The Falling Bullet: Myths, Legends and Terminal Velocity

speeding bullet

This is a completely new edition of an article that was published on April 1, 2013. New information has been added and any inaccuracies have been reviewed and completely removed.

Celebratory gunfire occurs when people with guns use them to mark an event. It’s culturally acceptable to fire projectiles, not only fireworks but sometimes bullets into the air on holidays in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India and many places in Latin America. Gunfire rings out above the noise of fireworks in the streets of Barcelona when FC Barça edges out Real Madrid for the futbol championship. After a cease fire in the Mideast, soldiers routinely celebrate by unloading their weapons into the air. It happens all over the US on New Year’s Eve and again on the 4th of July. But in the US, it is not only a dangerous and reckless practice, it is illegal.


A party tradition with a body count.

On New Year’s Eve, in Highlands Park, CA (A suburb of Los Angeles), Sheriff Lee Baca warned about the dangers of shooting live ammunition into the air. A few hours later, past the stroke of midnight, a 30 year old man was struck in the head and hospitalized by bullet fragments from above. Fortunately, he survived. “A bullet fired into the air can return to earth at speeds between 300 and 700 feet per second, fast enough to pierce a person’s skull,” Baca claimed.

This was not an isolated incident. Celebratory gunfire has wounded hundreds and killed dozens in recent years in the US alone. A 50-year-old woman in Atlanta, an 11-year-old boy in Phoenix, a baby in New Orleans — deaths like these are reported and investigated every year. A young man in Fresno, CA was killed when a friend’s vertical ‘lucky shot’ went straight up and came straight back down, entering his skull. A randomly-fired bullet hit a police helicopter in Riverside, California on New Year’s Eve in 1994, striking the pilot in the foot and forcing him to make an emergency landing. In Dallas, Texas on January 1st, 2012, a bullet came through the roof of a bedroom where a woman was nursing her baby and landed next to her on her bed.


Bullet time: the science of projectile flight.

When a bullet leaves the barrel of a gun, it is under explosive acceleration. It is compelled to spin due to spiral grooves cut into the gun barrel, which provide stability and direction during the first 3 to 6 seconds of flight. Eventually, the blast energy wears off, and the projectile, working against air resistance and gravitational pull, begins to drop. If fired horizontally, the energy dissipates in a linear fashion, and unless it impacts against something, it will eventually slow down and come to rest in the dirt.

However, if fired up into the air, some different physical properties come into play. A .30-06 rifle bullet, shot straight up with an initial velocity of 2,900 feet per second (880 m/s), will eventually lose all inertia. The top of the arc is too steep to crest and therefore — once the forward motion is dissipated — it will fall back to earth. It will again accelerate due to gravitational forces until drag from air resistance lets it reach terminal velocity on its unpredictable return path. Incidentally, the bullet fired upwards will not always come back down facing downwards.

If fired at an angle between 20 to 45 degrees or even more, then the bullet will travel farther with a greater probability of hitting something (or someone). The uninterrupted ballistic trajectory will make it far less likely to engage in a tumbling motion, and allow it to continue at a higher speed over terminal velocity.


Raining cases: facts or fiction?

Of the millions of rounds fired into the sky by trigger-happy celebrants, most land innocently in empty land. Fortunately, the impact of a falling bullet is much less than that of one fired directly at a target. Major General Julian Hatch, a U.S. Army firearms expert, did extensive testing on ballistics and falling projectiles in the 20’s. He calculated that .30 caliber rounds will reach terminal velocities of 300 feet per second (90 m/s) on descent, and determined that, while most bullets will leave a small dent in the ground when they land, that same bullet travelling between 200 to 330 feet per second can still penetrate human skin. The experience of many hospitalized and killed innocents validate his conclusions.

The popular scientists on the TV show, Mythbusters experimented with the premise that “Bullets fired into the air maintain their lethal capability when they eventually fall back down.”

