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Q: Getting shot by a handgun ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   7 Comments )
Subject: Getting shot by a handgun
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: rambler-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 01 Feb 2005 20:07 PST
Expires: 03 Mar 2005 20:07 PST
Question ID: 467321
Sometimes, when someone gets shot (in a movie), he instantly drops
dead.  Sometimes the guy getting shot will lurch, as if the bullet
pushed him.

What about in real life?  Assuming that the gun is a ?typical? handgun
 -- not an AK47 or a shotgun --  can a gunshot make someone instantly
drop dead?  I would have thought that the victim would writhe in agony
and slowly bleed to death.  What exactly would cause a victim to
instantly drop dead?

And will a bullet make the victim lurch?  If the bullet were ?through
and through?  -- I watch WAY to many TV shows about homicide --  I
would have thought that the bullet would simply pass through the body
without the body moving at all.  Am I wrong?
Subject: Re: Getting shot by a handgun
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 02 Feb 2005 11:01 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear rambler-ga;

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question. The
answer depends of a variety of factors; not the least of which are

-- How large (dense) the person is.

-- What the projectile actually strikes.

-- The distance.

-- The caliber of the gun.

-- The barrel length of the gun. (barrel length affects velocity)

-- The powder charge of the round (powder charge also affects velocity).

-- The type of round (size, shape, whether or not it?s a hollow point, etc)

?.And the list goes on.

When you say that you always thought people fell down and bled to
death, you?re on the right track. I?ve seen a number of people shot in
my 20-something year career in law enforcement. Some of them dropped
dead; some of them were displaced backward a bit and fell to the
ground. Others weren?t fazed at all and continued to run or advance as
if nothing has happened to them, inevitably succumbing to their wounds
in a delayed manner (a load of dope onboard one?s system can sometimes
enable this rare phenomenon).

A .38 caliber and .45 caliber are large caliber bullets. They travel
at a low velocity, which makes them relatively easy to stop. If they
hit someone in the chest it?s like hitting them with a baseball bat
and it ?can? knock them off their feet at close range. The impact of
the round again the SURFACE of their body is the causative event.

A .357 and .44 Magnum rounds are large caliber, heavy bullets, that
travel at high velocities. These are more likely to knock a man down
if they hit him in a particularly resistant place that?s hard to
penetrate, but as close range they?ll often go right through him.
Because the velocity is much higher, the bullet doesn?t slow down
until after its much deeper into the body. The impact of the bullet
against the interior surface of the body where the bullet EXITS is
usually the event that knocks them down ? if they are knocked down at

In either of these cases, the man is knocked down but for different
reasons of physics. If you add into the mix ammunition that is
designed to split into pieces on impact, or spread out flat or
?mushroom? on impact, the results will differ from one other.

On the other hand, any of these calibers can cause instant clinical
death and spontaneous drop of they sever a large vessel (such as an
aorta, for example) or hit the heart or brain. In the case of major
vessels or the heart, this is relative to a massive drop in blood
pressure. In reality the person falls unconscious due to the drop in
blood pressure or shock and death follows in only a few seconds or
minutes, giving the appearance that he ?dropped dead?. Where the brain
or spine is concerned, obviously enough damage can cause instantanous
death and, as they say, he "died before he hit the ground". This is a
figure of speech of course and merely indicates that a person was
fatally wounded to such a degree that no amount of aid would have
helped him.

In the case of a high-powered rifle where the velocity is tremendous,
a through-and-through would is not at all uncommon. Such a wound would
put someone in instant shock and he?d likely drop like a stone, or at
a distance may be sent tumbling down from the impact.

The truth is, you can shoot ten different people with the same gun and
get ten different results. As a rule though, (unless you are using an
unusually high powered firearm or a shotgun) a person appears to be
knocked back a foot or two and falls unconscious. In reality, the
actual event, however, is no more remarkable than if he were stung in
the middle of his chest by a bee or a wasp and recoiled backward from
the unexpected shock of it, lost his balance, and fell.

