Can The Tesla Cybertruck Repel Stray Bullets?
Inside EVs recently interviewed Sandy Munro, a well known automotive industry expert. He said one of the reasons he’ll be buying a Cybertruck is so that stray rounds from other hunters wouldn’t “put a hole in” it.
“I used to go hunting a lot (before the pandemic), and all hunters are worried about stray bullets,” Mr. Munro said to Inside EVs. “I heard through the grapevine that the stainless steel that they got will deflect the bullet. If something like that happened, I wouldn’t want to find a hole in my car.”
But would it really protect itself from a highly unlikely stray rifle shot? As a firearms instructor, I know a few things about guns. Let’s find out.
As we can see in the video (many of us already saw this in 2019), the truck can stop a 9mm pistol round, as long as it hits the metal and not the windows. Tesla obviously doesn’t think people will buy a Cybertruck to protect themselves from getting shot, but they did think that taking rounds would show how tough the truck’s body is. They also hit it with a hammer.
(Elon, if you’re reading this, I’d love to meet up sometime and go shoot some Cybertruck scraps in the desert with various calibers. There are some good spots near KLRU.)
But, as a friend on Twitter pointed out, a handgun is a lot weaker than a rifle.
115 grain 9mm FMJ muzzle energy: ~300-400 ft-lb https://t.co/h8i8sBhmoC
.308 Winchester (popular hunting caliber) hunting loads (150+ grain) muzzle energy is more like ~3,000-4,000 ft-lbs https://t.co/ySvgmYoFS0
ｏｒｄｅｒ ｏｆ ｍａｇｎｉｔｕｄｅ
— E.W. Niedermeyer (@Tweetermeyer) February 16, 2021
For both CleanTechnica and The Truth About Guns, I decided to have some fun and run some numbers on this.
First off, muzzle velocity isn’t relevant here. Nobody is going to shoot the Cybertruck from an inch away. The further the bullet flies through the air, the more speed and energy it loses to drag, eventually losing all of its energy. The 9mm handgun Tesla used to hit the Cybertruck metal was at a distance of 10 meters (around 33 feet).
Feeding this into an online ballistics calculator (assuming a pretty average 9mm full metal jacket training round), at 10 yards the energy is about 379 ft-lb, and we know that the Cybertruck’s skin can withstand that.
If a hunter shoots your truck from only 30–33 feet away, that’s not a “stray round.” That’s either done intentionally or through pretty severe negligence. One of the gun rules owners should memorize is “never point a gun at anything you don’t want to destroy.” Hunting rifles are pretty accurate, and they often use magnified optics (a “scope”) to aim precisely at targets up to hundreds of yards/meters away.
Stray rounds happen when the target is missed, and usually end up in a tree or in the ground behind the animal that’s being hunted. There’s usually some terrain in the woods that would keep a round from going directly from the gun to your truck that’s parked at the road. To hit your truck, the bullet would fly high, and go over the earth, rocks, and trees, often going well over 1,000 yards before striking something.
So, the real question here is, when does a .308 Winchester (aka 7.62mm NATO) run out of steam and have less energy than a 9mm? To test this, I assumed a 168 grain Hornady A-MAX bullet (common in hunting) was fired from a typical powder load and average barrel.
According to the calculations, this bullet would drop to below 9mm energy at just before 1300 yards, and would have dropped 896 inches (almost 75 feet or 23 meters) from the point of aim (assuming a 100-yard zero) by this point.
If someone shot high, the bullet flew through the air, and it fell into your truck after more than 1300 yards, this stray round likely wouldn’t punch a hole in the Cybertruck.
Thus, Sandy Munro is correct. The Cybertruck indeed would be a good truck to not get messed up if something like this happened out hunting.
This Isn’t Terribly Likely, Though
The chances of this actually happening are very low, though.
Let’s look at El Paso, Texas, for example. During the worst years of the cartel wars just over the river in Ciudad Juarez, it was statistically the most dangerous city on the planet to live in, even beating Baghdad, and this was during the height of the Iraq War. El Paso, on the other hand, was still one of the safest cities in America.
With all of the shooting going on in Juarez, you’d think a lot of people would be hit by stray bullets in El Paso, but that only happened once.
I’m not saying that stray bullets from a hunter’s gun never hurt anyone (you can find lots of stories of this happening on Google), but when you consider just how many people hunt every year and how rarely this happens, you’d have to be one of the most unlucky hunters on the planet for someone to hit you or your Cybertruck. You’re more likely to die in a car wreck on the way to or from the woods.
One of the reasons this is so rare is another gun safety rule people learn in Hunter’s Ed: “Know your target and what’s beyond it.” Almost everyone hunting knows that you can’t take a shot if you don’t know where the bullet will go if you miss or it passes through.
Where The Cybertruck’s Protection Will More Likely Be Tested
Your car is more likely to be shot by a criminal or a police officer with a pistol than a hunter with a rifle, and you’ll find many more criminals and cops in the city. That’s also where most Cybertrucks will roam.
Teslas have already been shot, and every story I can find of this happening was in the city. For example, some lunatic shot at a Model S in Nashville last month. Nobody knows who they were or why they did it, but it was caught on the car’s camera.
Before readers jump into the comments telling us that this is why they don’t live in the States, keep in mind that incidents like this are still extremely rare, even here. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning or die from choking, no matter what country you live in. However, stray bullets in the city are far more likely to hit a Cybertruck than those from a hunter. It’s just numbers.
Nobody buying a Cybertruck is going to buy one because they think it’s going to save them from a bullet. They’re going to buy it because they think it will be tough and durable, and that’s where the conversation actually gets serious.