Episode 75: Myths Redux

Air Date: March 21, 2007

REVISITED: A trombonist had put a firecracker into his mute, and at the final note of the 1812 Overture, launched the mute, striking the conductor and knocking him back into the audience. In addition, the bell of the trombone was blown wide open and the slide was launched. (From episode 11)

re-busted

The re-test involved placing simulated lips against the trombone’s mouthpiece so as to seal that end. This still failed to cause the slide to fly off the instrument. They only achieved the feat by soldering a plug into the mouthpiece, completely sealing it shut.

REVISITED: A sniper can kill another sniper by shooting straight through the scope of his opponent’s rifle. (From episode 67)

plausible

Using a period-accurate scope (this myth originates from the Vietnam War) and a .30-06 armor piercing round, Jamie’s shot went completely through the sight and penetrated two inches into the target dummy – deep enough to be a possibly lethal hit.

REVISITED: A shotgun plugged by a human finger will backfire and explode injuring or killing the shooter instead of the intended victim. (From episode 43)

re-busted

The re-test used a 19th-century double-barreled shotgun made through Damascus welding. The first barrel was damaged by a ballistic gelatin finger, though not as seen in cartoons. A steel finger welded to the end of the second barrel simply made the whole tip of the barrel shoot off.

SPINOFF: A .30-06 rifle fired while having a boresight still in the barrel will backfire and explode, creating a cartoon-like banana peel effect as shown in submitted photographs. (From episode 43)

plausible

The Build Team’s test used a brand new rifle. The barrel split several inches when fired with a laser boresight in the barrel. The Build Team surmises that the banana-peel effect could be achieved if this were to happen in an older rifle that has endured more wear and tear from firings.

REVISITED: If two hammers strike each other, at least one hammer will completely shatter with lethal force. (From episode 67)

re-busted

First, the Build Team properly heated two modern hammers to the transition point and quenched them, making them as brittle as possible. The two hammers simply snapped at the necks when struck. Then they tested older steel hammers (predating World War II). Though the heads began to chip when struck, one of them ultimately snapped at the neck as well.

SPINOFF: If a hammer strikes hard against an anvil, the hammer will completely shatter with lethal force. (From episode 67)

re-busted

For this re-test, they used a genuine steel anvil and used a rig that would make the hammer strike against the top of the anvil. The pre-WW2 steel hammer suffered cracks and chips from first a human then a superhuman strike, but it did not shatter.

48 Comments

  1. Ray says:

    Wouldn’t it be plausible, not to totally shatter the hammer, but for a chip to fly off at high velocity, due to not the high pressure of the hammers striking and breaking the handles, but due to resonance from repetitive striking, causing fractures and allowing a crack to develop invisible to the eye, maybe, to only later come flying off to injure the eye. I haven’t heard of a hammer exploding on impact, but I can understand that the hardened steel could come flying off at high velocity to strike the eyeball, or somebody else. Was this only to say that the whole hammer head wouldn’t explode? Another possibility to the head is that, remember the expression of the frequency where the vibration sent the whole bridge shaking, maybe a crack could form if the hammer was resonating, and just by chance, or perfectly measured (is that possible?) it was struck hard again, to concentrate the resonance again, causing a chip to come off?

    Goodness me. I am terrible at writing short sentences.

    • chris brown says:

      My comment to this question, and to the whole myth. I don’t know if it is possible for one to explode, but two years ago I watched my brother in law, have a piece of cast iron lodge into his leg by striking a dump truck axle with a sledge hammer, and so when I seen this episode I knew they were steady half wrong. Until yesterday, I attempted to pull a nail, and with with about half my power struck the hammer with another hammer felt a strange pinching pressure in my wrist looked down and blood was steadily streaming out of a little quarter of an inch whole, and on the side edge of the hammer there was a little chip out of it. So I think they either need to go further with there experiments, or stop calling there myths busted.

