Episode 50: Bullets Fired Up

Air Date: April 19, 2006

Bullets fired into the air maintain their lethal capability when they eventually fall back down.

busted / plausible / confirmed

In the case of a bullet fired at a precisely vertical angle (something extremely difficult for a human being to duplicate), the bullet would tumble, lose its spin, and fall at a much slower speed due to terminal velocity and is therefore rendered less than lethal on impact. However, if a bullet is fired upward at a non-vertical angle (a far more probable possibility), it will maintain its spin and will reach a high enough speed to be lethal on impact. Because of this potentiality, firing a gun into the air is illegal in most states, and even in the states that it is legal, it is not recommended by the police. Also the MythBusters were able to identify two people who had been injured by falling bullets, one of them fatally injured. To date, this is the only myth to receive all three ratings at the same time.

Vodka can remove poison oak.


For some reason, although most of the MythBusters were allergic to poison oak when they were young (especially Kari, who was exempted from the test because she had once had a dangerous reaction), it didn’t affect anyone but John the Researcher. The vodka still gave no results.

Vodka can painlessly remove plastic bandages.


Both a control and vodka-soaked bandage were quickly removed from hair-covered legs and, while not painless, the vodka-soaked bandage came off less painfully and removed less hair than the control.

Vodka can be turned into high-quality vodka through charcoal filtration.


Through a double-blind taste test, the cheap vodka seemed to taste better with every subsequent filtration, although the top-shelf vodka beat them all. However, a chemical analysis showed no actual difference between the filtered and unfiltered cheap vodka.


  1. Michele says:

    dear mythbusters, im an ialian fan and i watch our episode on discovery channel. i love our program, and i have a suggestion for revisit the myth: bullets fired up. you create a long tube (50 or 75 meters) and plant it in the desert with a 44 magnum or a revolver .38 over the tube….
    you shoot and when the bullet fall down calculate if the fall is dangerous for the umans. please say hello at adam, jamie, tori, kari, and grant….
    W mythbusters…
    revisit my myth please

    • Blackbelt10 says:

      I agree. In fact, Michele’s is the only way to answer this question scientifically. A modified version of this study would be to do the experiment at a body farm, where human bodies are laid out for study. Fire bullets into the air until some hit bodies, then measure the tissue penetration. Short of a body farm, cover a very large field with a thick material known to approximate the density, permeability, surface tension, contractility, etc. of human tissue. Fire bullets in the air and measure their tissue penetration on falling.

      • BallisticsGuy says:

        Or simply calculate the terminal velocity of a few bullets (flying forward, backwards, sideways) then launch said bullet at gellatin and see what happens.

        • pcp4me says:

          OR……why not just drop the bullet from a great height, since essentially at it’s uppermost height the bullet is going at 0 fps? I suspect the results would depend on the weight and shape of the bullet more than anything. Obviously a one pound boat tail bullet would do much more damage tha a flat nosed 55 gr .22 bullet.

    • logan says:

      i wonder if listening to music improves when shooting a gun

      • MSG John Laigaie says:

        I shoot at the range regularly. I do tend to shoot better when I listen to music thru my hearing protection.

  2. GlennH says:

    Hey guys, Your bullet in the sky repro failed to figure in the spin ! the .30 M1 Garand you used had a 24″ barrel and a 1/10 twist. So figure 2400 fps 2400×12/10*60
    is about 172,800 RPM ! You do know that the bullet is still spinning when its on the way back, dont you ?

    • M40 says:

      You’re looking at velocity in terms of feet per SECOND, and at the spin in terms of revolutions per MINUTE. For true side by side comparison, figure the revolutions at about 2,800 RPS.

      While the bullet may have high speed and high spin initially, it begins losing both very quickly as soon as it leaves the barrel. Fired straight up (or nearly so), both the velocity AND spin decrease until the bullet destabilizes and any remaining spin is transferred into an uncontrolled tumble which renders the bullet’s ballistic coefficient null.

      By the time the bullet returns to the ground, it’s basically a ‘knuckle-ball’ and has no appreciable spin.

      This same thing happens in traditional (near horizontal) ballistic trajectories. For pretty much any caliber, you have a maximum accurate range, after which destabilization (loss of spin) comes into play and the bullet will no longer maintain an accurate trajectory.

