For God's Sake, Stay Inside During A Gun Fight

• Kelsey D. Atherton via PopSci.com

Ever wonder why the people taking cell phone videos of gunfights aren't themselves hit by bullets? Turns out, there's no good explanation other than dumb luck, because according to the laws of physics, they should be totally screwed.

During the manhunt for the Boston Marathon Bombers last week, a bunch of people posted videos online of the firefights, often shot from where they stood, with smartphone cameras. Writing in Esquire, Lt. Col. Robert Bateman was incensed by the life-threatening idiocy of these amateur civilian reporters and speculated that only a poor understanding of science could explain this:

Power, with guns, is dictated by physics. As my father the physicist taught me at way too early of an age, F = M x A. Force = Mass x Acceleration. The striking, or penetrating, power of the bullet is determined by how heavy (mass) it is, multiplied by how fast it is moving. Thus, a small bullet, moving at extreme speeds, can cause a lot of damage. A large bullet can move at much slower speeds, and cause the same damage. All other things being equal, however, the higher the speed, the greater the penetration. Now, that word "penetration" is one you should think about.

And here's just how powerful bullets are:

In the real world, I have converted a sedan into a convertible, quite easily, using bullets. Not even a lot of bullets either. If the other guy is firing anything with greater hitting power than, say, a .32 (Google .32 caliber, .45 caliber, 5.56mm and 7.62mm...I can't do it ALL for you) it will go through things. Metals, woods, sheet-rock? No problem. Your front door will not protect you, at all. Nor will the walls of a normal suburban house, nor the three Sheet-rock walls beyond that. In a car, the only thing that really stops most bullets would be the engine block itself. All the rest of the body of a car, well, basically tin-foil. All those cop movies you remember from the 70s, when they hid behind the opened door of their patrol car and shot at the bad guy? Yea, no. Do not think that works. That is stupid, and nobody but actors in Hollywood actually does that.

2 Comments in Response to For God's Sake, Stay Inside During A Gun Fight

Comment by Leslie Fish
Entered on:

Those civilians with camera-phones didn't get shot because they prudently ducked behind things like phone-poles, fire-hydrants and corners of buildings;  they stuck their small, compact cameras out to take the pictures, while keeping the rest of their bodies shielded.  Also note: it may take thick metal or stone to stop a speeding bullet, but it takes very little material to *deflect* one.  Any cover is better than none.

--Leslie

Comment by Ed Price
Entered on:

The only reason people taking cellphone videos of gunfights aren't hurt very often is, the police and SWAT aren't shooting at them very often.

Obviously, all this stay-inside stuff is scare tactics. By the time law enforcement is on the scene, the bad guys are basically gone... or they are down... and the only people you should be scared for your life of is law enforcement, themselves, who don't take kindly to your videoing. They have guns.