Bullets skipping on water


September 16, 2008, 11:05 AM
Has anyone else had any experience with this?

My Dad told me a story (From Der Alt days) about an incident plinking with a .22. He was in South Alabama shooting on a small river...a lot of those rivers have exposed sandbars and he had set up some cans and was shooting from different distances and elevations. When he got home (small community where everybody knows everybody else) the place was buzzing about an attempted murder of the local power linesman. Seems he was down by the river taking a nap in his truck with the doors open when bullets started punching the truck. At least 3 hit inside the truck and one hit the heel of the guy's boot. Talk about lucky shots. There's a thread here somewhere about "your luckiest shot". Sometimes the luckiest shot is the one that DOESN'T connect.

We had a resort on the lake when I was a kid. (Der Alt days, too.) One of my summer jobs was snake, muskrat and turtle control. Muskrats would bring their meals onto boat transoms and snack there. Then they would snack on mahogany boat hulls. Had to cull 'em. Turtles would sometimes eat our baby ducks. A surfaced turtle head is a tough, challenging shot. The big snappers were easier hits, of course. The lake is almost 2 miles wide at that point so I skipped a lot of .22's way out there. I wish I could tell how far they skipped...all of my shooting was towards the surface of the water. My dad told me to never take a shot while aiming even remotely close to a boat dock or toward shore, I should be aimed lake-wards. I wish he had told me his story then, just for background.


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September 16, 2008, 11:19 AM
Yes, they will ricochet depending upon the angle of incidence with the surface of the water. Shallow angle shots are worse than steep angle shots.

Pistol and rifle both will do this.

September 16, 2008, 11:20 AM
yes, they will. dont shoot at any hard flat surface. stone, metal ( proper targets aside) water or glass.

ya even glass will cause ricochets to a small extent

Stump Water
September 16, 2008, 11:28 AM

dont shoot at any hard flat surface. stone, metal ( proper targets aside) water or glass.

Or wood. While plinking one day long ago I shot an old stump with a .45 Colt. The bullet entered the side, exited the top of the stump and landed about ten feet behind me... several seconds after the shot.

September 16, 2008, 11:37 AM
think there use to be a competion in Germany years ago where you shot from one side of a lake/pond and "bounced" a bullet off the surface at a target on the other side. jwr

September 16, 2008, 11:37 AM
I have routinely seen tracer rounds from an M60/ 240B (.30 cal), and Ma Duece (.50 cal) depart the water skywards at a high angle of incidence. There was no doubt in my mind the the lead between the tracers was following the same path! That is why we shot in Navy operating areas, sent Broadcast Notice to Mariners..(the RANGE is HOT!), and insured we had six miles clear prior to shooting...

M2 Carbine
September 16, 2008, 12:01 PM
There was a writeup in The Rifleman, about in the 1960's.
As I recall a little girl was shot in the head while in her back yard.
It turned out that a couple guys were shooting on old railroad tracks plinking at a small wooden electric pole. They were using a Luger. The bullets were hitting a small pond behind the pole. One of the bullets had skipped off the pond and killed the girl. I'm not positive about the distance but I think it was at least a quarter mile away from the pond.

The shooters weren't charged with anything since it wasn't illegal to shoot where they were and the general feeling was it was just a terrible accident.
Tough thing to live with the rest of your life though.

September 16, 2008, 12:08 PM
Back in the really old days of wooden ships and iron cannons "skip shot" was a technique for increasing the range of a cannon ball. Whereas a higher angled shot may hit the water and sink, a low angled shot would skip across the water towards the enemy vessel, hopefully imparting some damage when it connected.

September 16, 2008, 12:15 PM
Back in the '60s, my brother & I used to shoot .22Shorts across a 20-30 acre lake (absolutely no one on or around the lake) just to watch them skip. Sometimes they skipped 2-3 times and made it across and sometimes they hit once and stopped dead. It was fun when I was a kid but I wouldn't do it any more.

September 16, 2008, 12:24 PM
I have some experience with this when I was a young fella... I'd rather not give details, but nobody was hurt and I was shocked that there were actually people on the side of that moutain in the middle of nowhere. Best not to shoot into water even if moving targets are awfully appealing.

