Suicide with a .38


January 21, 2004, 02:12 PM
I have an accaintance who had a family member try to end her life with a .38 revolver. She is still seriously messed up, in the hospital. However, she failed in her her ultimate goal. Makes you think about priorities.

The bullet didn't lodge in her skull but fell out on the operatiing room table. She hit herself on the right side and likely will be paralyzed somewhat on her left side. Seems to me life is hard enough as it is.

My question is this, does a .38 not have enough Uumph to kill oneself with? I have heard about them bouncing off of car windows when LEO's used them in certain cases. Perhaps it was the trajectory. I'm guessing she really didn't take the time to do it right, whatever that means. I remember a couple of years back when a teacher in FLA got shot with a .32 and was gone before he hit the floor. All I know is that I wouldn't want to get hit with a .22.

My prayers are with her and her family. What a terrrible thing for all involved.

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January 21, 2004, 02:14 PM
sorry to hear that, I'll keep her in my prayers

Ukraine Train
January 21, 2004, 02:21 PM
Sorry to hear this.

It was probably a poorly placed shot.

January 21, 2004, 02:25 PM
Very tragic. I, too, will keep her in my prayers.

To answer your other question, it all depends on a lot of factors.

All of the following, along with everything else I am leaving out, could determine if a shot with a .38 or a .22 is lethal or not.

Shot placement
Shot angle
Shot distance
Relative speeds of target and firearm
powder charge
powder age
moisture in the powder
powder settled or not in the casing
temperature of the casing and the powder
length of barrel
weight of projectile
projectile profile
health of victim
density of victim's bones

and the list could go on almost forever.

In short, there is no definite answer.

With all the factors pointing the right way, one could easily kill oneself with a single shot from a BB gun.

On the other hand, one could also easily miss an attempted suicide with a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with slugs and only horribly maim and cripple oneself.


January 21, 2004, 02:26 PM
Very sorry to hear about this. To answer your question, a long time friend of mine took his own life with a .38 about 8-9 years ago. Tragically, yes- it can be done.

January 21, 2004, 02:37 PM
It all has to do with just where the bullet goes. A .22 CB short against the back of the skull into the medulla will kill you dead as a wedge. A .45 ACP, 230grn Hydra-Shok that misses anything important won't. Recently, an Albuquerque Cop was shot in the head with her own gun, with just the .45 round mentioned above. She lived, and after a good stay in the hospital, walked out under her own power and spoke at a press conferance. There are legions of documented cases of people having some amazing things rammed through their heads and surviving. I'm sure that any trauma room or EMS folks here can tell you some real horror stories of failed suicide attempts.

Ala Dan
January 21, 2004, 02:44 PM
Like the other's, I'm sorry to learn of this horriffic event.
Recently I witnessed a 15 year old w/f being rushed by
ambulance to my local hospitals ER with a self-inflicted
.38 caliber handgun shot that entered her head, just
above the right ear. She was quickly pronounced DOA,
by the ER physician.

In investigating the matter, a local sheriff's deputy told
me that her reason behind this terrible act, was because
she was grounded by her parent's for driving her big
brothers car. What a senseless act! I can't speculate
whether or not drugs were involved?

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

Marko Kloos
January 21, 2004, 02:46 PM
I remember a couple of years back when a teacher in FLA got shot with a .32 and was gone before he hit the floor.

The teacher was Barry Grunow, the shooter was Nathaniel Brazill, and the gun was a .25ACP. Grunow was dead on the spot.

Any bullet can kill you, if it intersects something vital.

January 21, 2004, 02:47 PM
Even a shotgun will not be 100% fatal in Suicide. IMO a gun is poor choice if you really want a permenent solution to temp problem.

January 21, 2004, 03:50 PM
There are so many things that can play into this... Two stories, both second hand but from very credible sources, show this difference.

Several years back, a sherrifs department was responding to a situation where a guy had snapped and was threatening his wife with an SKS. She finally got away and notified police. She told them he was armed with the SKS. The finally moved in. The eventually knew he was in a bedroom closet. One officer shot around the corner hitting the guy right in the head with a 9mm FMJ bullet. Not sure of the gun, but it was a duty weapon. Probably Glock, Sig or S&W. It literally bounced off his head leaving very little blood visible. Knocked him completely out but not killing him.

