Rifle round falls from the sky.


October 15, 2006, 09:57 AM
I went to the races this weekend in Katy, just west of Houston and the track is kinda out in the sticks. We race small motorcycles on Kart tracks in the Texas Mini GP series. Anyway, I left just after the racing was done and a friend of mine, John Casley who I teamed with last year in the endurance series, was sitting around chatting in the pits with friends when a bullet comes falling out of the sky and hits him in the foot. Thank GOD it hit his foot and not elsewhere! In the head, it could have killed him! He went to the emergency room and says he'll be back at the track today for the endrance and end of the year stuff. I'm not going today, just went to sprint yesterday.

This is the first time something like this has hit this close to home, someone I know. You're chattin' at the races. The last thing you expect is to get hit by a bullet! I'm wondering if anyone will investigate this or if it's even possible to find out who fired the shot. It looks like a .223 in the pictures and I'm thinkin' some idiot with an AR sprayin' and prayin' having a good old time with no backstop. There are no ranges in the area, just open land, lots of pasture and high dollar subdivisioins.

Folks, if you live in such an area, this could happen to you. Be careful and be safe with your toys!


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Peter M. Eick
October 15, 2006, 10:02 AM
Dang. That had to hurt.

As a Katy (west houston) resident I have to say I am concerned. Can you describe in a bit more detail where you were for us locals?

By the way, was he wearing shoes? I am impressed at the impact velocity and the angle if he was standing.

October 15, 2006, 10:04 AM
I think that we need more gun control. Maybe even a ban in the cities and densly populated suburbs.:rolleyes:

PAC 762
October 15, 2006, 10:06 AM
:what: Glad to hear he's OK!

I used to race YSR-50's a few years ago. Fun stuff.

October 15, 2006, 10:06 AM
Sounds to me like it may be the track just outside of Waller, Texas. Small dirt and mudder track.

Livin in Texas

October 15, 2006, 10:21 AM
The track is off Stockdick road. Take 90 west out of Katy to FM2855 (I think's the number). Cross the tracks on 2855, go about 4 miles to Stockdick road. It's a little asphalt kart track, .33 miles per lap and 7 turns and, yes, it's a total blast to race little bikes on little tracks. I flat tracked over at Waller for a few years, but the guy that owns that track was a horse's behind and guys quit going over there. I hear it's growing up in pasture now, unused. We're flat tracking over in Huffman and Baytown now. http://www.jarrellracing.com

There is a map and info on the track and track's location at the track site... http://www.racekarts.com/


I'm an aging 54 year old (next week) who started road racing after some flat track experience in 1975. I raced 250s as an AMA pro for a couple of years, but couldn't afford it. Minis is cheap thrills and a little safer than diving off Texas World Speedway's turn one at 150 mph. However, I'm wondering how safe the location is now. :what: I race because I can't give it up and minis are cheap. The neat thing about it is the kids that start there and graduate to the big time. One of 'em is in the chase for the MotoGP world championship and one of 'em just won the AMA superbike championship. These two kids came out of Texas mini racing. I raced with Ben on minis and 125GP stuff. It was obvious that kid had the talent from the get go. We have others coming up, too.

Whoever fired this shot is criminally and civily liable for the bullet that left their barrel if law enforcement can find 'em. No need for gun contol here, just find the idiot who fired this shot. He was quite negligent in his actions and if I was John, I'd sue him for everything I could get out of him, if he can be found.

John was sitting talking to friends, so I don't know if his foot was flat on the ground or if he had it kicked up on a cooler or tool box or something.

October 15, 2006, 10:26 AM
That's a 1 in a billion shot. I'm glad your buddy didn't catch it in the head.

October 15, 2006, 10:32 AM
I agree, one in a million. But, I've heard of this before and what goes up must come down. All the more reason to be sure of your backstop and don't be careless with firearms. At least in Texas, you are responsible for where that bullet goes and what it does after it leaves the muzzle of your firearm. I guess that's the point of this post, nothing political. I feel like I almost lost a good friend. Dang, I'm glad it missed anything vital! John has a very good marriage and a 17 year old daughter that's about to graduate high school in a year. He has a lot to live for and loved ones and friends that would dearly miss him.

Bartholomew Roberts
October 15, 2006, 10:40 AM
Glad to hear your friend is OK. My guess would either be some irresponsible shooting into the air by someone or a ricochet off a badly designed berm.

October 15, 2006, 10:50 AM
Iím thinking the round was fired from a fairly low angle. It looks like a spitzer shaped round; I think the US Army tests found they fall base first when fired straight up, and come down tumbling when shot at high angles (>50 degrees?) due to the center of mass of the bullet being so far back. Since this bullet entered point first Iím guessing it was fired low enough to maintain a large amount of horizontal velocity.

October 15, 2006, 10:53 AM
This area is out in the country, but there's nice subdivisions around with large enough lots for horses and such, nicely fenced, homes probably in the quarter to half million dollar range I'd guess, up scale suburbs. But, there's lots of pasture there. I've hunted geese with Larry Gore's Eagle Lake Katy Prairie Outfitters out in that area on rice fields. Lots of large land. So, I'm picturing some guy blasting away with his Mini 14 or AR with some surplus military ammo FMJ at beer cans on the ground and the bullets bouncing off the ground (no back stop). Yes, there are irresponsible gun owners in this world.

Friend says there was a gun show in Houston this weekend. Perhaps someone was playing with their new Mini 14, couldn't wait to take it to the range? Who knows, I'm just speculating. But, rifle rounds will travel a long ways.