They found that a bullet fired straight up (an almost impossible achievement for a human), will tumble on its return trip and falls at a slower rate due to terminal velocity. In addition, they found that a bullet in this circumstance is therefore less lethal on impact. However, they also discovered that a bullet fired at a non-vertical angle will be able to maintain its speed enough to be very destructive on impact. In determining if the myth was ‘Busted’, ‘Plausible’ or ‘Confirmed’, they proposed that this myth would receive all three ratings at the same time.


Projectile dynamics: forces of nature vs. forces of fantasy.

According to apologists in the police departments, some people think (wrongly) that the bullets they fire high up to the heavens either disintegrate up there, or will never hurt anyone out in the dark. “A lot of these people, they’re somewhat impaired,” claims Fred King of the Houston Police department. “They’ve been drinking. They’re just not using good judgment.”

They clearly don’t think they will get caught (if this crosses their mind at all), but police departments across the country receive complaints and witness statements, evidence falls to the ground somewhere (maybe on the bed next to you), and the complaints are investigated. And, if there is an injury or a death, bad luck seems to follow these insensitive shooters.

As the 2006 IANSA Macedonian Poster campaign against celebratory shooting clearly stated, “Bullets are not greeting cards. Celebrate without firearms.”


Your Turn: Do you have any evidence to the contrary? Want to share your stories? Leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.




  • Edwin T. Lee says:

    If you take the surface area of the impact area for bullets fire up at o to 20 degrees (if someone is firing in the air, he should be able to be within 20 degrees of vertical, but if he is drunk, you may calculate some other angle & 45 degrees is certainly intentional to risk hitting someone) and include for the starting point everywhere people are firing, you will find that very little of that area is taken up by people. The lack of injuries from celebratory firing is not just dependent on the terminal velocity and types of bullets (handgun vs rifle), but also the very small part of the impact area consisting of people and the low density of falling bullets. Most injuries are from people intentionally firing at an angle.

    The lack of police response in the United States is related to the short time the police have to act before the firer is back inside and the lack of injuries. The police should not be afraid of being in their patrol cars in a bullet impact area as the probability of being hit is so low, and the probability of a falling bullet passing through a patrol car’s windows or roof is even lower.

    The falling bullets in U.S. neighborhoods don’t result in much property damage, even to greenhouses. Most people won’t shoot because any injuries at all or damage to property is not something acceptable them.

  • Steven Doyle says:

    “When the bullet is falling down, it slows down and reaches a point where it no longer accelerates. It starts to free-fall: this is its terminal velocity.”

    No; the bullet does not “slow down”, and terminal velocity is not free fall. Here’s a better way to express that: “When a bullet is falling in an atmosphere (after reaching the peak of its trajectory) it accelerates until it reaches a velocity at which drag from air resistance prevents it accelerating any more; this is its terminal velocity. The bullet is not free falling; it is descending at a constant rate. If there were no air, the bullet would continue to accelerate until struck the ground at approximately the same velocity with which it left the barrel of the gun (more or less, depending on relative elevation).”

    Whether a bullet’s terminal velocity is potentially lethal depends on a number of factors. If I recall, .30 rifle bullets have shown a terminal velocity of about 300 fps, definitely enough to kill. Don’t know about handguns.

    • The Forensic Outreach Team says:

      Thanks for leaving this comment, Steven. Your explanation is brilliant, and we’ll be adding an edit to this article after further review.

    • Peter says:

      Please explain “blast energy” which you suggest accompanies a bullet for some time after it leaves the barrel. I would maintain immediately the bullet emerges, all propellant gases in the barrel disperse sideways. After no more than six inches from the barrel the bullet is decelerating. Most artillery pieces and target weapons have side vents to avoid exit gases affecting accuracy.