The scenes in the movie where people are lifted off their feet and
knocked head-over-heels across the room when Clint Eastwood shoots
them with his Colt .45 are entertaining concepts to some people, but
in general they are purely theatrical and totally unrealistic. In my
personal experience, if you shoot a man in the chest he will go into
shock and fall down no matter what you shoot him with. If you shoot
him with something big enough, he will fall down and die. Either way,
they normally FALL down rather than get KNOCKED down.

The argument might be that a 200 lb. deer gets knocked down, so a
human being should be knocked down too. The explanation there is three
fold: First, a deer normally gets shot with a high powered rifle,
which can certainly knock him or a person for a loop on impact, but
that's not what we're discussing here. Second, a deer's center of
gravity and reaction to the impact is different from that of a human,
and finally, while a deer has four legs rather than two, only a square
inch or so of his hooves are on the ground at any given time, making
him much easier to imbalance.

If you ever saw a human get shot in real life, my guess is that if you
didn't hear the report of the gun (like on a surveillence film with no
sound), you'd initially have a hard time figuring out for certain what
had actually happened to him, or at what precise point the shot was
fired. It's that unremarkable an event.

I hope you find that my research exceeds your expectations. If you
have any questions about my research please post a clarification
request prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating
and your final comments and I look forward to working with you again
in the near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;
Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher
rambler-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Very enlightening answer. Thank you!

Subject: Re: Getting shot by a handgun
From: anotherbrian-ga on 01 Feb 2005 21:12 PST
Not being an expert on the subject all I can give you is some educated
guesses. I'm sure that someone could drop dead right away if one was
shot in the head as one would probably die instantly. One could also
get shot in the spine, this could cause loss of control of the legs
leading to an instant fall.

As to causing a body to lurch. Any time a body is shot anywhere the
bullet will impart some energy to the victim. The amount of energy,
and thus the amount of the movement of the body, depends on the
resistance of the area of the body the bullet passes through and the
total energy of the bullet. A ?through and through? shot could
cerently pass through some soft tissue and not knock someone over.
Even if the bullet doesn't pass through the body, thus imparting all
of it's energy to the target, it might not have enough energy in the
first plase (like with a small caliber round).