Odd Job
October 15, 2006, 11:55 AM
That was a lucky escape, my friend.
Forensic experts have been able to trace trajectories such as this, in cases where the position of the victim at the time he was struck was known. In this case with the foot, it is very difficult because if your friend was just sitting around, there are quite a few variables to do with the orientation of his foot at the time. Was his ankle flexed, extended, internally rotated, externally rotated?
And then you have to factor in the possibility that the bullet was deflected upon first striking the shoe. Gunshot wounds to the feet are very difficult to analyse in terms of trajectory when the victim was wearing shoes at the time. X-rays can be useful, if they are done with the skin breaches marked, and then the radiological trajectory is compared to the known breaches in the shoe. You have to take care that you don't confuse pre-existing damage in the shoe with a fresh projectile breach. And don't forget about deflections within the foot. Here is a case where a guy sustained a handgun injury to his foot. The triangle is a skin breach marker that tells us where the breach was in relation to the internal anatomy:


There is no bullet on that radiograph. There is a nasty fracture of the metatarsal. But the victim had no exit wound. When we did a lateral view (a sideways view) we found the bullet near the heel!


I added a possible trajectory in red, but there is no way I can prove what the exact trajectory was, it is an approximation. Also, this guy didn't bring his shoes with him to the hospital, so I couldn't get any clues from those if I wanted to. However this wasn't as exciting as MCgunner's case, it was likely just a close range ND.

Jorg Nysgerrig
October 15, 2006, 12:11 PM
Seems to be happening more often than one in a billion. http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=556919

Sleeping Dog
October 15, 2006, 12:16 PM
bullets bouncing off the ground
I don't know, but I'd guess that a ricochet (sp?) bullet would not be in as good shape as what's pictured in the guy's foot.

The first post said the guy was sitting after a race. Was his foot flat on the ground, or propped up on a cooler?

Anyway, I hope it heals well and quickly.


October 15, 2006, 01:27 PM
Mythbusters did a show on this. The speed of the bullet returning was limited by the resistance to airflow once it started back down. It could only go a certain speed, which was fairly slow, and would have tumbled. Which would seem to support the low-trjectory argument here for it to have penetrated so deep in that guys foot. FWIW.

October 15, 2006, 02:00 PM
Yep; if the bullet falls at anything but exactly straight down, it'll cause damage.

October 15, 2006, 02:26 PM
The triangle is a skin breach marker that tells us where the breach was in relation to the internal anatomy:

So. . . "Skin Breach Marker" is a medical term for "Paper Clip"? :neener:


I hope your friend gets better soon! What an amazing story! He'll be telling the grandkids that one for sure, especially with the picture! WOW.

Odd Job
October 15, 2006, 02:45 PM
So. . . "Skin Breach Marker" is a medical term for "Paper Clip"?


Yes, sir...but to be more precise, you could say that a paperclip is an acceptable skin breach marker. There are others, such as the rubber rings used to mark moles on mammograms, and the lead wires used to mark scars on radiotherapy planning, but those are markers designed from scratch for that purpose. There are no commercial GSW markers.

October 15, 2006, 04:40 PM
On the Mythbusters show, they were firing straight up. This caused the round to tumble and lose aerodynamic efficiency when it fell back down.

When fired upward at and angle of less than 45 degrees, the bullet should remian nose forward and spinning, just like a long pass in football, or an artillery round. This will give it much greater velocity and penetration ability when it returns to earth.

October 15, 2006, 05:10 PM
Paper clips make an excellent radiopaque marker for radiographic images. I have used them many times to delineate an area of interest. They are dense enough to show on most all exposures yet the wire is small enough guage to not obscure to much anatomy.
Specialty designed markers have uses but a good old paper clip is customizable in shape making it quite useful.

As for bullets falling from the sky I can tell you from experience they are dangerous. I worked at a hospital in Boyle Heights East LA in the 70's. On a number of holidays many of the locals, mostly hispanic felt that celebrating by firing a few rounds into the air was perfectly acceptable. I have seen many a patient injured by rounds falling to earth and passing through car roofs, apartment roofs and house roofs, some seriously.
Fatal injuries were not unheard of.

Sometimes you could hear rounds falling and bouncing off the asphalt in the parking lot. While a round may not come back down with the same amount of energy it went up with it still packs enought wallop to kill.

It is considered serious enough to have been made a criminal violation to fire a gun into the air.

October 15, 2006, 08:07 PM
While a round may not come back down with the same amount of energy it went up with it still packs enought wallop to kill.

Only if it's a .50 or something. Even a .30-06 coming straight down is only going around 200 fps; it's not going to blow through your foot like that. That was clearly a low-trajectory shot.

October 15, 2006, 08:11 PM
Not many rounds come perfectly straight back down. Just a few degrees makes a lot of difference.

October 15, 2006, 08:19 PM
My last home here in Nashville was in an area that sometimes experienced late night gunshots.
I shingled the roof earlier this year and found a .40 FMJ round stuck on the pitched roof, it had hit it sufficiently hard to crumple approx 1/16th of the length of the bullet (point first) but not actually pierce the shingle. It was just embedded in the shingle, it hadn't passed through it. In fact that shingle wouldn't have leaked if I hadn't replaced it.
Of course, my head (or for that matter, my foot) is a lot less durable (and more valuable) than a shingle roof.
I'm very glad that the .40 did not enter my bedroom whenever it hit our house.

October 15, 2006, 09:49 PM
It's all trajectory. If the bullet is fired at a high enough angle that it slows enough to stop spinning it will start tumbling and then it can only go so fast. I forget what the max speed was that they fall at but mythbusters proved it wasn't fast enough to pierce a pig's skull. Which they said was about the same thickness and density as a human skull. But it's going to hurt like heck!! I don't think they tested it against soft tissue/ballistics gel. A bullet that comes back down point first may be able to pierce soft tissue.

If the trajectory is low enugh that it keeps spinning you're in trouble.

October 15, 2006, 10:04 PM
For those of you who say a bullet fired up into the air is not that dangerous...

