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No, 5 inches of fat won’t stop bullet hitting vital organs

A meme shared more than 145,000 times on Facebook claims 5 inches of fat on a person’s body can stop a 9 millimetre bullet from reaching vital organs.

“I’m not fat... I’m armoured,” it says below a photo of a person clutching their belly fat.

In 2010 there were multiple media reports about Samantha Lynn Frazier, a woman from Atlantic City in the US, who survived a gunshot to her abdomen. Frazier’s doctors reportedly said her “love handles”, the fat around her belly, had stopped the bullet from doing more damage.

But is it true that 5 inches – or 12.7 centimetres – of body fat will stop a bullet from reaching your vital organs?

14 inches of fat only slows bullet

In 2007 the scientists and doctors who produce The Naked Scientists, a podcast based at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education in the UK, performed an experiment to find out how fat a person would have to be to stop a bullet. 

They fired a steel ball bearing at the speed of a bullet into a 36-centimetre (14.17-inch) tube of gelatine, which has a similar density to fat. This was to simulate the effect of a bullet penetrating fat. 

The 14 inches of gelatine only managed to halve the speed of the ball bearing, but not stop it. The Naked Scientists hypothesised that it would take at least twice as much fat to stop a bullet. 

That is 72 centimetres [28.3 inches] of fat and is somewhat unfeasible,” they concluded. “We think that bulletproof vests are probably more practical and probably cheaper!”

Photos, audio and video of the experiment are available on The Naked Scientists website.

‘No one has that much fat’

According to BBC science magazine Science Focus, a “morbidly obese” person weighing more than 125 kilograms might have 60 centimetres (23.6 inches) of fat at the thickest point. But “no one has that thickness evenly across their entire body”. Even a blue whale’s blubber “is only 30 centimetres thick”.

The story of Samantha Lynn Frazier is rare, according to Science Focus. “We can’t know for sure whether the bullet ricocheted off something else before it struck her.” – Africa Check


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