Filing Cabinets: Cover or Concealment?

There is a significant difference between cover and concealment. A common mistake made by gun owners is not only using the terms interchangeably but believing the differences do not matter. Of course, they do matter – quite a bit. After all, when you’re in the midst of a fight for your life, knowing what is and is not cover could be the difference between life and death. If you’re at home during said fight, it also helps to know what in your house makes viable cover – and what does not. Everyday items such as couches, coffee tables, and filing cabinets take on whole new meaning when they’re all that’s between you and a potentially lethal bullet.

Filing cabinets are an interesting example, as are washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators. Because they are made from metal sheets it would be all too easy to assume they count as cover, right? In this video Youtuber hickok45 takes on a filing cabinet with various guns and rounds. His goal is to show whether a filing cabinet containing papers provides cover or concealment – or something between the two.

There are a number of factors to consider with experiments such as this. Different filing cabinets are manufactured using varying materials, the contents certainly vary, and the angle of shots fired matters as well. Then there’s the issue of what type of rounds are being fired from what gun at what range – the list is practically endless. Regardless of the many variations it remains an interesting experiment. Ideally we would all be aware of the capabilities – or lack thereof – of the furniture in our homes but surprisingly few people even consider it.

Part of home defense is knowing your layout and having a game plan or plans as the case may be. It’s impossible to plan for every eventuality but still important to give it your best shot. Just as the appropriate training should be part of carrying a gun for protection outside your home you should prepare properly for home defense. Someday your life or the lives of your loved ones could depend on how well you trained. Gaps in training could translate to loss of life. Never take training lightly, and always have a plan.

TFB Staffer

TFB Staff, bringing you the latest gun news from around the world for a decade.


  • Anton Gray Basson

    Hey its better than nothing.

    • TDog

      Better than hiding behind barrels of black powder!

  • Lance

    Depends on how many how thick the metal is and how muck is stored in them.

    • Don’t forget the type of ammo fmj will go more through something then a hollow or fragmenting round. Plus caliber. Even a leather jacket of a certain thickness can slow down a handgun round of certain calibers so someone can survive with the bullet just going in a a quarter of an inch or even an eighth. Still a lot of it just random chance. People can be killed by a bullet they fired ricocheting off a chainlink fence.

      • Rick5555

        There’s plenty of spots on the human body, in which a quarter of an inch penetration will cause serious injury. Which could result in death. Human physiology is an amazing thing. However, we are quite fragile when things enter our bodies in an un-natural manner. I probably see at least one gun wound and knife wound per week. That’s being conservative too.

        • It can also be much stronger then you can imagine. People can often survive stuff that would destroy the Terminator. In fact a good number of deaths in hospitals are from people who should not have died because they were not sick or their bodies were on the way to full recover. But these people didn’t have a will to live and their bodies just shut down.

  • KestrelBike

    And my wife thought I was an idiot for putting a plate of ar500 in the back of each drawer 😛

    • Tom Currie

      Are you planning on moving the file cabinet out so you can get behind it??
      A FULL file cabinet is cover (against any handgun and most rifle rounds), provided the round is travelling through the cabinet the long way (and perpendicular to the sheets of paper); but it would be very rare to have a file cabinet positioned where you could use it as cover that way. In most office or home office environments, the best you would have is using the SIDE of the cabinet, which is only going to give you concealment even if the drawers are full (unless you file your folders sideways).

      • KestrelBike

        … It’s on wheels so I can rotate/relocate as necessary.

  • kyphe

    Stacked paper in a full cabinet should be OK at diffusing bullet energy, especially hollow points that are designed to dump energy and I can see it being quite effective vs new ammo like RIP rounds. But I can see the point of the article, even partial concealment is better than nothing when concealment is all you have.

    • Aaron E

      As long as the shot goes through the front, and not the side of the cabinet. From the side the paper will provide very little resistance.

      • Larry Brown

        Wellll…depends. You’re right that hitting a stack of paper on the flat surface side offers the most resistance. Paper is very, very dense and heavy, as anyone that has carried a box of books can tell you.
        Hitting paper on the edge, as in hitting a file cabinet from the side, will offer way less resistance. But, there are cases where paper hit on the edge will offer almost as much resistance as paper hit on the flat side, or face, of the page. Hitting a stack of books on the edge down towards the bottom of the stack, for instance, will provide a great amount of resistance. That’s because the weight of the other books has squeezed air out from between the pages of the lower books making them very dense. Hitting a book at the top of the stack, on the other hand, will offer very little resistance.
        My only complaint with this “test” is…that’s not how filing cabinets are always packed in businesses. I’d like to see a cabinet full from top to bottom with paper files, and also see how far from a direct hit the paper will stop a rifle round.5 degrees? 10? 15?

        • Aaron E

          I can see your point Larry, and pressed paper would provide more resistance, but I don’t believe it would be the same resistance as hitting the paper on the flat surface.

  • Theo Braunohler

    On a similar note, in one of Massad Ayoob’s books, he mentions that the most bullet resistant thing almost everyone has in their house is a full bookcase. I’d be inclined to believe him, as I’ve seen just a few phone books stop a .308.

    • Mystick

      I’ve seen .45 ACP FMJ at 3 feet deflect and fragment on a simple pine 2×4 in drywall. May be a fluke, but there was an entry hole with no detectable exit hole on the other side of the wall. The whole projectile was never located, but parts were pulled out and a fine metallic residue was seen opposing the point of entry inside the wall.

  • Edeco

    Hmmm, reminds me the walmart one I have is tinfoil and too small, should try for a used commercial one. Make the crib look even more sterile/industrial, which will displease several. Maybe put stickers on it to make homier. Pleasant stickers.

