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Bullets are falling from the sky.

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Dumper, Jul 3, 2006.

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  1. Dumper

    Dumper Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Anyone ever heard of a person that got hit with a bullet that came from someone who just shot one into the air? Just out of curiousity how bad is the impact when it falls from the sky compared to getting hit right then and there?
  2. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    Jan 3, 2003
    0 hrs east of TN
    Long discussion over at General several weeks ago after the guys at Mythbusters did a bit on it. http://thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=196026&highlight=mythbusters

    Of course Hatcher did the work back at the beginning of the 20th C and found no wounds that would render a soldier combat ineffective from guns fired vertically. Only when the returning bullet held an energy component in the horizontal was significant wounding potential retained.
  3. Cacique500

    Cacique500 Member

    Aug 4, 2003
    I thought we had a thread here a couple of months ago about a woman at a wedding in Texas...somebody about a mile away had fired into the air and the round came down through the church roof and struck her in the hand...
  4. oneshooter

    oneshooter Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    TEXAS, by God
    Several years ago on the morning of 5 July I found a 9mm bullet on my front porch. Exept for the rifling marks it could have been new! Still got it in my gun room.

    Livin in Texas
  5. Bruce333

    Bruce333 Member

    Aug 22, 2005
    Smithfield NC
    Years ago I was standing next to a friend of mine in a field (flying radio control airplanes) when we heard a strange sound (buzzing noise) and he suddenly staggered backwards a step and grabbed his left shoulder. "Something just hit me!" rubbing his shoulder and looking on the ground, we found a bent rifle bullet. It had hit him hard enough to break the skin and he had a nice bruise the next day. From the direction he had been facing we think it came from the Mountains about 5 miles away (3000 feet at the summits) we never did decide for sure where it came from.
  6. Oldtimer

    Oldtimer Member

    Oct 5, 2005
    From ACTUAL investigations that I made, as a LEO, there were two that were fairly interesting. Both originated as "shots fired" radio calls.

    The first was a passenger vehicle that was hit by a randomly-fired bullet. The projectile pierced the windshield, struck the knee of a young girl that was seated in the right/front, then bounced onto the lap of the driver. The projectile was disfigured, but still fairly intact, and looked like it was possibly a .45 caliber size. Neither the driver or the victim had heard any gunshots prior to the incident, and from the angle that the projectile hit, it appeared to be an almost straight downward flight. The young girl sustained a bruise, but that was the extent of it.

    The second incident was a projectile that penetrated through the front window of a residence, struck some closed aluminum blinds, then a cloth curtain and rolled onto the carpetted floor. I had a bit of a problem when I arrived, for the residents of that home thought that they had been "targetted" for a drive-by shooting....and they thought that it had racial motivation. The residents (husband and wife) were black, and their home was in a predominantly white neighborhood.

    The penetration point (standard window glass) of the projectile was a full 8" above the impact point that was CLEARLY visible on the thin aluminum pieces of the retractable blinds. The impact against the aluminum blinds actually caused the
    movement of the cloth curtains, and the projectile merely bounced onto the carpet, without any further damage.

    I showed that couple the angle of the downward flight of the projectile, and explained that it COULDN'T have been fired from a nearby passing vehicle. Neither of them had heard any shots fired before the incident, so I "guess-timated" that it could have been more than a half mile away. The husband understood, but his wife was adamant that it had been "racially motivated". The projectile was slightly disfigured, and I guessed that it was either a 9mm or .38 caliber bullet.

    On a clear, bright and really nice day, my partner and I made a traffic stop, and while I was standing on the sidewalk, guarding while my partner went about talking with the violator, I heard a dull thud directly in front of me on the concrete sidewalk. A bullet had fallen from the sky! No shots had been heard. I picked up the flattened lead bullet and put it in my pocket for looking at a bit closer later on. It must have fallen in a straight-away downward path, for it barely even bounced after striking the concrete.

    As I recall, there were at least 2 deaths that were attributed to Saddam Hussein "randomly" firing one of his rifles into the air during one of his speeches. Remember, every year during the Muslim "Hadj", when the throngs of Muslims throw rocks at their "devil" monument, some of those rocks actually cause fatalities! Anything that goes UP must come DOWN!
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2006
  7. CNYCacher

    CNYCacher Member

    Apr 29, 2006
    Auburn, NY

    The bullet, having come to a stop momentarily at the peak of it's flight, will accelerate downward towards the earth. If earth had no atmosphere, the bullet would hit the ground as hard as if you had shot it straight down, but air resistance plays a huge part in this case, causing the falling bullet to stop accelerating when the pull of gravity is matched by the air resistance or "drag".
    Since drag increases with air speed, and gravity is always a constant, the falling bullet will eventually reach a speed where the drag cancels out the gravitational pull, and it will remain at that speed until it impacts the ground. That speed is different for all objects, and is known as the terminal velocity for that object. Just guessing, I expect it to be in the ballpark of a couple hundred FPS, depending on size.
  8. Azrael256

    Azrael256 Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    I have slept since my last physics class, so take this with a grain of salt...