"doctors at King/Drew Medical Center, a major L.A. trauma center, published a report in a medical journal (Journal of Trauma, December 1994) saying that between 1985 and 1992 they treated 118 people for falling bullet injuries around New Year's Eve or the Fourth of July. Thirty-eight of the victims died"

The LAPD and the LASO both have plenty of reports on file to back this up.

I have seen personally people seriously injured by falling bullets. i.e. fired up into the air at a random indiscriminate angle. Sure mythbusters can make a cool show that says it can't happen but they are wrong. Serious and fatal injuries can and do occur from bullets fired up into the air. So if you think it's not a big deal, reconsider.

October 15, 2006, 10:17 PM
Sure mythbusters can make a cool show that says it can't happen but they are wrong.

Problem is there are 180 degrees in an arc from horizon to horizon, Mythbusters only tested what would happen if a bullet left and came down from the one in the middle, not the others.

It was dumb just by definition.

October 15, 2006, 11:38 PM
The mythbusters only fired the bullets straight up. On that particular episode, the did contact a SFPD ballistics expert (I think that was what the guy's profession was, please correct me if I'm wrong!) who mention at least one case where a bullet fired in an arc maintained enough velocity to prove fatal. Firing a bullet straight up on the other hand will prove to be nothing short of a similar weighted stone dropping from the sky. Reason, terminal velocity! Recall also the Mythbusters show where they proved that a penny dropped from a skyscraper is incapable of killing contrary to myth. If you dropped a 2 pound brick or a two pound bag of feathers from a building they would fall at somewhat similar velocities with account taken for wind resistance and such but the fact is, 2 pounds is 2 pounds.

October 16, 2006, 12:02 AM
Source: KRQE News 13 7/5/2005 ALBUQUERQUE --

Doctors are trying to save the life of an Albuquerque baby shot in the
head by a bullet that fell from the sky Monday night. The bullet was
likely fired into the air during a July 4th celebration. The 11-month-old,
named Alyssa, is being treated at UNM hospital and is in critical
condition. While she is fighting to stay alive, police are trying to find
out who put her there.

One Monday night Alyssa.s family was wrapping up their 4th of July party
at their grandmother.s house in southwest Albuquerque. Alyssa's
grandmother was just holding the baby in her driveway on Sunbow Court when
the baby suddenly cried out and blood began to drip from her head. .(The
Bullet) entered in rear quadrant (of the baby.s head) and exited out and
embedded into shoulder,. says John Walsh of the Albuquerque Police
Department. Police have recovered the bullet and have determined it came
from a high caliber gun. Forensics tests will help determine more.

Police say finding the person who fired the gun could be tough. Depending
on the caliber or gunpowder, the bullet could have traveled anywhere
between a few hundred yards up to a mile. That's why police are asking for
help identifying anyone who was firing a high caliber gun in southwest
Albuquerque on Monday night. Alyssa did undergo surgery to help repair the
gunshot wound in her head and shoulder. She remains in pediatric intensive
care. If you have any information about someone firing a gun Monday,
you.re asked to call 242-COPS

October 16, 2006, 12:50 AM
If you dropped a 2 pound brick or a two pound bag of feathers from a building they would fall at somewhat similar velocities with account taken for wind resistance and such but the fact is, 2 pounds is 2 pounds.

This is so backwards I don't know how to exactly respond. Firstly, the very low density of the feathers means it will reach terminal velocity much quicker. Secondly, weight has no effect on the speed at which things fall. A 4,000 pound car falls at the same speed as a 4 ounce toy replica. In a vacuum, a single, nearly weightless feather falls at the same speed as a 5 lb hammer. There was a very famous demonstration by Galileo at the leaning tower of Pisa, I'm surprised you haven't heard of it.

October 16, 2006, 01:00 AM
After further reading, I officially retract my 1 in a billion comment and change it to 1 in a million.

October 16, 2006, 01:03 AM
Firstly, the very low density of the feathers means it will reach terminal velocity much quicker.IANAPhysicist, but even in a vacuum that sounds wrong. With air resistance out of the equation, it should be the same.

Or did you mean it would reach its own (very low) terminal velocity much faster? That, of course, would be true.

October 16, 2006, 01:07 AM
Yes, that's what I meant. In our normal air, the feather will reach it's very low maximum falling speed quickly due to air resistance. In a vacuum, without air resistance, it'd fall at the same speed as anything else.

October 16, 2006, 01:40 AM
So, what you are saying is that if you threw a stone straight up into the air and fired a bullet straight up, they would both fall the same velocity? Do we live in a vacuum? My point was mainly to show that the falling bullet would do no more damage than the stone which is the same size and weight falling at terminal velocity. Either way I would not want to be under the feathers or the brick when it reached my head. Please keep in mind that I don't really care much for physics because I've seen some things that would simply defy definition.

October 16, 2006, 04:32 AM
No, because the bullet would go much higher up than the thrown stone, and spend a lot more time in freefall. The gravitational constant is 9.8meters/second^2, so if an object spends a lot more time in free fall, then it goes keeps faster until it reaches it's maximum velocity dictated by air resistance. That velocity is a lot lower for feathers than a brick, so it wouldn't hit nearly as hard. And weight has no effect on how fast something falls, that's just fact. It's fine if you don't care for science and want to believe in supernatural things but this is elementary school stuff and you're quoting as fact something that is wrong, that 2lbs of feathers and 2 lb brick would fall at the same speed because they weigh the same.

October 16, 2006, 08:14 AM
If you dropped a 2 pound brick or a two pound bag of feathers from a building they would fall at somewhat similar velocities with account taken for wind resistance and such but the fact is, 2 pounds is 2 pounds.

Whoa there, ax

Your statement is correct IF you packed two pounds of feathers into a container exactly the same size and shape as the brick. Then the density would be the same as the brick and the feathers would have a similar terminal velocity.