    • Randy says:

      20 years ago I was in need of a crowbar to rip apart a wood framing windowsill. I did not have a crowbar but had 2 hammers. i hit the 2 heads of the hammer together to drive the claw between the two 2×6. after about 10 swings a small piece of the hammer head about the size of a pencil eraser shot off and went deep into my chest.

      At the hospital they were unable to remove the piece of hammer and it remains in my chest to this day. NEVER BANG 2 HAMMERS TOGETHER!!!

  2. Tim says:

    Yep. As my schoolmate who demonstrated how ‘safe’ it is to bash two hammers together will tell you – don’t hit hammers together. At least, not if you like your corneas intact.

    High School metalwork room, two hammers, one person acting idiotically, hammers meet at velocity and a very very small (almost microscopic) piece of hardened steel flies into his eye – needing to be surgically removed.

    I’ve never heard (outside of mythbusters) anyone talking about ‘exploding hammers’. Hitting any objects made from hardened steel together is Not A Good Idea. Even on the mythbusters’ own slo-mo footage, you can see small debris coming off the hammers when they hit.

    Also, the same goes for axes/sledgehammers/etc.. I hope I never again see someone hitting an axe embedded in a log with a sledgehammer..

    Tim..

  3. Jake Kallman says:

    The trombone myth should have been busted from the start! You see, the 1812 overture doesn’t call for a mute so why would the trombonist have one in the instrument if the piece doesn’t call for it?

  4. Chris says:

    They actually did mention that the hammers may chip. but the myth they were testing was for a complete shatter, I had nevery heard of it myself but eh.

  5. Larry Harris says:

    Metallurgist/gun nut… .30-06 AP ammo was cheep when I was young, and I’ve fired alot of it. I’ve never seen significant distorsion of the core even when fired into steel plate (really not a good idea to be close to the steel plate). The core may break, but not distort. I doubt that the recovered fragment was from the AP bullet. The AP bullet is made of the copper (cupro-nickel) jacket and a small amount of lead (approx. 25 grains) apparently used as a lubricant/filler when the jacket is formed over the approx. .270 dia. boat-tail shaped core. The recovered fragment appeared to be lead and larger than 25 grains. I think the recovered fragment was most likely from the previous bullet and you initally missed the entry hole. My experience with ’06 AP ammo would indicate that close examination of the dummy head (if still available) would reveal a small cut/exit in the back of the head from the AP core, and the identifiable bullet shaped core could be found, in line, in your dirt backstop (up to 1 foot deep but probably less). You could hunt for it with a magnet.
    Also, as a metallurgist, I have had the opportunity to analyze the AP bullet materials. I had always been told that the cores were “carbide” (tungsten carbide particles held together in/by a cobalt matrix. I was supprised to find that the cores that I examined were high carbon steel (iron based), apparently AISI 10100 os W1 tool steel, heat treated to maximum hardness. However, it makes sense… the steel cores work well, and tungsten carbide cores would have made the ’06 AP round expensive to produce.
    Period sniper ’06 ammo would have been government “match” (headstamped “match”) ammo (160-168gr.??(I’ve forgotten) boat-tail spitzer), but for your experiment 150gr. ball should have worked just as well.

  6. Jonathan says:

    As far as the hammer myth goes, a blacksmith would be continuously hitting the hammers, Tori, Grant, and Carry just hit them a couple times and then called it busted. They need to continuously hit the hammers time after time for it to work. Personaly I think they should redo this again.

