*Gunshot* (Flanders is knocked down) Ned Flanders: Whew, good thing I always keep a Bible next to my... * Second gunshot* (Flanders is knocked down again) Ned Flanders: Whew, luckily I was wearing an extra large piece of the True Cross today. (Flanders notices that he doesn't have any other religious symbols with him) Ned Flanders: I think I'll go inside.
Oh no! Our Hero is being shot at! Look, a bullet is heading right for his heart... but what's this? He has something in his pocket? It's stopped the bullet! He is saved!
He's got a Bible in there? It'll stop the bullet. Ditto for cellphones, and especially lockets; if it contains photographs of beloved ones, expect a large modifier (positive or negative, depending upon the scene) to the attack.
While it may have worked in the days when guns were extremely underpowered, these days the life-saved-by-sentimental-object trope is discredited; it's rare to find a 21st century example that plays it straight. It's important to note that most real-world examples involve ricochets, spent bullets, shrapnel or other low-velocity projectiles. It's a very lucky break when the round is moving slow enough to be stopped by anything so small and thin as what you can fit in a pocket.
One commonly-used justification is that it's an attempted assassination; suppressors are much more effective on subsonic rounds - the kind of bullets that can be considered silent can thus be rendered nonlethal by many everyday objects.
See Bulletproof Vest for things that are supposed to stop bullets.note Some of which in real life, incidentally, are fitted with protective ceramic plates stowed in pockets. Compare Concealment Equals Cover, where the hero is protected by something that isn't in their pocket. If bullets are stopped by an unwilling Mook or bystander, that's a Bulletproof Human Shield. For other uses for books, see Useful Book. For intentional versions with (usually) larger objects, see Improvised Armour.
Not to be confused with the pocket protectors stereotypically worn by Nerds
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Anime and Manga
In GUN×SWORD, a turtle (conveniently hanging around her chest) saves Wendy's life within the first 2 minutes of the first episode, and the damned thing shows up in every episode with that hole in its shell.
In Lupin III Island Of Assassins, Zenigata is shot in the opening segment, and the bullet hits the badge in his pocket. While it keeps the shot from being instantly fatal, it still injures him severely. He's hospitalized immediately, but still flatlines.
The movie Lupin III Missed By A Dollar has a more plausible example, with a bullet bouncing off of Lupin's gun. Unfortunately, the animators depict the bullet (in a slow-motion flashback) bouncing off at an angle that would have buried it in Lupin's head...
The Gunsmith Cats manga has Rally surviving a bullet to the side thanks to the bullet having to penetrate a collapsible rifle stowed in her jacket - along with her car's roll cage. The rifle is left with a bullet hole in the stock and barrel, and Rally is left with broken ribs as it was a fired from a fourteen-inch .45 Desert Eagle.
Once Rally is forced to shoot Roy, but deliberately aims at the revolver in his shoulder holster.
There's also one time when she takes control of an assassin's arm and forces her to empty her clip right at her chest... where she put a paperback novel just for the purpose. Justified by the circumstances; May was being held hostage in their hotel room and started Talking through Technique - referring to a "favorite piece" when she knows fully well that Rally is using a cheap throwaway gun due to her license being suspended. Rally thus realizes this, and makes the logical assumption of an assassin using a silenced small-caliber pistol.
In Pokémon Special, Blue would have been killed off by a Razor Wind aimed at his heart had it not been blocked by a pendant given to him by Professor Oak/his Grandpa.
Also done in an episode of Fullmetal Alchemist when a boy is saved from a bullet by having a locket with a picture of his deceased mother hidden underneath his shirt. Made more poignant by the fact that this locket had been a point of strife between the boy and his brother, who had held a grudge against their mother for a certain misunderstanding. Adding to the Emotional Torque is that the bullet causes the locket, which was stuck up to that point, to open, its contents clearing up the misunderstanding.
In a pinch, Rin Asougi of Mnemosyne uses a hotel Bible to block a bullet from an assassin's small calibur, silenced pistol. And then dug out the bullet and threw it into the assassin's face, blinding her in one eye.
The Berserk anime/manga has an poison arrow to Griffith's heart blocked by his Behelit, or as the Abridged of that show calls it, the "Portable Deus Ex Machina Generator". Justified in that Behelits are supernatural instruments of fate that want to keep their owners alive until they can cross the Despair Event Horizon, and are likely Made of Indestructium to boot.
Parodied in the manga, when a devoutly religious individual is shielded from a BFS stabbing with a Bible he always keeps on him. He then states that the Bible is what his faith is based on, thus he cannot be harmed by a "tainted blade" because of that faith. A couple characters point out this is complete nonsense, as the book was easily torn through and he was protected by the stab by his own incredibly hard scales. What's more, once he took his demonic form, the Bible was incorporated into his flesh... making it the one part of his body not protected by scales and thus his Achilles' Heel.
In the first episode of Code Geass, Suzaku is shot in the back; in the second, we learn that the bullet hit a pocket watch that belonged to his Disappeared Dad. Unlike many examples, the bullet still injures him even if it's not fatal.
Note also that Code Geass uses something that's basically low velocity railgun instead of actual gunpowder guns. Bullet weight and speed are significantly lower then in the real life.
In the Red River manga, Kail was saved from a fatal arrow strike, thanks to Yuri's letter to him being conveniently kept and shattered near his heart. This letter was a clay tablet, however, and he still had a nasty wound from it afterwards.
In Outlaw Star, Gene takes a surprise shot to the gut that fortunately only succeeds in ruining his rather bulky PDA.
In Dragon Ball, Goku survives a blast to the chest because he had a Dragon Ball under his shirt. Although, considering those are said to indestructible, it makes sense.
In the movie 'Curse of the Blood Rubies', Yamcha's history as a thief pays off.
In the manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Jotaro survived a storm of knives thrown at him by Dio during a timestop because of his hat and several copies of Shonen Jump he had stuffed in his jacket (the fact his stand was able to move for 1 second during the timestop and deflect half of the knives helped, but he still would have died were it not for the hat and magazines).
In Part 4, the Big Bad is shot with bullets made of highly-focused air. He survives because, for unrelated reasons, he'd put his wristwatch in his breast pocket.
