Episode 67: Firearms Folklore

Air Date: November 29, 2006

A bullet can be shot into the empty chamber of another revolver.

confirmed

The MythBusters were actually able to fire a bullet straight down the chamber of the test revolver. The bullet went in and lodged itself inside the chamber, matching the photograph that the MythBusters had.

A sniper can kill another sniper by shooting them straight through the scope.

plausible*

Using a police industry standard SWAT sniper rifle and standard police match ammunition, the MythBusters fired several shots at a scoped rifle mounted on a ballistics gel dummy. Unfortunately, the bullet was unable to hit the dummy. The bullet was either stopped or deflected by the multiple layers of lenses in the scope, leaving the dummy relatively unharmed. Without any clear evidence that a bullet can penetrate a sniper scope, the MythBusters decided to label the myth as busted.

*This myth was originally labeled "busted," but due to much debate by viewers it was revisited in episode 75. Using a period-accurate scope (this myth originates from reports of Carlos Hathcock in the Vietnam War), it was found to be plausible.

During the Civil War, two soldiers’ bullets collided in midair and fused together.

plausible

The MythBusters first tried to mount two Civil War rifles in front of each other so that when fired, the bullets would collide in midair. However, this proved impossible because they were unable to get the guns to fire at the same time. Instead, they aimed a single rifle at a bullet suspended in the air. The fired bullet hit dead center, and the MythBusters found that both bullets had fused together into a single mass. Though incredibly unlikely, it is possible for two bullets to collide and fuse together in midair.

If two hammers strike each other, at least one of them will completely shatter with lethal force.

busted

Using a custom rig, the MythBusters repeatedly struck pairs of hammers together, but none shattered. Hammers with wooden handles merely snapped in two and hammers with metal handles bent. The MythBusters then decided to make the steel hammers harder and more brittle by adding more carbon and through heat treatment. In particular, they attempted to case harden the hammers, however it is questionable if this was done correctly. They heated the hammers to high temperatures and then coated the hammer heads in used engine oil. They also decided to have the hammers strike a more sturdy anvil instead of each other. However, during testing, the carbonized hammers merely bent at the handles without shattering. Furthermore, an anvil is generally not made of particularly hard steel, and so that test may have been doomed from the beginning. An anvil with a hardened tool steel insert would have been more appropriate. Though the myth was busted, some hammers come with warnings not to use them to strike another tool or hardened nail with excessive force; although no hammerhead shattered or chipped, high-speed footage showed particle dust flying in all directions, which presents an eye hazard.

(This myth was revisited in episode 75 and it was re-busted.)

65 Comments

  1. Bob Fields says:

    When I was a boy,(some time ago)I remember seeing bullets that had been fused together in a Civil War museum in the Gettysburg,Pa.area.I think there were several in the display.They’re probably still there.

    • Bill Kubicki says:

      I also saw the two bullets that had been fused together in the museum. When nine million rounds were estimated to have been fired, it is possible. I have been there nine or ten times and always learn more on each visit.

  2. Larry Knaack says:

    I have a piece of an ax head in my right shoulder and had a piece of hammer head removed from my left forearm. Both are results of striking two hammers together and a hammer and an ax together.

    • Robert Welch says:

      I witnessed a friend of mine receive a wound from a piece of hammer that chipped off while being blown against another hammer. Lodged into his hand. He had to have emergency surgery to remove it. The piece went entered through the distal portion of the thumb and lodged in his wrist.

  3. Math. G. says:

    I just see the myth “A bullet can be shot into the empty chamber of another revolver” and yes for what we see it is confirmed. But if that appen during a shoutout the recever revolver should maybe have a cartbridge in the chamber?

    Fan from Quebec

  4. Alex Caron says:

    The exploding hammers one is definitely true. 2 guys from work were horsing around, and wanted to hit 2 steel hammers together. I wanted none of it.
    They hit them together, and a piece of shrapnel embedded itself in my leg. It bled a lot, and I still have the scar.

  5. Ken Biswanger says:

    The same test should be done with the brittle hammers but this time hitting a pointy object like a nail. In other words do the test in a real life type situation and not the hammer hitting machine. I would imagine that a brittle hammer hitting a nail head with a force of tens of thousands of psi (all that force from the hammer head hitting something as small as the size of the head of the nail)would cause it (the hammer head) to fracture. Your tests have used two hammers hitting flush against each other. I don’t think that that was a real life test.

  6. Chris says:

    The key word is ‘shatter’. Hammers will chip if you do something like this and they said so on the show.

