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Heymatt:

Do bullets thrown into a campfire go off with the same velocity as when they are fired from a gun?

— Perplexed

The short answer is “no.” I actually saw this one on Mythbusters. They dumped a hundred rounds of various calibers in a fire and let them all go off. Nothing that looked like a lethal wound resulted and there are a few reasons why.

Firstly, bullets achieve their deadly velocity because the barrel of the gun channels the energy that’s released when the powder burns inside the shell. The hot, trapped gas in the chamber has nowhere to go and it pushes the bullet forward until it can all escape out the muzzle of the firearm. As bullets are made of lead and very heavy for their size, they require a certain amount of time to accelerate. When the round isn’t encased in the gun, all that hot gas just whooshes out into the surrounding air and the majority of the energy is wasted.

Secondly, when you throw a bullet in a fire (or hit it with a hammer like a YouTube moron) it usually fires backward. The lightweight, brass casing tends to fly away from the heavy, lead bullet because it has a much lower moment of inertia. When people do foolish things with ammunition, they usually end up getting hit with the casing instead of the bullet. A hot piece of flying brass hurts like heck, but it lacks the mass to be really dangerous.

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Comments

spudboy Jan. 24, 2013 @ 8:51 a.m.

Perplexed make sure you where eye protection at minimum.

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Matthew_Alice Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:36 a.m.

"Crazy" Carl Alice, a distant cousin from Minnesota, has figured out that firing bullets into the ice on top of a frozen lake can make them spin in place. He actually did lose an eye during a moment of carelessness with a lawnmower during the late-80's and ever since then Grandma Alice has admonished the little Alice rugrats with "you don't want to end up like Uncle/Cousin Carl!" whenever they do anything foolish. So, yes, eye protection never hurts.

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6RolledTacos Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:32 a.m.

What an unoriginal, Mythbusters stolen question, I remember one published a while ago that was based on the Mythbusters Poppy Seed drug test episode, and another published MB-based question that I cannot recall right now. I really wish that Matthew Alice would not print borrowed questions imitating a popular show. As long as I am wishing...I wish I had some ham or a billion dollars; you can buy a lot of ham with a billion dollars. Think about it.

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