What Makes Good Cover?

Picture yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to find a barrier to block incoming fire. You are standing about 30 yards from your attacker and he is about to shoot. To your left is a standard brick wall; to your right is a small economy car. Which one is going to stop those bullets from passing through? The answer can be complicated. The caliber of the attacker’s firearm, the angle of fire, as well as distance are all potential factors in whether or not your chosen barrier will keep you safe. While in public, I realize that many of you would be armed, but for argument’s sake, let us explore what makes a good barrier, just in case you forget your Concealed Carry Weapon!

I should start by mentioning the difference between cover and concealment. Cover is a barrier that can physically stop a projectile from hitting you. Concealment offers protection by disrupting the shooter’s sight picture. The chances of a shooter scoring a hit are lower if he cannot see his target, therefore concealment is not always a bad option. However, if the shooter has already seen you, finding effective cover may be your only option.

If you watch Hollywood movies, you may notice the apparent bullet-resistant objects people are able to hide behind unscathed. These include empty 50 gallon drums, car doors, poker tables, and my personal favorite—sofas! Let me clue the novice in on a secret. A sofa, unless you stuff it full of plate armor, is not going to do much to stop a bullet. Just about any bullet from a standard firearm will blow through your couch as if it were made of single-ply Charmin.

Sheetrock does not do much good either. A small 9mm bullet can pass through six interior walls and out the other side provided it does not hit a stud. As far as things that you typically find inside a home, almost none of them can stop a bullet. A mattress, tables, chairs, dressers, interior doors, and even appliances typically don’t have the ability to stop a pistol round. Heavy metal exterior doors also fall prey to all but the weakest bullets. A little .32 caliber bullet can penetrate a metal door and the wall behind it with no problem.

So what can you actually get behind to save yourself? Engine blocks are a good idea. An engine block can stop just about any pistol round and placing that block between you and a bullet might give you the cover and concealment you need. A vehicle’s steel wheel rim also stands up to bullets fairly well. You might think that brick and stone walls offer decent cover, but masonry tends to shatter when hit with bullets. You may end up hiding behind a pile of rubble before you know it. One of the best things to get behind is sand. The military has used sandbags for years, and with good reason. Sand or tightly packed earth are both very effective bullet stoppers. Six inches of sand can stop just about anything the bad guys are likely to throw at you. While I’m not suggesting you line the interior of your home with military sandbags, it’s good to know that a berm, ditch, or trench offer better protection than metal doors or interior walls.

Choose your cover wisely, and remember the movies have it all wrong. Nobody wants to get in a shootout, but its good to have the knowledge to survive in case your luck runs out.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

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