    • Jack Sprat says:

      This isn’t rocket science….If fired straight up, a bullet will eventually slow and stop moving upwards at the point where it seemingly hovers in place while changing direction to begin falling back to earth. At that point in time, If you could be on a theoretical ladder way up there holding a second identical projectile in your hand and released it at the exact same moment the first bullet changes direction and begins to fall, both bullets will fall the same way, with the same force, and arrive to earth at the same moment minus any other contaminating influence or tumbling from……all things fall at the same speed as a general rule……first grade stuff

  • Rich says:

    Wikipedia documents many deaths from falling bullets that had been shot into the air in celebratory moments. Even if this post were correct and the terminal velocity were not enough to kill, the injuries caused by shooting up in celebratory moments is cause enough to ban the practice.

  • Its a right in America to bear arms but shooting in the air is childish. And it sets a bad example for our next generation so people should just respect the right make better choices and use firearms for what they was made for to defend your hearth and home. Provide food for your family, gins are not

  • SB_Pete says:

    @ 300fps, a typical 150-180gr .30-06 projectile would exert between 30 & 36 ft-lbs of energy. The Hatcher tests computed this using 60 ft-lbs as the threshold for lethality. For comparison purposes, a typical paintball is .68 cal (roughly twice as much surface area) and has a similar muzzle velocity of ~250-350fps. The paintball is obviously more elastic and it’s impact is spread over a greater surface area lessening its potential for damage. That said, a typical 50gr paintball pellet carries 10 ft-lbs of energy @ 300fps. Gen Hatcher’s 30-’06 was most likely a 150gr Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) service round and thus carried roughly 30 ft-lbs of energy or three times the force of being hit by a paintball (or more like 3 times the force of a frozen paintball in order to discount the elasticity factor). In short, really F&*^ing painful, and likely to break the skin and with the potential to fracture the skull, but not likely to be deadly. To further put how slow 300fps is in into perspective a typical 36gr .22lr projectile leaves the barrel at ~1100 fps with ~100 ft-lbs of energy. Slowed down to 300fps that same projectile would imparts only 7ft-lbs or 70% the force of a paintball.

    Of course, using Gen Hatcher’s data is a bit misleading too as I would venture you don’t find too many .30-06’s shot into the air in this manner. Much more common would be 7.62x39mm (AK), .223/5.56mm (AR/M-16), 9mm, .45, .22lr and 12ga shotgun bird and buck shot. Projectiles from all of these cartridges will have lower terminal velocities as they are all less aerodynamic and weigh less. Also, that 300fps was a 1920’s estimate based largely on time of flight. Unfortunately converting G1 BC (industry standard bullet aerodynamics coefficient model) into Cd (coefficient of drag, the model used for my terminal velocity calculator) is not something I know how to do correctly so we have to use assumptions here. If anyone knows how to calculate terminal velocities with BC instead of Cd, please chime in! A perfectly round projectile like a shotgun pellet or bb is listed as ~.5 Cd and a more aerodynamic rifle round at .3 Cd. It’s worth noting here that lower numbers equal more aerodynamic in the Cd scale, but higher numbers are more aerodynamic on the BC scales.

    I will assume the .3 Cd for the Hatcher .30-’06 round. If I plug the numbers for that bullet into a terminal velocity calculator (150gr, .071 sq in cross section, .3 CD, @ sea level – 1G & 1.5kg/M3 air density), I get ~285fps which more or less lines up with the Hatcher numbers but would drop us down to 27 ft-lbs.

