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physics of a falling bullet

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by faustulus, Jan 1, 2003.

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  1. faustulus

    faustulus Member

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    Every year there is speculation about people shooting into the air and the bullets falling to earth and killing someone. I really have a problem with this. The physics don't seem to match, I realize a baby or something but it is the equivilent to dropping a quarter off the empire state building. There comes a point where the bullet reaches terminal velocity and I don't think it contains enough energy to kill. Say a 200 grain bullet at 9.8m/s2.
     
  2. Redlg155

    Redlg155 Member

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    A bullet fired straight up? No.

    A bullet fired at a 45 degree angle? I would think Yes.

    An arrow with a broadhead? Definitely Yes.

    Good Shooting
    Red
     
  3. Shawn Dodson

    Shawn Dodson Member

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    In the Bay Area during the early '90s, a woman was hit in the leg by a .30 caliber bullet, fired either during New Year's or 4th of July, I can't remember which.

    Anyhow, a few miles away, in a different jurisdiction, someone calls police on a guy who's shooting his 30-30 into the air. Police catch the guy, and after they hear about the woman's injury, they match the bullet to the guy's rifle.

    I reckon most people don't shoot their guns exactly straight up into the air.

    I remember standing out on my front porch in Sunnyvale, CA on New Year's 1992, hearing handgun bullets whizzing/buzzing past me as they traveled down my street, fired into the air by someone up the block. I immediately went back inside.
     
  4. Drjones

    Drjones member

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    Actually, there have been several people killed in Greece by falling bullets.

    Us crazy Greeks have a penchant for shooting guns into the air, you see...:rolleyes:

    I am quite sure that a quarter dropped off the Empire State bldg. would have far more than just "enough" speed to kill and more...
     
  5. New_comer

    New_comer Member

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    We now have two dead caused by a bullet which fell on their heads at last night's celebrations. :(

    Free-falling parachutists reach about 125 MPH of terminal speed. It's not hard to believe that a slug could attain much a faster speed due to its smaller cross section and heavier density.

    I've seen a news report sometime ago about a 45 slug piercing a galvanized iron roofing, the quarter inch plywood ceiling, finally embedding itself in a half-inch cabinet plyboard.

    It definitely has enough oomph to pierce an adult human's skull... :(
     
  6. Drjones

    Drjones member

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    Agreed newcomer. Thank you!

    Man, honestly, WHAT are your chances of getting hit by a falling bullet? You must have the WORST luck imaginable!!! :(

    I heard that even a penny dropped from the top of the Empire state or like building has huge destructive potential. Anyone know for certain?
     
  7. RKCheung

    RKCheung Member

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    Funny that this topic came up, I just looked this up yesterday.

    Coins that are thrown off the Empire State Building supposedly get picked up by the updraft around the building and get pushed to a nearby ledge.

    Let me look for the link...

    Here it is: Empire State Building

    Due to the shape of the building, when wind blows against it, it is driven up, creating "updrafts" -- if coins are tossed from the top, the wind blows them against the building and they drop on one of the setback roofs -- usually coins from 86 drop to 80 and when the electricians are changing the color gels they collect the loose change. Coins and other objects do not make it to the street; roofs of cars and buses are not crushed, people are not killed and holes are not made in the streets and sidewalks. Perhaps when it is very windy these objects are carried off to New Jersey or into the river.
     
  8. Bruz

    Bruz Member

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    It's true, saw it on a movie, "The Mexican", with Brad Pitt. :scrutiny:
     
  9. waterdog

    waterdog Member

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    We have a new law (Shannons Law)against firing guns into the air here in AZ, it's a felony.

    This teenage girl was in her backyard in the middle of Phx, when she was struck in the head by a falling bullet.

    If you have an ND, and the projo travels in an upward direction, you have commited a felony.

    Pretty stupid law, if you ask me.

    waterdog
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2003
  10. Drjones

    Drjones member

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    RK: Thanks! I didn't know that! Cool!

    Let's assume there is no wind, and the coin IS able to fall straight down...what then?
     
  11. 45R

    45R Member

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    There are several rules of gun safety. This was obtained on Glocks website though there are variations of the rules the basics remain the same.


    1) Handle all firearms as if they were loaded!

    2) Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction!

    3) Keep your finger out of the gun's trigger guard and off the trigger until you have aligned the guns sights on a safe target and you have made the decision to fire!