  7. Danny Janczak says:

    As far as the the hammer myth is concern, I am a carpenter that builds custom homes and on a personnel experience that I had on June 6th 2007. I can say that a hammer can send chips the size of a M&M’s flying. On the above date I was building a timber frame home in my Area and while I was laying roof panels, I had to remove some kicker boards “boards to keep you from sliding of the roof” off a 12/12 pitch in order to screw off the roof panels. I placed one hammer in between the panel and the kicker board, and used a second hammer to strike the first hammer farther underneath in order to pull up the kicker. Upon my second strike of the hammer,the hammer that I was using to strike the other hammer, had sent a piece of metal the size of a mini M&M into my lower bicep severing my Blood vessel, my main artery, and embedded itself in my nerve causing 30% damage to the nerve. as a result of this I almost lost the right arm. but doctors were able to reconstruct the vitals and now the only damage I have is the lose of feeling in the index and thumb. So make what you may from this but this hammer was only 3mons. old! I do have photos of the hammer, the wound, and a medical report to prove this story! So yes I think they should redo this again!

  8. Chris says:

    For the last time, they SAID hammers could chip!

  9. tony childs says:

    In the late 1950′s I struck one hammer head against another whilst trying to replace a broken handle in one of them. This piece of stupidity caused a fragment of one of the hammers to fly off in the form of a spark. The spark struck my bare bicept, passed through my skin without leaving a mark. The evidence is there to this day in the form of a small black mark rather like a tatoo. Also on pinching the skin around the mark, the piece of metal can be felt, it is about 1/4 the size of a grain of rice.

  10. Charles says:

    Regarding the ‘banana’ gun barrel, I was not particularly surprised at the result as once the barrel failed at one point this would release the pressure so no further splits would form. The only way to get a splayed-out barrel like in the cartoons would be if it failed at several points simultaneously.

  11. Peter Tucker says:

    18/10/07 hello Boys, I have a piece of a small hammer in my knee from a hammer which struck a much larger hammer used as a dolly. It went in so hard the surgeons said to remove it could do more dammage. That was about 30 years ago and it gives me hell at times. Regards and thanks for an entertaining show. Peter Tucker Australia

  12. Adam Cole says:

    22/10/07. Just watched the revisit myth on the trombonist and noticed no refernce to the tuning slide that also shot off like a rocket. As this is the slide that would have copped most of the initial force of the blast before allowing it into the main slide, I wonder how far it travelled? Footage shows it taking off at high speed. And the main slide went 70 feet, how far for the tuning slide, going the opposite await. Look out Percussion Section I say!

  13. nick says:

    when the hardend hamers were slamed together the handle bent absorbing the force. HARDEN ALL THE HAMER

  14. David Lilly says:

    This show is nothing but a couple of idiots that have access to a ton of materials, access to myriad explosive experts, stupid experiments that prove nothing and should be taken off the air because of their stupidity.

  15. yay says:

    that lilly guy is right even though he has a girls name

  16. yay says:

    hahahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahhahahhahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahah yay get it kronk

  17. 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).

  18. Scot says:

    The banana peel rifle barrel theory is completely accurate. It actually happened to me on a hunting trip last November in Alaska, a 30.06 Browning A-Bolt, as the rifle barrel was plugged by snow and ice. It split cleanly right down the middle when i got on a griz, from the tip of the barrel down to the scope mount, approx. 21″ The tips of the barrel are now 21″ apart also. Blew out the ring seal on the scope too. I was very lucky, only my left hand was numb for about a day. Pictures to prove it. Maybe Browning will give me a new rifle in exchange for the story?

  19. mike says:

    i think that the conductor would be much more likely to be flying off the stage because of the shear shock of being struck with this large object that exploded towards him and not from the actuall force of being hit. I think using buster doesnt make sense since he wont jump backwards in shock or fear at all and will just absorb the full hit. this has bugged me alot since watching both visits of this myth. I mean if i were hit with something like that i might jump into the upper seating out of shock alone.

  20. Andy Z says:

    I think Sgt.Hathcock was using a model 70 Winchester chambered in .300 win mag. This would be more powerful than a 30-06.Also I can confirm that those “chips” from a hammer have enough force to stick in bone. The scar is cute but the nerve damage isn’t.