    So what would those more common rounds do? A typical 124 gr FMJ 7.62x39mm has a G1 ballistic coefficient of .298. Compare that with Gen Hatcher’s .30-’06 which has .41 BC and weighs in @ 150gr. Doing our very rough BC to Cd calc, the AK round is 75% as aerodynamic as the .30-’06 and lies between .3 and .5 on the Cd scale, so we’ll call it .35. Calculated this way, the Terminal Velocity (TV) of that AK round would be 265fps yielding 23 ft lbs. A typical .223 or 5.56mm NATO round (62gr, .307BC) yields ~245fps TV and 8 ft lbs (or 4/5 the energy of a paintball). Moving on to pistols, a typical 9mm projectile (115gr, .12 BC) yields a TV of ~195fps and 10ft-lbs of energy (equal to our paintball @ 300fps), a typical .45 (230gr, .153 BC) yields a TV of ~220fps and 25 ft lbs of energy. A typical .22lr (36gr, .125 BC) yields a TV of 170fps and 2 ft-lbs of energy (or roughly 1/5 the force of a paintball). 12ga 00 buckshot weighs in at 54 grains and is .33″ of spherical lead thus the full .5 Cd for a yield of ~130fps TV and 2 ft lbs energy. 12 ga #8 birdshot clocks in at 1.3gr and .089″; this yields 76 fps and a number too low for my ballistic energy calculator to calculate. Safe to say it’s less than 1 ft lb and many a shooter who’s shot birdshot into the air for the novelty of having it rain on their hat on a windless day will attest to this.
    Shooting centerfire rifle and pistol cartridges into the air is a stupid thing to do. Getting hit by a .45 or any 30 caliber class rifle projectile is likely to inflict serious damage requiring medical attention but unlikely to be deadly. 9mm or .223 rounds are liable to be like getting shot on top of the head with a paintball gun when you’re not expecting it. It’ll hurt, it could well knock you out, but you’re unlikely to require medical attention. Buckshot and .22lr is probably akin to a kid throwing a small rock at you.
    All of these calculations were predicated on a round coming back down at terminal velocity which is generally assumed to mean fired within ~20 degrees of vertical. If a round is fired at 45 degrees, it will impact the ground with retained energy from its explosive acceleration and thus will be travelling faster than terminal velocity.
    All BC’s were taken from the Federal Ammunition Ballistics calculator
    Except for shotgun pellets which were assumed to be roughly .01
    Energy Calculations were taken from the Beartooth Bullets Ballistician’s Corner Caluclator
    Terminal Velocities were calculated with the terminal velocity calculator.
    Cross-Sectional areas were solved using πr squared.

    • The Forensic Outreach Team says:

      Dear SB_Pete,

      Thanks for providing more detail and a deeper study and analysis of General Hatcher’s study. Your descriptions are both on-point and consistent with his opinions, and it is interesting to include modern, more common of the day ammunition. Your analogies are great, also. We very much appreciate that you are reading our articles and taking what we teach to a higher level. We’re sure our readers appreciate it as well.

      • Paul says:

        With all that being said,once the bullet leaves the barrel, and if it were to be shot straight up with no degree of trajectory, it would come to a point where it would stop in the atmosphere then start it’s decent back to earth, similar to being dropped from a tall building, all rifle cartridge velocities would be lost in that it is now free falling at 32 ft/sec squared which would take ballistic tables out of the equation since there’s no terminal velocity initiating it’s decent Now we would have to determine it’s actual flight distance straight up and factor in temperature, relative humidity, altitude and the like to figure atmospheric density on the free falling bullet.

        • Correct, Paul, although, as we discussed above – the bullet will – for a nanosecond – stop in mid air, then with all ballistic acceleration forces diminished to zero, it begins obeying a different set of physics. It would begin freefall at 32 ft/second squared until it reaches terminal velocity which, depending on a number of factors, will be much less than bullet velocity from being fired. The factors involved in calculating terminal velocity include the bullet’s mass, whether it comes down straight or tumbling (air resistance and other factors will impact the dynamics), acceleration due to gravity, drag coefficient, air density (altitude, temperature and humidity) and the projected area of the bullet. Terminal velocity (tv) also contains an accelerating effect; a falling object reaches 50% of tv in a few seconds and 90% a few seconds later, so, depending on how high it was propelled, the return may not allow for enough time to reach top tv; and a decelerating effect; TV will be reduced by 1% every 260 ft because of increasing atmospheric density.

          Anyway, with all of that said, the bullet will fall slower, it is no longer operating under ballistic propulsion, and terminal velocity may be reached, but it will be far less that when it came out of the barrel.

    • Alan says:

      Good info, Pete! Thanks. 🙂

    • Jasonofcompsci says:

      ft-lbs is not force so you can not conclude that a .22lr will have 70% the force of a paintball. You yourself mentioned surface and elasticity.