In Detective ConanA mahjong tile in Takagi's breast pocket (taken as evidence) stops a bullet. Shiratori even lampshades how cliche it is. OTOH, Takagi did get injured anyway and had to be hospitalized
Also, once Conan almost gets stabbed in the gut by a suspect. He had an amulet with a piece of metal in his pocket (which he borrowed from Heiji), which stopped the knife
And Megure's Nice Hat softens a blow to the head given to him with a metal pipe.
In one episode, a boy's life is saved because a knife hit a hat that he had inside his jacket. The hat had been a gift from is late mother and he always had it with him.
Sailor Moon is forced to stab a Brainwashed and CrazyMamoru in the chest, and she's so traumatized that she attempts suicide... except he lived because the sword was stopped by the crystallized forms of the Shitennou, and she did too because the blade hit the pocket watch Mamoru had let her borrow.
In the first episode of ROD TV, the paper sisters are flying alongside Nenene's plane, trying to save the author from an assassin. The youngest pokes her head out to look in windows, and we see the assassin shoot at the girl a few times, breaking windows of the airplane. The girl ducks back into the paper beast, readying her rescue attempt, and, after Nenene is saved, reveals the signed copy of Nenene's book, with a huge bullet hole through the cover, digging down through most of the book. She then says, "You need to write thicker books, my defense isn't so good..." Subverted as the Paper Sisters have control over the elemental powers of paper, and use loose sheets of paper to stop bombs exploding, amongst other things.
In Katekyo Hitman Reborn! while taking on Byakuran, Tsuna was losing badly. An attack from Byakuran almost pierced Tsuna through the heart, only to be stopped by Lanchia's Ring, an object last seen 140 chapters earlier.
In First Squad, the old monk survives an attack from Nazi ninja twins because his book took a bullet meant for him.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Joey uses the trap card "Silver Dollar" to stop Siegfried's attack. This results in a silver dollar in Sasuke Samurai's shirt blocking Valkyrie Erste's sword.
An episode of Gintama opens with Okita appearing to be fatally stabbed by a passerby on a busy street, only for him to catch his fall and suplex the offender into the dirt before revealing they had stabbed a bottle of Tabasco sauce he was concealing in the front of his pants. He was keeping it handy for the sake of playing a prank on Hijikata and others, as per usual.
At the end of Sword of the Stranger, Nanashi and Luo Lang's sword duel ends when they both stab each other in the chest at the same time, they collapse to the ground both seemingly dying, it is then revealed that Nanashi survived because Lang had stabbed the gem Kotaro had given him earlier as payment for being his bodyguard which caused his sword to miss his heart.
Sin City plays this straight in the yarn The Big Fat Kill. Dwight is apparently killed by a shot to the heart, and we only realize he's alive when his attackers find the badge he'd lifted from a dead cop earlier...with the bullet lodged in it.
In the Strontium Dog "Outlaw" story, Middenface's money belt saves him from Stix's blaster. Unfortunately, it costs him about 40,000 credits.
Invoked in one Superman comic where Clark Kent has to explain why he is unharmed after apparently just being shot. He reaches into his jacket and pulls out a silver dollar, denting it with his superstrength as he does so, and claims that the bullet deflected off the coin.
Bill Mauldin drew a cartoon during World War II that shows a soldier writing a letter to Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind. The letter's opening makes it clear her book saved his life during the invasion of Italy.
In Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, an amnesiac Bruce Wayne wakes up in hospital; his life apparently having been saved by Mordecai Wayne's journal he was carrying in his pocket.
Happens in one early Batman story featuring Two-Face. Two-Face tosses his coin to decide if he should reform. The coin lands on its edge; stuck in a gap in the floorboards. Two-Face refuses to flip it again and puts the coin away in his breast pocket, saying it is now up to fate to determine if he should be good or evil. When a policeman shoots at Two-Face, the bullet deflects off the coin. When Two-Face looks at the coin, he sees that the bullet struck the scarred side of the coin. He takes this a sign that he is supposed to be a criminal.
In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story arc "Body Count" near the end Casey Jones gets shot near the heart Raphael thinks he's dead and carries his body around with him, it is later revealed that he is alive his lucky Wayne Gretsky autographed hockey puck had been strapped to his chest for such an emergency.
Used as the origin of the Marvel Noir-verse version of Luke Cage. Unlike his mainline counterpart he's not really invulnerable, people just think he is because he survived being shot in the chest, which turned out to be the result of the bullets lodging in a flask he was carrying.
Used intentionally in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Batman is being shot at by a collection of mooks, only to have the bullets bounce of the bat-icon on his chest. His narration notes that this is in fact the reason he wears a bright yellow target on his chest - it keeps fire away from more vulnerable places like his head.
In Hack/Slash, one of the machetes Vlad keeps inside his coat saved his life when he was hit with a bolt from a magic wand.
In Trigger, Carter Lennox is shot by an assassin he witnessed in the act. He's saved by a hardcover of The Long Goodbye that he had in his coat pocket, with the bullet not even getting through the whole book. He muses, "I think Phillip Marlowe just saved my life." Humorously, he isn't finished reading it and doesn't let the bullet hole stop him.
Played for laughs in The Simping Detective. Jack and Demarco get into a firefight with some mooks, during which Jack takes a hit. Demarco asks him if it's bad, only for Jack to pull out his hipflask, which has a large hole in it and is now leaking whiskey.
In The Killer Dame (a parody of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The Killing Game") a member of La Résistance has a bullet stopped by his cigarette case, only to drop dead from the blunt-force trauma to his heart.
In Hard Target it happens twice. The first time is a subversion since the homeless man's dog tags fail completely to stop an arrow fired at his heart. Later, it happens when Chance's uncle gets stabbed in the chest with an arrow. It it later revealed that the arrow only pierced the hip flask he kept some moonshine in.
In Problem Child, John Ritter survives a bullet to the chest because it hits an old, dried prune he had in his shirt pocket.
Ben:It's alright, officer... he got me in the prune.
In a slight subversion, the bullet goes straight through one or two other mementos in the same pocket.
Also, Ritter does it again with a remote control in Stay Tuned.
In Reckless Kelly, an assassin sent by the villain shoots the hero in the chest with a stupidly big gun, and the bullet is stopped by the tacky oversized crucifix the hero had been wearing as part of a costume for a B-movie he was acting in.