      • stever76 says:

        This seems to be the most sensible answer. This problem can either be worked out analytically as above or experimentally as with Mythbusters. Analytically it is hard to figure precisely because of the friction factor, but the bullet being a small relatively heavy object I don’t believe it is paramount. To be meaningful studies should be done of say both a pistol and a rifle fired at several angles. Hasn’t anyone ever figured this? A good physics student might tell us something – though it might take a professor and a computer actually.

  3. Dirk says:

    caliber: 9mm
    result: deadly
    video (german, but you can see the results)

    • Captain my captain says:

      But this sample doesn’t take the tumble into it. I think prior posts are right – if the bullet was shot exactly straight into the air it would tumble and fall rather than spiral and fall. Meaning if the bullet was falling end over end- and hit the jelly sample would it impact fatally? Too many variables at that point like wind factor and even if you found a way to shoot a bullet – say – horizontally- it may have a different effect than if the bullet was tumbling end over end. It’s a mystery!

    • Jeff says:


      That was not shot straight up in the air. It was shot at an arc that changes the equation completely

      • Andy says:

        Most celebratory shots are not fired absolutely vertical. An angle of about 70° is much more common and the Wehrtechnische Dienststelle, shown in the video, found, that bullets fired at that angle are quite lethal. There is another video where they shot a 7.62mm bullet from a H&K G3. At the point of impact it still had a velocity of more than 500 kph.

  4. sprucebranch says:

    I also heard that there was a substantial difference in lethality between high-velocity and low-velocity rounds….can the mb’s confirm? I was told that high-velocity rounds would remain lethal after being fired high in an arc, but low-velocity (44 mag., et al) would not.

    a revisit would be very nice…

  5. Zhoen says:

    You’ve done dropped pennies, dropped bullets… the mass problem means these aren’t lethal. At what mass does something dropped from a tower/high building become dangerous? Bricks, for instance, I would think would be a real issue. Certainly watermelons and champagne magnums (as seen on Letterman) would be dramatic.

  6. Roger Beard says:

    December 24th 2007 Basra Iraq. lots of bullets, just that this one just fell out of the sky!!

  7. Texas_JAM says:

    Here’s a story that should change “Bullets fired into air…” rating to confirmed:

    • Blackbelt10 says:

      In the article you list, there’s no indication that the bullet was fired in the air. In fact, military snipers hit small targets from 1000 yds or more, but they don’t fire in the air, they aim.

  8. Mike says:

    That msnbc link can’t confirm anything. There’s nothing to say that those bullets were fired straight up in the air.

    • MSG John Laigaie says:

      The bullet came thru a wall. It would have come thru the roof if on its way down.

      • Major Patrick says:

        No, the rounds only maintain their spin when they are going forward. When they ‘stall’ in the air they automatically tumble. The bullet doesn’t have to be fired absolutely straight up, either. Work was done with ballistics back in the 50’s and 60’s and it makes me wonder why information hasn’t stayed in the industry.

  9. Paul Malley says:

    I heard the story that the Poms used to do a check fire when they had a new batch of
    artillary shells.
    They would take one of their guns down to the beach, point the barrel up vertically
    and pull the trigger.
    They reasoned the only place the shell
    wouldn’t land was back down the barrel,
    so they wore their tin hats and camped as close the the gun as possible.

  10. Paul Malley says:

    Filtered Vodka

    In wartime France, the fuel if you could get it ,contained a large quantity of alcohol.

    Bloke I new used to extract the alcohol and
    Drink it by passing the fuel through a carbon filter.

  11. Paul Malley says:

    Errata Filtered Vodka

    To be more accurate you must first add water to the fuel.

    This causes the Alcohol to separate out from the mixture.

    You can then decant and carbon filter the alcohol.

    In Australia you can buy fuel that is ten
    percent alcohol.

    That translates to 0.8 of a pint of 100%
    alcohol to a gallon of fuel.

    As normal spirits are only about 40% by volume alcohol that translate to two pints
    of drinking alcohol per gallon of fuel.

    Starts to make a trip to the gas station
    an economic opportunity!!