  • Aaron E

    Daryl Dixon does not need cover, or concealment! The awesomeness of his presence deflects bullets, arrows, and the Dead.

    • KestrelBike

      And the tragedy is that he couldn’t save the one he loved :'(

      • Tassiebush

        Haha you ba$tard I haven’t seen it yet!

    • Shawn

      Zombies don’t shoot back.

      • Zebra Dun

        I agree, zombies have never ever shot back.

      • Cymond

        Yeah, but the Governor does, which is who was attacking in the episode in the gif at the top of the article.

  • Mystick

    Wasn’t this on Mythbusters or something? I specifically remember a show about how effective common household items frequently shown in movies being used as cover was.

    I believe it was at the PD bomb range where they did the tests. I remember a filing cabinet being one of the objects under test.

    • Southpaw89

      The one I remember is the ever present bullet proof car door you see so often in movies and on TV, and how ineffective it actually proved to be. Someone should do a tally of how many Hollywood heroes would have died had real world physics been applied to their life saving measures.

      • Mystick

        I think there was…. it had like a running tally of injuries and cost of damages… still looking for it.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    My office just went paperless so if anyone snaps I guess ill have to hide behind Kuerig machine.

    • ostiariusalpha

      That’s a good plan, even a crazed maniac wouldn’t shoot the Kuerig.

    • Don Ward

      Just strap on a couple of jugs from the water cooler, front and back.

    • Tassiebush

      I guess scalding hot beverages are still preferable.

    • NA3006

      Maybe you could coat your cubical in Line-X.

    • SP mclaughlin

      Just fill the filing cabinets with old Nokia phones.


    Sounds like a job for the box of truth gang

  • Jaedo Drax

    Just need to find one of the old concrete lined fireproof filing cabinets, and fill it full of phonebooks for good measure.

    • iksnilol

      Aren’t AR500 plates easier and cheaper?

      • Fred Johnson

        Cheaper than phone books? Oh, right. This is 2016. Phone books are quite rare these days. 😀

        • iksnilol

          That and the filing cabinets are big (and I presume the old fashioned lead lined ones are rare).

  • adverse

    How many zombies have firearms to shoot back?

    • gunsandrockets

      DD used an empty filing cabinet for cover against rifle fire. Successfully.


      • Shawn

        Well to be honest, it doesn’t look like he is using it for cover at all in that gif, it just seems like it’s there.

        • gunsandrockets

          True dat. But I watched the episode the gif is from.

          • Shawn

            So did I, and it still seemed the cabinet was just there, he wasn’t ducking behind it.

    • Cymond

      I’m guessing you don’t watch The Walking Dead. By season 3, zombies are the least of their problems. That gif is from the middle of season 4.

  • Thomas Stuart

    There are fire resistant filing cabinets that will be much better that regular ones.

  • claymore

    Good review and reminder. Check out the video of the Colt commercial we made and you can see it’s never a good idea to hide behind a cinder block either. Hint the M-16/AR-15 destroys them.

  • Fred Johnson

    Oh, I love that Walking Dead gif. I remember watching that episode with my son and marveling how all the bullet strikes bounced off the filing cabinet, the school bus, and Daryl’s hair.

  • Jamie Clemons

    Some guys spend way too much time dreaming up scenarios. Your not very likely to get into a gun fight. Real life is not like the movies where your having a shootout hiding behind objects poping up taking a shot at each other. In real life the shooting is going to be over before anyone has time to take cover.

    • Billca

      While most of us will likely never be in a gunfight there exists a non-zero chance that any one of us could be in the immediate vicinity of a shooting indoors. Such an incident could very well happen whilst you are interviewing for a job, for example. In that case, knowing what kinds of things offer you better than 50/50 protection could mean surviving or leaving in a body bag.

  • l2a3

    Only the heavy steel GSA approved file cabinets with the combo locks can be thought of as cover. The “tin” civilian ones without mods are concealment only and gives the shooter a larger aiming point.

  • stephen

    If your the hero in a movie an empty cabinet is cover. But if your the bad guy, not so much.


  • Paul White

    My office has 4 filing cabinets full of confidential client data; longwise that much paper has to help some.

  • Zebra Dun

    Concealment, even a refrigerator is not adequate cover against some rifles or pistols.

  • MrEllis

    I thought this was gonna be a sales pitch for file cabinets.

  • FL-Wolf

    A file cabinet is definitely a concealment object, not a reliable bullet proof cover. However, it’s still better than nothing at all. The cover factor also depends on the type/caliber/load of the ammo shot, as well as the direction. A shot entering a full file cabinet from the front will slow a bullet down much more than entering from the side. Pure physics…

  • n0truscotsman

    If its not a jersey barrier, then its not “cover”…

  • Billca

    Whether in the home or office it’s good to keep in mind that most interior doors & walls are not bulletproof. Heck, most are barely bullet resistant. Your home’s walls are likely made of drywall over 2×4 studs set 16-18″ apart. An intruder who takes cover at the corner of a wall can still be hit by aiming about 6-8″ short of the corner and letting the bullet “cut the corner” at an angle through the drywall. Of course, this works both ways and you could also be hit.
    The same thing applies if someone is outside the door to a room.

  • jonspencer

    At work we had a file cabinet that was mostly cover as it was filled with lathe parts and tools. Wonder what round is needed to punch a hole through 10″ four jaw or a 6″ three jaw chucks?
    We also had a couple of file cabinets that only held air in the top two drawers, doubt if those would even stop a .22LR.