    IIRC, terminal velocity is governed by the surface area available to create drag. The terminal velocity of a falling penny (if I remember that Mythbusters episode correctly) is only ~65mph. A penny at that speed might not be too destructive, but add in some additonal mass from a larger bullet and I could see it carrying enough energy to do some minor damage. Of course, the actual terminal velocity and mass will be determined by just what bullet you're shooting. Since humans are mostly soft and squidgy, I could see a falling bullet causing serious injury if it hit in just the right spot.

    I remember reading a story a couple of years ago about a very young child being killed by a falling bullet. A force that might cause a minor injury to an adult can easily kill an infant, be it a falling bullet or tripping off the front porch, so it sounds perfectly plausible.

    As for Saddam shooting into the air... If you get that many people packed into a tight space and shoot off an AK mag into the air on a regular basis, you're bound to hit somebody. It might be a neat (albeit rather morbid) statistic to figure up.
  9. rangerruck

    rangerruck Member

    Jan 12, 2006
    Texas, baby!
    i don't remember where the charts are, but most bullets, as they tumble and twist and fall, fall at about 300 to 400 fps. is is only when they fall a little bit horizontal, say past 85 degrees, that they keep their twist rate going, is when they start to ge dangerous.
  10. LoneCoon

    LoneCoon Member

    Apr 24, 2006
    Mythbusters did this not too long ago.

    They discovered that bullets will keep their trajectory unless they are fired STRAIGHT up. When they are fired straight up (90 degrees) they simply fall back to earth at terminal velocity.
  11. ceetee

    ceetee Member

    Sep 7, 2003
    From today's Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel:

    Stray bullets injure Margate woman, pierce through 2 homes during holiday

    By Brian Haas
    South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    Posted July 5 2006, 7:34 PM EDT

    One bullet fell through a woman's kitchen, moments after she left the room. Another plummeted through a roof, 2 feet from a woman's head A third tore into Becky Wursten's shoulder as she watched Fourth of July fireworks in her neighbor's backyard.

    There were at least three reports Tuesday night in Broward County of stray bullets falling during fireworks celebrations.

    Such celebratory gunfire is common in large cities across the nation, especially during New Year's festivities. On Dec. 31, two people were injured by falling bullets during Delray Beach's First Night/New Year's celebrations. That same day, a 22-year-old man in Orlando man was fatally wounded by a falling bullet. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a bullet fired into the air falls at a rate of 200 feet per second or greater -- fast enough to easily pierce a human skull.

    Wursten was only a few inches away from that scenario Tuesday. She, her husband, Sun-Sentinel.com project manager Bryan Wursten, and their four children walked around their Margate neighborhood, watching fireworks displays. About 9 p.m., she settled into a lounge chair in her neighbor's backyard, she said.

    A half-hour later, she was shot."All of a sudden, there was excruciating pain near my shoulder," said Becky Wursten, 31. "We just assumed it was fireworks - until the X-ray said otherwise."

    The X-ray revealed a bullet, embedded 2 inches in her shoulder.

    A few blocks away, also at about 9:30 p.m., Sandra Tejada was entertaining guests in her Margate home. She had just finished putting some dishes away when they heard a loud bang in the kitchen.

    They thought it was a firecracker exploding, until they saw a bullet on the floor and a hole in the ceiling, she said. "It's a good thing I wasn't there," Tejada said.

    A few miles away in Pompano Beach, also around the same time, Fred and Denise Krause thought the huge bang that startled them from their episode of NCIS was a firecracker. Then they found a bullet on their family room floor."We looked up and saw a hole in the roof about the size of a half-dollar," Denise Krause said. "My husband was about 6 or 7 feet away and I was 2 feet away."

    Margate police and the Broward Sheriff's Office are investigating the three incidents, and no arrests have been made.

    Discharging a firearm in public is a first-degree misdemeanor. If someone is hurt or killed, the penalties are harsher.

    All three families were grateful no one was killed. The two roofs were patched and Becky Wursten is scheduled to have the bullet removed today. All three expressed anger that people would be careless enough to fire shots in the air.

    "It's really sad that it's come to this," said Denise Krause. "It's great that we can celebrate our freedom and our independence, but there's no reason to be shooting off guns."

    Brian Haas can be reached at bhaas@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4597.
  12. offthepaper

    offthepaper Member

    Dec 5, 2005
    In Baltimore, I believe it was about 4-5 years ago a woman in the downtown area was killed on New Years Eve during the local tradition(?) of the 50-cent worshippers of emptying out the previous years (days, hours, or whatever) old lead. With all the bangers downtown, and you get them all blowin lead together at the stroke of midnight, that's a lot of lead flying. :uhoh: I know some guys who work on a downtown roofing crew and he tells me that if you go onto a fair sized roof in downtown, finding bullits lying around is quite common.
  13. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    The end of the road between Sodom and Gomorrah Tex
    Well, I slept DURING my physics classes.
  14. armabill

    armabill Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    Glenolden, Pa.
    Don't these people ever hear of blanks?
  15. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    DFW Area
    Mythbusters never found any falling rifle bullets so they were unable to verify their terminal velocity tests for rifle bullets.

