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Rifle lethality

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by The Last Conformist, Oct 9, 2006.

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  1. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Member

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    I'm looking for data about the lethality of rifle wounds, and was recommended to try asking here. :)

    Specifically, I want to know what percentage of people hit by rifle bullets that end up dying from it. I'm chiefly interested in figures for military personnel in the WWII-Korea era, but ones for civilians or other periods could serve, as long as we're talking full-powered rifles and targets who do not carry much in the way of armour.

    I'm talking rifles specifically - hits from submachine guns, shotguns, et sim. should not be included.

    I would need a citable source.


    My thanks for any help. :)
     
  2. TimboKhan

    TimboKhan Moderator

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    I can't answer your question, but you might want to explain why your looking for this data if you want a better response. THR is a friendly place, but not a lot of guys are going to roll out data if they aren't sure what it's going to be used for.
     
  3. Igloodude

    Igloodude Member

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    TLC's a friend of mine, I recommended he ask the question here, as I couldn't think of a better place to get an answer. I can attest to his wanting the info for a legitimate reason - if memory serves, deciding a debate with a schoolmate. :)
     
  4. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Member

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    Chiefly to win an debate about realism in game design. :) I want to insert some actual facts in a discussion this far based mostly on the gut feelings of people who don't know very much about weapons (me included).
     
  5. Rem700SD

    Rem700SD Member

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    I think your data will be skewed, no matter what. The reason is that the lethality of wounds in general depends on A) nature of the wound, B) time to receiving medical attention. C) quality of medical care D) other factors as I think of them.

    In prior to Korea there were no helicopters in wide service. By vietnam the average time from wounding to medical care was 30 min or so (not sure how to verify these stats, but you get the gist)

    Also, If it's for a video game, TIME to death may be a factor in your discussion. Cranial shot= instant death, chest shot in minutes, anywhere else, and the time to death could be measured in weeks to never.

    INCAPACITATION is another matter entirely.
     
  6. Curly

    Curly Member

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    Just like real estate...

    location, location, location. Shot placement is critical to determining if any wound is survivable. A well-placed hit from a .22 can be lethal; A perimeter hit from a more powerful rifle bullet can be survivable.

    In general, rifle hits are more lethal than pistol hits because they possess higher energy and irreparably destroy more tissue.
     
  7. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Rifle Wounds

    Also the variables:

    What caliber? What type of bullet? (Expanding/Frangible or FMJ) Distance from rifle to target (Velocity at impact) Size and physical condition of the person shot is another variable. You'd literally have to have dozens of categories that covered different scenarios per caliber to even approach a specific or definite conclusion.

    Now, for a more practical answer...A body hit inside of 300 yards with a .30 caliber centerfire rifle firing FMJ bullets in the .308/.30-06 class would very likely result in death within a few minutes or even seconds unless immediate and aggressive medical attention is rendered to the victim, and as the distance decreases, the odds of quick death goes up. Bump it up again if a frangible bullet is part of the equation. Bump it again if one of the .30 "Magnums" is involved. Shock and blood loss are the main determining factors. If a major artery isn't damaged...the odds drop a little.
    You can make it a little longer with a perforated liver than you can with a perforated heart or blown lungs...a little. One of our early casualties in Afghanistan resulted in the death of an American soldier...from an ankle wound. Others have survived through-and-through sucking chest wounds, and were back on their feet in a matter of days.
     
  8. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Member

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    I realize death rates will be influenced by alot of factors beyond the intrinsic deadliness of rifles; that's why I specified a prefered time period and victim period (mid-20th century and soldiers).

    I did find an authoritative-looking document about US army casualties in Korea, which gives a death rate of 13.5% for American soldiers hit by small arms fire, but my opposite numbers reject it because it doesn't separate rifles from other small arms.

    Edit: I'm looking for an answer integrated over all wound locations.
     
  9. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    I wish there was a data set like that. But to my knowledge it does not exist. Even information from WWII and Vietnam is sketchy and not specific enough to be reliable. You would need precise locations of hits, precise bullet type and design, and a precise description of damage done. Nobody bothered with this level of detail in triage during earlier conflicts, though they generally do now because they're less likely to simply write off apparently KIA servicemen. Indeed they've been able to bring many who are essentially dead back to life in Iraq, which is one reason we've only lost a few thousand. While you might be able to compile the needed data if given free access to modern medical records and SOAP notes from the latest war, that ain't gonna happen for obvious reasons.

    However, there is a good source of data from hunting, and from ballistic gel testing. In that field there's no contest between the damage done by high powered rifles firing SP or HP bullets and standard handguns. That info is easy to find online or in the archives here. The data regarding impact energy alone is informative. A standard handgun in the power range of a 9x19 or .45 ACP will be hitting with 300 to 400 ft. lbs., while a high powered rifle bullet will be hitting with 2,400 to over 3,000 ft. lbs.
     