Weather or not someone falls would also have a lot to do with the
location and angle of entry relitive to the person's center of mass.
Subject: Re: Getting shot by a handgun
From: dgp-ga on 02 Feb 2005 09:09 PST
I too, do not profess to be an expert but I do own a collection of
handguns and attend gun-training classes. At the small end of the
collection I have a Smith and Wesson .22 revolver. If one were to be
shot in the head or heart with a round fired from this revolver then
you would probably just drop. Anywhere else and you might just say
?That hurt? (although I do not recommend experimenting). At the other
end of the spectra I also own the S&W Magnum 500, which is the most
powerful handgun in the world and fires rounds the size of baby
carrots. Again without experimenting I would guess that should someone
be unfortunate enough to be hit anywhere with a round from this
revolver they would just drop. Do people fly across the room as seem
in the movies?  Absolutely not. For that to happen the round would
have to have the kinetic energy to move, say a 180-pound person
through several feet. If it did have that energy as it left the muzzle
then it would also have the energy to propel the shooter backwards and
even Smith and Wesson?s Magnum 500 does not make you step backwards
when firing. The object of a self-defense round is not to pass through
the target but rather to impart all of its energy into the target.
Your statement ?I would have thought that the victim would writhe in
agony and slowly bleed to death? is correct although the speed of the
bleed and the effects of the shock trauma would depend on the site of
the wound and the caliber and grain of the round.
Subject: Re: Getting shot by a handgun
From: flinch-ga on 07 Feb 2005 13:23 PST
The strike of the bullet can't be of greater power than the recoil of
the initial shot.  If the shooter felt 65 pounds per square inch when
they shot the gun, the impact would be 65 or less pounds per square
inch at impact.
Subject: Re: Getting shot by a handgun
From: opiodergics-ga on 10 Mar 2005 02:36 PST
My name is Jesse (online name Danny Bishop). I myself was shot--in the
chest--on November 27th, 1994, at point-blank range with a .22" magnum
revolver (single-action, convertable--to.22" LR with alternate
cylinder). The bullet was likely 40-grain; the type: .224 caliber high
velocity (WMR--Winchester Magnum Rimfire, MAxiMag), with a nominal
muzzle velocity of 1,550 fps, from a likely 6.5" handgun barrel
(applied pressure, point blank: 324 foot pounds per sq. inch). I can
tell you--not from watching it happen--but from actually experiencing
it, exactly what it was like. First of all, there was the most
incredible, shocking impact you could ever imagine--equivalent with
having an M-80 (quarter stick of dynmamite) go off in your shirt
pocket--and I can tell you, I was sent reeling. It felt like I was
thrown back  good 2-to-5 feet or more, as my legs gave out on me.
There was simultaneously, a feeling like a bomb went off INSIDE of my
chest, and that of being jack-hammered through my chest wall--all of
this, all at once. Then, everything semed to go into slow motion, as
undoubtedly, a large amount of adrenaline was released from my adrenal
medulla, causing my central nervous system synaopses to fire
faster--like a high-speed camera, producing a slow motion effect. I
was later told that the bullet (not surprisingly) ricocheted around in
my chest like a pinball, first penetrating my entire chest mass,
fracture and bounce off my left scapula, hurle back through my chest
again, fracture a rib, and then bounce back through, trace a path
around another rib (and puncture the pleural lining of my left lung),
next flying straight into my spinal collumn, fracturing my T-9 and
T-10 thoracic vertebrae, and transecting my spinal cord (I am now
paraplegic). Feeling all of this, all at once, was equivalent roughly,
I suppose, was like being shot three times or more, not to mention
that waves of paresthesia (tingling) echoed and serged throughout my
body. My feeling in my legs was gone, just like that, at the same time
I was flying backward--into a chair and a desk. Oddly, at that moment,
I was hell-bent on protecting my head. Finally, laying on the ground
in that room, only a good 30 seconds or so post-impact, I felt my left
lung begin to squeeze, and my breaths were agonizingly painful and
teribly short. Every breath was a knife turning in my lung. Then, I
began to loose my vision--like white-out erasing my visual field) as I
began to go into hypo-volemic shock (low blood volume). I lost my
ability to see temporarily, and could not tell what was going on
around me. Then I passed out for what was probably thirty minutes. It
was a darn miracle that I did not die, as a doctor later told me, the
bullet almost 'curved' around my heart, within a centimeter or two of
hitting it or a major blooc vessel (it could have easily hit me right
in the inferior, or even the superior, veina cava, near the heart
muscle, in which case death would have followed in 1-2 minutes or even
fewer, and unconsciousness in thirty seconds or less. As to the
question: 'Does a person writhe in agony?'--No, I personally did not
WRITHE in agony, like I had been lit on fire, but I was instantly
thrown into the most excruciating, truly agonizing experience of pain
I have ever known--and I have had chronic spinal pain ever since,
being on prescriptions such as morphine sulfate, Dilaudid
(hydromorphone HCl) and levorphanol tartrate. The reason I was not
WRITHING in agony is I was knocked into a state of indescribable
shock, and was incapable of much, if any movement. However, after
waking up thirty minutes or so after passing out, I managed to sit up,
despite my paralysis, and I still remember--even though my pain had
deminished somewhat at that point, due... undoubtedly, to endorphin
release--the feeling of warm blood pouring down my shirt, and adding
tot he pool of blood underneath me, the veinous flow coming directly
from the now hot, burning wound on, and in, my chest. I laid there for
about four more hours before someone found me--I could barely whisper,
much less yell, due to my 16% or so lung capacity, and as it turns
out, nearly two liters... the amount of fluid in a large soda pop
bottle, on my left lung... like a refridgerator crushing the left side
of my chest--and by the time the paramedics got there, I was in utter
shock. I was also beginning to hurt so badly again that no words can
describe it. It was horrible. Hospitalization was no picnic either,
let me tell you. Even after draining off the fluid once with a chest
tube--a rubber catheter inserted through your ribs, into the pleural
lining of your lung, they gave me what is known as positive-pressure
respiratory treatment, and the inflation of my lung popped a blood
vessel and caused additional pleurasy, and another 'hemothorax'.
Originally, I also had air trapped in my chest--a pneumothorax, which
they had to releave with a cannula. That hurt too!  After two
additional chest tubes and having to bear down to force the
reddish.-brown fluid out of my chest cavity and into a collector, I
finally regained around 98% lung capacity, amazingly, and then--one
month after arriving at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in the Bay
Area, California, I began Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation. I had to
learn to deal with having little control over my bowels, having to
learn how to do a 'bowel program' with suppositories, and the fact
that I had no feeling in my groin--meaning no future physical sexual
feelings, and no ability to masturbate--and still having a huge sex
drive... how do you like that?--I had almost no way to relieve
tension, escept exciesize, for endorphin release, and taking my pain
meds. What made it worse was, before I was shot, at age 16, I had
never had sex, and never had a girlfriend, eventhough I can say
honestly I am, and have long been, a very attractive man. And even
though I have had half a dozen girlfriends now, ten years later,
dating was no fun... having to explain my limitations. In October of
2003 however, I had one of the happiest days of my life, howver, when
I married my wife, Jennifer. My dad was my best man. However, even
being married, and having a willing sexual partner, I find myself
doing almost all of the pleasing, and I suppose I will never know what
it is like to be inside a woman--to actually FEEL it at all--or orgasm
therein. Any of you out there who have had there experience, count
yourselves as lucky. Unless there's sex in there Hereafter--and I hope
there is... with my wife, I'm talking, right now--I suppose I will
never know what sex is like. You have no idea how angry that makes me,
and how much pent up sexual frustratipn a guy has after a decade of no
orgasmic release. Hey, that may sound shallow, but TRY IT SOME TIME.
It's funny, though. So many people, when finding out I was shot in the
chest, ask the same question. "Did it... hurt?" Um, yeah, it was the
most agonizing thing I ever experience, and could ever imagine
experiencing, and so I can definately say, 'It wasn't like a massage.'
But hey, I understand what fascination people have with pain and
extreme injury. After all, before I was shot, watching action movies,
I wondered what it was like. Some people have imediate endorphine
releases and never have such pain symptomatology. I remember lying in
bed, in the hospital, with this bloddy patch over theupper, left
quadrant of my chest, thinking, "Wow. Was I really shot? Am I really
shot??" it's hard to believe, when it happens to you. And assuming, if
you will, that there's an Afterlife, I bet people, being delivered the
news that they are dead, think/say to themselves, "Wow. Am I really
dead? Dead?" Anyway, I won't bore you any further. I'll just leave you
with, "Being shot--does it... hurt?" Yes, sir-ee, my friend. It most
certainly... does. So now you know, like I have... for ten years. : )

