Sheetrock Penetration Testing, Take 1

There are a lot of strong opinions out there when it comes to home defense firearms. Nick’s Self Defense Tip; Don’t Use a Rifle caused some of the best discussion I’ve seen on the subject in a while, and it got me thinking on the subject as well. It seems to me that the biggest hang-up for any person, no matter what their view point is, is the issue of penetration. If I shoot someone in my house and miss, how many walls is it going to go through? Will it hit my neighbor’s house or go into the adjacent apartment? Is a rifle or shotgun round going to penetrate more walls than my pistol? These are valid concerns and ones that any responsible gun owner should consider. So I decided to get some supplies and see what would happen if I shot at and missed an intruder with the firearms I have in my household.

The idea was to create two walls using sheetrock and 2x4s. Each wall would be 4’x4’ and framed as if it were an interior wall in a house. Then the walls would be placed 15 feet apart to simulate a room. Unfortunately there were two things working against me and my shooting buddy that day, our lack of carpentry skills and the powerful Montana winds. After setting up our walls and preparing to photograph them, a huge gust blew through the shooting range and knocked everything over. Due to the aforementioned poor carpentry skills, the braces broke and we were left to improvise. So, using a few of the target stand bases we were able to stack the four layers of sheetrock approximately one inch apart from each other and create a sort of pseudo wall.

The table below shows the results of each load and what weapon it was fired from. All shots were taken at a distance of 15 feet.

Cartridge Firearm Result
TulAmmo 230 gr .45 ACP FMJ Kahr Pm45 Fully Penetrated
Hornady TAP +P 230 gr .45 ACP JHP Kahr Pm45 Fully Penetrated
Remington UMC 115 gr 9mm FMJ Springfield XDm Fully Penetrated
Speer Gold Dot 115 gr 9mm JHP Springfield XDm Fully Penetrated
American Eagle 130 gr .38 Spl FMJ Ruger LCR Fully Penetrated
Hornady Critical Defense 110 gr .38 SPL Ruger LCR Fully Penetrated
PMC Bronze 125 gr .357 Mag JHP Ruger LCR Fully Penetrated
Hornady Critical Defense 124 gr .357 Mag Ruger LCR Fully Penetrated
Hornady TAP 55 gr .223 M&P-15A Fragmented after fully penetrating
PMC XTAC 55 gr 5.56 FMJ M&P-15A Fully Penetrated
Remington 55gr .223 JHP M&P-15A Fully Penetrated
Remington 2 3/4″ 12 gauge 00 Buck Remington 870 Fully Penetrated
Winchester 2 3/4″ 12 gauge #4 Bird Shot Remington 870 Penetrated 2 layers, stopped by 3rd layer

As you can see, everything except the #4 Birdshot had no problem blowing through 4 layers of sheetrock and hitting the berm.  After firing the .223 Hornady TAP though, there were 3 separate and distinct dust clouds about 10 feet behind the target. This leads me to believe that the round fragmented and tumbled upon exiting.

Basically no matter what you’re firing, it’s going to go through at least one wall with ease. There are many variables that enter into this of course: insulation, studs, muzzle velocity, ft-lbs of force, rifle vs. pistol vs. shotgun and interior vs. exterior walls etc…. Unfortunately time and money constraints haven’t allowed me to test with all those variables (yet), but this less than scientific test has lead me to one conclusion. If forced to use your firearm in self-defense within the confines of your own home you need to make good clean hits on your assailant and be damned sure of what’s on the other side of the wall they’re standing in front of.