Another story is a friend of the family decided to take his own life after surmounting family problems. He evidently did his research. He laid all the insurance papers, merriage license etc out on the bed and shot himself with a little 22 pistol. Back of the head off to the right towards the ear. No exit wound but he was very dead when they found him...

So... if you had to do it, would you rather use a 22 or a 9mm? Personally, I think a 12 gauge is the only way to go. ;)

Mike Irwin
January 21, 2004, 03:57 PM
There have been people who have survived penetrating hits to the head with rifle bullets, with only moderate to no real impairment.

Others have survived arrows, nails, iron bars, etc., with the same story.

The human creature can be very tough to kill.

January 21, 2004, 04:06 PM
Sorry to hear the bad news.

I for one would never ever attempt suicide. There is nothing in this life that would be so bad as to take my own life for it.

Jim March
January 21, 2004, 04:20 PM
I'm with Lennyjoe, with the exception of certain very fatal illnesses when all medical hope is lost. I think there can be, in some rare cases, a sane time to "check out" (end stage AIDS or something at that level of nasty).

Even then, care should be taken with regards the feelings of family/friends. At a minimum, they should know afterwards that this wasn't about any "failures" on their part, rather an informed medical decision.

Those sorts of suicides are quite rare. Most are "momentary stupidity", drugs/alky or depression, and leave everyone they know simply flattened.

January 21, 2004, 04:29 PM
Others have survived arrows, nails, iron bars, etc., with the same story.

Reminds me of that guy from back in the 1800's that survived having a tamping rod blown though his head when the dynamite he was using said rod on went off. and a model of who's (or maybe even the real then, but then the bones would have started to heal) skull is now in display (WITH a section of the same diameter rod through the various "holes") in some well known museum here in the US.

seem to remember that it entered through like the right cheek, passed behind his right eye, through portions of his frontal lobe and exited top left, and i THINK went clear through (as in the whole length of the rod went through his head adn out the other side).

this man went on (after recovery) to at least for a time make money on a public speaking tour, b/c "his survival was a miricle". walking, talking etc etc, no problem. though many who knew him before and after said that the injury had changed him considerably (made meaner i think, which would i beleive be consistent with frontal lobe damage)

Phil Ca
January 21, 2004, 04:36 PM
Sorry to hear about your aquaintence. She must have really felt desperate to attempt somthing like that.

A good many years ago a doctor was attending a medical convention in SF. He went to the Tenderloin area downtown in the evening and someone tried to rob him. He was shot 5 times in the head with a .25 ACP pistol. The doctor walked into an ER complaining of a "terrible" head ache. The doctors on call discovered thet all 5 bullets were just inside his scalp, a couple of them having moved around between the skull and his scalp.

On the other hand a friend in the PD where I was a reserve on the SF Peninsula committed suicide over the breakup of his family. He drove to GG park to a soccor field and shot himself once with his duty revolver.

George Hill
January 21, 2004, 04:41 PM
Hesitation marks made by suicide attempts with a handgun are much more affecting than hesitation marks left by knife or hammer or other tools. Just before the trigger broke... she changed her mind.

Travis McGee
January 21, 2004, 04:54 PM
Very, very sad. I hope sincerely she gets the help she needs....

Cops see lots of successful and "failed" gun shot suicide attempts. That's why cops "swallow their gun." You won't slip or flinch and graze your skull, if it's in your mouth when you pull the trigger.

Terrible subject.

An Ensign at SEAL Team 2 killed himself in his BOQ room in the late 70s with a .22 pistol. It was evident from the crime scene photos that he had changed his mind after shooting himself. Blood all over his room and bathroom, towels and pillows used to stanch the flow. It took quite a while to die, from the evidence, and it was not fun for him.

God Bless you Ensign P____y, wherever you are.

Mike Irwin
January 21, 2004, 05:04 PM
"There is nothing in this life that would be so bad as to take my own life for it."

Never say never. You don't know what life has in store for you.