  12. MarFerik says:

    Discovering The Best Antivirus Software For You Antivirus software
    refers to computer programs or tools that are used for identifying, blocking, and removing malicious applications such as computer viruses and malwares from the system. They have. Symantec Announces Plans for New Antivirus Administration Console for Macintosh Antivirus Administration Console for Macintosh CUPERTINO, Calif. Sept. 16, 2004 – Symantec Corp. (NASDAQ: SYMC), the global leader in information security, today announced plans for a Web-based. Trend Micro Holds Top Revenue Positions in Internet Gateway, Mail Server, and File Server Antivirus Antivirus Markets Company surpasses overall antivirus market growth rate from 2002 2003, based on new market study Cupertino, California August 31, 2004 Trend Micro, Inc. (TSE: 4704,. Symantec’s New Norton AntiVirus 10.0 For Macintosh Offers Enhanced Usability And Customization AntiVirus 10.0 For Macintosh Offers Enhanced Usability And Customization Features, ‘Tiger’ Compatibility New Product Featur

  13. frank says:

    just a heads up about vodka & posion oak.in order toget an allergic reaction from posion oak you must expose the lab rats to posion oak.the plant you used in your test was not posion oak.better revisit the episode & look at the shape of the leaf you thought was posion oak & try again.i’ll send you all the posion oak you want.

    • art says:

      vis-a-vis poison oak. Lots of misinformation in this episode. Particularly regarding exposure. Unless a person is extremely sensitive, the leaf or stem has to be broken to release the sap which contains the active agent, urushiol. Rubbing the skin with an unbroken leaf will not normally cause a reaction. More poison ivy/oak (they are related to each other and not their namesakes) exposure occurs from contaminated clothing, shoes, even pets than from direct contact with the plants. Those people on the show who imagine that they are not allergic to the poison oak are in for a big suprise if they were to expose themselves to the sap. I have 3 issued US patents for poison ivy/oak detection and decontamination so I am quite familar with subject. Frank, I think the reason for the non-reaction is what I outlined above

      • Jamie says:

        Yes. A poison ivy/oak rash is an allergic reaction to the urushiol in the plant. It should also be noted that even if they were exposed to the urushiol in that episode, their immune cells would have first needed to be sensitized to the urushiol on a previous occasion for the immune reaction to occur. I’d be curious to see if they broke out in a rash if they were to be re-exposed on a follow up episode. ;)

    • Jonathan says:

      I dont agree about the posion oak, in fact i think it would have been a more accurate experiment if they would have just beaten a lion to death. This way they could be sure that Zeus would not release the Kraken

  14. Rick says:

    Errata Filtered Vodka

    I would be very careful about drinking alcohol extracted from gasohol type fuels. Many fuel additives (MTBE, tetra-ethyl lead, etc.) are water soluble and will separate out with the alcohol. Most will be present in quantities sufficient to produce long term toxic effects even after 99% removal.

    • hugo says:

      Rick, he who extracts and drinks alcohol from motorfuel is definitely a candidate for the Darwin Award posthumously.

  15. Robert Evans says:

    In what states is it still legal to shoot up in the air?

  16. Kevin says:

    Didn’t the bullets they fired straight up in the salt lake hit the ground sideways? That would prove they were not spinning.

  17. Ruby says:

    KILLING ODORS–Peroxide,bakesoda etc. Did anyone saw that show ?

  18. AndyB says:

    Charcoal Filtered Vodka…
    Improvement IS possible… it just requires use of ACTIVATED charcoal, and depends upon the impurities present in the first place… Requires more comprehensive science to determone the constituents of cheap vodka, those removable by activated charcoal and which vodkas have such a composition.
    I advise use of proper pressurised liquid chromatography in a good lab, and the type of activated charcoal actually used by vodka companies… Personally I consider this confirmed by the fact that thi IS used by Vodka companies … it’s not a cheap process so they’d not do it purely for the gimmick!!

  19. Dutchie says:

    Two weeks ago, a 19-year-old boy was killed during a beach party, when the mob turned on the police. After research, they now say that the boy was killed by a police bullet after a warningshot had been fired. As far as I know, Dutch police uses Walther P5. Possible?