                                         Peace, Jesse ('Danny B.')
Subject: Re: Getting shot by a handgun
From: opiodergics-ga on 10 Mar 2005 02:44 PST
In my last post I made several typeos/typos, including saying escept,
instead 0f except, and excersize, instead of exercise. Worst of all, I
said 'there' instead of 'that' several times: 'For those of you who
have had THERE experience'. In any case, I hope this thread hasn't
totally expired, like I almost did, after being shot : ) and I
apologize for the typos.

                                          Jesse/Danny B.
Subject: Re: Getting shot by a handgun
From: rambler-ga on 10 Mar 2005 08:55 PST
Jesse/Danny B.

I was shocked to read your story about being shot, and horrified to
learn of the consequences.  I am so sorry that you had to endure such
a thing, and that you continue to suffer.

Thank you, sincerely, for sharing your experience.
Subject: Re: Getting shot by a handgun
From: marineissuemom-ga on 26 Mar 2005 01:45 PST
Opiodergics-ga I am sorry that you had to suffer this. 
You discribed a gunshot almost perfectly. Mine was to the face a 22
CAl. with 10 year old bullets. I think I blacked out but the first
thing I remember was it felt like I had been hit in the face with a
sledgehammer.I don't remember no burning. But it hurts like nothing
you have ever felt. I kept that bullet in me for two miserable years,
before they removed it from my throat.

From experiance with my own accident. A 22 will kill, but it depends
on the gun, the age and type of bullet. ANd where they hit you.

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