Episode 160: Mission Impossible Mask

Air Date: April 6, 2011

Realistic facial masks can be used to evade security measures (as shown in the movie Mission Impossible).


To begin, Adam and Jamie had life-like masks of themselves professionally made by a special effects company. The silicone masks included detailed paint and real human hair. Adam and Jamie also received acting lessons and voice coaching in order to try to replicate each other’s presence.

To test the effectiveness of the masks, the MythBusters invited fans of the show and attempted to distract them with a fake experiment. Jamie, dressed as Adam (and later Adam, dressed as Jamie), stood near a target. The fans were brought in individually and told to point a laser at the target while standing at incrementally closer distances. If Adam or Jamie issued any verbal instructions, the fans immediately knew something was wrong. However, if Adam and Jamie remained quiet, the fans did not notice anything askew until they were right next to the target and looking directly at Adam or Jamie.

To test the masks against people who already knew them, Adam and Jamie invited Kari and Grant to take part in another decoy experiment. Adam and Jamie, dressed as each other, would stand behind a curtain, change something about their wardrobe, and then ask Kari and Grant to spot the difference while standing at various distances from them. Kari noticed something was wrong (she thought Adam dressed as Jamie looked like a wax model) at a distance of 70 feet (21 meters), while Grant did not pick up on the fraud until at a distance of 5 feet (1.5 meters).

Is it possible to start a merry-go-round spinning by shooting bullets at it from a handgun (as depicted in Shoot ‘Em Up).


Grant, Kari, and Tory set up a new merry-go-round at a firing range. They fired at it using several weapons. A 9mm Glock pistol, an S&W .44 magnum, and a .45 caliber handgun did not even turn the merry-go-round 1 inch (2.54 cm). A .12 gauge shotgun shot clean through the merry-go-round railing, so they started adding thick reinforcement plates, but still no significant rotation occurred. An AR50 rifle (possessing 25 times more power than the gun shown in the movie) caused 8 inches (20 cm) of movement at the circumference of the merry-go-round. At this point, the myth was declared busted.

To replicate the results shown in the movie, Kari, Grant, and Tory modified the merry-go-round with ball bearings to reduced the friction and they brought out even more firepower. Kari started the merry-go-round turning with a .416 Barrett rifle, then Grant and Tori both fired semi automatic shotguns loaded with dear slugs to successfully keep it spinning.

If a gunman drops his handgun, it is possible to move the gun out of his reach by shooting bullets at it from another handgun.


Grant, Kari, and Tory tested this myth on three different surfaces: smooth tile, asphalt, and dirt. They used a 9mm handgun to shoot at another 9mm handgun. On each surface, the gun being shot at was easily moved. It took 3 shots to move the gun completely off of the tile surface, 4 shots for the asphalt surface, and 6 shots for the dirt surface.


  1. c. fields says:

    good to see new mythbusters. glad you are back. good show.

  2. Paul M says:
  3. Tiexandrea says:

    okay, so maybe they didn’t look right when they used prosthetics/rubber/silicon or whatever they used. but i believe they should’ve gone further to try whatever means necessary or whatever makeup is most likely to make you look exactly like someone else, short of getting a full-on surgery.

  4. sam mosley says:

    this is a wonderful show :)

  5. joe says:

    In the merry-go -round myth, they said that the .45 has 2000 ft lbs. energy!!!LOL!!

  6. Josh says:

    I just saw a repeat of this episode. While trying to spin the merry go round with bullets, they claimed that the .45 was the most powerful handgun they had, with a muzzle energy of 2,000 ft-lbs of energy. They’re off by a factor of 4 to 5, depending on the load chosen. Makes a person wonder what other glaring inaccuracies they’re feeding to viewers.

  7. Howell says:

    Could the merry go round’s safty bars being solid make a difference?

  8. Howell says:

    I think they needed more realistic masks.

  9. Reannon says:

    When testing the merry go round the team was shooting at the bse of the post. the clip that was shown, showed that Clive Owen’s bullet hitting the top of the railing… could this have made a difference???

    • Jack H says:

      Target and projectile systems will conserve energy. But that energy will take the easiest path. Like into distortion of either. Shooting a bullet into the earth several feet in front of you conserves energy, but the easy form is flying dirt. Now if your is big like an asteroid, you might move more dirt and have a slight earth movement.

  10. Sebastien says:

    With the merry go round you maked the error with the today material & the realisation of the movies! The pipes of merry go round has full and fire ball touch the up of the pipe in the movies. You last modification, intoduces ball bearing has a go solution. Retry this! Sorry for my english, because my first language in Quebec has French!

  11. Jim Muirhead says:

    You must also consider that approximately half of the stated muzzle energy of any rifled firearm cartridge is contained in the spin angular momentum of the projectile which is not expended on the target barring penetration and arrestment

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