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Old January 5, 2008, 01:40 AM   #1
pfch1977
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So what if your bullet does go through a wall?

I always see people debating the issue of "what if" their bullet goes through a wall.

I dont shoot at walls so I wouldnt know...however, I believe that if my bullet missed and went through my residence wall then it would probably have to go through another residence wall. If the bullet went through two walls, would it still be lethal?

I imagine that the speed of the bullet would be greatly slowed and the shape of the bullet would be distorted. I dont picture it having the same power.
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Old January 5, 2008, 01:50 AM   #2
gvf
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The problem is when people - like your neighbors or wife - may be on the other side of the wall.
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Old January 5, 2008, 01:59 AM   #3
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Does anyone have any verifiable examples of this ever happening during an HD situation?
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Old January 5, 2008, 02:20 AM   #4
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Something similar happened here in Denver.

Unknown targets hidden behind hidden walls can be a recipe for disaster.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/new...ears-slayings/

In this case, the shooter was being a fricking dumbazz, but it can happen with any discharge of a firearm.

If you are in a house or near any penetrable objects that could hide a person from your view, best to take a shot from the knee, shooting upward at your target if at all possible. There is a lot more wood and ability to stop a bullet in the roof structure than in the walls. Also, a bullet falling from the sky is pretty much harmless given enough distance to make a more downward trajectory than horizontal.
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Old January 5, 2008, 02:23 AM   #5
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That is actually a brain dead idiot shooting into someone's house. Not a HD scenerio. Similar physics but I am wondering if it ever happens in a HD situation.
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Old January 5, 2008, 04:15 AM   #6
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"...I dont picture it having the same power..." That doesn't matter. You are completely and totally, 100%, responsible for any shot you fire.
"...a bullet falling from the sky is pretty much harmless..." Nope. Think physics.
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Old January 5, 2008, 10:01 AM   #7
hogdogs
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First off I think a bulet FALLING is not real likely to kill ya.
But My first concern is to the family and I can't do them a good service if I am slinging bullets toward them. From there on I am the owner of that projectile and responsible for it until it safely comes to rest. Manslaughter is "What If" my bullet....
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Old January 5, 2008, 01:28 PM   #8
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Guns fired exactly straight up.

Pistols & shotguns (with shot, not slugs) are unlikely to be lethal. Shot doesn't have the sectional density to have a really fast terminal velocity and pistol bullets (in the only known experiment where any were recovered after being fired straight up) tumble which dramatically increases the drag (and therefore dramatically decreases drag) on the "return trip".

Centerfire rifles have the potential to be deadly since the bullets (in the only known experiment where any were recovered) remain spin stabilized and fall base first at 300-400fps. That's not certain death, but with a little bad luck it can do the trick. A shotgun slug is big and heavy enough that I would expect it has the potential for real mayhem even at pretty low velocities--primarily as an impact weapon rather than a penetrating projectile.

Shooting at any significant angle from vertical (up but not exactly straight up) is very dangerous for two reasons.
  • The bullet typically remains stabilized and traveling nose forward which makes it much more aerodynamic. That means much higher terminal velocity.
  • The bullet comes down with a velocity that is the vector sum of both the terminal velocity and any remaining horizontal velocity not bled off by air friction.
These will definitely have enough "oomph" to be lethal and it's not that hard to find evidence to support that fact. I did an internet search looking for deaths from descending bullets some time ago and found enough documented instances to convince even the most skeptical. I don't know if that was posted here or on THR, but by now most of the links are probably dead anyway.

At any rate, I found deaths, injuries and even some descriptions of roof damage. There is also a fairly high-profile law in the U.S. against firing in the air that is named after a young girl killed by a descending bullet.

As to the original question: I have seen a case where a handgun bullet from a drive-by shooting (probably a .357Mag SWC) traveled through a typical woodframe house. In the front, out the back and through everything in between. It happened to take a path that didn't put a lot of intervening walls in the way, but a handgun bullet can definitely penetrate two exterior walls and some more besides. Bullets are good at going through things, that's what makes guns useful.

Offhand I don't know of any cases where a bullet left one house, entered another and accidentally killed someone in the second house but that would only speak to the likelihood of such an occurrence, not of the possibility which is fairly well established.
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Old January 5, 2008, 02:59 PM   #9
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There have been a few instances of people reported being hit through walls by police bullets after a gunfight, but I haven't heard on that in a long time, so I think the ammo selection may be very important there, as John points out.