  21. Roger (Qld, Australia) says:

    Still having trouble with the two hammers struck together test. It’s been called BUSTED/ RE-BUSTED. But there’s still a few problems.

    1) The construction of the metal head of many hammers is one of hardfacing over softer metal, a result of the type of heat treating process used on it. This is similar to the hardcasing used on gears and splined shafts. Makes the surface very hard and wear resistant, but prone to shattering when struck with something equally as hard and of sufficient mass. If the gear or splined shaft is broken through the spline or tooth, the hardfacing is visibly different to the metal beneath it.
    As I remember it, the Myth Team tried to cater for this by applying their own heat treatments to several hammers, but the type of heat treating they applied actually changed the structure of the metal so that it wasn’t hardfaced but hard all the way through. The treatment they used wasn’t the type for producing hard facing over a softer central core.

    2) A structure was built to enable two hammers be affixed to steel arms that struck the two hammers together. However, the handles of the hammers kept breaking. What appears to be overlooked is that this is a result of the design of the machine. It does not really replicate the actions of human hands holding the hammer handles and interaction of the attached to human wrists and arms. Try stricking two rubber mallets together and watch how so much of the forces are absorbed by the reactionary moving of all the joints of the arms right upto the shoulder and the countering forces of the sets of muscles within the arm as they act to stabilise the outward flinging arms of the person. This also acts to absorb and counter the forces. The device constructed to hold the hammers did not allow for this and so the heads kept breaking off the handles.

    Perhaps they could try this again using a what is essentially a baby’s humidi-crib, that is one of those clear perspex enclosures with arm holes in the sides. (Obviously with suitable protection on the person’s arms, etc.)

  22. Kevin Robertson says:

    In regards to the trombonist myth. I noticed a missing element that my be crucial to the myths accuracy. With all attempts, none were conducted with actual air pressure being applied to the mouth piece end. If a player was playing the horn when the firecracker went off, the pressure of the horn being played will add force to the explosion. This may cause the horn to peel open and fly apart. There would be an increase in atmospheric pressure inside the horn, which would be amplified with the introduction of an explosion adding back pressure at an extreme rate.

  23. wayne emerson says:

    I have a piece of my hammer in my chest,by hitting two together. I think I know what you missed in your experiment.

  24. joshua lasseff says:

    shotgun plugged by human finger.
    the myth is supose to be with a sidearm from the late 1800′s,like the cap and ball guns from the old west where the myth started.
    using a 21′st century weapon for this myth is a waist of time.

  25. Cj_ says:

    coworker just had shrapnel from hitting two hammers go into his chest… so, it is confirmed for everyone I work with.

  26. Don Bollenbacher says:

    Regarding the exploding hammer concept, I hear that metals do break during cold weather. Perhaps you could condition your hammers at -40 degrees F., and then bang them together again. At some temperature, materials reach a glass point and they loose their yield strength. For seviceability,tensile sength and yield strength are needed to get the proper amount of toughness in metal. High toughness is needed for proper hammers.

    I was watching a Canadian diamond mine program and they spoke about the problem of major metal failures at temperatures of about -40 degrees F. and lower.

    Many thanks for your show, I enjoy it.

  27. Joe says:

    I know for a fact that a chip can come off an abused and worn hammer, a guy i work with lost an eye to it! another guy had a chip from a chisel lodge in his arm and block a blood vessel.

  28. steve says:

    I still have my x-ray photos on cd that show a chip off a hammer head in my hand. I won’t do that again!!

  29. Gina says:

    This hammer-strike “myth” has sparked controversy in our magazine, Fine Woodworking, and on our Web site.

    We ran a picture of a woodworker tapping two hammers together in out May/June issue and it provoked a continuing debate… if you have thoughts, feel free to weigh in in on our blog: http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/17562/reader-says-mythbusters-missed-on-hammer-strikes

  30. Donovan says:

    One day about 25 years ago I was splitting eucalyptus for firewood when my splitting maul became stuck in the wood. I struck the back of the splitting maul with a sledgehammer to force the maul through the wood. When I did this, a small chip of metal flew off the backside of splitting maul. The chip flew off the splitting maul with enough force to go through my jeans & my skin & stop at the bone in my shin. It was extremely hot when it hit my leg. I’m not sure, but I think that the 2 were miss aligned when they collided.

