Episode 112: Coffin Punch

Air Date: November 5, 2008

A person buried in a coffin 6 feet underground can successfully punch his or her way out, then dig up to freedom. (Based on a scene in the movie Kill Bill.)


Based on tests with a martial arts expert, the Build Team determined that greatest force at which a person in a coffin could punch is about 1450 Newtons. Grant built a robot that could generate that force with a 3-inch punch, and it was placed inside a plain pine coffin. After 600 punches the robot had created a crack in the lid, but had not punched a hole in it. Then the team placed six feet of dirt on the coffin, and again the robot only split the lid and could not create a hole. To test what would happen if a hole could be made, the Build Team built an acrylic coffin outfitted with a trapdoor and a sliding panel to let dirt in. First Tory entered the coffin and 2 feet of dirt were placed on him. He was able to dig himself out. When Grant repeated this experiment with 6 feet of dirt, the dirt entered the coffin so fast and filled it so completely that there was no way anyone could escape. Based on these results, the myth was declared busted.

A police badge is bulletproof.


First, a silver star was tested, but the bullet easily penetrated it. A star on a copper shield was tested, but it also failed to stop the bullet. Finally, a star on a nickel shield was tested. It was heavily deformed, but it caught the bullet.

An MP3 player/iPod is bulletproof.


Firing an AK-47, Adam’s second shot cleanly penetrated an iPod after his first shot only grazed it. The myth came from a story about a soldier in Iraq who survived when the iPod he was wearing was shot. However, he was also wearing body armor when he got shot.

3 pizza boxes in a warming bag are bulletproof.


Based on a story that a pizza delivery boy survived a shotgun blast by holding his warming bag in front of him, Adam and Jamie first fired birdshot at a warming bag containing three pizzas, and it stopped the all but six of the pellets. They then used buckshot which easily passed through the pizzas. To see how far the buckshot would penetrate, 5 warming bags, each containing 3 pizza boxes, were placed in front of the ballistics gel dummy. Buckshot was fired at it, and the shot made it all the way to pizza 14.

Human fat is bulletproof.


Determining that the largest layer of fat around a human (Walter Hudson) would measure 16 inches, Adam and Jamie placed that amount of human-temperature cow fat in front of the dummy. The bullet made it all the way through the fat easily.

Human muscle is bulletproof.


Using the measurements of a man with 3-inch pectorals and 11-inch biceps, Adam and Jamie placed 14 inches of cow muscle in front of the dummy (assuming the man placed his bicep over his pectoral and the bullet passed through them both). The muscle failed to stop the bullet.

A mixture of cornstarch and water is bulletproof.


Adam reasoned that this mixture’s properties as a non-Newtonian liquid might allow it to stop a bullet. However, 6 thin bags full of the liquid failed to stop the bullet.

Bathroom tiles covered in a fiber-reinforced gypsum cement is bulletproof.


This material stopped rounds from a 9mm pistol, a .45 caliber handgun, and buckshot. It failed to halt deer slug or rounds from a M4 Carbine.

A belt buckle is bulletproof.


Although the bullet did pass through the belt buckle, a policeman who had been shot in the belt buckle and survived spoke with Jamie and Adam, saying that the bullet caused a large bruise but lodged in his shirt.


  1. Richard Landgraff says:

    For bullet deflection of badges, bibles, ipods, etc., the team did NOT take into account that all bullet hits in combat are at only 10 feet and perpindicular to the target. It would have been more scientific to try ricochetting the bullets at different angles.

  2. James says:

    I also think they should have thested coffin punch with 4 times human strength like a vampire and use normal strength but roten wood or even balsa also they didn’t take into acount the twisting of the shoulder and posible kicking and elbows etc.

    • MSpears says:

      The problem with your idea is that, while spectacular, the myth was based on The Bride (played by Uma Thurman) punching her way out of a coffin in the movie “Kill Bill”. The Bride was a highly trained martial artist, but not superhuman like a vampire.

      Also, rotten wood or balsa would probably NOT withstand the weight of six feet of dirt, so whoever was in the coffin wouldn’t have to punch their way out… they’d already be crushed or suffocated.

      Simply put, to do as you suggest would have been unnecessary to bust the myth, and taken time and resources that were better spent on other myths.

      • JChan says:

        The Bride studied under Pai Mei, who may or may not have had superhuman capabilities. Because she was also capable of performing the five-finger-exploding-heart technique, I don’t doubt that she was capable of other superhuman feats, like punching her way through her coffin and climbing through the dirt. She wasn’t just a highly trained martial artist. She was a highly, highly, highly trained martial artist. I don’t think the myth busters accounted for this.

