April 06, 2007

Nice Story. Now Comes the SAPI Truth

Via Instapundit, I ran into this article on Gizmodo, where they claim an Apple Ipod saved the life of a soldier by slowing a bullet that hit him in the chest:

He was on patrol in Iraq when he met an armed insurgent carrying an AK-47. Both opened fire, and the bullet heading toward Kevin hit his chest right where his iPod was, which was enough to slow down the bullet to not pierce entirely through the body armor.

It's a great story, and one that is great word-of-mouth marketing for Apple. Too bad it probably isn't true.

Our soldiers wear Interceptor body armor manufactured by a company called Point Blank. Interceptor armor used by our troops in Iraq is composed of an outer tactical vest (OTV) that will stop 9mm bullets, and small arms protective inserts (SAPI) plates made of boron carbide ceramic and backed with bullet-resistant liner that cover the chest, back and sides. These SAPI plates are designed to stop three 7.62 bullets.

An Ipod? Not so much.

If the soldier was shot in a head-on confrontation as the story seems to describe, the SAPI plate on his chest is responsible for saving his life, not a piece of fruity electronic equipment.

Update: Is this story merely an urban legend? I just got a response back from JOC PAO (Joint Operations, Public Affairs in Iraq) suggesting that may be the case:

Hi Bob,

We got another query in on this story yesterday, and have sent it out to
3rd IDs units to see if this guy exists. We have not yet heard anything

I suspect this is one of life's Urban Myths....

However if we get an answer back from the division I'll forward it on to


Tracy Peyman
Lt Cdr RN

Something tells me this is likely going to end up on Snopes as a hoax.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at April 6, 2007 08:40 AM

While I agree it was probably the Interceptor BA that saved his life, if the bullet was going fast enough to trash through the IPOD like that, the IPOD probably did save him from injury.

Posted by: SGT Jeff (USAR) at April 6, 2007 10:58 AM

I disagree,

The ipod is soft plastic (thin) and backed by very thin aluminum. Looking at the picture shows that the bullet went through the upper corner, missing the harder internal parts. While I agree that it slowed the bullet some, The vest probably would have absorbed that much more impact without problem.

Of course we'll never know for sure will we.

Posted by: Retired Navy at April 6, 2007 11:14 AM

It's also very reminiscent of the story that the late James Doohan of "Star Trek" fame told of being saved on D-Day when he was a Canadian soldier, by a metal cigarette case he was carrying, which stopped the bullet. If this new story is indeed a hoax, I wonder if Scotty was indeed the inspiration.

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at April 6, 2007 01:25 PM

An iPod couldn't stop a .25 Who are these people kidding?

Posted by: Purple Avenger at April 6, 2007 06:33 PM

Heh. CNN contacted me about this, wanting my opinion.

If it's true, it's a great *story* regardless of the absolute truths in the issue of what saved who's life.

If it's faked, well, shame on 'em.

But that iPod didn't bleed off enough energy to make a significant difference in the penetrative ability of a standard military ball round, especially at the asserted ranges.

That said - if it happened as described, the soldier may well believe it, or see it as SGT Jeff does.

I do think, based on my email, that there's a lot of electrons being expended on the subject.

Want to get better protection than that iPod? I'll suggest one of these. At least the plate there is hardened steel, imbued by a higher power. 8^)

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at April 7, 2007 09:51 AM

Who knows how fast the bullet was moving when it hit? From far enough away, the kinetic energy could have been so reduced that even a matchbook might have substantially slowed it further.

I'm put it in the 'possible, but there's a lot of missing info' category.

Posted by: John at April 7, 2007 04:33 PM