Subverted in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Robert Downey Jr is shot by the bad guy and collapses; the love interest is afraid that he's been killed, but wait! He sits up, and pulls out from his pocket that trashy detective novel from earlier in the movie, with a bullet hole in it! But then she realises that, wait a minute — the bullet hole goes right through. He's been shot in the chest and is in dire need of an ambulance.
Though the bullet may have been slowed down by passing through his partner first
Sleepy Hollow: Ichabod is saved from Lady Van Tassel's shot by Katrina's book in his jacket.
Done straight in the Alfred Hitchcock film The 39 Steps with a hymn-book (which is inside a coat that the hero has been covertly given, resulting in the giver receiving domestic abuse). Cue gag about some of the hymns being "awfully hard to get through".
Hot Fuzz, with Nicholas' trusty police notebook! In this case, the knife wasn't blocked, but rather Danny faked stabbing Nicholas Angel and used the ketchup to make the deception more convincing.
Shanghai Noon also subverts this; the corrupt sheriff dies when a bullet goes right through his sheriff star badge, which dramatically fails to stop it. There has to be An Aesop in there somewhere.
Hard Boiled: a cigarette lighter blunts the force of a bullet enough that the guy shot only goes into intensive care after managing to relay important information to the cops. The lighter was sleight-of-handed into his pocket by an undercover cop, shortly before firing the "killing shot" into that area
Subverted in the comedy/western Support Your Local Sheriff: The newly-hired sheriff of a lawless Western town is given his badge, which has a nasty bullet-dent in it...
Sheriff: This must have saved the life of whoever was wearing it.
Mayor: Sure would have, if it hadn'ta been for all them other bullets flyin' in from everywhere!
Later played straight: the outlaw patriarch gives his false teeth to his son for safekeeping during the firefight.
Danby Jr: Pa! Your teeth! They saved my life!
Danby Sr: Always worryin' about YOUR life! What am I going to chew with now?!
A similar sequence happens in Rush Hour 2, where Carter is saved from a sword wound by a wad of counterfeit 100 dollar bills.
The Spaghetti Western One Silver Dollar has the protagonist being saved by a bullet because of a... silver dollar in his pocket.
In the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton, the Joker shoots Bruce Wayne in the chest at close range with a small pistol. Luckily Bruce had hidden a metal tray under his jacket in the scene before expecting just this (good thing the Joker didn't shoot for the head)
Another Michael Keaton movie, Johnny Dangerously, featured this trope, with Jack Dundee's cigarette case (which Johnny fills with chewing gum instead once Dundee gives it to him). It has a dent from an attempt on Dundee's life, and it later saves Johnny's brother Tommy from an assassin's bullet as well.
Parodied in Hot Shots!: Part Deux: Ramada is saved by a locket about the size of a dime, which upon examination still has the perfect condition, large caliber bullet lodged in it.
Featured at the climax of a short film at a theme park (Disneyland?) A "please turn off your phone" ad plays, at which point an actor starts walking around talking loudly on his mobile. He's promptly punished by being pulled "into" the film, and cycles through several different genres. He ends up in a medieval battle and is only saved from death by arrow thanks to this trope.
In The Fall, the Black Bandit tries to shoot his love (because she's engaged to be married to Odious, the man he's sworn to kill), but his bullet is stopped by her heart-shaped locket. It then falls open— she's been unable to open it for years—and reveals a message left by her father, telling her to marry for no reason other than love. The characters take this as a sign that they should get married.
Amusingly, the tale of the Black Bandit is actually a story being told to a young girl. At this point, she gets upset because she thinks people in love should get together. Since he has to keep his sole audience happy, the story teller winds up having to invoke this trope and everything afterwards as a blatant Ass Pull.
In Gettysburg, Jeff Daniels' character (a Union colonel) is hit and knocked down by a musket ball, but when he gets up he discovers that it merely dented his (very skinny) officers' scabbard (after which he merely comments, "I'll be damned."). This was loosely based on an actual incident which happened to the real Colonel Chamberlain
Happens twice in The Returner. Miyamoto accidentally shoots Milly when she appears, but she's protected by a metal plate in her jacket. Justified by the fact that she's a time traveler from After the End and was probably wearing it for just such a reason. Later on, Miyamoto gets shot in the heart but is saved by the same metal plate, which a further-future version of Milly put in his jacket. Again justified, because Milly knew exactly where and when he was going to get shot (presumably from looking up his coroner's report).
A story along these lines is told near the end of Heist when veteran thief Bobby (Delroy Lindo) is sitting in a van with a sort-of partner, Jimmy (Sam Rockwell) before a heist.
Bobby: Sometimes the adrenaline hits, it gives you the shakes
Jimmy: I'm alright
Bobby: No, I'm just saying, sometimes adrenaline gives people the shakes, some other people mistake it for cowardice, maybe you want to pray about it
Jimmy: I'm not a religious man
Bobby: There's nothing wrong with prayer
Jimmy: You think so?
Bobby: I'm in this firefight, this trooper, always carried a bible next to his heart, we used to mock him. That bible stopped a bullet
Jimmy: No shit
Bobby: Hand to God, that bible stopped a bullet, would've ruined that fucker's heart. And had he had another bible in front of his face, that man would be alive today.
The German western parody Der Schuh des Manitu has a character saved by a gingerbread heart, that is at least 10 years old and has become hard as rock.
In Stranger Than Fiction, the main character doesn't stop a bullet, but rather a bus. The icing on the cake? It's with his watch. Granted, they slammed on the brakes, but the metal shards from the watch jammed into his veins and stopped him from bleeding to death. This was an absolutely shameless in-universe Author's Saving Throw.
Happens twice in the Japanese film Branded To Kill. The main character gets shot by his psycho wife and falls over, but he was hit in his large belt buckle. Later, he figures out that the assassin hired to kill him always hits his victims with a perfect headshot to the center of the forehead. Just before entering the final showdown, he puts his girlfriend's hairband over his forehead. As he steps out of hiding, he's immediately shot and falls over. As the assassin turns to leave, we see the broken hairband on the floor as the hero jumps up and shoots the assassin.