        • D. Devil's Advocate, Esq. says:

          I don’t think you’re accounting for the fact that The Bride was completely fictional.

          • Sarah Goodwitch says:

            That’s why it was TESTED to see if it would work in real life; if it was non-fiction then there’d be no need since it WOULD be real life.
            Mythbusters is all about testing the often-absurd Hollywood plot-devices which movies casually plop down on their audiences with no regard as to their plausibility.
            However Mythbusters sometimes get things wrong; for example in busting “Jaws,” they showed that a suba-tank wouldn’t explode if shot, but would only split open; but they didn’t account for the fact that Hooper wasn’t talking about the tanks exploding, but rather the explosive decompression from the suddenrelease of 80cf of air at 3000 psi– which would easily blow the shark apart like a balloon, if it were in the shark’s mouth at the time.

      • Sarah Goodwitch says:

        There’s also the issue of the dirt collapsing, which would instantly bind the person and prevent any movement; it’s not liquid, like water. In the movie, Uma literally climbs out through an open shaft of dirt, as if climbing up a ladder; however apparently we’re to believe that she’s actually BURROWING through solid earth- something that not even a badger could do.

  3. Roger Rinker says:

    I watched the Coffin punch episode last night and it was awsome. You guys are so entertaining. I did not catch the sensor that was used by Grant to record the punch force. Is it possible to e mail me what brand and model of sensor was used ?

    thanks, Roger

  4. Noa Rogers says:

    Dear Jamie,
    Would bulletproof tiles be stronger if they used metal tiles or stronger concrete?

    Does the Army know about use of these tiles?

    Noa Rogers (Age 11)

    • RandomFactGuy says:

      Yes, the army does know about tiles. Ceramic is used in tank armor and trauma plates that are inserted into bullet resistant vests used by both the military and police.

  5. t.r. says:

    I liked the coffin punch but the mythbusters should try more kill bill myths (rock salt shotgun for instance *nudge nudge*)

    • Sarah Goodwitch says:

      Rock salt in the shotgun is an old one; it stings like hell but isn’t fatal.

  6. Joe says:

    I have 1 problem with the coffin punch. As I recall the punch from Grant’s punching robot travelled the same distance every time so obviously it couldn’t break through the wood. As cracks developed and the wood weakened you would be able to extend your punch further and further thus creating an eventual break through. With the robot stopping at the same distance each time it greatly diminishes the chances of breaking through the coffin. Think of boxing, you’re not aiming for your opponent’s head you’re aiming for a point 6 inches behind his head. I’d like to see it again incase I’m wrong about Grant’s robot.

  7. ELI JOHNSON says:

    Can the wind completely throw off a bullet in the air when trying to shoot at something?

    • Hugh says:

      If the wind is strong enough and the shot fired from a far enough distance away yes, but at any range up to 300 yards it has very little effect on the bullet :)

  8. Dale says:

    I came to say the exact same thing Joe did. Was Grant’s robot calibrated to punch further then the top of the coffin?

  9. harold says:

    you should have had a cook mix your cornstarch and water. then you would have been able to gage the right consistancy.

  10. 13 yr old says:

    i like it , the bullet proof stuff can any one tell me what bullet proof thing are made of thx a lot

  11. Zhoen says:

    I witnessed the surgery of a man shot in the abdomen, in a robbery of his store. The bullet entered the skin, passed through the fat layer, did not enter the facial layer, and lodged in the opposite side of the abdomen in the skin, having done no substantial damage. At this angle, the fat layer deflected the bullet, certainly did not stop it. I have no information about the calibre, type of weapon, distance or other interference.

    I’m sure his large belly fat both provided a target, and saved him, but not because fat stops bullets, simply because it was a quirk of angle.

    After this, the trauma surgeons used a scope to assess the abdomen, since the incision to make sure the bowel was not hit caused more damage than the bullet.

    (I am a surgical RN, FYI.)

  12. Aarika says:

    First of all for the kill bill myth, with the punching the robot you used could only go up so high and not the same height of a human arm which would affect the results and the dirt you used was not wet…the farther you go down, the dirt is going to be wet which would stop it from caving in as much and make it more stable to dig through

  13. Gavin says:

    I agree with the other comments on the reach of the punch and the dry/wet combination of the dirt. Also with the cornstarch it was only a mutiple of thin layers and should have been made into a thicker single layer each time giving it a chance to harden under the force of the bullet.