In a total vacuum, size, shape, weight, and density make no difference. All objects will fall at the same velocity and continue to accelerate with no terminal velocity until they hit the ground. Astronaut David Scott did the Galileo experiment on the moon with a hammer and a feather. You can find video of that here: http://www1.jsc.nasa.gov/er/seh/feather.avi

The video quality is poor, but it gets the job done. If the objects look like they are falling in slow motion, it's because the moon's gravity has only 1/6 the pull of Earth's. Lesson, don't try to parachute in a vacuum.

As far as a falling stone and bullet, I wouldn't want to be hit by either, but a bullet will reach a little higher terminal velocity than a stone since lead is denser and has less surface area per unit of mass, especially if it is stabilized by spinning point first.


October 16, 2006, 08:28 AM

Take it easy. You can explain a concept and correct someone without belittling them. Take the high road.


October 16, 2006, 09:09 AM
There was a very famous demonstration by Galileo at the leaning tower of Pisa, I'm surprised you haven't heard of it.

The same experiment was conducted on the surface of the moon.

Galileo was right.....

The Drew
October 16, 2006, 09:23 AM
THe point here is that a fired bullet travels much faster than it's terminal velocity and that therefore does not carry as much energy as a result.

So that any firing of a bullet that results in it losing all it's forward momentum and in turn spin will create a situation where it's falling back to earth by gravity alone, I.E. it will reach it's terminal velocity and that's it.

It is also very hard to fire a bullet exactly straight up.... Which is why there are so many stories of falling bullets causing injuries and deaths...

October 16, 2006, 09:57 AM
Wow. Was there an Iraqi wedding in the area?

October 16, 2006, 10:15 AM
Wow, post anything on this board and it becomes a caliber war, or in this case 5 lbs hammer vs feather.

The formula is D =1/2g x T^2

g=gravitational acceleration constant 32 f/sec^2

So, IN A VACUUM, you drop the feather and the rock from the same height, you can see that no where in Newton's formula is there a variable "mass". All that matters is g which is a fixed constant and T which is time in flight (this formula is used in your exterior ballistics program, too, to calculate bullet drop from bore axis).

I'm no physicist, but I had to take a course in it once. And, of course, we do not live in a vacuum. That's what makes this comparison counter-intuitive.

Iraqis? I doubt it. They'd been shooting 7.62x39. :D

October 16, 2006, 10:47 AM
Check out this site. Friend of mine lives in the heights in Houston and found three bullets in the decking of his roof when he was re-roofing his house. I don't think I'd wanna live there, not to mention the fact it's in a city. My mom sold our house north side of town near the heights when I was 7 years old and we moved to a rural area where my grandparents lived where I grew up. I'm thankful for that.


October 16, 2006, 11:23 AM
As a roofer in South Florida, I've found all kinds of bullets in roofs all throughout Miami and it's environs. When we would show the building's owner what caused his roof leak, it usually made him want to move...

Ed Ames
October 16, 2006, 12:11 PM
...and then there's the 12yo kid in Los Angeles... about '98 IIRC... who was, according to local TV news on New Years morning, struck twice by bullets falling from the sky...first got him in the shoulder, second in the back. His uncle gave an eye-witness report and they pleaded with viewers to stop firing their guns into the sky to celebrate newyears.

No, I'm not joking...

October 16, 2006, 12:42 PM
Yeah, according to that site I posted....

According to information published in the Los Angeles Times, as many as 118 people were injured by falling bullets between 1985 and 1992 and 38 of the victims died.

So, if it's "one in a million", there must be billions of bullets flying on any given holiday in Watts.:rolleyes:

October 16, 2006, 01:52 PM
THe point here is that a fired bullet travels much faster than it's terminal velocity and that therefore does not carry as much energy as a result.

Thank you, that's what I was generally getting at but had a bit of trouble explaining it.

October 16, 2006, 01:57 PM
Mythbusters went over all of this, and in the end the myth was both confirmed and busted--confirmed for low-angle shots and busted for straight up shots.

Go back and look at the iron sights on the first generation of smokeless powder war rifles. They're graduated out to 2000 meters or more, because the military forces found they could engage at that range with volley fire at a high angle. The advent of spitzers increased this range. The people getting killed ARE NOT GETTING KILLED BY "FALLING" BULLETS!! That's a MYTH. They're getting killed by FIRED bullets coming in with ballistic trajectory and enough power to kill. Those bullets are not "falling."

It's not the bullets fired straight up that are the problem, but rifle bullets, primarily spitzers, fired at a high angle. They go for miles, and keep their ballistic trajectory. You won't find many handgun rounds or shotgun slugs appearing from nowhere like this.

Just a few degrees makes a lot of difference.

No, not really. The angle has to be low enough to allow the round to keep a ballistic trajectory. If it's anywhere near straight up, that won't happen. But it's somewhere halfway between straight up and level, it might.

October 16, 2006, 02:02 PM
Well, I just thank God John caught it in the foot. There was a crowd around the track just after the races, couple hundred folks, kids, wives, etc and the club is almost like a family to most of us, everyone knows each other and mostly each other's families. That thing could have hit any one of the heads there, missed John's foot and ricocheted off the ground into someone. It's scary to think about, really scary.

October 16, 2006, 02:43 PM
Crazy. I feel bad for your buddy, but I have to admit a morbid curiosity as to how the bullet stayed in such apparently perfect shape. I can see it's jacketed, but it looks just like someone pounded a round through his foot, which would probably hurt worse than what happened! Fascinating.

October 16, 2006, 03:05 PM
It would have been moving at a much lower FPS than usual, but more than terminal velocity. Enough to penetrate, but not enough to shed its jacket or expand.