Referenced in Love at First Bite, where Dracula is revealed to have survived his 1931 staking by Van Helsing because of a cigarette case Renfield gave him for his birthday.
A villan using this is in Plunkett And Macleane cheats death. General Chance manages to survive a duel to the death with a Bible over his heart.
The Golden Child. When the demon tries to stab Chandler Jarrell with the Dagger it hits the medallion the old man/priest gave him.
In The Legend Of Zorro, Father Quintero appears to die from a shot, but then he comes back later and reveals that he was saved by his crucifix necklace.
Back to the Future Parts II & III feature Marty taking a cue from Clint Eastwood (AS Clint Eastwood) using the front plate of a coal oven as an improvised bullet proof vest under his poncho. The actual event happens in Part III but Marty sees Clint do it in a movie in Biff's suite in Part II.
The film Marty saw in the example above was A Fistful of Dollars, where Clint Eastwood hid a metal plate under his poncho before the final showdown. In that fight, Eastwood deliberately goaded his opponent to aim at his chest, which was the only part of his body that was armored.
The film adaptation of Sin City. See the comic book example above.
The Elvis Presley film Frankie & Johnny has Elvis' Johnny survive being shot onstage by a Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon when the bullet is lodged in the lucky cricket pendant Frankie had given him earlier.
Predator 2. Before going in to fight the Predator, Harrigan puts a metal plate in his shirt to protect against its attacks.
Played straight in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (2010) with a tobacco box.
In Paul Ruth's father gets shot in the chest, only to show up later, showing the bullet lodged in his copy of The Bible.
A variant appears in The Avengers. Loki needs to touch a person over their heart with his scepter to control them. He tries this on Iron Man, but the arc reactor in his chest gets in the way.
In White House Down, President Sawyer is saved from a bullet by Lincoln's pocket watch. Didn't stop him from getting shot earlier, but then those guys had automatic weapons that certainly wouldn't have been hampered by the watch.
In the book series Clue (based on the game of the same name), Mr Boody was stabbed in book 5 by Miss Scarlet. He comes back in book 6, saying that a wallet full of money saved his life.
Spoofed in the Discworld novel Jingo: Sergeant Colon recalls how a book of prayers kept an arrow from entering his great-grandfather's chest. Unfortunately, said book didn't stop "the other seventeen arrows". In response, Nobby briefly wears the Book of Om, a holy book that is five inches thick and wide enough to cover his entire chest in this manner. He reckoned that "even a longbow could only get an arrow as far as the Apocrypha".
Peter Pan: The arrow the Lost Boys shoot at Wendy doesn't kill her because it hits an acorn button Wendy was wearing around her neck after Peter gave it to her as a present.
In The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾, Bert Baxter shows Adrian a pocket Bible with a bullet hole, which, he claims, saved his life in World War I. Adrian notices that the Bible was printed in 1956.
Subverted in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Death and Diplomacy: a character tells the story of his grandfather, who went away to war wearing a crucifix of great sentimental value. One day, a bullet fired at him hit the crucifix — which shattered, aggravating a wound that would otherwise not have been lethal.
In The Drawing of the Three, the second book of The Dark Tower series, Jack Mort is saved from a bullet by his cigarette lighter; the lighter, however, shatters, and Mort's shirt catches fire. Five minutes later, Roland makes him jump in front of a train.
Stephen King also used this in his early novel Rage: the protagonist survives being shot by a police sniper because he dropped his locker-padlock into his breast pocket. He suffers shrapnel-damage and severe bruising.
In Good Omens, a man is saved from a bullet by his wallet, but is still shocked at how many credit cards were ruined in the process. This is justified shortly afterwords as explicit supernatural intervention (which was, to be fair, the reason he was being shot at in the first place.)
In the novel From Russia with Love, James Bond is saved from Red Grant's bullet by his trusty cigarette case. Which Bond surreptiously put in place while the mentally dubious Grant explained how they'd set him up: Grant was used a special gun disguised in a book. Meant for public executions, it used a special low-power cartridge for minimum noise, and an expanding (dum-dum) bullet for maximum damage from the low power.
In Charles Stross' Halting State, Jack is saved from a stab wound by the foldup keyboard in his jacket. It later turns out that his jacket is practically lined with computer stuff, though.
In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Necropolis, Gaunt's life is saved by a metallic rose he is wearing. (Though he is hurt. Badly.)
Spoofed in North, where one character manages to convince another that he saved their life after accidentally shooting them, merely by grabbing the nearest Bible, writing "To my friend" in it, shooting it, and then telling them at it must have softened the blow.
Used first, then subverted in The Power of One: Peekay's grandfather knew someone during the Boer War whose Bible blocked a bullet to the chest. He gave all the credit to having God in his pocket, then got shot in the head after underestimating the range of the Boer rifles.
In The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next is saved from a bullet by a copy of Jane Eyre in her pocket. She still suffers serious injury, though, and received first aid from none other than Mr. Rochester himself.
The protagonist of Labyrinths of Echo once was hit by a high-explosive slingshot pellet in the chest... pulverizing a bottle of psychostimulant he carried. In the same fight when a homing magical weapon instead of beheading him annihilated an amulet. So he had to sleep without any protection, which he normally avoided — Sir Max is supposed to be a Cosmic Plaything.
In the Ben Snow short story "The Trail of the Golden Cross", Ben is saved from being shot in the back when the bullet deflects off the eponymous cross, which he had concealed by hiding it in the small of his back under his shirt.
In the Matthew Hawkwood novel Resurrectionist by James McGee, what should have been a killing thrust from Colonel Hyde's Sword Cane deflects of the tipstaff Hawkwood carries inside his coat. This buys Hawkwood enough time to draw the tipsatff and start defending himself properly.
In The Bad Bunch by J.T. Edson, Dusty Fog's life is saved when a bullet from a derringer strikes his belt buckle. The impact is still enough to lay him out in bed for several days.
In The Winter Queen, Erast Fandorin's life is saved when an attacker's knife is turned away by his corset.
In James Blaylock's Homunculus, Bill Kraken is shot at point-blank range and survives because the bullet is blocked by the book of philosophical anecdotes he's been reading. He takes it from his jacket and checks what phrase the bullet failed to penetrate, but to his disappointment, the quotation doesn't seem pertinent.