  31. Sam Whitley says:

    As a former hunter education instructor, I can assure all present that a rifle or shotgun barrel plugged with any substance (including water, mud, ice, snow, finger, etc. can cause barrels to fail (usually split)in the manner shown in cartoons. Youtube has several videos of guns fired and barrels split in real time. I personally have several barrels I used as teaching aids whose barrels split as a result of various pluggages. Sometimes this was a bullet that didn’t make it out the muzzle and sometimes other things. As to the reader who surmised mathematically the Carlos Hathcock’s shot could not have traversed the length of a ‘scope “exactly” longitudinally, he should remember that the Russian Moisan-Nagant rifle used against him had a short (about 150mm) long scope and that a bullet’s fall over such a short distance is minimal, even at very long range. As I recall (and I have read Hathcock’s book) the shot mentioned was made at a relatively short distance (not extremely long range) so the shot is possible. The bullet path, though it would obviously have been distorted by the lens strikes, would not likely have been deflected enough to miss the primary target behind the scope. From 50 years shooting experience plus hunter education instructor training and personal analysis, Hathcock’s “myth” positively confirmed. I have to agree with the folks that claim mythbusters guys are a couple of village idiots with more money than brains. And that if they don’t get the “results” they are trying for initially, they declare “busted” and move on.

  32. Dan says:

    I had a shotgun barrel banana peel on me in 2007 and I have the pictures to prove it. One thing is for sure, there was nothing obstructing the barrel prior to the shot. I checked that the barrel was clear from the breach before loading. I also used the proper sized shell. The cause was never determined, but I believe it was a defect in the barrel itself or perhaps the choke tube. It was the loudest sound I have ever heard!

  33. marcel says:

    I saw episode 43 the other day where you busted: “A shotgun plugged by a human finger will backfire and explode injuring or killing the shooter instead of the intended victim.” myth and i wanted to make a suggestion what if you drilled the shotgun’s barrel so that the thickness of the barrel is very thin and you took of the support bar at the top of the shotgun wouldn’t that make it more likely to make a banana peel result? I don’t want to confirm the myth i want to help get the result you thrived for in the episode.

  34. Vickie says:

    A household hammer with the V on the end to remove nails repeatedly used on an anvil with copper rivets will indeed lose it’s its forks. I’ve done this twice now.

  35. Dean says:

    Another shattered hammer story…two of my uncles went for the same nail at the same time. A large sliver came off of one of the hammers and lodged in one uncle’s eye. Luckily he did not lose the eye, despite a long wait at the hospital. It was a large sliver, not a flake or chip, and it was a glancing blow that damaged the hammer.

  36. Tristen says:

    Well, they said it could chip.. but they were testing for a SHATTER.

    It’s like the ‘break a rock with a bigger rock’ mentality. They’re looking for complete destruction, as if the hammer had a small bomb detonate inside it.

  37. Guru says:

    Geeze. . . Try asking a blacksmith. I am one and I also train and advise other smiths.

    Occasionally a smith will miss the work (hot iron which is soft) and strike the anvil hard. The biggest danger is the rebound as the hammer comes flying back into your face at a speed very close to that of the blow. Smiths learn early and quickly NOT to that AND be ready to duck!

    Over a period of years a smith MAY accidentally do this many times with the same hammer and very rarely does a hammer chip much less shatter. However, glancing blows can chip hammers, or the work and the most common damage is to the anvil which is often harder than the hammer and also often has too sharp of corners (the corners should be radiused to reduce this possibility).