January 21, 2004, 05:12 PM
Thanks all. I think George probably hit it. She probably didn't really mean to do it at the last second. She's responding with hand signals now but unable to speak. I too hope she comes out of it physically and mentally. The physical part is only half the battle at this point.

When I heard about her doing this, my problems seemed pretty insignificant.

January 21, 2004, 06:08 PM
What a terrible story. I would have to say it is worst to be cripple from a failed suicide than life before.

A guy around here killed himself a few years ago in an apartment my cousin owned. He swallowed the end of his 30-06 hunting rifle and pulled the trigger. Highly successful. There was nothing left to his head but a jaw bone. Every inch of the bedroom had some kind of blood or brain matter. :barf:

January 21, 2004, 06:30 PM
Sorry to hear about it, a survivor of an attempted suicide by firearm is unusual. She was almost a stat that the antis would try to use against us. glad she was not successful.

My father was the director of safety and security for a local public hosptal. I woman came in with facial trauma. She had attempted suicide with a .32 revovler, but she was at too steep an angle when she was aiming for her forehead. The shot was angled up and skidded off the front of the skull. Her forehead and eyes were badly bruised, she came in the day after seeking medical help. It hurt so much that she didn't want to try it again.

January 21, 2004, 06:53 PM
What? No free choice advocates? Can't a woman do what she wants with her own body?

January 21, 2004, 07:06 PM
My question is this, does a .38 not have enough Uumph to kill oneself with?

Sure. Depends on shot placement. Most effective on soft tissue. I knew a guy with a 38 caliber scar over a rib bone. He suffered no serious injury. If that had been a half inch lower he'd probably have died.

It takes thousands of psi to penetrate a skull.

January 21, 2004, 07:15 PM
That's rough.

I heard of a lady who used a shotgun but didn't aim well and took out the side of her head. Now she's very much deformed and is paralyzed on one side. Can't imagine how hard she has it now. Maybe for some of us our basic survival instincts kick in at the last second. Sorry to hear about the girl.

January 21, 2004, 07:24 PM
My Aunt committed suicide in 1977 with a Charter Arms Undercover, 38 cal. She fired one shot to the right side of her head and almost blew the top off. It was loaded with SJHP's I had given her. I spoke to the funeral director, and he said short of a 12ga shotgun wound My Aunt's was the most destructive he'd ever seen. I don't think any sane person committs suicide. A permanent solution to a temporary problem.

January 21, 2004, 07:44 PM
A .38? Oh yeah! I've seen um done with less. (And a lot more) Personal decisions that effect the lives of others somtimes have to be made. A terminaly ill person or a cop about to go to prison????? Just be sure to use an adequate weapon. Saw one where a man put his 22 NAA in the roof of his mouth and let her go. The bullet stoppen in his sinuses, they filled with blood and he drowned. Sorry about your friend.

January 21, 2004, 08:42 PM
I heard and verified the story of an individual who decided that he would buy a gun and end it all.

He went to a local gun shop, tried to buy a gun, but got denied because he was a convicted felon.

He went home and thought long and hard about killing himself by other means. He decided not to do the deed.

A few weeks later, he was indicted and convicted for attempting to purchase a firearm after a felony conviction. :D

January 21, 2004, 08:54 PM
Unfortunately, I have seen many suicide gestures, suicide attempts and successful suicides.
In many cases the human body is very strong and can withstand a lot of punishment. However it is also amazing how what appears to be a very small amount of force, applied in exactly the right spot will instantly kill someone.

Sadly, this case further reminds us of something we have been told countless times and probably even said ourselves. Shot placement is the key. Caliber is secondary.

January 21, 2004, 09:00 PM
I am personnaly aware of a failed attempt with a .30-'06 to the head. Poor young lady put the muzzle under her chin, and removed her face. Ghastly, but not fatal. And she thought she had problems before that attempt!

Chuck Jennings
January 21, 2004, 10:00 PM
In many cases the human body is very strong and can withstand a lot of punishment. However it is also amazing how what appears to be a very small amount of force, applied in exactly the right spot will instantly kill someone.

It is so amazing how the human body can be so rugged, and so fragile at the same time. :(

My father tried to commit suicide with a .22 s&w revolver after he lost his job. Years ago, he had worked in his family business, a funeral home, and had seen many gruesome things. He used such a small caliber because he didn’t want my mother or whoever to see a big mess. Fortunately, there was no damage whatsoever.