As for falling bullets, we had an incident here around New Years. A .40 round, pretty much vertical (path seemed to be less than 5 degrees off vertical, but that is hard to tell w/multiple impacts) came down through a metal roof, 1/2" plywood, 6" insulation, a glass table top, and still penetrated a ceramic floor tile completely through into the floor decking.
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Old January 5, 2008, 04:21 PM   #10
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We did a penetration test of various types of plausible home defense rounds for a DVD series last year and showed that just about any of them will go through at least 2 typical drywall walls (2 pieces each) with enough energy to hurt/kill. The 9mm Glaser and 12 gauge Birdshot were the exceptions.

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Old January 5, 2008, 04:56 PM   #11
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Check out theboxotruth.com . They (he) does a few drywall vs projectile penetration "tests".
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Old January 5, 2008, 05:03 PM   #12
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My father-in-law and his brother once dedcided it would be a neat idea to shhot a .22 rimfire rifle at a target they drew on the garage wall. (adult beverages were involved) The bullet went thru the wood lap siding garage wall then thru both the inside and outside wall of the house and stopped when it hit the refridgerator.
I would never count on a residential wall slowing a bullet down enough to not be dangerous. Use common sense and be careful.
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Old January 5, 2008, 05:16 PM   #13
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At the range, we had a ND in the cleaning room (.22 lr target pistol). It went through the wall, nicking a stud, off the furnace leaving a dent and took a chunk out of the cinder block wall. My kid was shooting his old pellet rifle at 2 layers of leftover drywall this summer and blowing chunks out of the back layer - not much Kinetic Energy in a .177 pellet compared to, say, a .40 S&W. I'd dare say inside walls weren't consructed to stop projectiles at high velocity.
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Old January 5, 2008, 10:36 PM   #14
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Some months ago, there was indeed a "through wall" death. It was some moron playing with their loaded AR in an apartment. The round went through the walls, through the headboard of a sleeping neighbor's bed, and into their head, killing them.

Just now, at new year's, I believe it was in Colorado, a rifle shot went into a house through the wall, killed a woman, and a girl beside her as well.

So yes, it can happen.
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Old January 5, 2008, 10:52 PM   #15
wogpotter
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An uncle of mine killed his wife thru the floor of a 2 storey house.
I'd think a wall is less resistant to a bullet.

"You are completely and totally, 100%, responsible for any shot you fire."
True, so why take the risk?
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Old January 6, 2008, 09:31 PM   #16
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There is a very simple solution to not shoot through the walls and kill a neighbor. Get out of that comfy chair and go through you dwelling and figure out exactly where you might shoot, figure out where it will go (the projectile) if it does go through a wall. If the round has a potential to shoot through a wall and get a neighbor, I just wont shoot there.

I know every safe angle in my house and will shoot only if in them safe spots. Best one is right down the stairs. We all stay upstairs and I would only be shooting into my basement. I could use a 50 BMG if I wanted to........
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Old January 6, 2008, 10:23 PM   #17
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http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/hourlyupdate/218784.php

Quote:
A 5-year-old boy was grazed by a bullet in the first hour of New Year’s Day, after someone fired what police called “celebratory” gunfire,” slammed through the roof and ceiling of his South Side home.
Quote:
Celebratory gunfire is a major concern for the Tucson Police Department every year, as the stray bullets can cause serious injury and death to innocent people,
Quote:
In a separate incident as the new year began, a bullet smashed through the kitchen ceiling of a house in the 1900 block of West Riverview Boulevard, near North Silverbell and West Grant roads, Pacheco said.
No one was injured by that bullet, he said.
Every New Years people shoot guns in the air and all most every year someone is injured or killed.
The bullet doesn't know that it's only supposed to intersect with bad guys.
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Old January 6, 2008, 10:28 PM   #18
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There is no way a bullet fired straight up in the air is going to be any more lethal than a hailstone of the same size. Its the same as dropping it off of a sky scraper. It could kill but is very very unlikley to do so. now if you catch one in flight meaning an arc shaped trajectory thats another matter all together, those are deadly!
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Old January 6, 2008, 11:10 PM   #19
James K
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It was no "scenario", but a man in a nearby town fired a shot from an SKS at his wife. Fortunately, he missed, but the bullet went out through his house wall, penetrated the exterior wall of a house 80 yards away, then went through an interior wall, out an exterior wall, and lodged in the exterior wall of a third house. Again very fortunately, no one was hurt. And that was a "low power" 7.62x39. Any questions?

As to bullets FALLING straight down, there is no practical difference in velocity and energy for bullets of the same weight no matter what kind of gun fired them. Terminal velocity is terminal velocity; the only difference would be due to air resistance. The hailstone does not provide an analogy, because it is much lighter than the bullet and its terminal velocity is lower due to air resistance. Mass does count. Which would you rather catch if it were falling from a building, a matzoth ball or a cannonball?

