Computer Versus a 12 Gauge Shotgun: An Examination of Cover and Concealment

During a bit of de-cluttering, I decided it was time to get rid of some old computers. I was in the process of trying to find the right power cords and connections to get them booted up to scrub the hard drives as the first step before removing the old hard drives. I didn’t have anything controversial saved on these old computers, but I do keep invoices and side hustle work materials on my computers that needed to be removed.

As I was preparing to get everything together for this half-day activity, my wife popped her head into the room and asked, “Why don’t you just go shoot them?”

It had not occurred to me to do “ballistic” tests on the computers as a shortcut to rendering the hard drives “cleaned.” But the second she mentioned it, I was all in. I had already set aside half a day for this process, so the first choice was what ammunition and firearms to test.

Prepping for the Fun

After some deliberation about the best rounds to destroy a computer balanced with testing a few options, I decided to start with my Smith & Wesson Model 29 in .44 Magnum.

I opted to use 240-grain FMJ flat-nose bullets with velocities of up to 1,235 FPS from LAX Ammo. For comparative tests (and to get the job done quicker), my second weapon of choice was a Remington 870 Wingmaster pump-action shotgun in 12-gauge. This shotgun was freshly back from being de-rusted at the gunsmith (after being bought as a part of a larger collection). Thus, I could kill two birds with one stone as the Wingmaster also needed to be test shot after being brought back to life.

I decided to use the last of some shotgun shells I had picked up during the ammunition shortages of 2020; Black Aces 2 ¾ inch, 12-Ga, 00 Buck buckshot, with a velocity of 1,425 FPS.

A Remington 870 shotgun and a S&W .44 magnum revolver
The tools selected for the tests included a Remington 870 Wingmaster 12-Ga pump action shotgun and a Smith and Wesson Model 29 revolver in .44 magnum.

Testing & Results

I started with the laptops, shooting at various areas on each one. For practicality-sake, I decided on a common home defense distance of approximately 15 feet. I used a 2” X 12” weather-treated board to capture penetrations and keep the computers upright. After six rounds of .44 magnum from the Smith and Wesson, and checking for penetrations, I shot six 12-gauge shells at various aiming points.


The laptops failed to stop any of the rounds from penetrating and became hardly recognizable after six rounds of buckshot ammo. Additionally, the penetrating rounds were lodged deep in the wood with three of the six rounds of .44 magnum fully penetrating through the laptops and the weather-treated wood.

Before and After shots of a desk top computer tower shot with 12-Ga 00 Buck
The first shell of 12 Gauge 00 buckshot cleanly penetrated the front of the tower shredding the internals, but most of the pellets in this first shot did not penetrate.


The desktop computer towers were better at stopping rounds. I also deliberately shot both high and low with the .44 magnum first. Looking at the .44 Magnum points of impact, the shots towards the top of the tower all penetrated and had enough energy remaining to penetrate the wood backstop.  Of the three rounds shot directly into the hard drive, two of them failed to exit.

Next up were a few rounds of 00 buckshot from the shotgun. The first shell only resulted in a single projectile fully penetrating the computer before being stopped by the wood backstop. However, subsequent rounds started to shred the outside and inside of the computer tower and started blowing off large parts and sections. By the last of the six shells, all nine projectiles penetrated the wood to varying degrees, but none fully penetrated the wood backstop.

Results: during and after
The results were clear, a desktop computer tower quickly lost its ability (if it ever had any) to provide cover from higher-powered pistol and shotgun rounds. Additionally, 6 rounds of 00 buckshot are fairly effective at “cleaning” a hard drive.

What Will Stop an Incoming Bullet?

This is often a discussion in my home defense classes regarding cover and concealment.

I think identifying cover points is an important process in thinking through potential self-defensive situations, especially for home defense. However, in the case of a self-defensive event, it all goes into a spectrum with nothing between you and incoming rounds on one end and walls meant to survive an atomic blast on the other. From this viewpoint, never completely trust anything but opt for stronger cover if available.

In terms of the fun experiments in this article: will a laptop stop most incoming rounds? The answer is a convincing, “No.” Will a desktop tower stop incoming rounds? The answer is “Maybe, but not for long.” However, would I rather be shot directly with an incoming round or have it lose energy penetrating an intervening computer? In almost all situations the answer is “Yes.” Cover and concealment are not absolutes when talking about ballistics, and any advantage we can grab in self-defense situations we should.

Joel Nadler is the Training Director at Indy Arms Company in Indianapolis and co-owner of Tactical Training Associates.  He writes for several gun-focused publications and is an avid supporter of the right to self-sufficiency, including self-defense. Formerly a full professor, he has a Ph.D. in Psychology and now works as a senior consultant living on a horse ranch in rural Indiana.  Feel free to follow him on Instagram @TacticalPhD.

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