  10. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Member

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    Is there data on the death rate for people hit by full-powered rifles in hunting accidents?

    Also, given then 13.5% figure for all bullets in Korea, could one estimate a realistic maximum of rifle bullets? Is my opponents' contention of 50%+ at all realistic?
     
  11. The Real Hawkeye

    The Real Hawkeye member

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    Resident Evil IV has it about right, although they chose to make every sniper rifle in the game a .223 caliber instead of a full power rifle round. Even the scoped Mauser 98, for gosh sake, was chambered for .223. In my opinion, they exagerated the .223's effectiveness a bit. Any shot to the torso was instantly lethal, at any range, against monsters that could absorb six or seven 9mm rounds at close range and keep coming. They should have made all the rifles chambered in .308, IMHO.
     
  12. The Real Hawkeye

    The Real Hawkeye member

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    Hunting bullets are usually much more quickly lethal than military bullets on humans. They are usually soft pointed, and expand rapidly. Anything designed to kill deer is going to be extremely destructive on a human torso. Instant death in most cases, assuming ranges are within those intended by bullet design. I've shot enough animals the size of people (e.g., deer and boar) to know what I'm talking about. .30-06 or .30-30 rounds designed for deer or boar hunting will almost always kill a human being instantly if the upper torso is solidly struck, i.e., through and through the thickest part. I'm not saying the brain doesn't keep working on some level for a while, but generally they will go down like struck by a bolt of lightning, if the range is reasonably close. I am confident that this is true because boar and deer are tougher than people, and that's the effect these bullets have on them, i.e., down and out instantly or within a few seconds.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2006
  13. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Always read the footnotes on these suckers. This is what I was talking about. Soldiers who had no pulse or had horrific wounds never made it to a doctor who would record the precise cause of the injury. So those who were simply killed outright by a rifle round may not be in these figures. The study itself notes this limiting factor.
     
  14. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    Off topic, but that is the epitaph of the Roman Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who died about 2,000 years before the general was born.
     
  15. TimboKhan

    TimboKhan Moderator

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    off topic again, I did not know that, although I am still going to attribute it to General Mattis in my signature. Original or not, he is one of my heroes.
     
  16. HorseSoldier

    HorseSoldier Member

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    Like other people have noted, I don't think there's any data set out there that answers your question. Military shootings just are not CSI'ed like civilian shootings, in the vast majority of cases, and how do you really tell the difference between, say, an in-and-out GSW from a handgun at close range and a rifle or machinegun wound from greater distance, where KE on impact is similar to that of the handgun. If we were talking about shooting gelatin blocks there probably would be some clues, like how and when tumbling occurred and whatever, but people don't present such homogenous targets.

    The only conflict I can think of where real efforts were made to do crime-scene type forensics on shootings was in Rhodesia, where the BSAP's Special Branch maintained a database of shell casings and such to help identify guerilla weapons used in specific attacks (in part because if captured they would then have to make a criminal case against them, and in part because of its intelligence value). But I've never seen their numbers, and I don't know if they really kept a corresponding log of injuries and fatalities versus wound mechanism (though that conflict was probably an easy one, since the bad guys almost all used some form of 7.62x39mm weapon).

    For a pretty good suggestion of what you're talking about, however, you might want to look at the victims of the DC Beltway "Snipers." Those two jackasses were "only" using a 5.56mm rifle, and their victims were smack in the middle of one of the best trauma care systems on the planet, but center of mass shots were generally fatal. Ten killed (some died on the scene, some in the ER) and three were critically injured and would have been out of the fight, if they'd been in a fight.
     
  17. wanderinwalker

    wanderinwalker Member

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    I recall a case across the river from here a year or two ago where a bear hunter shot a man picking blueberries in the brush. IIRC, the official release said the victim was still concious when the hunter walked up to him and found out he had shot a person. (The shooter than fled and was apprehended later.)

    Also, a longer number of years ago, a hunter was shot at and hit in the head by another member of his hunting party. There was a lengthy investigation into that one; I don't remember the total outcome. But the victim in this case was DRT.

    We are safe to assume that in both cases highpowered hunting rifles with softpoint bullets were used. I think the second case involved a .270, but again, I don't know for sure. The bear hunter may have been using a .30-06, as it is a fairly popular big game rifle around here.

    But the point is, a hunting-caliber weapon is a very lethal and effective device, much more so than any pistol. Anything that can reliably lay out 4-legged game animals in the 150-500+ pound range is going to be very bad for a human.

    Feel free to edit or delete this if necessary.
     
