Using Trees for Ballistic Cover

Have you ever wondered if you would be safe from a shooter by taking cover behind a tree?  What calibers will penetrate the tree and hit you?  Here we test over 10 popular calibers up from .22LR up to .50BMG to find the breaking point.  The results are surprising.

A few of the firearms for the tree shooting experiment.

Picking a good sized pine tree in a safe location right in front of my shooting berm I put this to test.  A  “Gelatin Joe Torso” from Clear Ballistics dubbed “Bill” was closely positioned behind our pine tree to measure ballistic damage if and when the tree failed to stop the rounds.








*******SPOILER ALERT*********








Over the years I’ve seen bullets both penetrate smaller, dead tress as well as found bullets inside others.  So I was extremely impressed that this pine stopped everything short of the .50BMG.  My personal hypothesis was that we would begin to see penetration, at least shooting through the 1/3 thickness of the tree, beginning with the Sig Sauer solid copper .300WM.  But no.  The tree continued to provide adequate cover for “Bill” for all these.

The steel core of a .50BMG round embedded in Clear Ballistics Gel Torso

This is a valuable lesson for law enforcement and defensive citizens.  Live, healthy trees will provide efficient cover.  Personally, I would have peppered a tree with anything above a .223 thinking that something would defeat it.  But now we know.

The Recovered .50BMG steel core after exiting the tree and embedding in the gel.

The icing on the cake was “Bill” capturing the .50BMG round.  At first I was puzzled by the recovered slug’s dirty appearance.  Then I realized that I wasn’t holding the entire bullet.  I only held the inner steel core.  The pine tree stripped off every part of the copper jacket.  If you weren’t aware, all surplus .50BMG FMJ rounds have steel cores.  Not only was it stripped through the tree but at some point it tumbled and entered our gel torso backwards.

I know there are a plethora of other calibers and weapons to expand this experiment.  If you have a request for more “Kill Bill” experiments feel free to leave a comment below.