Episode 91: Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Air Date: November 21, 2007

A person can easily shoot a fish in a barrel.


Because they didn’t want to use a live fish to test this myth, the Mythbusters obtained a dead fish and inserted a motor inside of it to simulate swimming. They then placed the fish in a wooden barrel filled with water and fired at the fish with a 9 mm pistol. However, their first attempt failed, so Adam painted the interior of the barrel white and added transparent windows to improve visibility. With these improvements, both Adam and Jamie were easily able to hit the fish. They then decided to use a multitude of smaller fish and upgraded their weapon to a shotgun. The buckshot managed to hit some of the fish, but only three out of the total of thirty fish. To put the myth to bed, the Mythbusters obtained a M134 minigun that could fire 50 bullets a second. They then set up a water filled barrel and placed a dead 3-foot (0.91 m) sea bass in it. They then fired the minigun at the barrel, tearing it to pieces along with the fish. Because of the vagueness of the conditions of the myth, the Mythbusters declared that shooting fish in a barrel is easy.

The pressure shockwave from a bullet being fired into a barrel is enough to kill a fish.


The Mythbusters calculated that the lethal amount of force required to kill a fish is 8.15 pounds per square inch. However, the instrument that measured PSI was not fast enough to register the impact of the bullet, so the Mythbusters instead opted to use special stickers that measure G force. After firing a single 9 mm bullet into the barrel, the Mythbusters found that the shockwave from the bullet was enough to trip even their highest pressure sensor. This means that the shooter does not necessarily have to hit the fish in order to kill it.

Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by milk.


The milk was used as a control, because it is already proven to reduce discomfort due to the fats it contains. Grant and Tory used the milk as a measuring stick for the rest of the supposed cures.

Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by water.


The water did not perform as well as the milk; the discomfort immediately returned once the water left the mouth.

Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by beer.


The beer helped slightly but was not effective enough to be called a cure.

Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by tequila.


The tequila initially intensified the discomfort, then the numbness induced by it slightly lessened the pain. However, it was not effective enough to be called a cure.

Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by toothpaste.


The toothpaste had no effect at all.

Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by petroleum jelly.


The petroleum failed to work, and also disgusted the Mythbusters who had to put it in their mouths.

Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by wasabi.


Grant reacted violently to the wasabi, stating that it only made his discomfort worse, but Tory stated that he actually felt some relief. Regardless, it wasn’t effective as milk.

Elephants are scared of mice.


The Mythbusters traveled to a wildlife preserve in Africa to find wild elephants to test the myth on. They hid a mouse under a ball of elephant dung, planning to flip the dung over and reveal the mouse when the elephants approach it. When they flipped the dung and revealed the mouse, the approaching elephant was startled and quickly moved away from the mouse. The Mythbusters then flipped dung without the mouse under it, but the elephants did not react at all. They then retried their first experiment to confirm their results, and the elephant noticed the mouse and actively avoided it. Even though the elephants didn’t panic at the sight of the mouse, the fact that they acted cautiously around it was enough to label this myth plausible.


  1. NotAFurry says:

    Yeah I think plausible is good enough, it’s certainly interesting.

  2. Zhoen says:

    For such a difficult to test myth, you really managed it well. Hey, if humans can be terrified of bees and spiders, why not elephants of mice?

  3. Alex says:

    They tested just flipping the poo. The elephant ignored it.

    That was my first reaction. “Woah, what the heck! My poo jumped! Everything I know is wrong!”

  4. Christopher Treptow says:

    I think it was so cool when you fired that M134 gun. I was shocked to see only the head of the fish was left. Another shocking thing was when the gun vaporized the barrel.

  5. Shanea says:

    I always thought that “Shooting fish in a barrel” meant you through the fish in, like in a fish cleaning company

  6. Shanes says:

    Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by You forgot to try Honey and Icecream (both milk based and soy based).

  7. Mike Khouzam says:

    Any type of sweetness will kill the heat … I usually use a teaspoon of sugar or a combination of sweet and milk (chocolate milk) and just swirl it around in my mouth.