    • Mo says:

      I agree with other poster. wet compacted dirt is more stable. And, punching robot was weak-ass.

      Punching robot should be able to accelerate its punch, as a human would. Kinda related to reach as well.

  14. KCP says:

    OK I just wanted to say one thing about the coffin punch why test something that is so, so, oblivious. I mean I know how cool vampires and stuff trust me I read the Twilight books but why test something that has no actual back ground behind it. Also I personally don’t think you check you changed variables. I am still a fan, KCP

  15. Dat Van says:

    I watched the coffin punch based on the Kill Bill myth. If you get the opportunity to revisit this myth, it would be worth testing a couple of other ways to break through the coffin and digging out. Below are some scenarios that would be worth to testing.
    1. the buried person kicks the end of the coffin to break through, the legs would generate more force, if this breaks through, test whether the person is able to turn around in the coffin to start digging.
    2. punch through head end of the coffin.
    3. punches the sides of the coffin
    4.dig out through the sides/end/head of the coffin and gradually move the dirt to the opposite of the coffin. By moving dirt this way, the dirt does not collapse so quickly which may give the digger time to move the dirt out of the way. It is also worth testing how compacted the soil tends to be in a real scenario because the soil used in the myth was freshly poured which tends to be very porous and collapses more readily.

    • JD says:

      The dirt in the movie was freshly poured. She didn’t wait weeks after it had compacted to try to escape…

  16. Peter from Darwin says:

    My problem with the coffin punch is that the same spot is always punched. If you were doing this you would hit different spots creating multiple cracks thus more likely to break through the coffin lid.

    • Valderez says:

      Please explain about the vinodieg of the race. I noticed 2 different cameras focused on Michelle. Why was that? Did her parents hire someone to video tape their daughter for prosperity? None of the other runners were video taped. How did the taping come to be edited and plubished to the web? I am just curious of the process.Sincerely,Mike

  17. William Harrington says:

    About the episode with the shotgun blast to the pizza bags with pizza:
    I am afraid you did not take into account that many hotbags contain a warming plate inside the bag to keep the pizzas warm when they are being delivered.I am sure that this would definetly stop and blast from a shotgun.
    I would like to know the results if you do test this theory.
    Love the show by the way…….

  18. jacky says:

    I don’t really know about the myth of the coffin, because of one thing that could be possible… wouldnt it all depend on how big the person is in muscle mass? for instance if a small prson was trying of coarse he or she probably will not get very far. but if it was a larger male wouldnt he have a slight chance of escaping? by the way i LOVE your show mythbusters is the one show i love and look forward to. :)

    • JD says:

      They used a professional fighter to calibrate their machine… The issue was that the robot never punched far enough.

      • Rann says:

        Yes, it’s been really hard but it also brghout me comfort. I have given a heads up to my sisters and they both wants to see it. At least I know he will be remembered and thought of even though he can’t be with us like we wish. I’m so sorry the holidays are so rough on you. It should have been different for so many of us.

  19. Fred Jr says:

    Please Mythbuster!

    Re-do the coffin one!

    A robot arm can only extend as far as it is made to go!

    Same distance all the time…

    Humans are able to roll through further…

    Please Re-do that one! That’s the only Mythbusters segment I disagree with…

  20. Eric says:


    I have more of a question then a comment, due to the bullet shooting through the fat and the muscle…
    Adam and Jamie, you shot the fat and the muscle with a handgun, now as the bullet travels a a slow speed..(900 ft. per sec.)
    Now there is one Episode were you were testing fire arms shooting into a the jell in a swimming pool.
    Now if I remember correctly the weapons that fired the bullet at a slower rate of pace hit the target under water…

    Now with the handgun went through the fat and the muscle, now with a bullet that would travel at a faster rate, would it really go through the fat and the muscle, instead wouldn’t it schatter into a dozen or my peices?


  21. Lo says:

    Wow, the people commenting on the coffin myth seem to have no knowledge of basic science AT ALL. Amusing really.

  22. caleb says:

    were they just normal bathroom tiles? does size matter?

    • Shollah says:

      I don’t plan a thing, so if my characters have goals they come with them the mmoent they appear in my manuscript.Now on later drafts after the book is complete then I’ll identify those goals and try to bring them clarity.The best piece of advice I heard is this: every character believes he/she is the MC and so they should act like it.

  23. random says:

    well, i think if the crack on the wooden coffin was big enough (and in the show i think it was) you could probebly just start breaking away bits- and-bits of the coffin till you eather have enough room to get out yourself or the weight of the dirt demolishes the casket itself.