    4) Always be certain that your target and the surrounding area are safe before firing!

    Remember that a bullet can travel as much as several miles, so you should be certain of what your bullet could strike before you pull the trigger. Never fire at a movement, a noise, a flash of color or a rustling bush without positively identifying your intended target.


    Firing a gun in the air would be a breach of rule 4. Shooting your gun into the air is not considered proper gun safety. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KILLED FROM STRAY BULLETS FIRED INTO THE AIR. Felony, Stupid Law or not, the fact of the matter is that we have to have rules and regulations to prevent incompentant acts such as the ones mentioned above. Gun owners are responsible for every bullet that leaves the barrel.

    Respectfully

    45R
     
  12. nemesis

    nemesis Member

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    Actually, it depends on body position. You can actually hit over 200 mph in a head down dive. Make sure you flare well ahead of deployment or it can hurt.

    A couple of years back, on New Years Eve; a bullet came down through the roof of a mobile home, hit a young girl in the head and killed her.

    That isn't a theory.
     
  13. Deadhand

    Deadhand Member

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    During the mid Eighties, in Bakersfield, California, a guy in the South end of town returned from a deer hunting trip. While unloading his truck, he somehow discharged his .270 into the air. He was horrified to learn the following day that a groundskeeper at a cemetary in the North end of town had been shot and killed by "a stray shot". The gardener was sitting on a curb eating his lunch when the round hit him in the head. The shooter was prosecuted for the negligent homicide, but received a light judgement. The following lawsuit was not so lenient, however.
     
  14. cratz2

    cratz2 Member

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    Yeah... keep in mind that 9.8m/s/s is the acceleration not the terminal velocity. Have you ever been hit by a decent-sized piece of hail? I have - and it hurts. Imagine that but instead of being tearshaped and hitting with the round or un-pointy end, hitting you with a sharp end of a spitzer bullet.

    Have a friend thats a bit of an anti ever since one fourth of July, he went out to discover that a rifle bullet had fallen down into his car, through the roof and into the passenger seat.
     
  15. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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    Fast,

    Everything depends on the angle at which the bullet is fired.
     
  16. Robby from Long Island

    Robby from Long Island Member

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    I worked in Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs for 35 years and never heard about, read about or saw on TV a story relating to anyone being injured or killed from coins or small objects being thrown or dropped from tall buildings.

    While it's true that the Empire State Building has ledges on some of its levels and anything dropped over the side from the top observation level will be blown back to some levels below, if a person were so inclined to with all their strength hurl a quarter over the side it would definitely go all the way to the ground.

    I was working on the 16th floor of the north tower of the WTC when it was hit and saw many solid objects both small and large sailing by the windows and don't feel if anything as small as a coin or bullet falling straight down had enough velocity to kill anyone underneath. I think any solid object from the 80th or above floor by the time it reached the 16th had already achieved maximum velocity.

    I remember reading long ago that solid objects regardless of size drop at the same velocity. In other words, if you dropped a bowling bowl and a golf ball from a 5,000 foot height, both would hit the ground at the same time. After freefalling a certain distance, solid objects reach maximum speed and no longer increase their rate of velocity but maintain that same speed until impact with the ground.

    The above is just my personal opinion and at this time have no facts to back it up. But at the same time I wouldn't want to be the guy trying to catch that .30 round that was fired straight up.:D

    Safe shooting.
     
  17. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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    "if you dropped a bowling bowl and a golf ball from a 5,000 foot height, both would hit the ground at the same time."

    There was an interesting article in National Geographic on gravity and space some years ago that stated that research was indicating that it was actually possible for some dense objects to fall to early more slowly than less dense objects.

    IIRC, apparently the denser an object is, the more it will repel against gravity, sort of like trying to click similar poles of two magnets together.

    I've got that around here somewhere. I'll have to dig it up.

    How does it related to this discussion?

    Beats the heck out of me. :)
     
  18. Robby from Long Island

    Robby from Long Island Member

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    Mike,

    It would be interesting if you could find that article you mentioned. It would be interesting if we could find out what the actual rate of velocity would be for a large caliber bullet falling freefall to earth.

    I can visualize a marshmellow not falling at the same velocity as a golf ball straight down due to density differences but a bowling ball vs a golf ball.........

    But that density factor would be of great interest to more than just me I'm sure. Anyway, time for a nap.


    Safe shooting.
     