    • Jessica says:

      My great-grandmother used sugar when we got into her bird eye peppers. She packed the area between my tongue and lip (where the pepper had sprayed) and then used bread to absorb the moisture.

    • Josh Butcher says:

      This is correct! Sugar is THE BEST remedy. Hands down. I don’t know why everyone thinks milk is the best. It works yes, but sugar does the trick much better. It will absorb the oils that produce the burning sensation. Salt will work as well, but who wants a mouth full of salt when sugar is available? I think they need to re-test this one.

      • Chris Nelson says:

        We’ve always used ice cream. Milk, sugar, and cold. Bust that!

        • Bill says:

          Yep, Orange Dreamcycle best cure I’ve ever found. Now if there was just a way to cure Second Burn…..:)

          • Tony says:

            Try pickle juice with ice. I don’t mean go out and get a second degree burn, but it does help cool and neutralise the burn. I took a blowtorch to the finger and with this remedy I didn’t even have a mark and my hand felt fine.

  8. Yukon says:

    I have just got into the habit of shooting fish at the hatchery were I study. I am using a 780 fps pellet gun with flat target type pellets. It does the trick. I will have a video up on YouTube withen a couple days.

  9. Justin Wright says:

    I’ve heard that it’s commonplace to find lemon wedges on the dinner table in Mexico to deal with spicy food. Not sure if you suck on it or squirt the juice on the food. But, it’s supposed to mute the hotness.

  10. chris says:

    Actually they should have used a bow and arrow to shoot the fish. It is common to shoot fish with arrows..doesnt disturb the water with pressure. With fish in a barrel, they cannot move away from the break of water like when in a pond.

  11. Bradley Holt says:

    To counteract the pain of spicy food either don’t eat the stuff or eat a banana. That will negate even the hottest chile.

  12. Cristina says:

    I think it would have been nice with another “control” experiment with regard to the fear of elephants for mice. Like testing other animal insetad of the mouse. Would the elephant be as scared/cautios when a spider, for instance, would appear when flipping the poop?

  13. From Finland says:

    About the elephant and mice.
    I´dont belive that the elephant is terrified by mice. I just think that it didn´t wanted to step on it and perhaps kill it. And that´s why she moved away and went another way

  14. RavebGoddess says:


    This is about the hot peppers.

    I always thought that if you drink something it washes the burning further down into your body. I eat bread or a dinner roll, to absorb what’s burning so it keeps from touching my mouth…

  15. nick lock says:

    did anyone notice that the mouse they used in the myth was WHITE? i think they should have tried using a brown or grey mouse cause i think something white would stand out more than a grey or brown mouse…think about it if you were walking in the woods you would see a white mouse easier than a brown or grey one…hence they should use a grey or brown mouse

    • MSpears says:

      That’s actually not a bad suggestion, Nick. Elephants have very poor vision. They might not even have seen a brown or grey mouse. (Then again, they have excellent hearing and smell…)

  16. shader says:

    The wasahi they used is not the proper jap wassabi they used the store export wasabi which is not as hot as the origanal……

  17. Chad says:

    Regarding the peppers.
    I have found that lemonade cures it…dont know why, maybe the acid dissolves the capsaisin

  18. KZ says:

    Did they test celery? They always serve celery with hot wings…

  19. Kiadi says:

    I find it interesting that they claim the fat in milk is what dulls the pain from the hot peppers. Did they try using skim milk? When I eat hot and spicy foods, I always have a glass of skim milk on hand, and it works just as well as a glass of low-fat.

  20. annie says:

    I hope this reaches the desk of someone at Mythbusters.

    The “Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by …” tests DIDN’T INCLUDE two very important things!

    Firstly, one major suggestion (one I have heard more often than any other) is that SUGAR tones down spice. The things which generally work well (milk, lemons, lemonade, fruit juices – which they also didn’t try) are all things which are high in sugars.