  24. random says:

    And, you can try to actully push the coffin lid itself, but i wouldn’t, because you could cause the casket to collaps on yourself and sufficate you.

  25. Dylan Haley(15) says:

    Would a riot shield (such as used by riot conrol teams of law enforcement) be able to stop a low caliber bullet, and if so a higher caliber?

    • oskar says:

      Generally speaking no. There is video on the internet of how the Maidan-protesters are trying to protect themselves with what looks like surdy metal shields taken from the police, and that sadly was not enough.

      That being said, there is of course a chance that such metal shields could protect against a .22 calibre rifle from a couple of hundred meters…

  26. Brian says:


    The riot shield is not designed to give the user protection from firearms. While it may deflect a low caliber bullet, this is not what it is designed for.

    There is however a shield known as the “Intruder” which is mostly Kevlar, used by SWAT teams for entry. This is designed to stop both pistol and rifle rounds.

  27. HR says:


    After 27 years of running ranges and catching two bullets myself, I can tell you first hand that a fit tense muscle will catch a bullet! Soldiers that are fit can take a bullet strike and keep on fighting and we teach them to do just that!

    I retire in 2011, does the show need an expert?

    • edward says:

      apparently they just overlooked the cow muscles were slack. if you’re really ripped and tensed up, the muscles should hold up. why do they think ppl flex? also it depends on the calibre. in the past, with the really low powered revolvers, they could be stopped with cotton vests. mind, things have improved a ton since then.

  28. Alan says:

    Hope you may hear this comments from China.

    As far as i know, there is a material arts called “Cun-quan” (cun refers to inch in Chinese, while quan means punch)which focus on generating maximum force within a limited distance. This unique technique has nothing to do with boxing, and I believe this is what used in the coffin break-through in “Kill Bill”.

  29. Josh says:

    Mythbusters! The coffin punch myth tests seemed flawed. It is easy to see that the robot arm can only punch so far. It is going through its full range of motion which isn’t as far as a human would be able to punch. The robot arm could not punch any further through the coffin lid because its range was limited.

  30. Melissa says:

    In response to Kill Bill coffin punch myth- the soil in Kill Bill was freshly dug too…she was just buried…as would be the case of anyone buried alive. so if anything, the wetter soil would end up on top but more over a relatively even mix.

  31. Patrick says:

    In the coffin punch episode, is a few flaws I have noticed with the experiments. First of all, the robot , the wrist section of the machine had no moving parts, thus creating the realism of a human arm and wrist was absent. A human wrist twists and the arm bends. The wrist is also a shock absorber you can actually see working in slow motion when a person punches correctly (without any gloves on).
    You can see clearly in the movie that the character “Beatrix Kiddo” does not put her fist in the same position with every punch. When the wood begins to break; “Kiddo” twists her wrist a few times, creating a different breaking point. Also, the robot hits a point on the wood accurately on the same exact spot every time it strikes the wood. A human will miss this mark once every few punches. Again, the realism of the movements that human arms and wrists perform.
    Another thing is the robot, from what I saw, didn’t have the quick twitch-fiber movement of a human punch. The robot did more pushing on the wood than actual striking. I believe that either a person needs to do this experiment, not a robot. Or, Make a robot that would mimic the movements that human arms and wrists make. Create the movements of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist, and combine all that with twitch-fiber quickness a real martial artist would possess.

  32. Patrick says:

    Plus, you have to take into account that the character “Beatrix Kiddo” also found a hallow spot on the wood by tapping on the wood before she began punching the wood.

  33. sleepy says:

    coffin – busted

    pay attention – it wouldnt work after jalme broke through because of the weight of the dirt

    • gertrude says:

      In a real grave the hole is 6ft deep. But in the show the dirt above the coffin is 6ft deep. So in reality there is only about 4 ft of dirt above the coffin.

  34. Justin K. says:

    When They Tested The Ipod The Hard Drive Was Not
    Spinning And They Shot It On The Outer Shell Not In The Middle And They Shot It So It Broke The
    first Time And REUSED The BROKEN one Again so
    They Have To Test It On A New One

    • MSpears says:

      “The hard drive was not spinning”? A spinning hard drive would have no effect on a bullet. Hard drive platters are VERY thin, and VERY fragile, which is why hard drives are hermetically sealed…

      Now… as far as not shooting it in the middle, you may have a point there.

