Here’s Why I Think Overpenetration Is Fudd Nonsense

    In almost any gun store or forum, you can find someone who can’t wait to give you unsolicited information. A lot of the “advice” that Over Eager Jerry likes to “share” with you is stuff that has been repeated ad nauseam in gun circles, but it isn’t always backed up by facts. For example, they might soberly warn you against choosing a modern sporting rifle, hand loads, NFA devices, or other scary things for defense because an “overzealous prosecutor” will get you locked up. I swear they read this shit from a script. It’s the sort of urban legend that sounds plausible on the surface so people just accept and repeat it without any sort of critical thinking. No one has ever been locked up for using a scary, but a legal gun.

    And overpenetration is exactly that same kind of bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to tell you that bullets don’t go through things. Obviously, they do. What I am trying to say is that the risk isn’t nearly what these pearl clutching neck beards breathlessly inform you it is. They’ll even go so far as to recommend absolute garbage ammunition like number 8 birdshot, Liberty Civil Defense, or .223 varmint ammo, none of which meet minimum penetration requirements.

    To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a documented case where a homeowner shot a bad guy in justified self-defense and the bullet passed through the baddie and harmed an innocent person. There are many cases where police officers have had to shoot someone and the bullet passed through them into an uninvolved party, and it has happened to armed citizens who have had to shoot in a crowded area. But it hasn’t happened in the context of home defense. Like, ever.

    I’m confident of this because I’ve been challenging viewers for years to produce an example and no one has managed to bring one to my attention. That’s mostly because the world around us is largely composed of space that does not contain a human being. Even if bullets were infinite death beams that cut through everything they touched, there’s a lot more space that doesn’t contain human flesh than does and that makes it very unlikely a bullet fired in any direction will hurt someone. But bullets are not infinite laser lines. They actually stop pretty readily when they strike things and I set up a little demonstration to illustrate this.

    If you knew your kid was standing right behind Cracky McCrackerson as he posed a threat inside your home, you would probably step to the side, take a knee, or refrain from firing until you had a clear shot. But what if you shot Mr. McCrackerson when a loved one was just on the other side of a wall? I set up a not-quite-worst case scenario where we have our bad guy ballistic block “standing” a few inches away from our wall mockup, and our innocent, but probably a little slow “family member” immediately on the other side of the wall.

    Now, in our demonstration, Mr. McCrackerson is the skinniest little bastard ever to jimmy a window, at only six inches thick. The skinniest guy I know measures 8” from sternum to spine. And in this demonstration, Mr. McCrackerson has no bones or skin and is only inches away from the wall, which contains no wiring, plumbing, insulation, or studs. And Suzy Sleepsalot is likewise only inches from the wall. Include bones, use a larger crackhead, more distance, or allow a projectile to pass through harder parts of a wall and the results would likely be VERY different. But I wanted to create a scenario that is as bad as could PLAUSIBLY be.

    We’re going to fire 9mm 124gr HST from a 4.5” barrel, .223 Rem 77gr TMK from a 16” barrel, and 12ga 00 buckshot from an 18” barrel and take a look at how much danger Suzy Sleepsalot might be in. If you’re inclined to make a bet, now is the time to pause the video and leave a comment below.


    Were you surprised? Did any of these loads not perform as you expected?


    The first, and most important takeaway is the fact that the four rules of firearm safety apply       ALL.     THE.              TIME.   Even in a gunfight. Be sure of your target and what is behind it. Any ammunition has the potential to pass through your attacker and damage something you did not intend to hit. In our nearly worst-case scenario, Suzy could have been killed by any one of these loads. But out of the three loads tested here, the .223 had the least potential for injury. So much so, that had the bad guy had bones inside his body, the projectile might not have had enough mojo left to cause her any serious injury. After the bad guy and the wall, the bullet only penetrated 7 ½”. Bear in mind that the calibration BB for ballistic gel must penetrate between about 3” – 3 ¾” for gel to be valid and we don’t normally consider BB guns to be particularly lethal. That doesn’t mean .223 is harmless to bystanders, and other loads will perform differently, but it does mean that the risk is severely reduced in comparison to many other cartridges.

    Finally, I want each of you to consider that a miss is obviously far more dangerous to bystanders than a bullet that passes through a bad guy first because that hit ditches a great deal of energy early on. Lots of folks have demonstrated how any ammo that is suitable for defense will fly through many, many walls. And you WILL miss in a fight. If you think that you won’t, that’s only because you haven’t trained enough. Take a defensive pistol class and shoot a 2 gun match. You’ll find out what I mean.

    If you choose ineffective ammunition out of a misguided attempt to reduce risk to bystanders, you risk having to shoot the bad guy more times. More shots fired means more misses, which paradoxically INCREASES the potential for someone not involved to get hurt.

    Is it possible for projectiles to “over-penetrate”? Absolutely. Is it something to be overly concerned about? Not remotely. Choose ammunition that meets FBI requirements and train hard to put those pills in the right spot.

    A great place to find ammunition that meets those standards is Ventura Munitions. They provided the ammunition I used in this test and their gracious sponsorship makes these videos possible.

    I hope I gave you something to think about. If you disagree with any of the points I made here or if you have questions about the facts, leave a comment below. The discussion is the best part of these videos and you folks are the best commenters on YouTube. Speaking of YouTube, I’m sure you know that subscribe doesn’t really mean anything anymore so if you want to see more videos like this, hit that bell. Please do what you can to support gun content on this platform by liking, sharing, and subscribing to ALL the gun channels, especially TFB TV.

    If you want to find out how you can make stunning high-speed videos like the ones you saw here, get in touch with Aimed Research. Their contact info is in the doobly doo. Have a great day.


    Andrew is a combat veteran of OEF and has performed hundreds of ballistic tests for his YouTube channel, The Chopping Block ( He is an avid firearm collector and competitor and lives with his family in Arizona. If you have any questions, you may email him at [email protected]