    • hugo says:

      Yeah …a warning shot. Kid was well warned. Now tell me that there are policemen/women anywhere in the western world too stupid not to aim a warning shot directly into the ground. And I have a quick, quit claim deed on the Golden Gate Bridge. For $5,000 cash, we can make a deal.

      • Laurie says:

        ROFLMAO…I love that you referenced the quitclaim deed… too funny. Sadly a lot of people won’t get the joke (although that could technically be a great thing for you or anyone else that is in a sales position of things/property/any other situations like that)…

  20. the boss says:

    I,ve lived in LA. all my live and I,ve heard time and time again, of people in New Orleans that have DIED vary often. This is due to people shooting their pistoles (guns) into the sky and the bullet falling back to earth kills. Several people have DIED from this act NOT JUST 1 or 2.

  21. Ballistic vs. free fall says:

    A falling bullet cannot kill you, provided that it is falling only. It’s terminal velocity will be about 120 MPH. A bullet on a ballistic trajectory still maintains a significant percentage of force from the propellent and can easily kill. that why the myth is busted, plausible and confirmed…

  22. Mike says:

    To even mention that in the instance of firearms fired at a precisely vertical angle, terminal velocity being less than lethal on impact is irresponsible. To describe celebratory gunfire deaths as “busted” even though mythbuster’s also apparently called them plausible and confirmed is careless. The precisely vertical scenario is not just extremely difficult but so close to impossible that to reference the myth as busted is, reckless. The deaths and injuries on the other hand are well known and documented way beyond your two people who had been injured by falling bullets, one of them fatally injured.
    C’mon where did you look?

    The International Action Network on Small Arms has a site at http://www.iansa.org/documents/Aerial07-08.pdf which documents; Children and adults killed and wounded by celebratory gunfire
    Total: 15 deaths and 77 injuries in 13 countries

    In Puerto Rico, where such celebratory actions are common, news media reports have indicated that approximately two persons die and an estimated 25 more are injured each year from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15614232

    Spent bullets and their injuries: the result of firing weapons into the sky.
    Ordog GJ, Dornhoffer P, Ackroyd G, Wasserberger J, Bishop M, Shoemaker W, Balasubramanium S.

    Department of Emergency Medicine, King/Drew-UCLA Medical Center 90059
    People often celebrate holidays by firing guns into the air without realizing that this can cause serious injury or death. The present study identified 118 patients treated since 1985 who were hit with spent bullets. Most (77%) were hit in the head. The mortality rate was 32%, which is significantly higher than for all gunshot wound victims in general seen at the same medical center. Laws have been enacted to help prevent people shooting into the sky, but more education and enforcement are required to prevent these serious and preventable injuries. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7996596?ordinalpos=7&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

  23. John says:

    Look at the German movie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZDS_2ooqpU (thanks Dirk).
    You can see the trajectory the fired bullet travels (followed by radar) at 2:49 minutes.
    Using some goniometric calculations it can be seen that the bullet was almost fired straight up (angle around 83 degrees) with a speed of 1500 meters per second and falls downward with a final angle of around 63 degrees with a speed of 350 meters per second. That is much slower but still lethal. The distance the bullet travels upward is around 1000 meters. On the same picture the horizontal distance can be measured as around 800 meters. That’s a lot.

    See the movie around 4 minutes. A bullet specially prepared to be fired with low speed still penetrates a block of gelatine (resembling a body) with a distance of around 0.3 meters.
    A block of gelatine prepared with a shield on its side (to resemble the skull) is still penetrated with a distance of estimated 0.1 meters.

    That’s enough to kill a man and surely enough to kill a child.

    Lowering the angle of the shot to around 60 degrees will result in a much larger distance travelled, a few kilometers could even be possible.

  24. Jason says:

    Given this is the only myth to have all 3 ratings shouldn’t it be updated? I see the above indication that an angle less than 83% can be lethal.

    I imagine that bullets with a higher ballistic coefficient (more aerodynamic) are more likely to maintain the energy and rotation with which they were “launched”. The lethal angle for pistols and rifles is probably different.

