someone shot at you from the top-down, you’d be in bad shape.
Surprisingly, if you are using the mattress’ full width for cover, you have about a one in six chance of survival, but only if the shooter is using a handgun and not jumping over the mattress to reach you. Once they pick up a rifle, you’d better get a move on.
What about the bathroom? According to Popular Mechanics, if you have an old steel or cast-iron tub, it might stop stray bullets coming through the wall, so long as the bad guy doesn’t follow you in there. A modern ceramic bathtub, however, appears to fare little better than a ceramic dinner plate.
You might be surprised to learn that a cast-iron pan will not stop a bullet, but according to Concealedcarry.com, a full refrigerator (not an empty one!) might just stop some rounds if you can make it to the kitchen.
Is There a Proven Way to Stop Bullets?
If you do make it to the laundry room, as we suggested earlier, kitty litter can serve the same purpose as sand, which MythBusters’s Tori Belleci proved effective earlier. A thick, book-filled bookcase could also provide a decent cover. ASDI’s Spencer Rands shot a 4000-page tax code and found it stopped most handgun rounds effectively.
Even better were boxes filled with reams of printer paper. In a test by Demolition Ranch, they even stopped the famed. 50 caliber round. Like paper, trees form a fibrous barrier that works well to stop every caliber of handgun and rifle round, as tested by several different groups, including Kentucky Ballistics.
Finally, according to a DEA test video, two cardboard targets hidden behind the engine block of a car survived rounds shot by “pretty much every pistol and long gun available to [the] DEA agents.” Your car’s engine block might be your best bet if you’re caught outside your home.