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Hollywood magic has had us dreaming of what could be for years. It’s easy to assume there’s more truth to it than there really is. For example, one of the most well-known troupes in movies is for the hero to hide behind a car door, where he is completely unharmed by the flying bullets. Is there any truth to this, or has Hollywood fooled us again with a fake car safety theory?

Testing the theory

Some may seek protection from bullet holes behind a car like this one that exhibits bullet holes.
Bullet holes in a car | Getty Images

Do car doors actually provide protection? The only real way to answer this is to do a real-life test, which is precisely what Ballistic Magazine did. They asked Sammy the Dwarf, who is a firearms expert, to do the honors.

First, Sammy used a .223 rifle and shot at a car door. Each bullet sliced through it with no issues. A watermelon was placed behind the door to test what this would do to someone using a car door for cover. Needless to say, the watermelon didn’t make it.

When Sammy tried shooting through two car doors with the .223 rifle, the results were the same.

Next, Sammy used a 9mm handgun. It had no issues shooting through one car door, although it couldn’t entirely penetrate through two doors. It definitely impacted it, and anyone standing behind the door would have been badly hurt if not killed.

Is there any part of a car that will provide protection?

When bullets start to fly, you need to know the difference between concealment and cover. According to American Outdoor, “Concealment” is your protection against enemy view, while “cover” is your protection against enemy fire.” In other words, concealment will help you hide, but it’s not going to shield you from bullets. Cover, on the other hand, will prevent you from being hit by bullets.

American Outdoor went on to state, “The only part that not even an AR-15 or similar rifle loaded with 5.56mm steel-core penetrators can go through is the engine block.” For most cars, this means getting down low at the front of the vehicle. Some models choose to place the engine in the back, so it pays to have some car knowledge to know where to hide.

Do some cars provide better protection than others

Not all cars are created equal. While a new car may get you some major points when it comes to your friends and family, it’s not going to do much for protecting you from gunfire.

According to a Quora writer, older cars will work better. They were made from better quality steel. Newer cars are more focused on being fast, which means using less heavy materials to weigh less. Modern vehicles should be your first choice in the event of a car chase, but if you find yourself involved in a gunfight, you should hide behind an older car.

So, what exactly do you do if you find yourself in a situation where someone is shooting? Try to find cover. Just remember that a car may not be the most efficient place to hide. Business Insider reports that something made of earth, stone, or steel will work best to protect you. 

However, that may not be an option. You most likely aren’t going to have time to take a long look around, pick out something that looks suitable, and then sprint for it. You need to move quickly, and won’t have time to come up with a decent plan until you’ve got some cover between you and the shooter. With that being said, a car is better than nothing, so pick what’s closest.