In addition to it being a very traumatic experience for my family, it turned most of the members of my immediate family into antis. No one touches guns in my family anymore except for me and one of my sisters. (She is in the Military) My grandmother practically gave away all of my late grandfather’s gun collection, (Valued at over $500,000 20 years ago) and my mother voluntarily turned in all of their guns to the police to be destroyed. For many generations in my family, learning to shoot and hunt were rites of passage for the girls and guys. Now, I have to keep one of my favorite things in the world from my family.

January 21, 2004, 10:23 PM
Reminds me of that guy from back in the 1800's that survived having a tamping rod blown though his head...
That was a railroad worker named Phineas Gage.


January 21, 2004, 11:46 PM
Reminds me of an episode of M*A*S*H where a GI kept trying to kill himself. Finally Col. Potter turned up the gas on a mask and said, "so you want to die? I'll help you" he crammed the mask over the guys face and the guy started fighting him.
The colonel then said, "you're fighting me because you want to live! Keep fighting son" and walked away.

I found a woman who shot herself with a .25 she had shot herself in the temple and judging by the amount of foamed up blood that came out of her nose, she had shot her sinus cavity and took a long time to die.

I have had some training in talking to suicidal people. One of the things they told us to do is to make their death real to them, such as ask, "what would you like done with the body?" "Would you like to be embalmed?" a couple of months later I found myself talking to a woman who was about to jump from a 4th floor window, I told her that the ground was soft and she would likely remain concuss until she bled out from internal bleeding and if she did live to become a vegetable, did she have a preference in nursing homes? How are you planing on landing? What funeral home? Have you picked out a casket? Why don’t you come in and we will get you some help? She changed her mind about jumping.

January 22, 2004, 12:03 AM
In Colorado, the mother of one of the Columbine HS victims walked into a local pawn shop and asked to see a .38 Special revolver. Unbeknownst to the staff, she had brought two live rounds in her pocket. She dropped both rounds into the cylinder, put the gun to her head, and pulled the trigger.

She flinched the first shot and put a hole in the wall. Sadly, her trigger control was much better on the second shot.

One particularly horrifying story from the EMTs involved a suicidial individual who put a shotgun to his head at the wrong angle. He had to locate the shotgun, sans face, in order to put himself out of his misery.

January 22, 2004, 12:08 AM
Sorry to hear this.
I saw a guy who had blown his underarm off with a shotgun - he had just sat there leaning on the barrel n tapping the trigger thinking bout doing it n not really planning to go through with it.
On a 'lighter' note......
One guy decided to kill himself n tried to think of a way to absolutely assure himself of the desired result. He took a gun, a rope, n a can of gas n went to the local lake. Got in a boat, found an overhanging tree branch, tied off the rope, tightened it round his neck, douced himself with gasoline, put himself on fire, n quickly put the gun to his head to pull the trigger. At that point, the fire caused him to lose his ballance n he ended up aiming high, shooting through the rope, falling in the water n thus estinguishing the fire. He took that as a sign n decided to live.

January 22, 2004, 12:37 AM
After looking at this website and some others, I think it has a lot to do with shot placement. Depending on what part of the brain is struck with the bullet, you may or may not die instantly. Take a look -GRAPHIC-:

Sorry to hear about it none the less.

January 22, 2004, 12:51 AM
A horrific subject.

I don't believe any caliber is going to be effective all the time, particularly with the flinch factor. I think that a number of the 'son of sam' victims survived headshots with a .44

I know of a fellow who survived two attempts with a either a .38 or a 9mm, under the chin and temple to temple. Blinded and without much of a face left, but survived.

I'd be willing to bet that the Japanese method (leaping from the top of a building) has a much higher success rate.

January 22, 2004, 01:17 AM
Did anyone mention ammo choice? Where they target or self defense loads, HP, or FMJ? Just a rhetorical question regarding the outcome, I am not actually looking for an answer.

This is tragic, I know some people who have lost family members to suicide. I strongly support people's rights to do what they want with their life and body, including ending it, but it is still sad when people make that choice.

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