  7. nathan says:

    A hammer hitting another hammer can most definitely come apart. Maybe not explode in a sense but definitely can pose a serious hazard. What will happen is that the case hardened portion of the hammer (typically a “skin” approximately .050 in all around the head)will separate from the soft core. The effect would be most easily described as covering a tennis ball in ice then bouncing it. The core can deform, but the skin cannot. Eventually it would crack and separate from the core, and fly off. Cast steel hammers are different. They will eventually form stress cracks due to the crystalline structure of the steel, and come apart in large chunks. It all depends on the hammers. A large hammer will break easier than a small one because the amount of force (ft/lbs) in relation to the thickness of the skin is much greater.

  8. Earl says:

    standard police match ammunition is what caliber ???

    • random guy says:

      there are multiple calibers used by police, though i suspect it was 7.62x51mm(.308 winchester)considering that is the most commonly used round.

    • Luke says:

      The standard caliber used by the police force is 9mm.

  9. Wayne says:

    Your myth about hitting two hammers together Will cause damage I know because I did it working on a car in 1978, and one of the hammers chipped and the piece of the hammer went into my wrist and broke an artery and lodge into my bone and I was bleeding really bad and had to rushed to the Hospital. Two weeks later I had to go in for surgery and have the peice of hammer removed from my wrist bone. And in 2003 I found out that I had Hep C and had to have a liver transplant. I think I got the Hep C from the Hospital that operated in 1978 because it was dirty. If you would like to know more about this story like what kind of hammers I used (and I still have one of them) then feel free to contact me by E-mail

  10. Jason says:

    Hammer myth, definatly true! In real situtations one hammer is held still while the other is swung at it. People usually do this when thay are trying to demolish things on a jobsite. I witnessed it firsthand, still have the hammers. When the worker was taken to the hospital, the doctors thoaght that he had been shot with a .22 cal. gun!

  11. Raymond says:

    can you make a bullet fire bu hitting it with a nail hammer and not having the bullet in any type of chamber

    • random guy says:

      sure, as long as its a center fire cartridge, it could work with a rim fire but its unlikely considering the force youd need to exert. But yeah as long as you hit the primer it should go off

    • Anonymous Citizen says:

      actually a center fire is difficult to fire with a hammer only. It’s very hard to hit the primer.
      A rim fire will fire almost 100% of the time if you lay it on a hard surface and hit it.
      The physics are simple. The rim is actually mashed by the hammer on both the hammer side and the hard surface side.
      Knew a guy who would go steal 22 shorts and longs and sit in the street and place them on a rock and hit them with a hammer.
      Our streets were not paved.
      Sometimes the empty cartridge would make a nice whining sound when departing. Kind of scary to me. The shot/projectal/round what ever usually didn’t move more than a few feet. You know Neuton’s law.
      Action/reaction but the larger mass moves less distance than the smaller mass when the same force is applied.
      Get it or is above the third grade mentality here?

  12. Travis says:

    Sniper rounds would most likley be full metal jackets so would not break up so easily and be harder to deflect

    • random guy says:

      all military used rounds are full metal jacketed. it is illegal for the military to use any other type against other military personnel.

  13. Bob says:

    Love the show but please if talking about metallurgy (case hardening, etc) with the hammers get the process right. In my opinion a hammer can certainly shatter or chip if there is and manufacturing flaw and/or improper heat treatment. Travis covered my concerns about the sniper scope.

  14. Grant says:

    Re shooting a sniper through telescopic sight.
    I have not seen your update re this but I noticed you were using a modern hunting rifle with what looked like mushrooming (expanding) ammunition. You should know that the military in WWII used FMJ (full metal jacketed) ammunition. These would have a far better chance of penetrating fully.

    Grant

  15. Greg says:

    I was a victim of a shattering hammer. My two older brothers were trying to hit the hammer heads together in mid-air. I (being about 5 years old) was watching one minute and the next thing I remember is waking up on a table with my father pulling a piece of metal out of my head, right between the eyes. It was not lethal force but it was enough to stick in my head and leave a pretty good scar

  16. Jay says:

    a related myth is that a machine gun used in combat gets so hot from use that it ‘runs away’ or fires bullets without the operator and will continue until the belt is depleted. i contend the barrel will melt and cause an explosion before this could ever happen. can u check this out?