    Also, it’s quite clear that Mythbusters didn’t consult anyone in the Asian food community. I worked for 3 years at P.F. Changs (I know – American Chinese – but none-the-less), and on every table we included a bottle of white vinegar … to cut spice! It works quite well. Now, I’ve never tried eating any amount of straight peppers and swishing a tablespoonful of vinegar immediately afterwards, but I do suspect it would work rather well. I have tried it on a spicy dish, and it worked rather nicely. I was COMPLETELY shocked that it wasn’t included.

    So, to Mythbusters in general: if you want to re-open this case – check for sugars and vinegar against the milk control experiment. I would be very interested.

    • Ed says:

      From http://chemistry.about.com/b/2012/03/19/how-to-make-hot-peppers-stop-burning.htm :

      Capsaicin is an alkaline oil. If you keep its chemical properties in mind, you’ll have a better chance of soothing the burn.

      Drinking water doesn’t stop the burning because the oil-based capsaicin won’t dissolve in water. If anything, water spreads the burning to parts that weren’t previously affected.

      if you follow the hot peppers with an acidic food or drink you can neutralize some of the activity of the alkaline capsaicinoid. Good choices include cold lemonade, a lemon or lime, orange juice, anything tomato-based, or drinking milk (which is acidic).

      Milk, yogurt, and sour cream are acidic, which helps to combat the burning. The milk protein called casein acts as a natural detergent, breaking up the capsaicin. Many dairy products also contain fat which can help to dissolve the capsaicin. To get the most benefit from dairy, go for an acidic product that contains fat. In other words, sour cream or ice cream will help you more than skim milk.

      Hope this helps…

  21. Charley dC says:

    A spoon full of sugar is the best cure!
    Just keep it in your mouth for a while, the pain WILL go away.

    Regarding Elephants being scared of mice:
    The reason elephants are scared of mice is that they fear that a mouse will climbed up
    INSIDE their trunk, when this happens the elephant will DIE for sure.

    I’ve learned that from my grandfather, who had a snake/croc farm in Indonesia, let’s say he was the “Steve Irwin” of the 1930’s.
    The fact that i am an EurAsian makes that i know a thing or two about hot & spicy food.

    It’s just a pitty i don’t live in the USA , otherwise i would’ve invited you guys for a spicy dinner……but…one nevers knows……..

    Charley dC

  22. Phil says:

    The show about shooting fish in a barrel–I live in a small town in Maryland, by the Chesapeake Bay. [Fishing village] your comment about storing fish in a barrel, you were so close to the answer.
    When fishermen went net fishing they usually caught lots of fish. In order to remove the fish from the net they would squeeze it from the net. This –as slang was called “shooting fish” now shooting fish in a barrel was just that, removing fish or shooting fish, into a barrel – to salt and store. I am aware that this explanation isn’t as good as your show of “SHOOTING” fish, but that’s where the saying came from. Sorry to take all of the fun from your version, but you always look for the real myth, or sayings.

  23. Dutch says:

    Mouse vs. Elephant
    The mouse used was white in color. I believe that two more tests are necessary.
    1) Try using a brown mouse.
    2) Try using a white piece of paper the size of the mouse.

  24. Jordan says:

    For the pepper test they just needed two things:

    Bread or rice. Both absorb the firey oils in the mouth and provide relief.

  25. Ehren says:

    I live in west Texas. Here there are Mexican food resteraunts on almost every street. When you pay your bill, there is always a bowl of coffee beans. They all say it’s the best thing for the heat.

  26. Craig says:

    A cure that works for hot chilli is Green Tea. It surprised the hell out of me, but it worked.

  27. Le Blue Dude says:

    The elephants and mice thing is a well recorded set of elephant behaviors: Elephants will do their best to avoid stepping on other animals.

  28. Kassie says:

    I think the spicy food could be right although another common cure is warm water

  29. riris says:

    have you tried fruits (like sweet fruits such as mango, banana, etc.) to cure the pain from eating hot peppers?
    try it..