      • In SB_Pete’s very educated reply, which apparently you are challenging the word usage – he is making comparisons of the energy and torque released by a metal projectile of certain dimensions with a paintball pellet, which differs because it has a bigger front surface area and elastic properties that a bullet does not. If your opinion is that energy does not equal force – well, technically you are correct, they are different physical properties, however, SB_Pete does not confuse them in his useage, and it is proper to compare the force of each measurement.

        Here is a definition from Wiki; “Although they are dimensionally equivalent, energy (a scalar), and torque (a vector) are distinct physical quantities. Both energy and torque can be expressed as a product of a force vector with a displacement vector (hence pounds and feet); energy is the scalar product of the two, and torque is the vector product.”

        The way SB_Pete described the differences then, is correct.

  • Mike says:

    I actually had a bullet come straight down, penetrate my roof and land on the top side of ceiling drywall. It rests there to this day. Had a little water damage and had to get a minor roof repair. I’ve got pictures if there is any interest.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mike. Yes, it happens, and these falling bullets do cause damage. We’re glad you were not hurt, but sorry you were inconvenienced. The one responsible will never know what he cost you, or how he endangered you or a member of your family.

  • Ben says:

    I live in Barcelona and your comment about people firing guns to celebrate Barça is nonsense! Where on earth did you get that from?? Gun ownership is virtually non existent here.

    • Hello Ben. I lived in Barcelona from 2004 to 2009. I wrote it because I observed it and had many discussions about it with family and friends who lived there and yes, while rare, it happens. Guns come into Catalonia with immigrants from the Eastern European countries as well as from Africa. Many Catalan people keep guns for hunting.

      While there are way fewer guns as in the US, they are certainly not rare. Sandro Rossell, the former President of Barça will agree with me after his home in Barcelona was hit by bullets last Christmas.

      I am happy that you did not experience it yourself.

  • Mayank says:

    Hi Douglas

    Thanks for providing the more details on this topic. I feel there is one small correction needed.
    “It’s culturally acceptable to fire AK47’s in the air on holidays in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India and many places in Latin America. ”

    In India, guns like revolvers, pistols and rifles are part of legally authorized weapons (you should have license for carrying a weapon and for the license application you should have very specific reason for your need). However, AK47 is illegal here under TADA act (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act,).

    I hope you understand the reason behind my comment. People should not think that once you are in these countries, you can keep weapon with you all the time.


    • Hello Mayak,

      Thank you for providing more specific information and clarification. You make a good point, and obviously, guns can cause problems but also have their place in different cultures and countries. I hope my edit clarifies the subject.

  • martin says:

    I need to hire a ballistics expert by 10 14, 2014, can u help? I needto prove that shooting bird shot at a 45 degree angle through 1/4 and and 8 foot behind that a second piece of plastic that was 1/38 inch pieces of plastic couldn’t hurt anyone when the babies came down

  • It continues:

    Happy New Year.

    Downey, California:
    Busch Gardens, Florida:
    3 Shot in the Phillipinnes:

  • Andy says:

    There is a video on youtube from a german science show. They investigated that matter and went to the Wehrtechnische Dienststelle. A government agency that tests equipment for the german army. They have a test rig that can fire a gun at a precise angle and track its trajectory. The video is in german, but I think you get the gist.

  • Rene Rivard says:

    For a given grain and fps of a bullet, can someone tell me the maximum range a 30-06 and 7 mm magnum reach when hit the ground at terminal speed? How to calculate the ballistic (maximum range) for those rifles when raised at different angles (5, 10 or 15 degrees)? I also am curious as to how different the arch becomes during their trajectories.

  • Hazel says:

    Sir I have question that can a free falling bullet make a cracking shattering hole in back windscreen of a car? PLEASE REPLY SOON I AM AWAITING YOUR REPLY. Thanks.