    • random guy says:

      it really depends on what type of firearm is used. but it really has happened before. there are multiple reliable accounts of this. in fact there are weapons famously hated by soldiers for doing such a thing

  17. Mike says:

    The thing that you need to worry about with respect to hitting two hammers together is when you don’t get a good square hit and a piece of one of the hammers coming off and hitting you in the eye. I’ve had a few scratches on my glasses because of things like this or because I has hitting the head of a chisel. The worst scenario is with aan old hammer or tool whose head has started to mushroom. Yeah, technically, you should regrind those heads to remove the mushroom, but some of us don’t think about it until a piece breaks off and hits us in the glasses. I had an uncle that lost an eye because of this type of action. One of the disadvantages of having 20/20 vision, I guess. I’ve pretty much always had to wear glasses, so I guess I’ve always got safety glasses with me. I suspect that if I hadn’t been wearing glasses all these years, I would have probably lost an eye by now.

  18. A.J. Moore says:

    I watched this episode. During the show they talked about how hard it would be to get a “larger” bullet, the 9 mm luger, into the chamber or cylinder of a 38 special. In all reality the 9 mm luger is smaller in diameter at .355″ and the 38 special uses larger bullets at .357″. Two thousands of an inch difference, small difference but the 9mm is still smaller.

  19. The problem with the Hathcock story has to do with trajectory, rather than factors treated in the Mythbusters experiment. At only one comparative level (height one above the other) could the trajectory of Hathcock’s shot have tranversed the scope in question exactly; and, in such case, the enemy sniper could not have been aiming at Hathcock. This one is busted (and more easily demonstrated by mathematics than actual experiment).

    • random guy says:

      the enemy sniper WAS above hathcock, he was in bushes on a hillside about 2-300 hundred yards away. you can easily get a sub inch MOA with the type of rifle hathcock was using at that range. this myth is not a myth. it was witnessed by several refutable military personnel, including multiple officers. both the body and weapon were recovered, the enemy with a bullet in his brain that entered through the eye socket, and the scope with a bullet hole through it.

  20. Gifford says:

    Hal
    Bullets don’t fly in straight lines.
    Distance, wind, bullet size,and weight. All play a roll. They need to get a real sniper, and the right gun & ammo. And do it at long distance. Heck make a contest out of it. It would fun to watch. ha ha

    • Anonymous Citizen says:

      You forgot to mention gravity.

      • woop says:

        “You forgot to mention gravity.”

        Id say that was pretty much to do with weight

  21. JohnnyE says:

    I visited the Petersburg, Virginia, Civil War battlesite a few days ago. In the visitor center museum they had several bullets that met in midair. One pair was a head-on hit. They basically flattened into a disk with the back of the bullets sticking out from the middle. I still remember seeing the Gettysburg bullets about 50 years ago.

  22. gotti says:

    I swing a hammer 4 50 hours a week over a steel table and every ones hammer is chipped and they hurt !!! universal forest products 325

  23. Aaron says:

    Why did they mark the bullet fuse myth as plausible if it’s totally probable and has definetely happened b4 if the above comments about the gettysburg museum are true, even though very hard to do it should still be confirmed

    And the answer to number 11′s comment, Raymond, is that yes, you could hit a bullet with a hammer and cause it to fire, but it wouldn’t be extremely smart

  24. John Lamey says:

    Three words, Full Metal Jacket. The military uses these and I know that a 7.62×54 FMJ will shoot through any scope as I have shot through junk cars cracking the engine block inside. The FMJ shouldn’t be deflected by the lenses in a scope.

    • random guy says:

      umm, us military does use 7.62×54, thats the russian military. hathcock was using a 7.62×51. not much difference though

      • Proponent of reading says:

        He never said anything about the US military using 7.62 x 54R rounds. He was talking about FMJ bullets, nothing more.

  25. S. C. Parks says:

    Based on my experience shooting junked cars and farm machinery, I am sure that a military issue FMJ / Full Metal Jacket 150 grain 7.62 NATO bullet will completely penetrate a rifle scope end to end. A soft point expanding bullet as appeared to be used in your test would not, as you proved. In the book “Marine Sniper, 93 Confirmed Kills” by Charles Henderson, Hathcock says that he used match grade military 7.62 NATO FMJ ammo in his bolt action sniper rifle in Vietnam.

  26. T. J. says:

    There are other instances of shots through opposing sniper’s scopes from other wars. Hathcock wasn’t the first. As far as the angular variation…what was the distance? Probably not further than a few hundred yards, and that close, there won’t be enough variation to have gross misalignment. The reality is that snipers rarely shot ultra long range. Yeah there are some that happen, but most are much closer in.