  30. MrObvious says:

    Love your show but the elephant didn’t step on the mouse simply because they didn’t want to hurt it. It’s well known elephant behavior to not step on small animals. I think personally it’s because they are gentle giants that wouldn’t hurt a fly unless they are old or hurt, in captivity or driven mad with grief from loosing a baby.

  31. Robert Wolf says:

    a little creamy peanut butter on a saltine cracker takes the burn from a hot pepper away fast

  32. Old viking says:

    The “shooting fish in a barrel” segment was just a misunderstanding of the myth or proverb. The proverb refers to how easy it would be to shoot salted fish in a barrel, hence, non-moving, tightly packed fish (commonly salted herring) – not swimming in water. So however entertaining the take was, it was not at all on the mark..

  33. beng tang says:

    They should have tested the elephants with other small white objects, and also had a control with a more natural brown mouse. Maybe it’s the colour of the albino mice they used.

  34. Hungarian Fan says:

    Elephants are mighty afraid of pigs, probably the stupid sounds given off by common household pigs makes them scared. This has been known for several millenia.

    You can find ancient greek coin money in museums, depicting war elephants on one face and pigs on the other, to commemorate some battle, where Alexander the Great defeated the larger army of the satrapah of India with this tactic.

  35. wes says:

    where were they when they shot the m134?

  36. Monty says:

    An oriental restaurateur gave me slices of lemon and orange to cut the hot chile pepper in my mouth. It worked! Very quickly, too. She said the acid in the citrus counteracted the base in the pepper. That might be why people say Mexican beer (which has a lime in the mouth of the bottle) works. It’s the lime:)

  37. elliot says:

    maybe the elephants don’t wanna squish the mice

  38. John Smallwood Woodstock,On, Ca says:

    Pain from eating hot peppers can be cured by petroleum jelly.

    The petroleum jelly idea was misrepresented.I believe the petroleum jelly or vaseline is supposed to be applied to your mouth before eating the chiles,thus preventing the Capsaicin from doing its job.I have won bets with this little tidbit of knowledge. ( Betcha can’t eat one of these lantern peppers ) I Scoff in your general direction.

  39. MikeJ says:

    Re: curing hot chile. Born in New Mexico I have to tell you that you missed the most effective method of taking the pain from eating chile. Hot coffee. The pain comes from the acids in the chile, especially in the seeds. Drinking hot coffee or tea while eating will wash the acids from the inside of your mouth and stop the burn. Try it.

  40. BD says:

    If shooting fish in a barrel is so easy, why did they have to try so many different ways to do it?

  41. Anon says:

    Maybe the elephant avoided the mouse because it didn’t want to step on it

    like how people avoid stepping on their pets

  42. Ruadha says:

    Peppers–ice cream. And not the low fat stuff. It’s the fat, and probably the cold helps.Proved years ago, before peppers were in everything,by a friend who said “you can’t make chili too hot for me”. HA!! I love a challenge!
    Plus, I needed to use a capsaicin cream to relieve
    foot pain from diabetes for my father. (Used carefully, it was a help.) If I ran out of gloves, I made sure I had Hoofmaker. This is really to get and keep good hooves in horses. But having used it for that, we found it did wonders for those red, chapped. winter hands.

  43. looie says:

    with the hot chiilies i have not actully seeen this episode but eating more chillies helps cure the pain from the pepper.

  44. GMB says:

    The elephant and the mouse only as an idea after learning recently elephants have I think low frequency form of communication , not able to be heard by humans . Would the mouse vocals be on a similar range and if so would it be alarming to an elephant ?

    • MXE says:

      No… mice are small and therefore one would expect them to communicate in HIGH frequencies… this is not rocket science.

  45. MF says:

    I’m not convinced that the elephants were afraid of the mouse at all. I’m not afraid of mice, but if I saw one suddenly appear I’d give it some space just to avoid stepping on it myself! They should have tried other animals as controls – the myth seems to indicate that an elephant is especially afraid of mice, so if it’s true then there should be a noticeable difference in how they react to other small animals. And I seriously doubt that they would.