Mentioned in The Long Earth: Private Percy remembers his sergeant being furious with new recruits who have armoured prayer books in their breast pockets, asking them if they have any idea what shrapnel is.
Parker survives his wife's attempt to kill in The Hunter because her first shot hits his belt buckle. This knocks him down (and knocks him out) and causes her remaining five wild shots to pass over the top of him.
Live Action TV
NCIS: Gibbs keeps a silver flask with a bullet still embedded in the side.
JAG: In "Déjà Vu", Colonel Patano's life is saved by a metal plate in his chest that stops a bullet. The plate itself was the result of an old war wound.
In the second season, there's a scene where Blackadder and Percy are practicing archery with a target held by Baldrick. Blackadder psyches out Percy, who slips and accidentally fires an arrow into Baldrick's groin. Baldrick comments fortunately his "willy" prevented the arrow from going into his body.
Blackadder: Excellent, it can be your lucky willy.
Baldrick: Right! And years from now, I'll show it to my grandchildren!
Blackadder: I think children might be out of the question now, Balders. (pulls arrow out)
Blackadder the Third has a parody example; Edmund manages to avoid death by cannonball thanks to a cigarillo case he had in his chest pocket. "I always knew smoking was good for you," he remarks. It was then immediately invoked when Prince George was shot (this time with a flintlock) for his insolence. He then gets up, explaining that he too had a cigarillo case in his breast pocket. While trying to show it off, however, he can't find it and realizes that he left it on his dresser that morning, and promptly dies.
In Father Ted, a whistle has sentimental value because it saved a man from a firing squad in this way... except that they simply reloaded and shot again.
In an episode of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy Leo is saved from the effects of a freezing monster due to the monster's weapon striking his brother's dog tags.
In one of MacGyver's time-traveling dream sequences, he is saved from an assassin's bullet by the wooden swiss army knife he'd been given at the beginning of the sequence. For Or Was It a Dream? credit, when he wakes back in the real world, he finds that he's still carrying the knife, complete with bullet hole.
DCI Gene Hunt of Life On Mars was saved from a bullet by a whiskey flask tucked in a pocket. Instantly parodied when, after being asked what the odds of such a thing are, he produces two more flasks from other pockets and states that the odds were quite good.
In the French TV series Le Retour d'Arsène Lupin has an episode titled "La tabatière de l'Empereur" (The Emperor's snuff box) in which the titular Gentleman Thief inherits from a friend a snuff box that saved that friend's life during the war.
Spoofed in the Australian series The Adventures of Lano and Woodley . Col hits Frank in the chest with an arrow. Frank screams and staggers backwards, but then discovers his autumn leaf album was in his pocket and stopped the arrow. His massive autumn leaf album.
In Chuck (2007), the titular character gets shot in his nerdy pocket protector, and the shot doesn't go through it. Luckily, it was only a tranquilizer dart.
Inverted nonsensically in the pilot of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, in which Fry shows the undamaged cigarette case his grandfather carried into battle in World War II. His grandfather was shot in the wrong spot for the case to save him. "Had he been wearing the case on his temple," notes Fry, "it would have a nasty dent in it and I'd be alive today."
The MythBusters pretty much proved this trope was a myth, at least with modern firearms in mind. They tested normal everyday items like a book, a deck of cards, and a Zippo lighter and showed that they were all ineffective at stopping bullets. They also tested police/sheriff badges (outcome depends on how the badge is made — they put holes in two test badges, but the third type stopped a handgun round). In another episode, they tried the same with knives. A book, or a thick pile of paper (eg. money) can save you. It takes about 60 or so sheets thick to stop the hardest hit the build team managed.
In another episode, they tested urban legends involving stories of items that stopped bullets. A laptop computer wouldn't, unless the bullet hit the battery. A hair weave didn't even slow the thing down; if that story was close to true, the bullet probably ricocheted around inside the woman's car and then got caught in the weave once it was too slow to be dangerous. Three pepperoni pizzas in a deliveryman's warming bag blocked most of the pellets from a shotgun firing birdshot, so you might survive (as was claimed by a pizza delivery boy). Buckshot at the same range, however, required 14 pizzas distributed between 5 warming bags before they could be stopped.
In The Magnificent Seven TV series, Ezra Standish pulls this in two consecutive episodes. In one, the bullet hits a diamond he had in his shirt pocket (to his great distress), and in the other, it fails to penetrate a satchel of money he had under his coat.
Get Smart parodies this trope when a villain shoots at Agent Smart and he holds up a book to stop the bullet. The villain asks how Smart knew that would save him, and Smart says back, "Nobody gets through War and Peace!"
He did again, with the same book and same quote, against a knife in the movie Get Smart Again!.
A similar joke is told among Mormons, with a missionary being shot at, and finding that his pocket copy of The Book of Mormon stopped the bullet. He jokes that the bullet couldn't get through 2 Nephi either.
Inverted in an episode of the original live-action The Adventures of Superman series. The bad guys are holding Clark, Lois, and Jimmy hostage, and their boss insists Clark is Superman. The boss shoots Clark, who in turn reacts with surprise, and Lois and Jimmy are both convinced. Clark, however, reaches into his jacket and feels around thoughtfully. After the situation is resolved Clark reaches into his jacket, finds a silver dollar and dents it with his superstrength before pulling it out and claiming the bullet deflected off the coin.
This is actually a Call Back to one of the Superman comics.
Parodied on Only Fools and Horses. Grandad launches into the story about the cigarette case belonging to his grandfather, which deflected the bullet aimed at his heart, saving his life... at least, until it went up his nose and blew his brains out.
Grandad: I want you to have it. My grandmother always said it was lucky.
Rodney: Lucky? It went up his nose and blew his bloody brains out!
Inverted on LOST: Locke survives a shooting because of the kidney that isn't there.
The Beeb's Young Dracula has this happen when van Hellsing, by accident because he got frightened by a loud noise, shooting Vlad's dad in the chest with a crossbow bolt. It was stopped by a small decanter of poisoned holy water which Hellsing tried to slip him earlier. ...Which had a blood red liquid in it. Coincidental.
Averted in Episode 1x10 of Warehouse13 - A convict was apparently shot. The team pulls a Bible from his pocket; it's bloody. The bullet went right through it.
