Let's imagine a supernatural creature that can walk off all damage unless their heart is hit. (think Mr Sinister. The damage is done, it's just not lethal) These creatures exist in modern times, have similar anatomy to us, and any damage to their heart is as lethal as it is to us.

Modern armor is heavy, bulky, and does a poor job of protecting it's wearer from direct gunfire. Even a poorer job against military grade gunfire. Now let's imagine that only the heart matters. Maybe we don't need the large vest anymore? just a single frontal plate made of a much tougher, heavier material? Would anything reasonable for humans to wear be able to stand up to modern assault weapons?

Let's also assume that the shooters know what they are doing. They know where to aim, and if the armor becomes part of "the meta" they would adjust their ammo. Would it still make sense to try to wear protection if you were most likely to face FMJs or whatever the proper counter would be?

Notes. I understand that people can be shot from other angles, but let's assume that most gunfire would be from the front. (that does not mean that if you think that fire coming from the front would actually hit from other angles you should not mention that) I also understand that nothing is going to stand up to a 50cal, let's only consider normal weapons up to assault rifles

  • $\begingroup$ We can switch from a full bulletproof west to a smaller bulletproof breastplate, although I would still argue for protection on the back. But bulking up the breastplate may allow it to actually stop .50s now and then. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Nov 6, 2017 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander maybe a sniper rifle? I am guessing a belt fed weapon would still cut you in half. Would love to see some data though $\endgroup$
    – Andrey
    Nov 6, 2017 at 22:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ yes, I meant a single .50 shot, likely from a sniper rifle. Protective ceramic plates are not designed to hold against multiple shots. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Nov 6, 2017 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ Are you talking about an Iron Man? :) $\endgroup$
    – user44478
    Nov 7, 2017 at 0:47
  • $\begingroup$ Do you need to stop the bullet or just make it hard to hit the heart? Camouflage may be a better choice than armor. A billowy cloak or dazzle pattern might make life hard for opposition. $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Nov 7, 2017 at 21:28

3 Answers 3


I have to point out that modern military body armor does a wonderful job protecting the wearer from direct gunfire, and it is specially designed to defeat military weapons.

The US military uses armor consisting of ridged plates able to defeat 7.62mm rounds, the type commonly used in the AK-47. Surrounding the plates and covering areas not protected by plates, you'll find kevlar panels able to defeat some small caliber weapons, as well as providing protection from shrapnel.

For a creature that only needs to protect its heart, I would still recommend it wears standard military body armor. The ballistic plates are designed to protect the vital organs, but shrinking those plates would expose the heart to gunfire from off-angle attacks (45 degrees). Bullets also tend to bounce around inside the body, so it is possible for a round to hit in the hip and then redirect up through the chest cavity, for example. Because of this, maximizing protection is always a good idea.

I wouldn't expect any type of armor to defeat a .50 though. The sheer kinetic force would likely crush the chest cavity, destroying the heart if you were able to stop it.

Your creatures would gain the advantage of shedding helmets though. A standard plate carrier (unlike a vest, it only carries plates, and doesn't have the bulk or restrictions to movement) equipped with side plates would be my recommendation.

Source: Former Infantryman with some experience relating to body armor and the effects of weapons on the human body.


The problem with limited protection is that your opponent can disable you (shoot your legs and arms off, for example) and then you are unable to defend yourself or get away.

At that point they can, at leisure, get at your heart easily and all you get to do is watch !

This also raises the question of how your creature survive if I can blow it's brains to smithereens. Is it still alive just because it's heart is OK ?

So all things considered, you still want as much protection as possible.

Others have already commented on the limitations of modern body armor, but I'd also add that if a bullet can enter the body, even if it misses the heart, it can still damage the heart.

When a bullet enters the body it does not drill a neat little tunnel, it causes massive shock waves to travel outward from the path of the bullet. This can cause damage to organs not actually directly in the path of the bullet. There's a "nice" demonstration of this effect in this video.

So, again, you want to protect as much as possible, because even near misses are a bad idea.

  • $\begingroup$ In my world a brain wound causes unctuousness until the damage heals, typical stuff. And I think surviving as long as your side wins the fight is a pretty good deal $\endgroup$
    – Andrey
    Nov 7, 2017 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrey - Your creatures become sycophantic and overbearingly flattering until they heal? $\endgroup$
    – Obie 2.0
    Nov 8, 2017 at 4:15

You actually need to specify what you are protecting against, and I can point out what sorts of armour you need.

Common soft body armour (Level 1 & 2) is useful in stopping things like pistol calibre rounds (9mm and .38 were the most common types protected against in Police body armour). More modern materials ramp up the protection to guard against higher velocity/powered rounds like 10mm or .40. Soft body armour also protects against shell and grenade fragments.

The common military body armour is considered level 3, which protects against intermediate calibre rifle rounds, like 5.56 X 45 or 7.62 X 39. This covers most common military selective fire weapons and even light machine guns. Protection at level 3 is by protective plates, which can be either ceramic or metal. Ceramic plates dissipate the energy of an incoming round by shattering, while metal plates deform, which makes most plates "one time use" to give you an idea of the sorts of energies we are dealing with.

SoF, Police ERT teams and others specialty units can go to level 4, but this is a massive increase in weight/bulk, since now the plates and backing are required to dissipate the energy of a full sized round, like 7.62 X 51. these are fired from battle rifles (M-14 or FN-FAL) or medium machine guns.

And regardless of what level of armour you use, special rounds exist designed specifically to defeat the armour, using special coatings or high density penetrators or other combinations of techniques.

So your creature might have a "ceramic" plate over the heart, perhaps grown like a shell, but after one or two shots, and especially if the shooter is using an AP round, the protection will no longer be valid.


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