Jim
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Old January 7, 2008, 01:51 AM   #20
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There is no way a bullet fired straight up in the air is going to be any more lethal than a hailstone of the same size.
Incorrect.

An object falling through air is subject to two forces, drag and gravity. Terminal velocity occurs when the two forces are balanced. A hailstone the same size as a bullet would have about the same drag, but the force of gravity is greater on the bullet since it is more dense (lead is denser than ice) and therefore weighs more (weight is the force on an object due to gravity). Therefore a bullet would fall faster than a hailstone of the same size.

Furthermore, a spin-stabilized bullet will fall either base or nose first rather than tumble. That reduces its drag considerably which means it will fall at a higher terminal velocity, perhaps double the velocity it would fall if tumbling. The tests I've seen suggest that falling pistol bullets will tend to tumble while falling rifle bullets tend to remain stabilized and fall back to earth base first.

Comparing bullets to hailstones is not an accurate way to assess the lethality of falling bullets.

It's kind of interesting that you make this comparison. Sometime ago I calculated the energy and velocity of various size hailstones. A local company was replacing their roof coating and wanted to know how to test it for hail resistance. One of the facilities personnel is a friend of mine and asked me to verify if the test that had been suggested to them was valid. (It involved dropping a steel ball bearing of specified weight from a specified height.) I did some research and calculations and determined that the test was valid based on the fact that the ball bearing imparted the same impact energy to the roof as a hailstone of the size that the roof material was rated for would. The embarassing part is that I enjoyed it. Oh well.

You are correct that a bullet that takes an arc-shaped trajectory (not fired exactly straight up) will come down at a much higher velocity than a falling bullet. In that case the velocity of the bullet is the vector sum of the terminal velocity and any retained horizontal velocity not lost to air resistance. Furthermore, in this case, the bullet will tend to remain spin-stabilized and traveling nose first which means the terminal velocity will be maximized due to the fact that drag is minimized. Definitely a recipe for disaster.
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Old January 7, 2008, 03:10 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnKSa
Therefore a bullet would fall faster than a hailstone of the same size.
<nitpick>It would fall harder, not necessarily faster. Acceleration by gravity is about 9.8 m/s/s no matter how much or how little you weigh, up until you get near terminal velocity. F=MA; the greater force is due to the greater weight.</nitpick>

Sorry, my last girlfriend was a physics major and I picked up some of her habits. I suspect you knew all of this, given the rest of your post, but it's a stiff reflex.

Last edited by Adrian; January 7, 2008 at 03:11 AM. Reason: Quick apology for being pedantic.
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Old January 7, 2008, 03:34 AM   #22
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It would fall harder, not necessarily faster. Acceleration by gravity is about 9.8 m/s/s no matter how much or how little you weigh, up until you get near terminal velocity.
More nitpicking (from a Mechanical engineer this time). Thing only fall at 9.81 m/s/s in the absence of drag. In all real life scenarios drag is present which means that the object with the higher sectional density (which most shooting enthusiasts know to be ratio of mass to cross sectional area) will not only accelerate faster, but reach a higher terminal velocity as well.

Note: Once you start talking about objects that tumble in flight the situation gets even more complicated as the relevant cross section is constantly changing.
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Old January 7, 2008, 09:30 AM   #23
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It would fall harder, not necessarily faster. Acceleration by gravity is about 9.8 m/s/s no matter how much or how little you weigh, up until you get near terminal velocity.
Axion is correct, this is only true in the absence of drag (air resistance). This is a common misconception due to the fact that people remember basic physics problems but forget the assumptions and conditions specified in them. Your statement would be correct for falling objects in a vacuum but once you incorporate air resistance everything changes.

Here's a decent treatment of the topic from a source that most would consider unimpeachable.

http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/falling.html
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Old January 7, 2008, 09:44 AM   #24
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Keep in mind that most guns "fired in the air" are not fired at 90 degrees to the ground, but at some angle, which means the bullet is traveling in a parabolic arc.

And depending on distance, coming down from that arc can indeed still be a bullet at lethal velocities, especially a pointed, more aerodynamic rifle bullet.
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Old January 7, 2008, 09:52 AM   #25
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Keep in mind that most guns "fired in the air" are not fired at 90 degrees to the ground, but at some angle, which means the bullet is traveling in a parabolic arc.
Correct. A bullet traveling in an arc will have more velocity than a bullet that is simply falling--vector sums and all that...
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