Ever since firearms have been around, people have been trying to come up with bulletproof items, like vests, windows, cars, and yes, the original counter to projectile weapons, shields.
In bygone days, most of these objects were relegated to science fiction and comic books, and the few that did exist, like bulletproof cars used by mobsters and politicians in the 1930s, were cumbersome and largely impractical. For instance, Al Capone’s bulletproof 1928 Cadillac weighed a hefty 7,000 pounds.
But in the modern age, thanks to the development of super materials like Kevlar and carbon fibers, bulletproof vests, shields, and vehicles have become practical and relatively common. In addition to body armor, military and police personnel routinely use ballistic shields that protect them from small arms fire and shrapnel when confronting certain crowd control and tactical situations. So does that mean some of those comic book bulletproof tricks could be a reality these days?
It just might.
One of the most famous bullet-stoppers from the comic world is Captain America’s shield. One of the few things that could outlast Cap himself, his shield was created from a “vibranium” steel alloy and was pretty much indestructible.
(Time to drop some heavy nerd on you: Vibranium, the fictional metal from the Marvel universe, was only ever found in one place in Africa. The entirety of the mined vibranium was used to make Cap’s shield. When scientists attempted to synthesize vibranium in a lab, they ended up creating another fictional alloy, adamantium, the incredibly hard and sharp substance that coats Wolverine’s claws.)
Captain America, otherwise known as Steve Rogers, didn’t start out with his signature round shield, but with a heater shield emblazoned with the stars and stripes, until that was traded for his more familiar shield in 1941.
In the film universe, we see the original heater shield in the Captain America: The First Avenger while Rogers is doing his USO stint, before it’s replaced by the round vibranium shield constructed by Howard Stark, the father of Iron Man, Tony Stark. In the comic world, Marvel retconned its storyline, having the 2.5-foot tall round shield presented to Rogers by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
While the shield can absorb blows from The Hulk and Thor’s hammer, and can also be thrown through the air like the world’s most wicked boomerang, one of its primary functions when Cap was introduced was deflecting Nazi bullets in World War II.
But could a thin shield like that ever really deflect bullets like it does in the comics? Well, thanks to legendary speed shooter Jerry Miculek and his extreme willingness to don costumes of all kinds for his Youtube videos, we now have proof that a shield constructed to the same dimensions as Cap’s, but made from titanium instead of vibranium, can indeed stand up to at least a magazine’s worth of .45 ACP. Though it doesn’t come through unscathed like the real thing, the wearer would likely be very alive, though the arm the shield is worn on might be a little worse for wear.
Check out the video above, and go here for a history of Captain America’s shield. There’s more too it than you might imagine, and a lot of it will be important for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, which opens May 6.