    If they used “police match” ammo, it was probably a 168gr boattail hp, with a thin jacket…definitely will not carry through like a FMJ would. Especially when they put it ultra close as the higher impact velocity increases expansion rate.

  27. is bullet bending possible???? says:

    is bullet bending possible???? like in the movie ~wanted~. try a bust on it tooo, a.s.a.p

  28. bobcat says:

    should be useing 7.65 147 grain M118 ball amunition(era marine sniper ammo). just to be historicly accurate. fireing into a proper mosin nagant scope(what charlie had during the war)

  29. jaboobie says:

    Here’s the two fuzed bullets from the actual Gettysburg Civil War museum.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaboobie/4271935/in/set-72157594490046594/

  30. Kari Sommer says:

    I had a hammer head shed a piece of shrapnel into my forearm. I don’t consider that myth busted, its confirmed. It took surgery to remove. While only the size of a .177 pellet it hit close to a serious group of nerves.

  31. colleen says:

    My son found an old bullet – it’s about 2inches long – he drove a nail into it on the side – planning to make a necklace out of it…was this potentially dangerous?

    • Anonymous Citizen says:

      Only mildly!
      The pouder mostly needs an open flame which is created by the primer. Mercury Fulmanate.
      Sorry I mis spelled it but you know what I mean. The smokeless power is really quite stable and needs a pretty good shock and a flame front to ignite it.

      I certainly would not reccomend it though.
      You could just get a really bad luck of the draw.
      Best way to make what he was doing is to use something soft like a few layers of a rag in pliars to remove the projectil “uh oh, spelling again” and pour the powder out.
      Then to be ultra safe just set the case in a vise so it will not be damaged “let the rim set on the jaws of the vise” then holding a punch with pliars to protect your fingers and glasses to protect your eyes, “just in case” put the point on the primer and lightly tap it with a hammer. It will sound like a black cat fire cracker.
      Then put the projectil back in the way you took it out. Drill a hole in the case for the chain to go around hi/your neck.
      I’ve done hundreds of them for people who asked for it.
      Yes the primer has a bit of power but not lethal.
      Once long ago I lived in a house that was infested with rats. Not mice big rats!
      I had a 45 colt. Much larger case than the case of the 45 ACP most you you are familar with due to the WWII fame.
      I would mold bullets from bees wax, “I keep bees” which is a little harder than parafin.
      Using just the primer and the bees was bullet I killed several rats in the house.
      Kinda stupid but at the time it was fun.

  32. Jeff says:

    I was just looking through an old National Geographic magazine. It was dated April 1965. On page 444 they has a photo of two slugs which were fired in the Civil War battlefield of five forks that are in fact fused. Just food for thought.

  33. Mitch says:

    As anyone ever seen/heard of a loose 7.62 round firing from impact by the point of another 7.62? No rifles involved, just one round slamming against another

  34. Ken House says:

    Carlos, Long Tran/White Feather.

    In busting the myth (I watched the episode this afternoon on Discovery Channel) did you use the standard Sniper Round from the period?
    168 Grain Sierra Match King Bullet? Hollow Pointed Boat Tail loaded to a muzzle velocity of 2770 FPS?

    The NVA rifle would have been the Nagent or the Dragonov rifle in 7.62X54 Russian.

    Long Tran’s the M70/Winchester Model 70 in 30-06 his favorite weapon for sniping using the Classic sniper round I still load to this day. A Very accurate round.

    Wish we had the 168 grain Barnes Bullets back then. Would have made a world of difference.

    Respectfully
    RA-14778295
    US Army Special Forces
    S/P-5
    Spec-1
    Light Weapons Specialist.

  35. Jo says:

    Regarding the sniper bullet penetrating the scope, would not need to happen. I’m a trauma nurse and being hit in the face with such force would most likely severely injure or kill someone. If you look closely to “Grant’s” face you can see that the scope made an imprint on the orbital socket. Concussion, shaddered eye socket, or dead, that sniper is not walking away under his own power.

  36. Sophie says:

    use a real life senairio like hammer hiting nail or someone missing a nail and hitting an axe or a hammer on its side (all brittle)

  37. bill odom says:

    the myth about hathcocks shot should be verified it was at aprox 300 yards. on the history channel a retired marine sniper pretty much duplicsted the shot. What you failed to take into account was the enemy snipers scope. It was a pu scope. Aproximately 1/2 the length of amodern variable scope. check the history channel. Next also on the history channel the myth concerning the dropping of a coin and multiple shots before it hit the ground should br confirmed/plausible. The expert you used is good but not the best. There is a single action pistelero the can do this. He draws and cocks and fires the 1st round with his righht hsand holds the trigger down and sweeps his left hand over the hammer thumb first then followed by individual fingers. hecan fire faster with a single action than a semiauto. Of course the pistol he uses is highly modified. Third the myth of splitting and arrow can be and has bee done again chack the history channel. It has been done by a trickshot artist.