October 16, 2006, 03:22 PM
Secondly, weight has no effect on the speed at which things fall.

I'm not sure if this was addressed above, but I didn't see it. Weight certainly has an effect on the speed at which things fall. In a vacuum, weight has no effect, but in air, the weight is the force pulling down, while the wind resistance is opposite to the direction of motion. At terminal speed they are equal, so the heavier object will fall faster, given the same enclosure (so that they have similar drag properties).

October 16, 2006, 03:42 PM
According to http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=556919

"The bullet was a 45, Full Metal Jacket."


Prof. John DeFord, Physics Dept., Univ. of Utah: "And for a gun of this type it will be falling on the order of 400 or 500 feet a second. That's more than 300 miles an hour"

That will kill, and will penetrate a human skull, or chest cavity.

figure the surface area would be 0.15 sq.in.
and the energy would be (Ke=1/2mv^2)

m=230 grains or 14.9 grams
v=400 fps or 18.9 mps

so Kinetic Energy = 2.67 joules of energy, or almost 1/50th of a beer of energy:what: all in one litle spot on your leg, head, chest. (okay like 0.000000994 horse power per .15 square inches or 9.54e-4 horse power per square foot. And that was just a handgun round.:eek:

And we all know how powerful beer is:neener:

October 16, 2006, 03:52 PM
Everyone knows that if a .223 bullet hit him in the foot it would have tumbled and come out his neck.:neener:

And Cosmoline is correct. Go dig out your highschool physics books and re-read the chapter on Vectors and Ballistic Trajectory. A bullet fired from a gun has both a vertical and horizontal velocity component. If the bullet is fired above 0* the vertical velocity will decrease to 0 and then increase to terminal velocity. The horizontal velocity will remain constant (not counting wind resistance) until the bullet is stopped.

If a bullet is fired at 90* the horizontal velocity is 0 so the only velocity that gets converted to energy is the terminal velocity. However, if a bullet is fired at 45* It will have a constant horizontal velocity that will be combined with the terminal velocity when converted to energy. This can be more than enough to make a bullet fatal.

If you payed attention to Mythbusters They explained this.

A bullet fired STRAIGHT up is not fatal, however, a bullet fired into the air in an ARC can be fatal.

October 16, 2006, 04:00 PM
It will have a constant horizontal velocity that will be combined with the terminal velocity when converted to energy. This can be more than enough to make a bullet fatal.

If you payed attention to Mythbusters They explained this.

I have mentioned this!

The mythbusters only fired the bullets straight up. On that particular episode, the did contact a SFPD ballistics expert (I think that was what the guy's profession was, please correct me if I'm wrong!) who mentioned at least one case where a bullet fired in an arc maintained enough velocity to prove fatal.

October 16, 2006, 05:42 PM
According to the article I posted the link to, mythbusters is wrong....

It is a popular perception that falling bullets are harmless. The truth is simply a matter of physics. The speed of a projectile traveling up into the air will decrease due to gravity until its vertical motion is halted. Gravity continues to work on the projectile starting from its high altitude stopping point accelerating it downward. Since the distance it traveled up will be equal to the distance it will be accelerated down, while falling, the projectile will be accelerated to its terminal velocity which has been found to be approximately 300 feet per second. According to information published in the Los Angeles Times, as many as 118 people were injured by falling bullets between 1985 and 1992 and 38 of the victims died. In information provided by B. N. Matto (Journal of Forensic Sciences, 1984), a .38-caliber revolver bullet will perforate the skin and lodge in the underlying tissue at 191 feet per second and a triple-ought buckshot will do so at 213 feet per second. A .30-caliber bullet will perforate the skin at only 124 feet per second. It is easy to believe that such a bullet falling at 300 feet per second could seriously injure a person, possibly fatally, especially if it struck you in the head.

October 16, 2006, 05:50 PM
Mythbusters actually went out and DID IT. It's hard to argue with reality. Plus, you have to distinguish between the speed required to allow penetration when the bullet is on a ballistic trajectory and enters point-first in that trajectory and the speed required when it's tumbling through the air at terminal velocity.

Los Angeles Times

A source known for its expertise in ballistic matters with no political axe to grind, of course.

October 16, 2006, 05:55 PM
Mythbusters is not a good authority on scientific subjects.
It is entertainment.

And it is entertaining too!

October 16, 2006, 05:57 PM
So it's not valid to test the terminal effects of bullets fired upward by firing them upward and looking at their terminal effects?

The confirmed cases of impact from FALLING bullets have involved bloody scalps and bad bruises, just like that woman's leg. The cases of fatal hits have come from rounds in ballstic trajectory.

Odd Job
October 16, 2006, 05:57 PM
In Vincent Di Maio's book 'Gunshot Wounds' (second edition), Chapter 9 is titled 'Bloody Bodies and Bloody Scenes.' There is a section, starting on page 271, that deals with 'Falling Bullets.' Here are the salient points:

1) DiMaio cites the research of L C Haag. Haag calculated the terminal velocity of bullets of various calibres (using a computer program) as if the bullets were fired straight up. Calculations were done for base-first presentations (the most likely presentation) and for tumbling bullets. Di Maio lists these velocities and says that all of the velocities except those of the .22 short and all the buckshot pellets are "in the area of the minimum velocity necessary to perforate skin."