    Their terminal velocity tests assumed that the bullet was tumbling which proved to be true in the case of the pistol bullets they tested. However, Hatcher's tests showed that rifle bullets can remain stabilized and strike base first.

    If they do remain stabilized, they are MUCH more aerodynamic than a tumbling bullet and would therefore reach a much higher terminal velocity. That would make Mythbusters' laboratory testing with their estimated terminal velocity for rifle bullets badly in error.

    Hatcher's tests showed the bullets returning to earth between 300 and 400fps. That's not very fast, but a 150gr .30 cal bullet moving at 300 to 400 fps is certainly not something I'd stand in front of. Given that there have been many people killed by airguns shooting 6gr BBs at around 500 fps, I have no problem believing that rifle bullets are dangerous even if falling straight down.

    If there is a remnant of trajectory (bullet not fired exactly straight up) then the bullet retains some horizontal velocity in additional to the terminal velocity. It would also tend to strike nose first making it much more aerodynamic than a tumbling bullet and a good bit more aerodynamic than a base-first bullet. I think that everyone agrees that descending bullets are certainly lethal in this scenario.
  16. Cesiumsponge

    Cesiumsponge Member

    Nov 6, 2004
    Rifle-based ammunition will fall tail-first or tumble since the center of gravity is closer to the rear than front. That effect can be seen when the ammo hits soft targets like gelatin or flesh and the bullet will work to turn itself 180 degrees while travelling through the medium. The tail-end isn't quite as aerodynamic and it'll reduce it's overall velocity.

    Quite simply, the most basic equation for calculating kinetic energy is Ek=1/2mv^2, where:
    Ek = kinetic energy
    m = mass
    v =velocity.

    It varies depending on what you need/want to substitute. Calculating for a situation involving freefall with gravity is more complex as it is a function of g-constant and different variables which could be height, time, etc (depending on your knowns/unknowns). There are some very basic, but powerful and simple algebraic formulas/relations which can be manipulated and mixed around to solve for any series of unknowns with reasonable accuracy (ignoring things like counteractive frictional forces with respect to gravity of a free falling object).

    Since someone conveniently listed what I assume to be empiracal data collected from some real world tests, a figure of 300-400fps impact velocity using a 150gr object would result in simple mass and velocity, and can be plugged into the most basic form and it gives us (using a 350fps as an in-between extreme between the velocity range) 40.81 ft-lbs of energy.

    That 150gr .30 cal clocked at 350fps when hitting the ground will have exactly 40.81ft-lbs of energy. The 300-400fps figure seems like a reasonable ballpark terminal velocity.

    Falling small-arms fire aren't guaranteed manslaughtering death-from-above like stated in wartime stories and urban legend because small arms munitions are pretty light and their terminal velocities aren't usually extreme, but there always exists the possibility of getting killed by a falling -just about anything- that can fit in the palm of your hand it it falls and strikes "just right".

    It isn't guaranteed to kill you, but it isn't guaranteed not to kill you either so you best avoid the entire situation and err on the side of caution. The 40.81ft-lb is not a lot of energy when compared to firearms or many other everyday encounters, but it is a sizable amount concentrated over a small cross section like the rear end of a bullet striking a noggin or any other part of your body. If you've ever been shot by a paintball before (300fps max velocity by most paintball field rules, maximum paintball mass of 3.5g by ASTM F1979-99), that is equivalent to 10.79ft-lb. which is four times less energy than that 150gr bullet @350fps dropping on you. Another comparison is dropping a 3lb brick on your toe which would be about a yard up if you were carrying it; the energy involved is 48.2ft-lb.

    Mythbusters is fun to watch, but it's merely entertainment. They throw in the scientific method here and there but its not always scientific and correct. I've seen plenty of mistakes in procedures, conclusions, or information provided. However, you're guaranteed explosions in the tests (or if they don't work, they'll make it explode) :D
  17. johnster999

    johnster999 Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    Spring air BB guns get just about 300fps with their tiny steel projectile and it's quite painful to get hit with. Seems like a 150 grain projectile at the same or slightly higher velocity could certainly be lethal.

    Somebody load us up a .30 cal "cat sneeze" type load at around 350 fps and let's see what it can do to a ham wrapped in denim!

  18. starfuryzeta

    starfuryzeta Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    FL, USA
    This just happened here in Jacksonville.


  19. Jim K

    Jim K Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    When arguing about this issue, remember that EVERY bullet fired is "falling" from the time it leaves the muzzle. So even at point blank range, the bullet is "falling." The term needs to be defined before discussion starts.

  20. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    DFW Area
    A typical "Daisy style" spring air BB gun shoots about 280fps when new. If it is not maintained properly, or badly worn, that number will drop.

    A BB weighs about 5.5grains, so the energy would be a bit less than 1 foot-pound.

    For comparison, the energy number for a 150grain rifle bullet going 350fps is just under 41 foot-pounds.
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