Hey...... Hey.... Hey..... stop shooting.......

Yes, the safety recommendations are real. Don't shoot into water unless you are shooting at a very steep angle. Lots of ricochets otherwise. It is far easier to just NOT SHOOT AT ALL into water barring defense against an aggressive water moccasin or frisky snapping turtle.

Squirrel hunters need to be real careful with their backstops especially if the archery season overlaps. I have been hit a number of times with lead shot from a good distance away while tucked up in a tree. Is it starting to rain?

September 16, 2008, 12:36 PM
The only cartridge I have ever had skip on water has been a .22. I realized this first when I was shooting at a few turtles in my pond and the bullets started bouncing off the water and hitting the boat on the other side. Which is thankfully made of aluminum.

September 16, 2008, 01:34 PM
As an amusing side issue, some dumb folks have stange ideas of what ricochets over water will do.

I had a coffe shop argument years ago in which a co-worker stated that bullets actually pick up speed each time they ricochet over water. He had some others almost beleiving it until I asked, "Is it therefore true that such a bullet, even from a .22RF, will keep going and gaining speed until it hits the far shore over an ocean?"

Don't know if I convienced him but the laughter stopped the argument.

September 16, 2008, 02:06 PM
Me and one of my puddies were shooting at little range he built behide his house. Backstop made of creekrock he piled up:scrutiny:. It's a strage sinsation to hear a 9mil round go in between to people and hit the basketball goal 20 feet behind you. havent shot their since.

Owen Sparks
September 16, 2008, 03:24 PM
Bullets generally behave like a bank shot on a pool table. That is they tend to bounce off at about the same angle they hit. Shooting water anywhere close to 90 degrees (straight down) is perfectly safe but once the angle exceeds 45degrees or there about it becomes dangerous. The same is true with steel targets. If the bullets hit straight on they fragment harmlessly but a sharp enough angle can cause a dangerous ricochet. For example, if you were to hammer a falling steel target like a pepper popper, and your last shot happened to hit as the steel was falling back and had a good bit of angle on it, It could ramp the bullet skyward. I have seen this happen at a match where a bullet hit the top of the berm a good ten feet above the toppling steel target. A 200 grain chunk of lead does not have to be traveling very fast to hurt you.

Be carefull.


September 16, 2008, 03:56 PM
Bullets generally behave like a bank shot on a pool table. That is they tend to bounce off at about the same angle they hit.

Not sakalee tru.

When the outdoor pistol range I shot at was upgraded and major heavy 4'X8' X 3/4 inch steel plates were put in a cradle at a 45 degree angle we figured all was peachy.

About 8-12 moths later I shot a 45 into a target and watched the steel plate behind it slide out of its cradle and fall to the ground.

We went down range to investigate and what we saw was a shocker. The bullets were hitting the plates at a 45 degree angle but a large portion of them would not ricochet down, but slide down the plate to the bottom lip of the cradle. Over the months there was enough lead build up and force to lift the bottom of the plate up to the point it slid out of the cradle completely.

Inspection of the other target plates proved that some of the others were about to go also.

We then welded the plates to the cradle.

September 16, 2008, 04:02 PM
In WWI, machine gunners deliberately skipped bullets off of muddy ground across no-mans'-land. Water is no different.

Kind of like the whole business of jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge...you drop into water so if you can swim it is pretty much just splash right? Wrong. At high velocity (falling person downward, flying projectile horizontally) water is very hard stuff as it must be displaced and will not compress. A shallow angle will not displace enough water to sink the bullet so it has to skip off. A sharp angle will displace water and thus the bullet will sink.

Somebody out there will know their physics well enough to be able to calculate just what a bullet of a particular velocity, a specific weight, hitting water at just what angle, accounting for temperature and whatnot and predict with pretty decent certainty how the bullet will behave...sink or skip.

September 16, 2008, 04:09 PM
I have routinely seen tracer rounds from an M60/ 240B (.30 cal), and Ma Duece (.50 cal) depart the water skywards at a high angle of incidence.