Psychoville has one character get saved by a watermelon he was carrying.
At the end the first part of the Sci-Fi channel miniseries Tin Man, Wyatt Cain and Zero engage in a conversation of great revelation, with a side of epic battle, which ends with Zero trying to put a bullet through Cain's chest which is conveniently stopped by his long lost son's small toy horse.
"Now, I'm not a religious man. But my Uncle Tom? Super-religious. And one day, during a walk, he was mugged and shot in the chest. Now, miraculously - and I mean miraculously - he always kept a Bible in his left front pocket. And he had something to read while he bled to death."
Ryan: Good thing he reads Russian literature. If he was a Nicholas Sparks fan, he'd be dead.
In the pilot of The Good Guys Dan's flask saves his life when it stops a knife that is thrown at him (the bad guy is out of bullets)
In Episode 1, Short 2 of the Tenacious D television show Jack and Kyle have a falling out over a girl named Flarna. Kyle jumps in front of a robber's bullet, but is saved by a huge friendship medallion that was under his shirt. They proceed to perform the song "Kyle Took A Bullet For Me."
In the second episode of Alphas, Marcus Ayers, whose Awesomeness by Analysis abilities have allowed him to set off Disaster Dominoes throughout the episode with as little as a single coin, is shot in the chest, but his body isn't found in the stream into which he fell. While the characters are searching, the camera pans down the side of the stream, where a shot of some pebbles reveals a coin like the one Ayers had been using, except now with a bullet-shaped dent.
In an episode of McMillan and Wife, Sgt. Enright is saved by the very thick hero sandwich, wrapped in aluminum foil, that he'd stuffed in his jacket pocket.
In the White Collar episode "Book of Hours", Neal manages to block a gunshot from the villain of the week by holding up a Renaissance-vintage Bible (that he's spent the entire episode looking for).
Inverted in Forbrydelsen (The Killing): Jan Meyer is shot twice in the chest; the first bullet goes straight through, but the second is diverted by his cigarette lighter and nicks his lung. He doesn't survive.
In a non-pocket variant, Bob on The Walking Dead gets chomped on the shoulder by a walker, making both the audience and his companions think he's done for. Lucky for him, closer inspection reveals it'd bit him directly on top of a thick gauze bandage he'd been wearing over a previous injury, so its teeth didn't penetrate.
In Big & Rich's Somewhere Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace, the main character gets saved in this fashion. Well, y'know, after he got saved in a more metaphysical fashion.
The Bible will stop the bullet dead in its tracks, though why you keep it fastened to your genitals like that is anyone's guess.
Modesty Blaise: In "The Vampire of Malvescu", Willy is saved when a bullet fired at him hit the tin mug he was holding. Justified by the bullet being a soft nose that deformed on hitting the mug and lodged in the far wall. The mug still hit him with enough force to knock him out and break a rib.
The 'Bandits' episode of The Very World of Milton Jones ends with Milton surviving death by firing squid when the bullets are deflected by the Tesco Clubcard in his pocket. "Now that's what I call a saving!"
One Billy Connolly joke involved a soldier with a watch in his breast pocket. When fired upon the bullet would have pierced his heart had it not been for the watch case... which caused it to ricochet off and blast through his skull instead.
In the game Warzone one of the hero characters had a special rule that essentially boiled down to the fact he wore a locket as a memento of his dead family and therefore it might stop a bullet.
In GURPS: Tactical Shooting disputes the realism of this, suggesting that the main factor is luck (angle of impact, incomplete burn, long range). However the steel magazines of the AK-47 give some real protection if they're hit.
In Mage: The Ascension this is a popular method of stopping a bullet, since it is entirely coincidental if done properly (and thus incurs no Paradox) - as long as an observer cannot be fully certain the mage didn't have a Bible or cigarette case or other object there beforehand, it could happen. Even though both player and Storyteller will know that Bible never existed five seconds ago.
While you need to have the necessary item on your person, this is the justification for Fate-based magical protection in its successor, Mage: The Awakening - bullets are attracted to items that can deflect them.
Call of Cthulhu campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep. The NPC Jack "Brass" Brady has a magical metal plate that attracts attacks that can cause impaling, such as bullets.
The BattleTech novels bring us a specialized assassin's laser that can only deal with flesh or regular clothing. Candace Liao is shot and goes down with a smoking hole in place of her right breast. The damage turns out to be purely cosmetic. She had an aggressive single mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and they used myomer artificial muscle extensively in reconstructive surgery. Myomer is also known for its use as secondary armor and motive power on Humongous Mecha.
Time Lord RPG, based on Doctor Who. A Player Character may trade in some of his initial ability scores for a pocket watch that will automatically stop the first bullet that hits the character.
Paranoia XP. The Giant Metal Plate can be worn on the front or the back (or both) under a Troubleshooter's reflec armor. It provides extra protection against attacks.
Just like in the Hitchcock film, in the 2005 play The 39 Steps, one of the characters survives getting shot when a prayer-book in his coat pocket stops the bullet.
Mickey of Too Many Cooks survives a gunshot due to the cigarette in his breast pocket.
The NES version of Bionic Commando has an entire item dedicated to this trope. It's a tiny pendant which, by a certain chance, may or may not deflect an enemy shot. There's a helmet in the game too, which increases your odds, but the pendant is modeled after the trope.
In Yakuza 4, in the finale, the defeated Munakata, in an angry fit after understanding Date's newspaper will ruin him, picks up Arai's weapon from the ground and shoots Akiyama in the chest. Akiyama falls down with all the drama necessary to the scene, and after a few seconds, pats his chest pocket, finding the bullet completely lodged inside a stack of dozens of yen bills. Money saves lives indeed.
Tales of Symphonia can have this at some point, depending on a choice made earlier in the game: at one point, Lloyd maneuvers through a hallway full of arrows, dodging them all. At the end, one last arrow shoots straight at Lloyd, and either this happens (with a key item given to Lloyd by the character you chose earlier) or Lloyd just dodges it.