  46. aidan says:

    wtf how would hot peepers be cured by a nother spicey thing?!?!?! i wonld not try that aidan;)

  47. j says:

    anymore ideas for jalapeno cures

    • JayCee says:

      One cure for the hot peppers is yogurt. This raises the question of whether it is the fat in the milk product since, apparently, low fat yogurt works as well.

      • MSpears says:

        It isn’t because of the fats. I’m not sure WHAT it is, but milk products bind to the capsaicin molecules better than anything else.

  48. presley says:

    it seems to me that not to tan riding the myth has been verified. Alcohol kills more spicy flavor and vodka. tequila used in the experiment itself, it has spicy flavor. And by the way can you check chilies another myth. Apparently hot pepper cut across a sharper because when cut along loses its sharp taste

  49. Tom says:

    I thought that elephants were afraid of mice due to the fact that mice are related to some species from millions of years ago that elephant ancestors were afraid of, and elephants reactions to mice are more of an instinct rather than a fear.

  50. Cliff C says:

    Cures for spicy foods: Bread – absorbs oils & liquids in mouth, Sugar. Bread worked for me so didn’t have to try sugar.

  51. Ryan says:

    I think they need to try using the scolville method of curing hot stuff. My freinds coaxed me into trying some extremley hot sauce, I recently watched and episode of Good Eats and learned that if you consume a cup of sugar water (swish it in your mouth) it does actually remove the hot feeling.

  52. john says:

    yoghurt works better than milk for spicy food

  53. Josh Butcher says:

    Sugar sugar sugar!

    Hands down the best cure. I’m talking Trinidad Scorpion hot. A couple spoon fulls of sugar will knock it right out! It absorbs the oils from the peppers, where as any liquid is just going to spread it around.

  54. Brendan says:

    I saw that myth and I believe it. A big, wild elephant avoiding a mouse like the mouse is going to attack it.

  55. 5 alarm fire says:

    LEMON JUICE straight from the bottle!!! Swig it and swish it around. I just tried milk, cottage cheese, sugar and lemon juice in that order. Lemon juice did it. That jalapeño was hot! Lol.

  56. JayMensa says:

    These guys are pretty well educated. I’m sure they studied at least basic chemistry. Hot peppers contain a compound called capsaicin or any of the related compounds called capsaicinoids which produce a burning sensation when they come into contact with mucous membranes. Capsaicin is an ALKALINE oil. If you keep its chemical properties in mind you’ll have a better chance of soothing the burn. What counteracts alkaline? ACID.

    Drink Acid –
    No, I’m not talking about sulfuric acid or anything like that, but if you follow the hot peppers with an acidic food or drink you can neutralize some of the activity of the alkaline capsaicinoid. Good choices include cold lemonade, a lemon or lime, orange juice, anything tomato-based, or drinking milk (which is acidic).

    Do Dairy –
    Milk, yogurt, and sour cream are acidic, which helps to combat the burning. The milk protein called casein acts as a natural detergent, breaking up the capsaicin. Many dairy products also contain fat which can help to dissolve the capsaicin. To get the most benefit from dairy, go for an acidic product that contains fat. In other words, sour cream or ice cream will help you more than skim milk.

    Add Carbohydrates –
    If you eat your hot peppers with bread, rice, tortillas or any other starchy carbohydrate you’ll lessen the burning from the peppers. This works by providing a physical barrier between your mouth and some of the capsaicin so less of it contacts your tongue, lips, etc. The sugars in the carbohydrates may also help lessen the activity of the capsaicinoids.

  57. Robynne says:

    I thought the experiment for “Are Elephants Afraid of Mice” was an excellent start but it simply wasn’t enough data and the reaction of the elephants is a subjective result. Yes they reacted, but to assume it’s fear that is causing that reaction is bad science – there could be any number of reasons for the elephant to react that way.

  58. Kelly says:

    Would you want a furry rodent scurrying up your leg when you had no way of getting it off?

  59. Matthew kemp says:

    The chilli cure. You guys forgot yogurt, bread, cucumber. The Indian cures for spicy food!! Do your research for a change!!!

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