  • eBrigand says:

    Thank you Pete. That was one of the best explanations of falling bullets I have read. It is always stupid to shoot firearms into the air, just like it’s always stupid to throw pocket change off the top of a skyscraper. I doubt most sober people could tell the difference between firing at a 70% or 80% angle. That 10% could mean the difference between minor injury or death. Of course causing someone even a minor injury because you did something unnecessary and foolish is never acceptable. Better to keep the guns inside and locked up when celebrating.

  • Marmaduke Dribblebottom says:

    If someone drops a bullet from the top of the Empire State building, it’s gunna hurt – but absolutely no way it’s going to maim or kill.
    Much confusion here.
    Intuitively, any bullet fired at steeper than 60 degrees isn’t going to have enough horizontal momentum (even coupled with vertical momentum) on return to earth, to be lethal.
    By the time it returns to earth, the vast majority of the horizontal component will have been dissipated by wind resistance.

    • Yet people do get killed when a bullet returns to earth after being fired in a celebratory manner.

      So, ‘Yes way”.

      And from Wikipedia – “A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 80% of celebratory gunfire-related injuries are to the head, feet, and shoulders.[4] In Puerto Rico, about two people die and about 25 more are injured each year from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve, the CDC says.[5] Between the years 1985 and 1992, doctors at the King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, treated some 118 people for random falling-bullet injuries. Thirty-eight of them died.[6]”

      • Chad says:

        “No way”
        You site articles CLAIMING those shots went straight into the air. The article discusses gun shots on holidays known for drinking alcohol, it’s likely people fired at an angle greater than 20 degrees to the vertical. The only way for you to prove your point is to know the location of the victim and the shooter, as the angle of initial trajectory can (more or less) be determined from that info, and perhaps the weather that day.
        No one is objecting to the fact that firing bullets at an angle greater than 20 degrees to the vertical (30 might be pushing it) is completely unsafe, or that celebratory gunfire is a bad idea in general due to the propensity for humans to make mistakes.
        Finally as another poster described in great detail there is quite a big difference in a 30 cal round and a 9mm (much more common in the U.S.)

  • George Steele says:

    Detail on SB_Pete’s analysis: he used ballistic coefficients and assumed drag coefficients that were too high. The reason for this is that when calculating terminal velocity, the drag coefficient has to be that of the bullet when moving at a rate within the velocity range of interest. The drag coefficient of .3 that he used is applicable for a bullet that is at supersonic velocity; it is not applicable for that same bullet at subsonic velocity. At subsonic velocity, the drag coefficient of a spitzer boattail bullet is about .13 to .22. However, his arriived-at figures for terminal velocity do correspond with empirical measurements, but for a different reason: a bullet fired straight up comes down base-first. The drag coefficient of a bullet in that orientation is significantly different from one moving through the air nose-first. From that, it can also be seen that if a bullet were dropped nose-first from a plane, then unless it were tumbling – in which case its terminal velocity would be much less – its terminal velocity would far exceed that calculated using the .3 coefficient of drag. And regardless of any of the above, it is categorically unsafe and irresponsible to fire a gun into the air. One of the cardinal rules of gun safety is to be sure of both your target and aware of what is beyond it. Since you cannot predict where a vertically-fired bullet will land, you know neither of these facts, making the act negligent – and in the US, illegal. If you want to use a gun to celebrate, fire blanks!

  • George Steele says:

    “Intuitively, any bullet fired at steeper than 60 degrees isn’t going to have enough horizontal momentum (even coupled with vertical momentum) on return to earth, to be lethal.” writes Marmaduke Dribblebottom. While that might be his “intuition”, it flies in the face of fact. A simple calculation proves this. A bullet fired at 60 degrees has a horizontal velocity determined by the cosine of the angle; the cosine of 60 degrees is .5. (See – and you thought you’d never use High School math again in your life) Thus, for a rifle with a 3000 f/s muzzle velocity, the horizontal velocity is 1500 feet per second. A rifle bullet with NO horizontal velocity has already been shown to be potentially lethal – so one with even a mild, additional horizontal velocity component is more likely to be so – particularly since that bullet will be travelling nose-first, at a higher velocity. I repeat: firing a gun at anything where you are not sure of your target, backstop, and what is beyond is grossly irresponsible. Guns are not toys.