2) Terminal velocities (based on Haag's model for base-first presentations) ranged from 134 ft/s for #4 buckshot to 294 ft/s for a .30-06 bullet. The same .30-06 bullet is listed as having a terminal velocity of 171 ft/s if it tumbles. A .223 bullet arriving base-first could be expected to be moving at 244 ft/s and if it tumbles it could be expected to do only 141 ft/s. The reference for Haag's study is as follows:

Haag L. C. Falling bullets: terminal velocities and penetration studies. Wound Ballistics Review 2(1): 21-26, 1995

Now, as regards the case of MCgunner's friend, here are my reasons why I think that this was not a bullet that fell vertically:

1) A vertically-falling bullet requires a vertically-fired bullet. This means that the shooter and the victim would be in fairly close proximity. Now in a fairly 'busy' locale such as the one he was in, I am willing to bet that the shooter might have been seen ;)

2) The bullet could not have come down with a constant nose-first presentation if it was in free-fall. It would either have to come down base first or it would have to come down tumbling. At terminal velocities, neither of these presentations is conducive to maintaining a nose-first presentation throughout the terminal trajectory (the trajectory within John's foot).

3) That projectile has almost perforated his foot. That requires a significantly higher velocity than the 244 ft/s quoted by Haag (even if you could pretend that the bullet arrived nose first). And take note that we haven't factored in the intermediate target: John's shoe. That will take some velocity off the round.

4) It is unlikely that the bullet tumbled within his foot without striking a bone. There isn't much room between the bones in that region. Sure, it would be nice to know where the entrance wound was, but I can tell you it is very unlikely that the bullet could get to where it was, without causing a fracture, unless it maintained the smallest profile possible, throughout its terminal trajectory. That holds true for all the possible entrance locations I can visualise on the dorsal aspect of the foot in question.

5) The adjunct to point (4) above is that a bullet needs significant gyroscopic stability to maintain a nose-first presentation in tissue, and terminal velocities do not provide that.

Now as regards bullets that have been fired into the air at angles other than the perpendicular, there are two cases that I heard about in South Africa where individuals were killed by bullets 'dropping out of the sky.' The first one was quite a famous case (and dammit I can't Google it) where a rugby supporter (IIRC) was killed in a stadium by a bullet fired ino the air. In that case forensic scientists were able to mathematically plot the most likely trajectory of that bullet and they found the shooter in the end. In the second case I was shown photographs by one of the trauma Flight for Life doctors, in which a young woman sustained a gunshot wound just above the sternum. She had been walking down the driveway with her family, seeing off some friends who had visited for dinner. The witnesses report that the lady suddenly collapsed and there was no sound or indication of what had happened. The wound was found by emergency responders. Post-mortem findings revealed a handgun bullet that had damaged one of the major vessels. IIRC it was the arch of the aorta. I don't know if they found the shooter.

In another very well-presented case on a TV program, a similar case was solved by US authorities. Again, I am sorry I can't quote it, I didn't note the details and it was a few years ago.
Basically, a man was killed by a .44 bullet and the circumstances were such that a near shooting was ruled out. In that case, they examined the bullet and were able to work out that it could only have been fired from a very limited selection of handguns. They worked this out by examining the General Rifling Characteristics as impressed on the recovered bullet. This takes into account the number of lands and grooves and the twist rate of the rifling. Once they had this small selection of possible weapon makes and models, they realised that there wasn't much difference in the barrel lengths of these weapons and so they worked on the premise that the bullet would have had the same velocity regardless of which of the possible weapons was used to fire it.
The next thing they did was identify the round and the various loadings it was available in. Working on the premise that it was factory ammunition, they made calculations based on the fact that it was a .44 mag round and they therefore had another piece of the puzzle. This was the logical first line of inquiry and that is the line they followed. So, having these two pieces of information, and knowing how far the round had penetrated into the victim, they were able to work out an approximate impact velocity of that projectile. They went back to the scene, reconstructed the victim's pose on the chair upon which he was sitting at the time he was struck, and then got a basic angle of incidence. By reverse plotting this angle of incidence and estimating the range by taking into account the known muzzle velocity of that round and taking into account the calculated impact velocity, they were able to plot on a map the likely areas within that range limitation that were possible launching points for that round. When they applied the further limitation of excluding properties to the side and behind the victim, they ended up with a surprisingly limited fan-shaped area of interest superimposed on an overhead photomap of the region. This involved very few properties and it was a simple matter to make enquiries and find out who the guilty party was. IIRC they found a tree stump in the guy's yard and they conclusively matched projectiles recovered from that stump to the bullet recovered from the victim. Pretty damn good investigation if you ask me.

So I guess the moral is: don't shoot in the air!!

October 16, 2006, 06:48 PM
Axman, I wasn't ragging on you.

I was ragging on all the people who keep saying "Mythbusters is a load of BS! They said a falling bullet isn't fatal, but Mr. X in 19XX died from a falling bullet." People continue to ignore the fact that there is a massive difference in energy between a bullet fired vertically and one fire ballisticly.

As for the Mythbuster experiment: While they are not allways the kings of empirical experimentation, I can find no fault with their bullet experiment. In the lab they concluded the terminal velocity of both bullets, that the bullets would fall sideways, and that the bullets would lack sufficient energy to cause damage.

Then they went out into the field and tested their hypotheses in real conditions. The field tests proved that the bullets did fall sideways, fell with about the save energy (by their depth in the ground), and fell with less than leathal energy (their depth compaired to the bb gun).

Reguardless of what you think of their lab-work, if the field test back up the hypotheses then they are sound.

October 16, 2006, 08:11 PM
Los Angeles Times

A source known for its expertise in ballistic matters with no political axe to grind, of course.

The LA Times didn't furnish the 300 fps figure, just the stats on the number of people injured or killed in LA in that time period. They just say "it is known that terminal velocity of a falling bullet....yadda, yadda, yadda", but fail to back it up with a source. So, I reckon that's suspect.

Regardless, I agree with Odd job that this was a ballistic trajectory. No one on the scene even noticed the sound of a gunshot. Must have been a couple miles away. I'm picturing some guy firing as fast as he can with his AR or Mini 14 toy and the muzzle climbing as he shoots. Heck, he might have had a full auto or done that thing with the string that makes a mini 14 fire full auto (or any other semi for that matter). Who knows? But, he was very irresponsible in his actions, this I can state without reservation!