    Also, how heavy does something have to be before it becomes lethal at terminal velocity in general? Pennies (or uncased bullets) dropped off the empire state building are apparently not lethal. Bricks would be a different story.

    Bullet size varies a lot however and can range from under 3 grams to over 40 grams. A 40 gram metal object dropped from the empire state building (or fired vertically from a gun) is much more likely to cause enough blunt force trauma to kill even if only at its terminal velocity.

    Can we get a myth busters update?

  25. John Vittie says:

    MythBusters, Bullets going up! SunSentinel Jan. 02,
    2010. Local section. Headlines: Festivities end after stray bullet hits boy, 6. It also goes into story about several people hit New Years Eve. Over past 4 years 4 people have died includes lady not far from my area. Please look more into it. Thanks. John V.
    Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

  26. Donkey says:

    A 1962 US army study said that a .30cal round would “fall” at 300fps or 205mph. Since ones head has a great chance being hit from something that is falling straight down, I would not be surprised that one could be killed by a “Falling” bullet. If it hit the persons shoulder then I would expect them to survive.

    I agree with Jason another test should be done. It should see if a “Falling” bullet could do fatal damage to someones head. A variety of bullet weights should be tested.

  27. luke says:

    can anybody tell me if you shoot a gun straight up, either from a low powerd gun or a high powered rifle ( or both ) how long would the bullet take to hit the ground?

  28. GIJoe says:

    This actually happens all the time in Iraq where it’s customary to fire guns (mostly the AK47) into the air to celebrate important events, especially weddings. There’s numerous documented instances of this happening.

    U.S. Army Vet. OIF 09-10

  29. Sean says:

    Hi Mythbusters.
    Is it true that if you were to shot at a piece of hair, that the hair would move or would the bullet penetrate through the hair ??

  30. achilles says:

    It happened to us during a New Years celebration in the Phil. A bullet punctured our roof and lodge in our wooden floor. Among other reports of death by falling bullets.

  31. Eve says:

    So when a bullet is fired straight up it comes back down at a slower velocity due to terminal velocity but what if the bullet itself was a perfect sphere? Would it still tumble like the bullets in the episode and thus yield similar results?

    • hugo says:

      Eve, if the projectile were a perfect sphere (unlikely), it would tumble and “wobble” as in a knuckle ball a baseball pitcher throws. They seem to be substantially slower than other pitches. It would stand to reason that a free-falling, tumbling, wobbling sphere would reach terminal velocity at a lower speed than a spinning, aerodynamically shaped bullet.

  32. Csar says:

    While I was cleaning my room I found a bullet. By coincidence I also noticed a hole in my roof, but it never crossed my mind that it was due a falling bullet. My biggest concern is that it landed a few centimeters away from my bed!!!!!!

  33. Veronica says:

    On New Year’s Eve 1996 I became a victim of a falling bullet. I was not killed. The 45 calibur target bullet fell straight (at a tremendous speed) into my shoulder. It shattered my collar bone, tore apart my rotator cuff muscle and the wound sealed itself from the heat generated by the bullet. The collision with my collar bone stopped the bullet’s forward motion sparing my internal organs from damage. I am grateful that I did not die from this incident. Had the bullet fallen 4 inches to the right, it would have entered the skull of my then 4 year old daughter as she was standing right next to me. New Orleans has confirmed fatalities from falling bullets. See members.macconnect.com/users/s/scpicou/​newyearcoalition.htm for more info
    Falling bullets can kill.

  34. mike says:

    thats why u use a shotgun. u can get rained on by birdshot all day long with no problem.

  35. Vasily says:

    Guys! Hi there! Greetings from Russia.

    Bullets fired uo – episode 50.
    From 25 minute there is music playing.
    What’s the name of this song.

    I’ve been serfing net for this soundtrack for 3 month!

    I just seriously need help! PLZ!!!!!

  36. David says:

    This test is not valid and will need a revisit for 2 reasons.

    First, a falling bullet is not like a bullet fire from a weapon because it don’t spin. The spin help the bullet to maintain it trajectory and hit front first and not side first. I agree that a falling bullet will probably loss it spin and hit sideway. But when a bullet keep it spin (either because of it ballistic trajectory or it high angular velocity and aerodynamic) it will probably hit front first and be much more deadly.