The MOTHER series had the Franklin Badge which would deflect, respectively, a certain instant-kill attack and all lightning attacks just by having it in your inventory. In the firsttwo games, it took up an inventory slot of the character you chose to equip it to, while, in Mother 3, it's classified as a key item, and is always equipped to Lucas once you acquire it. The badge returned in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. When worn, it deflects projectiles for a set period of time.
In Uncharted: Drake's FortuneSully gets a bullet to the chest early in the game then returns very much alive. It turns out he survived due to having Francis Drake's journal in his pocket. Nathan even lampshades the trope saying "I thought this only happened in the movies!"
Spoofed and possibly lampshaded in Mercenaries when Fiona is telling Matthias about the PDA. When asked by Matthias if the "gadget" could stop a bullet, she responds by saying "No, but it can keep you from wandering around Korea like an idiot."
In the female protagonist's route of the Persona 3 PSP remake, maxing Shinjiro's social link will save his life thanks to a pocketwatch, although he remains in a coma until after the final battle.
In the climax of Bayonetta, the titular witch unwittingly causes a Time Paradox by giving Cereza AKA herself as a child her metallic makeup canister, this results in Jeanne failing to fully seal Bayonetta away as her sword hits the canister, causing her to have all her memories in the present.It's a little hard to follow.
In Dwarf Fortress, Dwarven mothers often carry something of great sentimental value into battle which sometimes takes a blow that would have otherwise struck them. This being Dwarf Fortress, the 'object' in question is their baby.
One of the routes in Corpse Party: Blood Covered uses the cellphone variant when somebody is seemingly stabbed by a pair of scissors. This leads to a Bad Ending, as the cellphone is vital to preventing another character's death.
In one The Adventures of Dr. McNinja arc, one of the good doctor's patients is shot by the velociraptor-riding banditos, and appears to be bleeding to death. However, in the next strip, it is revealed that the bullet had been stopped by a ketchup packet in his breast pocket.
In thisShortpacked! comic, a girl is saved from a bullet by her impromptu Batman chest insignia. Awesome, but unlikely.
There's a non-canonical Goblins strip in which Dies-Horribly is saved from a stray arrow by a very thick book.
Spoofed in Family Guy when Mayor Adam West tells a gunman (Brian) that he has, implanted somewhere in his body, a piece of bullet-proof armor...the size of a bullet... and if Brian happens to shoot him there, his plan will be foiled. The mayor tells him this before he tries shooting.
In the Futurama episode "Insane in the Mainframe", Fry gets stabbed in the chest by Bender's crazy friend Roberto, but the knife hits an oil can that he picked up earlier. As an added bonus, in this episode Fry is convinced that he's a robot, and the sight of him "bleeding" oil makes Roberto Freak Out and jump out the window.
In "Benderama", Bender is shot and the bullet is stopped by a Bible he had in his compartment. The tiny Bender clone inside said Bible, however, wasn't so lucky.
An impressive variation in Gargoyles where Demona shoots Elisa with a poisonous dart, then leaves with a challenge for Goliath to get the cure. Upon Demona's departure, Elisa opens her jacket to reveal that her police badge stopped the dart. Goliath still showed up for the challenge, because Elisa would have just been targeted again if he didn't. As it is, it probably took a while for Demona to realize she was still alive.
In the second episode of The Pirates of Dark Water, Atani archers shoot at the Wraith, and Ioz apparently gets hit in the chest. It turns out that he had a golden goblet—the theft of which was one of the reasons the Atani were chasing them in the first place—hidden under his robe.
In a 1940s-era Popeye cartoon, Bluto pretended to be Superman in order to woo Olive Oyl. Popeye and "Superman" had a one-upsmanship contest culminating in shooting each other with a Thompson submachine gun. Popeye was left for dead, then slowly got to his feet, reached into his sailor suit, and pulled out the can of spinach that had been in front of his chest, now riddled with bullet holes. He gave a Popeye chuckle, and said "Saved by me spinachk!"
Happened again in one episode when Popeye and Bluto, disguised as the International, went on a swordfight. Bluto had the upper hand and had Popeye cornered on the wall. Bluto stabs him multiple times until he finally struck his chest revealing the can of spinach at the tip of his blade.
In one episode of The Simpsons, a mobster accidentally shoots Ned Flanders in the chest. The bullet hits his Bible. The mobster shoots again, only to hit a piece of the True Cross he wears around his neck. Ned then flees before any more shots are fired, presumably because he realizes he's run out of religious objects.
Parodied again in an episode when Homer is hit by a car - but is saved by the Bible in his crotch.
This happened in another episode where Apu is shot in a Kwik-E-Mart robbery, with the bullet bouncing off another bullet that was previously lodged in him in a different robbery.
In another episode, "The Ten-Per-Cent Solution", Bart accidentally fires a gun and the bullet fails to wound Homer because it is stopped by another gun Homer happened to have in his back pocket.
In the Darkwing Duck episode "Bad Tidings" Darkwing is shot by a device from Steelbeak that will make his internal organs expand and explode. He is saved by the manual he had taken from Grizzlikoff earlier and put in his coat.
London's Imperial War Museum has a pile of dummies showing off different nationalities' uniforms during the two world wars. The World War One soldier showcases a pocket Bible... with the bottom right quarter blown off and the rest drowned in blood...
Many of the pocket Bibles carried by soldiers in World War II had metal-backed covers. As a consequence, even Jews, Atheists, and other non-Christians would carry them, and they did have the potential to stop a bullet. Many of the stories of Bibles stopping bullets come from this era, though with the storyteller forgetting to mention the composition of the cover.
Although in a pleasing coincidence, one bullet was documented to have stopped at the 91st Psalm ("...You need not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by die...though thousands fall about you and ten thousand fall at your right hand, near you it shall not come....")
Badges worn by police officers have been proven to be able to stop small arms fire: Here's a story of a cop saved by his badge. (Proven true by the MythBusters above, though it depends on the materials used to make the badge.)
An assassin shot Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. Fortunately, the bullet was prevented from penetrating too deeply by Roosevelt's steel eyeglass case and folded speech in his jacket.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!"
Roosevelt's case is this trope Up to Eleven. The bullet traveled through his overcoat, his jacket, his vest, the fifty page speech he was on his way to give (which was double folded) and THEN the steel lined spectacle case, before hitting him in one of his ribs. And then he gave his speech. From memory, since the pages were no longer usable.