I guess the whole point of posting this, other than the picture of John's foot I thought everyone might wanna see, is to plead for everyone to fire into a backstop and don't be shooting the air especially in a populated area.

Anyone remember the incident up north somewhere where a there was a gun club shooting a match, IPSC or something? A guy let an errant round go that went over the backstop and it came down and killed a lady downrange. The bullet was recovered and matched to the shooters gun. NRA was all behind the defense. Now, I'm an NRA member, but I believe if my wife'd been killed this way, I'd be after the guy AND the range in civil court. To me, they were both negligent. Maybe I have some details screwed up, it's been a while and I don't recall details.

Odd Job
October 16, 2006, 08:22 PM
@ MCGunner

In the programme Medical Detectives they covered a similar incident, where a teenager by the name of Trey Cooley was killed in the lobby of a gun club and nobody could understand how this had happened. IIRC a guy with a custom trigger on a .45 unintentionally fired two shots in quick succession and the second one escaped an outdoor range through a very narrow gap between a wall and a berm, or a berm and a roof. This round was deflected and hit Trey Colley in the head, killing him. The shooter was completely unaware of this.

October 16, 2006, 08:29 PM
If I recall correctly, 351 FPS was the velocity that Mythbusters got and they were unable to get it to cause any serrious damage to the pig's head that they fired it at.

Now lets look at some statistics:
Airsoft Pistol: 260fps
BB Gun: (daisy) 275fps
BB Gun: (Crossman) 625fps
.22short: 650-1106fps

So a falling bullet is slightly more dangerous than a airsoft pistol or a Daisy youth's bb gun. It is also considerably less dangerous than a mid-rang bb gun or a .22 short. It might put your eye out, but short of a fluke, it isn't that deadly.

October 16, 2006, 09:26 PM
A falling 180 grain .30 caliber bullet would seem to me to have more energy than a 177 caliber pellet at a considerably higher velocity. It would also have considerably more momentum.

October 17, 2006, 01:39 AM
I'm not sure if this was addressed above, but I didn't see it. Weight certainly has an effect on the speed at which things fall. In a vacuum, weight has no effect, but in air, the weight is the force pulling down, while the wind resistance is opposite to the direction of motion. At terminal speed they are equal, so the heavier object will fall faster, given the same enclosure (so that they have similar drag properties).

No, no, it's weight/surface area, which is density. You're assuming air resistance is equal between all objects, and that's not true. a 2 ounce object with equal density falls at the same speed as a 2000 lb object, because the 2000lb object. If weight increases without increasing size, that'd be true because the object would be much denser, but weight alone has nothing to do with it. If the density is equal, the size will be proportionally much larger and so will air resistance. It's a very famous experiment, where aristotles thoughts and predictions were pitted against galileos. Axman, I apologize if it came across poorly I do not mean to belittle. I have been coming across lately that way, and my words online are not well expressed as in person, my written etiquette is still very poor, I apologize.

October 17, 2006, 09:49 AM
That's true, in a vacumn a feather will fall at the same speed as a lead ball.

October 17, 2006, 05:41 PM
What it boils down to is that a fat guy in a parachute is going to have a harder landing than a skinny guy with the same chute.

In a vacuum, they both make craters.


October 17, 2006, 08:38 PM
John posted this on the CMRA board, his take on what happened. The "loud crack" suggest supersonic speed, but I don't know how his scrawny foot would have stopped a supersonic rifle bullet. Easy to see how they didn't notice a shot if there were karts out on the track practicing.

I don't know how I missed this thread, I guess I was too concerned about the Ronnie & Greg situation.

So here's the story...

We had finished sprints and were sitting in the pits chatting and enjoying some after race refreshments.

Jon Whitfill, Roger Albert and I were sitting in lawn chairs in my pit. Out of nowhere we heard a loud cracking sound like a firecracker and I felt a blow to my foot. It didn't hurt at first, but seconds later a very sharp pain hit me.

At first I thought one of the many kids in attendance threw a rock or one of the carts that were praticing threw a part.

But, we didn't see anything on the ground. Jon Whitfill said "Dude! You've been shot!"

Kinda in disbelief, I pulled my shoe off enough to see quite a bit of blood. "Ok let's put that back on". My first response was "Where's the ambulance!" but they had already left. Roger Albert ran to grab Holly, in order to transport. I decided to get a better look, and pulled my shoe completely off to reveal the bullet sticking out of the sole of my foot. That's when the camera man was called in; thanks to Don Wagnon, we have a good shot shortly after the incident.

Ross Smith loaded me into the truck, Jeff Phillips jumped on phone to the police, and we hauled ass to Tomball E.R.

My aunt is a R.N. at Tomball E.R. and could get me in quickly, CyFair was a 5 hour wait.

A paramedic was waiting at the ambulance entrance when we arrived and a bed prepped. A quick I.V.,phenergan ("***! that hurts!"), dilaudid ("Aaah that's better, just pull that bullet out"), Xrays, Tetanus, forceps, excruciating irigation and lots of photos. It's a wrap!

mythbusters is full of it.

October 17, 2006, 10:14 PM
While they TESTED rifle bullets by firing them vertically, they were unable to recover a single rifle bullet.

They DID recover some handgun bullets, but the rifle bullets all landed too far away for them to note the locations and recover them.

Therefore any conclusions reached about rifle bullets from that show are PURE SPECULATION.

Hatcher's testing showed that vertically fired rifle bullets fall back base first. The handgun testing that Mythbusters performed indicated that vertically fired handgun bullets destabilize and tumble on the return trip.