    Second Adam say a 400 feet drop will bring the bullet to terminal velocity and this is wrong.

    According to ballistic equations a 400 feet drop will have a fall time of about 5 seconds and a velocity of 160 feet/s witch is the terminal velocity of a sideway falling bullet. But the equations are good only without air resistance. A real falling object in a fluid will not reach it terminal velocity as fast because the acceleration (from the gravity) is rapidly decreasing from the increasing air resistance. Complete equations gives a exponentiel increased of velocity in time to it terminal velocity. So more fast the bullet go the slowly is the acceleration. The bullet will then take way longer (and way high) to reach it terminal velocity.

    • ZEB says:

      terminal velocity deals with “free falling objects. Bullets only have t.v. if dropped from an altitude. Fired missiles carry kinetic energy and acceleration, thrust etc. Thus,gravity is not the main issue. Same reason a meteor can “fall” from the sky at thousands of miles an hour.

  37. ZEB says:

    In Guam, folks love to take out their handguns and fire away at midnight New Year’s Eve. Children have been hurt by the falling projectiles.

  38. home brewer says:

    If you want to upgrade cheap vodka you need to distill it again, not filter it. This will remove some of the unwanted impurities. The high end vodkas are distilled 3 or 4 times, then diluted with pure water when they are manufactured

  39. kenny says:

    If you want to upgrade cheap vodka you need to distill it again, not filter it. This will remove some of the unwanted impurities. The high end vodkas are distilled 3 or 4 times, then diluted with pure water when they are manufactured cost like $3000 tho

  40. Stan says:
  41. sylvia says:

    okay I notice that ppl keep posting that the “Mythbusters” conclusion is wrong, BUT i think if you look at the conclusion and notice there are 3 possible answers meaning with some weapons the myth is busted with some under certain circumstances its possible BUT not under every circumstance. under certain conditions the myth is confirmed. hence the three solutions given of busted, plausible, and confirmed. so what exactly is the arguement over the answer given? they mever said it wasnt a possibility…

  42. Sandy Duran says:

    My son was struck in the head by a celebratory gun shot from at least a mile away as we were watching fireworks in our front yard this New Year. He survived the injury yet has extensive surgery tomorrow. This is certainly NOT a myth.

  43. Enrico Martinez says:

    Dear Mythbusters.
    “Bullet, Fired-Up”
    Clearly you haven’t been in the Philippines during New Year Celebrations where indiscriminate firing of guns are TOTALLY BANNED!!! (It does not matter whether upward or diagonal firing)
    YEARLY, there are several incidents where bullets fell through the metal sheet roof and some killed sleeping persons.
    Some bullets got lodged (LUCKILY)into tables or cabinets (etc).

  44. Phil O. says:

    So… If a bullet is dropped, it reaches terminal velocity at about 100 miles an hour. Not really lethal. What about a rifled bullet? All bullets leave out of rifled barrels, and as a result, their terminal velocity will be much higher.

    You guys need terminal velocity for a bullet that’s spinning 1 time every 10 inches at Mach 1.5, then loses velocity forward/backward but not spinning. Twist rate and velocity, of course, depends on the bullet.

    Make a machine that turns the bullet at an insane rate of speed, then drop it into the air tube again! Get this myth right!

  45. guadalisa says:

    this can only be considered a freak accident. below is a link to a story out of Ohio from Dec, 2011. an Amish man fired a bullet into the air. the bullet fatally struck a 15 yr old girl who was driving a horse & buggy over one mile away.


  46. pinochio says:

    i shot a bullet straight up then caught it with my hand did not hurt myth busted

  47. shoochuk says:

    Wondering why they didn’t use metal detectors to find the bullets in the ground

  48. Isla says:

    Bullets fired into the air have killed a couple of kids (again) in New Year’s Eve celebrations in the Philippines. This is an annual horror story. It’s no myth.

  49. Roders says:

    Bullets fired into the air
    As an ex skydiver (to old for it now) a falling human relaxed will fall on his stomach
    at 120 mph and feels like laying on a feather mattress this is the terminal velocity.
    It is possible to streamline your body and fall head first, you will reach a terminal velocity of 200 MPh it is not possible to exceed this.