Similarly another US soldier stationed in Iraq was wounded in a fire fight only to find out later that an ammo round had embedded itself in the copy of the Eye of the World (which is about 685 pages long depending on the version) he happened to be carrying in his pack, rather than embedding in his side.
On the other hand, good dental hygiene might serve as well. Another US Soldier in Iraq was shot point-blank in the face by an insurgent, only realizing it later when the X-rays showed that the bullet had deflected off of one of his front teeth (knocking the tooth out) and lodging in his upper jaw. link
In addition to killing Abraham Lincoln, Booth and his co-conspirators were going to kill the Vice President and the Secretary of State. Secretary Seward's jaw splint allegedly saved his life by blocking a knife wound to the jugular.
The Australian War Memorial has a collection of such items that have saved the lives of Australian servicemen.
Lt. George E. Dixon of the American Civil War submarine the Hunley carried a gold coin that his sweetheart gave to him as a good luck charm, which later deflected a bullet at the battle of Shiloh. (Didn't save him from drowning, though.)
A clerk in a grocery store being robbed was holding a box of Hamburger Helper when the robber shot him. The bullet did hit the poor guy, but the Hamburger Helper slowed the bullet down enough that it barely penetrated his skin, whereas it otherwise would have been a fatal shot.
A man out mowing his lawn in backwoods Missouri was saved from a stray hunting bullet by his cellphone. The phone still works.
In early 2009, an gun-wielding madman burst into a church in the USA's state of Illinois. The first few shots that he fired at the pastor were absorbed by the Bible that he was holding. Unfortunately, there were more bullets.
An Iraqi woman apparently recently survived what would otherwise have been a potentially fatal gunshot wound when the bullet lodged in her silicone breast implant.
Brilliantly spoofed by Woody Allen in his monologue back in the days when he was a stand-up comic:
Years ago, my mother gave me a bullet...a bullet, and I put it in my breast pocket. Two years after that, I was walking down the street, when a berserk evangelist heaved a Gideon Bible out a hotel room window, hitting me in the chest. Bible would have gone through my heart if it wasn't for the bullet.
This trope is explored at the Box o' Truth, where the site owner empties a lot of bullets into a stack of books.
Very recently, a woman survived being shot in the head when the bullet got tangled up in her hair weave. Story here, for now.
Thoroughly disproved by MythBusters - at best, a bullet probably ricocheted & then got caught in the weave.
However, they did find that a laptop battery will stop a bullet quite effectively.
Behold the power of the brassiere. An older woman happened to be seen by fleeing burglars who had tried to break into the neighbor's house. One of them fired a round through her window, but the bullet was deflected by the underwire of her bra.
James Doohan was hit by a burst of friendly fire during World War II. One of the bullets took off a finger. Another one struck him in the chest, where it was stopped by his silver cigarette case.
Rudyard Kipling was sent a copy of his book Kim (368 pages), complete with bullethole stopping only at the last 20 pages, together with the Cross awarded the soldier who owned it. He later became said soldier's son's godfather.
When author Joe Haldeman was serving in Vietnam he knew a soldier whose life was saved by a pocket dictionary that stopped a bullet. Later Haldeman saw that the story had been written up in Stars and Stripes (a newspaper that serves the U.S. Armed Forces). In the story the dictionary had been changed to a Bible, and it was claimed that the word the bullet had stopped on was "peace."
Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey who is now better known as Ataturk, was saved by one of these during World War I. It was a watch in his chest pocket and while it didn't prevent injury, it reportedly blocked the worst of it. The watch was put in a museum after independence.
In 1844, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed by an armed mob. There were a few other men with them at the time, including John Taylor (the third Mormon prophet), whose life was saved when a bullet hit his pocket watch. This story is unconfirmed, but the watch◊ provides some rather impressive evidence.
In 1631, during the Sack of Magdeburg, the Lutheran priest Reinhard Bakes was slashed several times by a Catholic Croat soldier (in the Cathedral), but the Bible he was holding in his arms lasted long enough that the Croat abandoned the idea and let him live. The city still has the Bible.
Daniel Inoyue, U.S. Senator from Hawaii served in World War II, in the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment. Once, while leading an attack a shot struck him in the chest directly above his heart, but the bullet was stopped by the two silver dollars he had in his shirt pocket.
Prince (later King) Hussein of Jordan survived the assassination of his grandfather King Abdullah I at Friday prayers in 1952 when a bullet bounced off of a medal that the King made him wear on his shirt.
A man was once saved by a hard roll. It was that hard.
Composer George Frederic Handel was once challenged to a sword duel. His opponent thrust, but the tip of the blade hit a large brass button on Handel's coat and snapped off.
During the Battle of Gettysburg, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain had a bullet that would have hit his leg and likely crippled him ricochet off his sheathed saber. He was left with a limp, but was still able to command his famous "swinging door" charge shortly afterward.
Ironically, Chamberlain was later hit in almost the same spot at siege of Petersburg. That time he'd already drawn his sword and the bullet punched through his pelvis, nearly killing him. Later at the Battle of Quaker Road, he was hit by yet another bullet that went through his horse's neck, a bible and a framed picture of his wife in his breast pocket, wounding but not killing him. He appeared to onlookers to have been shot directly through the chest, but instead the bullet after being deflected by the picture frame pierced his skin but skirted around his ribs before existing his back. His men called him "Bloody Chamberlain'' not because he was bloodthirsty but because he kept getting hit - six times in all over the course of the war.
Chamberlain eventually did die due to complications from the wound he received at Quaker Road...48 years later at the age of 85. Thus he was the very last person to die of a wound inflicted during the American Civil War.
Tsar Nicholas II and his family was initially protected from the executioners' bullets by the gemstones and diamonds they had hidden in their underwear. Unfortunately the executioners decided to try again, in close range, with bayonets...
Lucien Neuwirth (French politician mostly know for the promulgation of a law allowing oral contraception in France), member of La Résistance then Free French Army during World War II, was shot by a German firing squad and survived thanks to his wallet.
Back in 1881 a physician in Tombstone noticed that a silk handkerchief had stopped a bullet while treating the patient who took it. He experimented in developing bulletproof vests made of silk, and had some success, but they were far too expensive to be practical.