Mythbusters assumed that the rifle bullets would tumble as well and their lab testing was based on a terminal velocity derived from tumbling bullets. A rifle bullet falling base first would have a MUCH higher terminal velocity than a tumbling bullet and therefore would strike with much more force.

Mythbusters results are generally good as long as you don't read more into them than is really there.

Their handgun bullet testing was pretty conclusive, but ALL of their conclusions about falling rifle bullets were based on speculation and do not jibe with other testing results available.

October 17, 2006, 11:19 PM
I'm going to have to watch it again, because I remember them finding both handgun and rifle rounds.

October 18, 2006, 04:39 AM
The rifle bullets they found were dropped from the balloon, not the ones that they shot.

Odd Job
October 18, 2006, 07:35 AM
excruciating irigation

Well he is lucky he wasn't in London when it happened. I saw them admit a woman for a simple perforating handgun wound to the calf. She had no neurovascular damage and no fracture. Yet not only did they admit her, they debrided the wound under a general anaesthetic! She stayed in hospital for three days under armed guard.
Those kinds of wounds, when treated in Johannesburg, go like this:

1) Guy comes in with gunshot leg.
2) He has a quick physical examination, check distal pulses.
3) Off to X-ray (with his skin breaches marked).
4) If no fracture, wash the breaches with saline, apply dressings and send him home.

Turnaround can be under an hour. Of course if they find projectile fragments on X-ray, they may decide to take those out. But those are usually sorted out at a clinic appointment, or if the fragment is seen to be not too deep they can get it out right there and then under local anaesthetic.

Odd Job
October 18, 2006, 08:03 AM
There are several other factors you need to consider, when dealing with gunshot wounds to the feet (especially when shoes are worn):

1) If the entrance wound is on the plantar aspect (the sole of the foot) the entrance may resemble a flap, and the breach in the sole of the shoe may go unnoticed, especially if it is a sneaker or a trainer. You have to flex the sole of the shoe and look for fresh breaches (usually a 'clean' area in the sole). I have one such case in my research where a bullet struck the road and one quarter of that bullet broke off. The victim was struck on the sole of the foot, through a shoe, with the remaining 3 quarters of bullet. This parent projectile had enough remaining energy to cause a metatarsal fracture. At the fracture site, a further quarter of the bullet broke off and stayed in the foot. The remaining half bullet had enough energy to exit the foot and was trapped between the dorsal aspect of his foot (the top) and his sock.

2) Bullets frequently hit the ground first and then hit the victim's foot. It makes sense, since your foot is often in contact with the ground. These are ricochets, and they make unusual entrance wounds. I have one in my research file where the entrance wound is a slit, as if it was done with a pocket knife. Half of a bullet went into a guy's foot from the side, and failed to exit. If that wound was not recognised as a gunshot wound, the bullet within may never have been detected and removed.

3) Shoes retain fragments, and cause bullets to fragment, more often than most other items of civilian clothing. If a person is shot in the foot, upon removal of the shoe care must be taken not to lose forensic evidence that may tumble out of the shoe. Again, I have an example of this in my research.

4) Great care must be taken that projectile fragments lodged in the shoe do not cause a sharps injury because of careless rummaging around the inside of a shoe. Jacketing is sharp!

October 18, 2006, 01:13 PM
Without seeing anything on the photo for a scale comparison, it is difficult to accurately say what caliber the bullet is. However, unless the shootee has size 2 feet, there is no way that bullet is a .224!:confused:

Knowing the indiginous human species of that area (I live in Waller) I would venture to guess some idiot was using the noise of the races to cover their illicit shooting.:what:

Also, having seen quite a few wounds, that bullet looks pretty clean, as in, not having struck any other object before entering the boot/foot of the shootee. Have seen the outcome of the suspected round going through from an ankle to heel trajectory, bullet lodged in the sole of the boot.:cool:

I'm going to guess, East Texas gangbanger, AK/SKS variant in, of course, 7.62 x 39. That round is stopped easily by a flak jacket at 500-600 yards, but may pass through a shoe and be stopped by the sole.

Either the above, or someone has a grudge against the track/owner or one of the patrons. Either way, I'd be looking out in the direction from whence the bullet was fired. That should be the easiest thing for someone to figure.:scrutiny:

Just my opinion

October 18, 2006, 01:29 PM
So, how do you take your shoe off with a bullet hanging out the bottom of your foot? I don't think I could have resisted the urge to grab the thing and pull it out.

Odd Job
October 18, 2006, 02:11 PM
Unless there is a pressing medical reason to do so, you should never remove a bullet that is lodged as in John's foot. Here are some of the more important reasons why:

1) Legally, you have lost the connection between your injury and the projectile in question (in the absence of other evidence). In other words, the ER doctor cannot make an assertion in his notes that this projectile was associated with that injury. Likewise the projectile will not appear on the radiographs. Doctors notes and radiographs are legal documents. Radiographs in particular are retrospectively useful for forensic purposes.

2) If there are any anomalies in the condition of that bullet, you face an uphill battle in proving that such anomalies are not as a result of you extracting that bullet. It is an undocumented extraction and the tools of extraction are either unknown, or undocumented.

So in a case like that, where you have an ambulance arriving on scene, and the victim does not have to make use of private transport to get to hospital, I advise leaving that in situ. For bullets the reasons are mainly legal/forensic, but for other items such as knife blades, pieces of glass and arrows or bolts, the reasons may be medical too.

October 18, 2006, 10:37 PM
To add to what Odd Job said, it's generally a bad idea to remove a puncturing object from a wound. It may be plugging a damaged blood vessel and preventing bleeding.

one eyed fatman
October 21, 2006, 08:38 PM
I live in that area but I didn't do it. I only shoot 308 and 45 and do my shooting at the Bellville gun range. Bet that smarted.

October 22, 2006, 03:16 PM
What moron fires into the air. Use backstops.

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