  50. Robert says:

    They needed to check with an engineer, not an orthopedic physician. The “terminal velocity” is kind of a misnomer in the case of “falling bullets,” but they are on the right track when they mention “ballistic trajectory.” When the bullet is fired into the air (most bullets are!) there is both a vertical and horizontal component of the bullets velocity. While the horizontal velocity will decline to 0 mph then increase as it falls back to earth (both under the influence of the force of gravity), the horizontal velocity will only have the force of air resistance to slow it. You can imagine the trajectory of the bullet as an arc (which it is). The horizontal velocity will me much higher than “terminal velocity,” and (being a bullet!) it can and will be potentially lethal when it reaches its target.

  51. Robert says:

    I mispoke – the VERTICAL velocity of the bullet, not horizontal, will decrease due to the force of gravity until it reaches 0 mph then increase at 32.2 ft per second squared (the acceleration of gravity) until it reaches the ground and/or its target. All the while, the horizontal velocity will only have air resistance to slow it. Hence, the bullet can be lethal once it reaches its target. They were trying an idealized experiment under which the bullet had only vertical velocity (fired straight up) which would decrease to zero, then increase again in its freefall back to earth – they, and the orthopedist, missed the part I mention of the horizontal velocity which, as we know, remains lethal for well over a mile for some bullets (otherwise, how would a sniper bullet remain lethal at great distances?).

  52. Robert says:

    For you baseball fans out there – the same principles that apply to the bullet trajectory apply to the trajectory of a baseball – so that while the vertical velocity of the baseball slows to zero then increases again in the other direction (down or “freefall”), the horizontal velocity only slows a little bit under the force of air resistance.

  53. Brent says:

    Something to chew on here, if either the terminal velocity or the ballistics of an extreme arc were lethal, why wouldn’t militaries be simply spraying the sky with bullets opposed to engaging in semi-gorilla warfare?

    As far as testing, put your math to the test! Dial in the approximate landing location in a field, put a bunch of busters out there with ballistic gel for heads and shoulders and put a 1000 rounds in the air. I’ll bet you hit a few and now you have a result.

  54. Jesse says:

    I think I figured out the problem with the falling bullets myth. They only did testing for a bullet fired straight up, meaning it reached zero velocity before it came back down, and when falling it stayed on its side. If you fire a gun at a fourty five degree angle, the bullet will make an arch, and you may find that it doesn’t end up tumbling because it still has horizontal velocity. If the bullet takes a parabolic path, it might maintain a velocity high enough to kill, where as fired straight up it can only reach terminal velocity.

  55. Jesse says:

    Oh, it would seem I’m not the only one who realized this. I just happened to see the episode today.

    • Mick says:

      right Jesse.the people that shoot and know how bullets work know this.any type of arch is going to kill something if it hits them.very hard to shoot straight up so best to not shoot into the air because of this .that simple.no body figured in horizontal wind speed and rotation of the earth but either way you figure it DO NOT SHOOT INTO THE AIR .we don’t shoot horizontal with out a back stop that will contain a bullet.

  56. Billy says:

    Look, all you tough guys out there- heh. I’ve been in two wars and was wounded. I can tell you that any bullet you fire straight up will travel at least 1000 feet into the air. I wouldn’t want to get hit with even a rock or a pebble dropped from 1000 feet. (Or even a spitball fired from a straw into my eye- it stings!) k bye.

  57. Leah says:

    I have a question. What happens if you shoot a tornado? Some say the tornado would stop the bullet. Is that true? I would be very glad if you tested that myth.

  58. eli deutsch says:

    hello sir
    ihad an argument with my freinds: i shot a slug from a shotgun 45 dgrees to the air – on a wild boar. the bullet wich was in the way down’ hit the boar and broke his rear leg, my freind said it canwt be. pleas help
    thank you

  59. Ian says:

    Hi, I was just reading the latest issue (32) of World Of Knowledge mag when on page 50 it mentioned that a 10gram bullet would reach speeds of 500 km/h and in the Greater Los Angles area 38 people have been killed from falling bullets from gun salutes from 1985 to 1992.

Leave a Reply