Yup. Even the big boys will skip off the surface of a body of water at the wrong angle. Actually, water has this strange way of getting "harder" as the projectile velocity increases. It has to do with the fact that H2O does not compress like a gas would. There is no "give" besides waiting for the water molecules to move around the projectile. However, if the bullet is moving at mach 1 or 2, there is not enough time for the water to move. It is like hitting a solid surface. At even higher velocities, water can become harder than a diamond or a solid carbide block.

September 16, 2008, 04:10 PM
So...to cut to the chase, "Know your target, and what is beyond" goes in TRIPLICATE when shooting over water. Case Closed.

September 16, 2008, 06:07 PM
Bullets can seem to have a mind of their own. In addition to water, they have been known to skip off of tires, wood, grass, tiny tree limbs, even human skulls, just about anything at all.
There's a technique, supposedly used by some training schools, that skips a bullet straight down the side of a block wall.

Arrows can do some very funny things, too. At our club 3D matches, there's been many a lucky score from an arrow bank shot off the side of trees, right into the target. No complaint from the archer, of course.

September 16, 2008, 06:16 PM
On the arrow note....
I had a shot at standing bear target at about 55 yards, a long shot considering the fact I was about 14. It was a steep downhill target with a 45lb bow. Arrow glanced off the targets head :uhoh: from a steep angle. It was weird.

September 16, 2008, 06:28 PM
I used my air rifle on a creek behind a friends house.

Yes the pellet skipped, but it also moved in the direction of the rotation that the barrel rifling imparted.

my $.02

and it skipped 3-5 times

September 16, 2008, 07:39 PM
When i lived in the SF Bay Area, a woman was killed on a freeway by a bullet entering her car through the rear window. The shooter was offshore, plinking at cans. I can't find a link to the story, anyone else remember this?

September 16, 2008, 07:43 PM
"So...to cut to the chase, "Know your target, and what is beyond" goes in TRIPLICATE when shooting over water. Case Closed.

September 16, 2008, 07:51 PM
Bullets skipping on water

NY, Sheeps Head Bay. A guy in his boat was shooting at a sharks fin with his M1 Grand. Behind the shark approximately 1/8 mile away was the Belt Parkway that paralleled the bay. A young woman driving her car was struck in the head by one of the bullets killing her immediately. I believe her car went off the side of the road without causing other collisions. I'm not certain, but I believe this incident happened in the 1960's.

September 16, 2008, 08:00 PM
ive only done this once and it was with a shotgun. cotton mouth came up bang. little shot bounces all over the place. but when i was a little kid i had a bb gun and the first time i shot it the bb came right back and bounced off my fly. i have never felt luckier. it only hit the zipper NOTHING else. i never shot at a folgers can again

September 16, 2008, 08:16 PM
There's some reasons why people THINK bullets can pickup speed when skipping off water or any other surface.

1. when the bullet skips accross the water, the splashes become closer and closer together and there is less time between splashes. This creates the illustion of gaining speed.

2. When a bullet is bounced into a target, like a coyote or something, a bounced bullet does more damage than shooting straight into the animal. This can lead some people conclude that the bounced bullet picked up speed after the bounce.

3. occasionally you can hear a ricochet whine as it leaves the surface that deflected it. Some people will conclude that this is evidence of increased "power".

4. sometimes when an object in flight is following a high arced trajectory, and strikes a hard flat surface on the ground that is angled away from the direction of the projectile...it can change direction is such a way that will INCREASE it's horizontal component of it's velocity. This would appear to an onlooker as if the projectile gained speed. And in the horizontal direction, it did gain speed. But the absolute value of the velocity vector is not increased.

September 16, 2008, 08:46 PM
Just wondering, did your dad tell them it was him?

September 16, 2008, 09:20 PM
A common low level attack from our light attack bombers(WWII) was to cruise towards enemy shipping at 200 mph and 200 ft altitude with 500 lb GP bombs. When released they skipped across the surface and were deadly against japanese shipping. They were much faster than a torpedo and the typical bomber could carry several of them.

September 16, 2008, 10:45 PM
When I asked him if he 'fessed up, he mumbled something that sounded like "plausible deniability" and "Senator, I have no memory of that event",then he changed the subject. So I'm guessing he didn't, or maybe he thought there might have been a second shooter out there, maybe on the grassy knoll.:D

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