    • Bavya says:

      THANK YOU for helping to make the Cancer Community Center’s Open House such a huge seuccss, Steve. Proceeds from your book sales totaled close to $100 and we are grateful for your kindness and generosity. I won’t tell anyone but you actually are a really great guy!-amy

  35. shaun says:

    stan lee super humans, 1 inch punch= 30 mph car crash+ 1/2 inch plywood= splinters. you cant compair a monk of shaolin to a cage fighter. dry out your panties and do the test right.

  36. CacheMoney says:

    I know I’m late in commenting, but I just saw this MythBusters episode. One other thing not taken into consideration was that she was taught that technique by Pai Mei, the supposed thousand (or more) year old master who killed an entire monastary of shaolin monks barehanded (according to the storyline of course). He could punch through what looked like a thick denser wood. He could also stand on his opponents sword blade. So seeing as he was some sort of mystic who turned beatrix kiddo/mamba into some sort of ‘super human’. It begs the question of how hard she could punch. Also, they should have tested someone who had perfected the technique from the tips Bruce Lee left. Anyhoo, I liked the episode, but you cant really test something someone did who has above human abilities. Another example – Her jumping, which she obviously learned from Pai Mei, who … well… you get the gist.

  37. Jim says:

    I saw Episode 112, Coffin Punch.I thought the Punching Machine was nothing more than a jab,and the dirt was dry as sand. Real Top Soil will compact.

  38. Jim says:

    I would like to see if 3 pizza boxes would stop a 3 1/2″ mag shell(bird shot) in a Shotgun with full choke

  39. Caleb says:

    I would like them to test another non-Newtonian fluid..Silly Putty. I couldn’t penitrate a 1mm slab of it with a bb gun (I know that’s not very powerfull) But I would still like to see it. It is MUCH more resistant than water and cornstarch.

  40. Andy says:

    The kill bill myth may be plausible if it raining and all the land is wet.
    and i thing yo ucan broke the coffin becose a man wil hit with all his body parts, not just with his hand.
    (Sorry for my bad english)

  41. Diego says:

    Just don’t get buried alive. Chances are you won’t make it.

    • Johana says:

      Yeah I get it already, She’s fatnistac. and she certainly is but could you please post some of the races she’s won or her trophy (& medal) collection. Can you show her some respect for all the training she’s been doing instead of just ooogeling at her? thanks Man, DarrylHarrisburg, PA

  42. Knite says:

    Didn’t they do it slightly wrong though? I thought she used more than just 1 punch in the movie?

  43. Smokey says:

    I punched my way out of a coffin that was 10 feet deep I just did it about a month ago.

  44. Yuhao says:

    I don’t think the bullet through muscle experiment is unleash to its max potential. Since when we flex our muscle and harden it, an experiment that simulates “flexed muscle” would perhaps alter the data. I STRONGLY suggest this experiment be redone with the slightly altered variable. This has bothered me from time to time haha :)

  45. Dashawn says:

    I’m struggling with this hoaldiy season too. I should be a momma with a 5-mth old baby marveling at the lights on the tree, not one that is so depressed and disheartened that she can’t bother to celebrate. Doing Abby’s book was hard but needed. I hope your loved ones will look at and cherish Samuel’s far too brief life. Take good care of you, momma.

  46. Timo says:

    Sometimes Mythbusters seem confused about what they’re exactly testing. Sometimes they simply misinterpret their results. In the coffin punch myth both happened. I don’t understand where they got the idea that the fist should punch right through the coffin lid for the escape to be successful. In the film it was never about punching through the lid, it was about breaking the lid by punching it so that you make a hole in it.
    As previous posters have noted, quality of wood was not optimal, the punching robot probably did not use optimum technique, its punching power could have been even greater, robot did not search for any weak spot and it clearly did not vary the direction or quality of its blows as a human would have done, all of which would have helped. But despite all this the robot actually did all that was required – it quickly broke the wood thus absolutely proving the concept possible. All that was needed was to reposition the robot a few times (and apply some pressure on top to prevent wood from bending too much) so that its punches could create a hole.
    In the second part they did not test effectively the digging through earth part. Different soil composition and moisture might make a big difference. In the film it obviously wasn’t densely packed, there even seemed to be some air pockets in it. Still Mythbusters managed to dig through 2 feet, and this apparently without any real training or preparation. What could a more powerful person do? Maybe there is some technique that would make digging easier? It’s not that difficult to believe that someone could dig through 4 feet – which as pointed out is a more credible distance than 6 feet. It wasn’t really tested just how much earth (and what kind of earth) you can dig through. So Mythbusters did quite incomplete tests, but even by looking at the results they did get, (you can break the lid using your fist, you can dig through some unidentified amount of earth) the verdict should rather have been at least “Myth plausible”.

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