  38. glen j. says:

    John Lamey:
    Three words, Full Metal Jacket. The military uses these and I know that a 7.62×54 FMJ will shoot through any scope as I have shot through junk cars cracking the engine block inside. The FMJ shouldn’t be deflected by the lenses in a scope
    as per john a 7.62x54r 148 grain small ball is a steel core round i shoot a russian mosin 91/30

  39. Leslie H says:

    In the war museum at Gallipoli in Turkey there are numerous fused together bullets found on the battle field there. 1915 vintage

  40. Pat F says:

    “will completely shatter” is what is busted, chipping off they said did and does happen.

  41. Donna Lockwood says:

    In the episode wherein Jamie and Adam were shooting a 9mm Glock round into the cylinder of a .38 special Colt……the statement was made “The 9mm is slightly larger than the .38″.

    I believe a 9mm bullet measures.355 in diameter, and a .38/.357 measures .357………so the reverse is true……….the 9mm is slightly SMALLER than the .38 spl.

  42. stephen says:

    Regarding the colliding bullets, the version I read was that two men, equally good marksmen, fought a duel over a woman, and nobody could find the bullet until somebody realized the bullets had collided in midair. I don’t remember where I read that.
    Has anybody else heard of that?

  43. David says:

    http://paradoxoff.com/french-and-russian-bullets-collided-in-flight.html

    Picture of bullets collided, so not plausible, true.

  44. Infanteer says:

    Jay:
    a related myth is that a machine gun used in combat gets so hot from use that it ‘runs away’ or fires bullets without the operator and will continue until the belt is depleted. i contend the barrel will melt and cause an explosion before this could ever happen. can u check this out?

    Yes this can happen, it’s called a runaway gun. There are drills taught to machine gunners for dealing with this ie: breaking the belt. *technically* this shouldn’t happen if the gunner is following proper drills and replacing his barrels. The barrel can get so hot (well before melting) that it cooks off the round before the hammer strikes it. So yes, the round is ‘exploding’ as you say, but it also is ‘exploding’ whenever the hammer strikes it too ;).

  45. Ted says:

    I work with sheet metal and had a hammer fracture and a chip of it went under my skin and skewed at least 3/4 inch from where the punture was. I was setting a concrete anchor inside of unistrut using the head of a tinner’s hammer against the anchor and striking it with a regular claw hammer. A chip came off of the tinner’s hammer from the small end and became lodged in my hand. It was not a lethal situation, but my hammer did fracture from repeated blows.

  46. Mike Hunt says:

    Hammers will chip, and the shards will go where they want. But will they ‘shatter’? No. In the blacksmith’s work, he often uses tools known as swages. These are hand tools used for forming the metal on it’s upper face, as where hardies are used for either the bottom face, or whatever else the smith needs to do to the metal (scrolls, cutting, bending, etc.)
    On one end was the part to be used on the metal, the other was where the hammer struck it. So, the smith would either use heavy or light strikes, depending on the force necessary. Now, if these two tools, both very hammer-like, shattered whenever the smith striked, it would be very unlikely they would continue using such dangerous tools. Now, they WILL chip if improperly made/hardened/tempered,but they won’t explode.
    It’s a shame knowledge such as this is lost to the majority these days…

  47. Anonymous Citizen says:

    No the hammer shouldn’t shatter.
    Only the surface of the head is hardened by induction heating and the rest of the process need to make it hard. The rest of the metal is still rather soft. Yes you can be injured by the hardened part breaking off in pieces.
    I’ve seen it several times.
    Never have been hurt though. Lucky me.
    By the way coil springs are made the same way. Only the surface is hardened on the large ones like on your car. The deeper they are hardened the stronger they are.

  48. Stuart says:

    I think they should re teat the hammer myth because my brother keeps trying to say it’s not true and its starting to get me mad.

  49. A.Guo says:

    Well, if they tried the sniper one with 50cal bullets it would definitely work…

  50. adam templeman says:

    i’m sure with the hammers they must both have equal resistance and both be moving at a similar speed as opposed to one striking the other

  51. Gk templeton says:

    Hammer is true, did it at work a couple years ago, the secret, in my case was a waffle head hammer

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