  • A theoretical physicist says:

    I think the take home is that shooting in the air is stupid and that should be realised by anyone with half a brain. Secondly, leave physics to physicists – An anonymous theoretical physicist

  • fahim says:

    Give me answer which length is aqurat to fire bullet to human body through out body.

  • jon pettet says:

    Some years ago I was a metal detecterist, and in this time I came across 5 spent rounds of 20mm near the east side of a small village called Chedzoy.

    I didn`t think to clean these rounds until now and the dates are 1940/41. So on reading a book, Somerset at war I found out that a ww2 german bomber

    had been shot down in the month of may 7th. The crash site is 1700 meters away from where I found the spent rounds, so what I`m trying to do is

    see if the rounds are from john cat`s eye`s cunnnighams night fighter.

    If you could help me in trying to work this out that would be great,and it dosen`t matter to much if it`s100/200 meter`s out

    So from point A.leaving the aircraft.and point B to hitting the ground.

    The height, 4000 feet

    Speed 200mph

    Weight of spent round is 95 grams,

    Length of round is 109mm

    Best regards

    Mr Jon Pettet

    p.s. the weather for that night was light winds .
    Gun is a hispano 20mm.
    again if you could work this out this fantastic,if you need my phone number so I could give you more info on this.

  • Dennis says:

    Question: I’m a writer with an idea for a story, but I need to know if the premise is possible. Could someone fire a long range rifle at a particular angle and calculate within, lets say 100 yard circumference, where the bullet would start it’s downward trajectory and at what point it would still be lethal to a human? If so, what info would he/she need to figure it out.

    • John P says:

      An answer to that question can likely be obtained from the U.S. Army Ballistic Research Laboratory (BRL), located at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD, and/or the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center ( ARDEC), Weapons and Software Engineering Center, located at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ

  • Billy says:

    A typical 9mm bullet of 158 grains can fly at 1,200-1,400 feet per second depending on the brand and bullet type. .45 can fly at 700-900 feet per second, again depending on the said factors. 300 feet per second is just like an airgun projectile’s velocity. Yes it can pierce skin and crack skulls. But based on medical data that you may have here in the Philippines, especially now that New Year is coming, I don’t think that the bullets that hit the victims fly at only 300fps because some of them were hit in the head and the bullet was recovered in the neck. Some, hit in the back and the bullet still exited on chest or stomach. For me, energy of the bullets when fired upwards is the same as it’s energy going down.

  • Todd says:

    I survived being shot by a stray bullet. I heard the gun shot and moments later, maybe 30-45 seconds, the bullet entered my left shoulder. It went down about 6 inches and stayed in my left chest. It was protruding the tissue but still under the skin. Doctor said if it had been a couple inches over it would have hit my throat and I would not have survived, even if medical help was there at the exact moment. They never found the person that shot the bullet. As a matter of fact, the police spent most of their time interrogating my friends and searching the car for a firearm. So yes, a bullet shot into the air can definitely penetrate the skin.

  • Ralph says:

    Lots of data and good analysis, but a 300fps bullet in any orientation landing on the crown of the skull will penetrate it, especially a child or senior. The crown of the human skull is hard snd had no give contrary to the rest of the body. A bullet in the head will likely kill or severely maim. The human brain was never meant to survive puncture. Trauma, yes, but not puncture. I think you could take a bullet at this speed anywhere in the body except the heart or central nervous system. I remember a child dying of a bb gun shot to the heart, right below the sternum but high enough to catch the botton of the heart. If you have any doubt to the bullet energy of a free falling projectile get a modern slingshot, put a 30 cal bullet in it and shoot some boards. You’ll be amazed at the penetration power. Lead is very dense and bullets are very good at their jobs.

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