Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Falling Bullet Injuries: Pakistan v. U.S.

Image from the Shillong Times

Celebratory gunfire is dangerous. Those who engage in it may not consider where their bullets will land.

Thirteen year old Noa Inman in Hammond, Indiana, was struck by a bullet on July 1st, 2017. He died from a wound to the head. Such clearcut examples are rare enough to become national news stories. From nbcchicago.com:
Noah Inman, of the 1600 block of 171st Pl. in Hammond, was pronounced dead at 2:06 p.m. Friday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.
Surprisingly few deaths from celebratory gunfire are listed in the wikipedia article.  The wikipedia article lists about a dozen "notable incidents".

A 1994 study in Los Angeles lists 38 people killed over the eight years of the study. 77% of the 118 people listed as being hit suffered from head wounds. The study may have suffered from selection bias, as it only looked at people treated in the hospital. Those wounded had a fatality rate of 32%. People deliberately shot in Chicago have a fatality rate of about 15%.

A more recent study from Pakistan looked at "stray bullet injuries". It showed a fatality rate of 7.87% for a sample of 165 patients over 5 years, from January 2006 to December 2010. Chest injuries were 18 (10.9%), Abdominal injuries were 102 (61.81%), Spine injuries were 17 (10.3) percent and head injuries were 8 (4.84%).  There were multiple injuries in 20 cases.

The differences may stem from different definitions of "stray gunfire". They may result frim demographics, or cultural definitions, or study design. In both studies, there may be strong motivations to label gunshot wounds as "accidents" that were actually part of deliberate crimes, or tribal and gang warfare.

If fired at a very steep angle, the bullets will impact at velocities of about 300 fps or less, according to estimates of terminal velocity. People who fire into the air at angles closer to horizontal pose the greatest danger. Bullets from high powered rifles can maintain velocities near 600 feet per second at close to two miles. The shooterscalculator.com lists the velocity of a 180 grain .30-06 bullet at 589 fps at 3500 yards. A 7.62x39 bullet with a weight of 124 grains is listed at traveling at 575 fps at the same distance.

Shotgun pellets fired into the air have such low terminal velocities that they bounce off of ordinary clothing.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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