A few days ago, I was watching an episode of Mythbusters. In it, they conducted a test to see if a policeman’s badge could stop a bullet. They tested badges made of three types of material. One was made of silver, one was made of bronze, and one was made of nickel. Two of the three badges failed the test when shot at close range, but one of them stopped the bullet! A crazy idea then came to me. If a badge made of weaker metal could stop a bullet, then a stainless-steel wall plate could also stop a bullet. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get approval to shoot a few wall plates to prove my theory. Instead, I compiled some information to answer the question, “Can a stainless-steel wall plate stop a bullet?”.
I based my study on Enerlites 430-gauge stainless-steel wall plates which you can save 10% off a ten pack decorator style stainless steel wall plates using the following Amazon Coupon Code: K5ILO7G4. Other steel wall plate options such as toggle switch, duplex outlet, and blank covers are also available. Please keep in mind that I won’t be using an actual firearm to draw my conclusion, but here’s a cool image of different types of stainless-steel wall plates with an explosion!
The Four Types of Steel
Before I give you the answer to the question I am asking, it is important to understand what makes Enerlites 430-gauge steel wall plates so durable. There are four types of steel available: Carbon Steel, Tool Steel, Alloy Steel, and Stainless Steel. For each of these steel types there are also different grades/gauges. All steel is composed of iron and carbon. It is the amount of carbon, and the additional alloys that determines the properties of each grade. If you want to skip the metallurgy lesson you can click the link to move forward to the “Factors Needed to Stop a Bullet” section.
Carbon Steel is the base type for all steel, and is separated into three categories: low carbon steel, medium carbon steel, and high carbon steel. Low carbon steel has 0.04% to 0.30% carbon content, and is sometimes referred to as mild steel. For medium carbon the content is 0.31% to 0.60%. Lastly, high carbon steel’s content ranges from 0.61% to 1.50%. All steel starts off in one of the three categories. When steel is treated with different elements or heat-treated it then becomes one of the other three types of steel.
Tool Steel is a term used for a variety of high-hardness, abrasion-resistant steels. Specific tool applications are dyes (stamping or extrusion), cutting, mold making, or impact applications like hammers (personal or industrial). It is also a common material used to make knives. Tool steel has a carbon content between 0.5% and 1.5% making it a low carbon content steel.
Alloy steel has small amounts of one or more alloying elements (other than carbon) such as manganese, silicon, nickel, titanium, copper, chromium or aluminum added. The alloy content needed for a carbon steel to become an alloy ranges from 1% to 50%. This produces specific properties that are not found in regular carbon steel such as increased strength, hardness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, toughness and hot hardness. Alloy steels are broken into two groups which are low-alloy steels and high-alloy steels. The difference between the two is somewhat arbitrary, and has been defined at 4.0% alloy and 8.0% alloy by difference sources.
Stainless steel is an alloy steel with increased corrosion resistance compared to carbon and alloy steel. Common alloying ingredients include chromium (usually at least .11%), nickel, and molybdenum. Stainless steels are identified by a three-digit number beginning with 2, 3, 4, or 5. Enerlites uses 430-gauge steels for all their stainless-steel wall plates which is only one grade below the highest level. Stainless-steel has become a top choice for building materials, cars, and even housewares such as pots, pans, knives, and of course stainless-steel wall plates. The superior strength, and low maintenance make it ideal for use in a wide range of applications. Even spaceships have components that are specifically made of stainless-steel to meet the extreme conditions of space.
There is more information available on the classifications of each steel type at the following link https://www.metalsupermarkets.com/types-of-steel/ . Now that you know more about stainless steel, you will better understand what attributes it has to possibly stop a bullet.
The Factors Needed to Stop a Bullet
As I mentioned before, there won’t be actual guns used for this study. Some individuals have previously tested shooting rifles at steel plates, and those experiments did not end well. For this study, I have focused on three classifications of the Enerlites plates to determine if they could impede the impact of a bullet. These classifications are:
- Composition – Enerlites stainless-steel wall plates uses 430 grade steels which is comprised of the following metal blend: 1.80% Nickel, .50% -.80% chromium, and .25% molybdenum.
- Durability – Enerlites stainless-steel plate covers can withstand scaling temperatures of 1500 degrees Fahrenheit (816 degrees Celsius). Stainless steel material is listed at a Rockwell Hardness of B85. It is highly resistant to nitric acid as well as sulfur gases.
- Form – Enerlites wall plates are made in plated forms which requires them to be hardened at a stronger level than plates made in sheet form.
These three factors are important when deciding how the plate will perform against a 40-caliber handgun using 9mm bullets. If a bullet is shot at a 45 degree angle the minimum thickness needed for the plate to stop the bullet would be 3/16″. Enerlites wall plates meet this thickness requirement. Another factor is the heat. Along with the force of the bullet there is also a high amount of heat that burns through material when contact is made. The chemical composition makes of Enerlites steel wall plates make them extremely durable with a high tolerance for heat. Going back to the Mythbusters episode, the badge that stopped the bullet was made of nickel. I know that stainless-steel is a stronger metal than nickel, but I still wanted to be sure. I was able to confirm my thoughts when comparing nickel and stainless-steel on Moh’s Scale of Hardness.
As you can see, stainless-steel is of a higher hardness than nickel, and in some cases even higher than titanium when hardened.
Although I wasn’t physically able to test a stainless-steel wall plate against a bullet, I did conclude that in theory it is possible for a stainless-steel wall plate stop a bullet. I would like to state you should never attempt to perform stopping a bullet with a stainless-steel wall plate or any of the test mentioned in this article. Instead, you can rest assured knowing that the stainless steel-wall plates you purchase from Enerlites are of the highest quality, and that no wall plates where harmed in the making of this article.
The Mythbusters referenced episode can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tmut9NOtvnY