    Hardened steel hammers striking hardened tools is supposed to be avoided but it is impossible to avoid in real job situations. Well made tools have soft struck ends and are also well radiused so that corners do not get struck and chips fly off. Common tools have a chamfer on the corner and cheap tools have none. Tools that develop sharp corners from mushrooming (swelling from repeated blows) OR tools made with sharp corners should be rounded using a grinder. Tools that have mushroomed to the point of cracking are a dangerous accident in progress. These should have the entire end cut off and then be dressed properly.

    At low temperatures (anything near and below freezing) steel IS much more brittle and more likely to break. Folks that use tools in cold weather often store them indoors or warm them before use.

    The hammer mentioned by Vicki was probably a (toy) cast iron carpenters hammer. These used to be commonly found in childrens toy tool kits and are now found everywhere in cheap import tool kits. Cast iron is very weak and brittle. These hammers commonly DO break, the claws or face flying off, when striking something solid, including a large nail. This can happen the first time they are used. A VERY disappointing tool but a good way to learn the difference between cast iron and steel. If you give your children tools, give them REAL tools.

    My favorite mythbuster? Steel toed shoes. Cleared up a real myth for me.

    • Mike Hunt says:

      I’m glad another smith rang in on this. I feel that since blacksmithing is no longer such an important part of our culture, people have become ignorant of the old ways and works that were done. Such a shame…

  38. Jacob Coton says:

    In the trombone myth they didnt use real lips. I am a trombonist and i recently performed the 1812, and in rehersals we talked about this a lot. A professional trombonist can create an almost complete airtight seal between their lips and the mouthpiece and hold the instrument in such a way as to keep the whole instrument still, apart from the main slide which his only very lightly held. also, the original myth was that it was a Bass-trombonist that did this, and a bass trombone is much larger and made of thicker brass than a tenor like the ones you used to test it.

  39. Henry says:

    I was surprised about the sniper myth. If you had done some research you would have seen that that shot, Shooting another sniper through their scope, has been confirmed.

    Perhaps you could achieve it with modern equipment if you weren’t using such a light round like the 7.62mm that wants to deflect and use a heavier round like a .50 caliber used in the Barret M82.

  40. Flavius says:

    Just watched this episode and i have to say, as a trombonist with 8 years experience you really neglected the human element even in the redux – when someone blows into the trombone, the mouthpiece IS indeed sealed, and the trombonist puts pressure on his lips with it.

    Stop calling myths busted when you can’t replicate the human element properly!!!

  41. Rob McDougall says:

    RE: banana peel gun barrel , at a scientific meeting I talked to a man who goes shooting in the UK. He has a shotgun which exploded tearing the barrel into ” umberella spokes”, he has another which has a swollen barrel after the end was placed under water to shoot a fish. I have met him several times and have no doubt as to the authenticity.

  42. Ray Strauss says:

    Regarding the Marine Corps Carolos Hathcock “myth”; Both Lilly and Henry are correct. Adam and Jamie, as well as the producers, are complete idiots. This “myth” was proven by a Marine Sniper instructor on a documentary called (I believe) “In The Crosshairs”. You have just lost a viewer, due to your incompetency.

  43. jason says:

    my friend was recently working with another mechanic when the hammer his co worker was using chipped off and is now waiting to have the piece surgically removed from his chest, was suppose to have it done already but it was to close to his organs, they said he would have to wait for an on staff surgeon.

  44. Lorne says:

    I cannot remember the calibre but i have seen a barrel that is peeled like a banana. A bloke i know has it hanging over his bar & I was told it was caused by a round that may only have had enough of a charge to enable the bullet to get stuck at the end of the barrel. Unaware the owner fired a second round witch split the barrel at least 3/4 of the it’s length.

  45. Guillaume C. says:

    For the hammer chipping myth,it is plausible that a hammer can chip will hiting another hammer. I have been myself injure will doing this, and i still have scare of it, but no need for a new try.

    Guillaume

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