  18. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Member

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    Thanks for all attempts to help. :)

    As regards "center of mass shots", I would naively expect that they (and headshots) amount to rather less than an overwhelming majority of bullet wounds during combat, sniper situations excepted. Is this correct? I'm told leg and arm hits account for ~45% of hits in criminal assaults.


    Addendum: The way we've got it currently, a hit by a typical rifle against a typical human has about a 50% chance of killing (and ~80% of causing immediate incapacitation). I was saying this is if anything too harsh, whether my opposite numbers think it's not harsh enough. Which side would you take?
     
  19. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    In criminal cases, the hand and arm wounds are often due to the opponent holding his gun in front of his body -- if you do stress-scored competion against a target with a picture of a man shooting at you, you will find a lot of hits in the hands and arms. They make a natural aiming point.

    In military combat, a lot of head wounds are the rule -- soldiers tend to stay under cover, exposing themselves as little as possible, and the exposed parts of the body -- head, neck, shoulders and arms are quite often hit.
     
  20. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    Man, there's a lot of variables here, like caliber, bullet construction, etc. Military, you're looking at FMJ, so I'd expect some survivors from COM hits. However, I can tell you from hunting experience, I wouldn't give myself 5 seconds of life if I were hit COM with a 150 grain game king from a 7mm Remington Magnum out to 300 yards. You talk about devastating destruction! I've seen lung tissue evaporated by this load. I've seen off side shoulders blown completely off by this load. I would NOT wanna get hit by this load, no way, no how. I think the lethality rate for COM hits would be pretty much 100 percent and it wouldn't take too long, either. I don't exaggerate here. Anything with a belt on it and a soft point bullet is NOT what you wanna get shot with.
     
  21. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Hits

    Quote:

    >As regards "center of mass shots", I would naively expect that they (and headshots) amount to rather less than an overwhelming majority of bullet wounds during combat...<
    ********************

    In addition to Vern's response, you can also add a good many leg shots at or below knee level. This results in a large degree from enemy machinegunners
    using what is known as "Grazing Fire." The men who come under grazing fire refer to it as "The s##t that ya can't crawl under or climb over."
     
  22. The Real Hawkeye

    The Real Hawkeye member

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    Clearly, with typical deer rounds, that figure is way off. As MCgunner says, full metal jacket military ammo might result in a high survival rate for COM hits, but if you do any deer or boar hunting, you will see first hand how utterly devastating even non-magnum hunting ammo is, and would be to a human being. It basically liquefies the heart and lungs instantly. Solid hits on a human with those will be 100% lethal, and fast.

    I think a good number for you to research is annual deaths due to hunting accidents cross referenced with the number of annual accidental shootings each year while hunting.

    Also, a few years ago, a Korean big game hunter went nuts and opened fire on a large group of hunters with whom he had an argument. I don't believe there were many survivors among his victims. Look it up for specifics. Maybe someone here remembers more details.
     
  23. EvisceratorSrB

    EvisceratorSrB Member

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    I think a big factor in the outcome of the physics engine of the game is at best, randomness...

    Hear me out. Yes high powered rifles will down someone if the impact of the bullet is about chest, but you have to ask, after the bullet penetrates the skin, and layers of muscle, what else does it hit? There might be some places on the chest that a bullet can pass through totally, and be totally survivable. So, you must have many many "plates" of registration for which the damage is counted on the body of the character, each representing a possible trajectory within the body, leading to missing or hitting organs and such, causing blood loss etc.

    Further more, each caliber must call for a different damage "plate", so from one caliber to another, the same registration "plate" on the body must be different. Do you understand what I mean by the word plate?
     
  24. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Member

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    No, I'm unsure what you mean by the word "plate".

    Also, I'm primarily not interested whether 50% is way off for chest hits, but for all hits.
     
  25. HorseSoldier

    HorseSoldier Member

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    80% immediate incapacitation (i.e. on the ground, in the process of dying) or just plain dead is probably about realistic. Both bullets and shooters underperform with pretty good regularity under combat conditions and since a computer game can't really make the shooter miss because he's scared out of his mind, that 20% slop factor sounds pretty good to me in terms of modelling pulling the shot, or the bullet failing to do its job, or a COM hit that glances off a rib or any of the million other things that can and do go wrong.

    I think you're talking about this situation where a Hmong hunter opened fire on some other hunters after being confronted about trespassing on private land. He was using an SKS, so no telling how reputable his hunting bullets were, but end result was five killed, three wounded, for about a 60% lethality rate.

    Don't know which GSWs were center of mass and which were peripheral hits, etc, however, among the dead. The article lists one of the wounded survivors as suffering a COM hit, another as wounded in the arm, and no details on the third. No mention made of wounds to the five dead, but medical care did not arrive promptly, so even wounds that were not instantly fatal may have killed people.
     
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