  19. 45R

    45R Member

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    Information on this subject is located in the Jounal of International Wound Ballistics Assoc. 1995 Vol2, No1 page 21. Article written by L. Hagg

    I have the article. If anyone is interested I can send it to them. Its scanned in PDF format and over 2megs.

    PM me with email address

    EDIT: information on falling bullets can be found, not to be confused with the NG article
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2003
  20. faustulus

    faustulus Member

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    exactly my point, if hail doesn't kill you it would seem a bullet wouldn't.

    Past a certain point it shouldn't, vertical velocity and horizonal velocity are not connected, so in theory at a 45 degree angle, yes but anything approaching 90 should have no effect. A bullet fired from a gun and dropped beside the gun will hit the ground at the same time.

    The only thing that would effect the two would be lift of the bodies. One golf ball weighing 3 grams would fall at the same rate as a golfball weighing 3lbs of course the 3lb ball would have to be more dense, but that should not effect the rate of desent.

    I would love a copy if it wouldn't be too much trouble.

    Mind I am not saying that it doesn't happen, I am just interested in the physics of the event. The odds would seem to be stacked against it happening as much as the stories make it out.
     
  21. 45R

    45R Member

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    I managed to get the Pdf article on my geocities account

    It can be obtained here.

    http://us.share.geocities.com/pbear222/falling.pdf

    Copy and paste to another window or it wont work for some reason.
    Nothing like science and peer reviewed evidence. :) I'll get a chance to read it tomorrow morning!
     
  22. Apple a Day

    Apple a Day Member

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    A bowling ball and a golf ball dropped from the same height would hit at the same time NEGLECTING AIR RESISTANCE That is why a person spread-eagle reaches terminal velocity at ~120mph while ~200mph in a pike position. -9.8m/s^2 (-32.2ft/s^2) is only good for short distances or in a vaccuum.

    Terminal velocity is the point at which the resistance due to air reaches the point to where it is equal to the weight of the object pulling it down. If you shoot a bullet into the air (nice streamlined object) it will still come down with considerable velocity. I remember seeing that a .3030 bullet would come down at ~300feet/second. Hit the right spot and it's lights out.

    By the way, shooting at an angle isn't going to do much one way or the other. I am sure the bullet would reach terminal velocity anyway unless the angle was shallow.

    If you shot a bullet straight up into the air then it wouldn't hit you on the head anyway. There is something called the Careolis effect(sp) which is a way for accounting for the rotation of the Earth. Literally, you would rotate out from under the bullet before it came back down. It would be close, though.
     
  23. gruven

    gruven Member

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    http://www.loadammo.com/Topics/March01.htm

    "Based on the results of these tests it was concluded that the bullet return velocity was about 300 f.p.s. For the 150 gr. bullet this corresponds to an energy of 30 foot pounds. Earlier the Army had determined that, on the average, it required 60 foot pounds of energy to produce a disabling wound. Based on this information, a falling 150 gr. service bullet would not be lethal, although it could produce a serious wound."
     
  24. JohnBT

    JohnBT Member

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    From How Do Bullets Fly at www.nennstiel-ruprecht.de/

    Lots of good reading there. It never occured to me that a bullet shot straight up would fall base first.

    "Q: If a bullet is fired vertically from a rifle, what will its terminal velocity be if it strikes the top of someones head on its way back down?

    A: This question is hard to answer in general. The best I can give is a "worst-case" estimation.
    When a gun is fired vertically, the bullet after some time reaches a summit where the velocity is zero, and then falls back. The bullet will fall back base first which is hard to calculate. I can estimate the velocity if it would fall nose first, that is the normal flying position for which drag is well known - so the real terminal velocity will actually be smaller than the following prediction.

    For a .22 lr bullet (m=40 grain, v0 = 1150 ft/s)
    the summit will be at 1164 ft, the total flight time 30 seconds and the terminal velocity 270 ft/s
    For a SS109 military bullet (m= 55 grain, v0=3200 ft/s)
    the summit will be at 2650 ft, the total flight time 44 seconds and the terminal velocity 404 ft/s.
    For this bullet are indications that it will become unstable. This will further reduce summit height and terminal velocity considerably. "
     
  25. Justin

    Justin Moderator Emeritus

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    Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.

    Every time a bullet negligently shot into the air lands near a person, HCI gains a member.

    :uhoh:
     
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